Nowadays, lots of digital cameras have a short life expectancy often being replaced by a newer model every 1 8 months or less. Ricoh does not function this way and each of its GR Model has had a lifecycle of two years before a refresh model appears. This is a well established pattern and, despite what the GR 2 model name might suggest , the current model is actually the SIXTH model in the GR digital series.
Experienced photographers know that there is a learning curve when having to familiarize oneself with a different user interface. The continuity in the GR design is a very positive thing.
As a result, it seems to me that while the GR models may not be blockbuster in terms of sales, photographers who are interested in the Ricoh GR family pop up regularly. If one looks the Youtube channel there seem to be two or three Ricoh GR/GRII video reviews appearing each month. These new GR fans all seem very enthusiastic about their new camera (which is a good thing to share) . Unfortunately most of those recent videos are unreliable and filled with factual errors or important omissions.
I get that most people prefer to WATCH a video review rather than reading a review in the text.More importantly, most like to see reviews when a camera is just out. It is understandable but it must be said that the most informative reviews (be it written or video reviews) are those when the reviewer got to use the product for a significant period of time.
I am aware that lots of people on the photography forums are eager to get a newer and supposedly ” better ” camera every year (if not more). Yet, every time I start a workshop, my first advice is always to get the most of whatever equipment you currently have before starting to look at ” greener pastures”.
As a full time photographer I need to have different cameras but I always think hard about what I am buying to make sure I will give it proper time to test and use it.
I now want to share some thoughts on the camera to continue the first part of my review (here).
There is no denying that the photographic landscape has somewhat changed since 2015. For a start, the 16MP Sony APS sensor is largely being replaced by its newer 24 MP version in “expert” cameras.
Despite the two year gap, there has been only two new products which can be regarded as competing with the GR2. First, the Leica Q (which appeared at the same time than the GR2) . The Q is an high-end camera with a non interchangeable 28mm focal lens, albeit in this case on the larger 35mm sensor and a brighter lens. Another big difference of course is the price point, the Leica being SEVEN times as expensive as the Gr2 ($4,200 vs $600).
The larger sensor of the Leica does allow for a higher image quality, especially at higher isos, but this does not necessarily mean that it is is a better camera.
First of all, the Q is being and barely qualifies as a coat large pocket. this was inevitable due to the larger sensor but in my opinion, I also think Leica overspecified the camera with the 1.7 max aperture. A 2.5 Summarit design would have made the camera thinner and less noticeable in street photography. Speaking of street photography, the Q does not offer the snap mode which is so useful on the GR when shooting streets.
As I mention every time, one should always avoid buying a camera without handling first and this is especially true of the Q because of the price tag. The notion of comfort varies depending on the photographer hands size and his shooting habits but let’s just say that I was not impressed by it, despite the thumb rest in the back of the body.
A closer competitor in terms of specs came out early 2016 as the Fuji X70. The X70 is also a fixed lens camera with a 2.8/28 mm equivalent and offers the same 16MP APS sensor in a similarly sized body. The fuji has a tilting LCD screen that some may find useful for horizontal shots.
The X70 model perpetuates the Fuji X approach of “aperture ring on the lens and speed dial on the top plate of the camera” (same goes for the Leica Q). The GR, on the other hand, is designed around the front dial+ back dial design. Each of course will have its supporters & detractors although I suspect a lot of preferences will be based on what the people are used to. Your preference may also be impacted by which photo mode you normally use.
As a person shooting in manual mode 95% of the time, I can attest that I MUCH prefer the front dial/ back dial design. Along with having all buttons located on the right size if the LCD, this allows for a very natural feel when shooting with the right hand only.
It is very clear that both Leica and Fuji took inspiration on the Ricoh GR when designing their models. For instance with the 35mm and 50mm in- camera crop function.It is worth mentioning that the X70 goes about it differently by interpolating the crop files versus providing a un-retouched lower megapixel count as the Ricoh and the Leica do.
Now getting back to the competition and chiefly the X70 , it is my opinion that, unless you absolutely need the tilting LCD , there is no real reason to choose the Fuji over the Ricoh.
Just to name some of the advantages of the GRII over the Fuji X70 :
Better image quality when shot at the widest apertures,
Better layout of buttons and dials
Built-in neutral density filter
Option of a very good 21mm converter lens (as well as a macro one)
Larger buffer (the X70 allows only 3 to 4 images on the buffer when shooting RAW+ Jpegs which is what the GR 1 had TWO YEARS ago)
Snap mode feature which is very useful in many instances
Lastly, the GR II is cheaper than the Fuji !!
Both models also have similar drawbacks. No EVF option, no stabilization, no weather sealing, not great manual focus implementation…
I have received several requests from readers on my blog asking me to share my settings. I do think that each photographer should develop his -or her- own settings based on his shooting style but if it allows some recent GR converts to get a starting point, I am happy to oblige
Mode 1 : AF / snap mode
Mode 2 : 28/35mm crop ( 47mm inactivated)
Function 3 : ND Filter
Adjust wheel : ISO- SNAP MODE- EFFECT (filter set)-CONTINUOUS MODE- EXPOSURE SETTING ( multi,(which I hardly ever use) spot (default setting) or center weighted)
My mode 1 : Manual mode, color with vibrant filter , snap mode at 2.5 meters, spot exposure, continuous mode, single AF, iso 400
My mode 2 same but black and white TE setting ( purple if you must know)
My mode 3 this one is more fluctuant but generally like 1 except snap mode at 5 meters and iso 800.
Now, as my final thoughts