Daido Moriyama used the 35mm version, colleagues Paul Giguere and Markus Hartel use it in its digital form, all agree it was made for the streets. It’s made by Ricoh and it goes by the initials GR.
As a street photographer, there are few cameras that are as legendary to me as the Ricoh GR Digital (GRD). I say to me, because it is, invariably, a very personal camera. Those who love the GRD, love it to death and those who hate it, hate it very thoroughly. Why? Likely because the GRD has a very narrow use, namely, street photography.
The GRD is not a camera for taking pictures of grandma’s birthday or the barnyard cats! And, this is not a technical review. However, one major spec which needs to be highlighted is this camera’s fixed 28mm f1.9 lens. That’s right folks, no zoom here. For most people there would be no need to go any further â€“ this is the deal breaker. But for those of us on the streets, this is the sweet spot. Having a fast fixed lens perfectly paired with its sensor is a dream when it comes to street photography. Combine that with a small, rugged, magnesium alloy body and you’re good to go just about anywhere.
The GRD features continue and continue… and continue. But another important one for us here, as well as the streets, is the hybrid autofocus system. This unique feature works by coupling the normal contrast auto focus with an external sensor. The result, lightening fast focus. In fact, it is so fast that there is no difference between using the GRD and using my 35mm Rollei 35. This means that when I push the shutter button the shutter fires. No lag. Nothing special when you’re talking film, but completely amazing when you see such performance from a compact digital. Yes, I did say compact. In fact, some will balk at the GRD when they see its tiny size. So it goes. But if you can resist judging a book by its cover, you will not be disappointed. This camera definitely delivers.
The other most common complaint against this legend in its own time is the sensor size. Sure, it is a 10 megapixel 1/1.7 CCD, but it is expertly paired with the 28mm Ricoh lens. The result is stunning images up to and beyond 11X17. Remember, this is a pocketable camera and is not meant for studio portraiture. In my humble, and somewhat experienced opinion, the sensor size and count, or lack thereof, has ruined precious few photographs in the world. More often than not a larger count only means â€œfuzzyâ€ images and a larger size more hard drives. There is no argument here that larger sensors are not useful in some situations, they are, however, these situations would call for everything the Ricoh is not. Therefore, calls to put a massive sensor into this little camera are simply ignorant. If you frequently suffer from GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) or like keeping up with the Joneses, this camera is not for you. Move on. However, if you are a street photographer and are searching for something small, fast, discreet and rugged â€“ take my word for it and look no further. Many will complain of the so called â€œeye-wateringâ€ price, but with the M9 as your next best bet, this camera is the steal of a lifetime.
For a full look at the Ricoh GR digital IV specifications, complete with a promotional video, visit the Ricoh website.
Michael Ernest Sweet is an award-winning educator, writer and street photographer. He divides his time between Montreal and New York City. His work can be followed at MichaelSweetPhotography.com.
der Radfahrer (c) 2012 Michael Ernest Sweet. New York City, Ricoh GRD IV 28mm.