Ricoh GR3 for Street Photography

Street photography with a Ricoh GR3 iof girls dancing in Chinatown, London.

Last week I decided to get myself the Ricoh GR3 for street photography.  Whilst I have shot Ricoh GR’s since 2012, and have been a big Ricoh fan boy since, this is the first time I’ve consciously decided to move to the Ricoh as my primary street photography camera of choice.  I’ve even gone and sold off all my Olympus camera gear as a result.  So why?  What led to this?

The Ultimate Street Snap Shooter

What I’ve always loved about the Ricoh GR series of cameras is the small, discreet and lightweight nature of them.  These are cameras you can literally carry in your pocket, which means a camera you take with you anywhere anytime.  As a street photographer you know only too well that the best candid street photography shots often happen when you’re least expecting – so being able to whip a camera straight out of your pocket is ideal.

With a fixed length wide 28mm f/2.8 lens it’s both ideal for street settings and fast enough to capture those crucial (decisive?) moments.  Having shot a 28mm lens for street photography for years jumping to the GR3 was a no brainer for me.  It’s also a fun and friendly camera.  What I mean by that is it doesn’t intimidate on the street.  Being small and discreet it doesn’t get in people’s faces.  And when people do notice it, they view you as a harmless tourist snapping away.  Equally, you ain’t going to stand out in places where you’d be less comfortable (or less safe) about getting out a bigger camera.

Having given up my wedding photography business to focus solely on my candid street photography, there was no need to keep all my bigger Olympus gear.  I could just get a camera that was ideal for street shooting, and the Ricoh GR3 is just that.  The APS-C sensor is actually better than the sensor I had in my top of the range Olympus body, it’s 24MB equaling that top fp the range camera, the lens is sharper than the 28mm Panasonic pancake lens I shot with and its far less flashy and show-off’y than the Fuji X100s.  It’s a camera you can forget about whilst shooting, which means you can simply concentrate on the subject matter – the number 1 priority for any street photographer.

Add to all that, the new in camera image stabilization allowing handheld shooting at stupidly slow shutter speeds, a rebuilt lens providing even crisper, sharper images.  And lest we forget the fabulous Snap Focus mode, that simply allows you to set a focal distance and then a full depress of the shutter button and you’re getting everything at that range in focus.  No need for zone focusing or manual focusing (which is good as the GR cameras are woeful when it comes to manual focus.)

Is it all perfect? No, of course not, no such thing exists, but I’ll also cover some of its negatives in the following.

Street Photography with the Ricoh GR3

Street photography with Ricoh GR3 of a homeless tent in Waterloo, London
Waterloo, London (Feb, 2020) © 2020 Darren Lehane

So yesterday I had the chance for a quick street photography try out with the Ricoh GR3 in and around central London.  Immediately it was clear that people noticed me less.  I was just another hapless tourist with a small compact camera.  The camera was quick and responsive, allowing me to concentrate on the scenes in front of me, rather than camera settings.

Street photography with Ricoh GRIII of man and child on scooter on a bridge across the River Thames in London.
Golden Jubilee Bridge, London (Feb, 2020) © 2020 Darren Lehane

The Snap Focus Mode works a dream for capturing those split second moments that happen in front of you. Again, being so small and discreet, people simply don’t notice you.  In a way, I found that started changing my approach a little, snapping at closer distances.  It’s no surprise the Ricoh GRIII is seen as the perfect snap shot camera.

Ricoh GR3 street photography of a dog watching people in Chinatown, London.
Cinatown, London (Feb, 2020)
© 2020 Darren Lehane

The image quality is lovely, using the customise buttons are a joy for shooting with your favourite settings.  Again, a quick flick to a setting and you’re ready to go, allowing you to concentrate on the scene.

The LCD is bright and clear, and for when its difficult to see the screen in bright contrasty sunlight, I have the GV2 Optical Viewfinder (bought previously for an older GR) which simply slides into hot shoe plate.  Being a simple optical viewfinder there’s no shooting information provided and it tends to see less of the scene than the camera actually shoots – but its useful as a guide when you need to put the camera to your eye.  So, what were the issues I found.

Not A Perfect Camera – But Which One Ever Is?!

The first thing I struggled with a little was due to the reduced size of the camera, where to rest my thumb.  I found myself either hitting the Adjust Lever or the FN Button which, depending on how you have them set up, can interfere with settings just as you go to shoot.  However there is a simple solution – a third party thumb plate, which simply slots into the hot shoe plate (see above) which works well.  It does mean though that whilst you have this in place, you’re unable to use the hot shoe for the optical viewfinder or a flash, which may be a problem if you use flash a lot (and the GRIII has done away with an internal flash.)

The only significant issue was the battery life.  I already knew that having reduced the body size meant a new slimmer battery being required which meant less battery life, but I was genuinely shocked at how poor battery life is.  I’d heard talk of a battery lasting around 250 shots – but this doesn’t take into account of going in and out of menus and settings, something you may do more as you get familiar with the camera.  Fortunately I had a battery pack and charger with me, so was able to recharge on the go.  I’ve now bought a load of new batteries so it won’t be too much of an issue, aside from more changing, but I think I have to say its the worst battery life I’ve ever experienced with a camera.

Final Overview?

Street photography with a Ricoh GR3 iof girls dancing in Chinatown, London.
Chinatown, London (Feb, 2020) © 2020 Darren Lehane

For me, the positives far outweigh the negatives of the camera.  Being so discreet, quiet and small makes it great for the dedicated candid street photographer.  The image quality is great and overall performance is good.  It will certainly be interesting going forward and giving it a proper, full on try out.

So are you shooting street photography with a Ricoh GR3?  How do you find it?  Any tips for shooting with it?  If not, what is your go to camera for street photography…and why?

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