Ricoh GR III Review

Ricoh GR III: Smallest Camera With An APS-C sensor – 24 Megapixels and Image Stabilizer

Ricoh is modernising its reportage camera with the GR III. It now has a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor with hybrid autofocus stabilized over three axes. The focal length of the revised, F2.8 powerful fixed focal length is still 18.3 mm, which corresponds to a 35mm equivalent of 28 mm. However, the design and the video function have remained the same.

 

Ricoh GR III Review

The Ricoh GR III has a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor with a movable mount for image stabilisation and hybrid auto focus. [Photo: Ricoh]

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Small and good quality housing
  • Fast autofocus
  • Good menu navigation for camera settings
  • Interesting support concept

Cons

  • Few video functions
  • Weak battery life
  • Currently poor app functionality
  • Too smooth-running rotating wheels or multi-function rocker

The Ricoh GR III is a very compact fixed focal length camera with a large APS-C sensor and an F2.8 28mm lens (equivalent to a 35mm lens) for excellent image quality. You can always have them with you and do inconspicuous reportage photography. In the third generation, Ricoh is bringing the GR, at least in part, up to date with the latest technology. The resolution of the CMOS sensor increases from 16 to 24 megapixels, Ricoh does without a low-pass filter. Another new feature is the image stabilizer, which is realized by means of a movably mounted image sensor. In contrast to the large Pentax DSLRs, however, this only works with three instead of five axes. To reduce moiré, the sensor can be set into micro-vibrations as a low-pass filter alternative.

In its third incarnation, the Ricoh GR III is currently the smallest digital camera with an APS-C sensor. In addition to a hybrid autofocus system and a sensor shift stabilisation system, the GR III will also feature a touchscreen for the first time. This shows that the camera has not stood still in the past, despite the lack of a 4K video function and a somewhat old-fashioned (but also timeless) design. In this test we reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the Ricoh GR III.

Together with the Image Stabilizer, Ricoh also gives the GR III the Dust Removal II dust protection function to shake off contaminants from the sensor. But one wonders why Ricoh didn’t give the camera splash water and dust protection, as is standard with the Pentax DSLRs, as this would prevent dust from getting onto the sensor in the first place. That would also have been a great sales argument for such a reportage camera. At the latest, if the Dust Removal II system fails, the camera must be opened and cleaned in a repair shop.

The autofocus of the Ricoh GR III is no longer based solely on contrast, but is supported by phase autofocus sensors located directly on the image sensor. This should make the autofocus more targeted and especially faster for moving subjects. Ricoh has also revised the lens. It now manages with six elements arranged in four groups. Two aspherical lenses are designed to minimize optical errors. The lens of the GR II still had seven lenses in five groups (also including two aspherical elements).

 

Ricoh GR III Review

The Ricoh GR III is the smallest APS-C compact camera with dimensions of 109 x 62 x 33 millimetres and is also quite light with 257 grams. Nevertheless, there is a metal housing and a sensor shift image stabilizer in the camera. [Photo: Ricoh]

Obviously, Ricoh engineers didn’t focus on today’s standards. Design is certainly debatable, but the lack of 4K resolution is a fact. Filmmaking is only done in full HD, but at least with fluid 60 frames per second. Ricoh has also thought of a stereo microphone.

The quiet central shutter offers short exposure times of up to 1/4,000 seconds, but only up to 1/2,500 seconds with open aperture. The longest exposure time is 30 seconds, but a time preset offers up to 20 minutes long exposures and a bulb function is not missing. The GR III also offers an integrated flash as well as a flash shoe. The latter can be used to operate attachable viewfinders.

The sensor shift image stabilizer, which is unique in this camera class, allows up to four exposure levels longer exposure times from the hand. In view of the 28mm lens (in 35mm equivalent), this allows half a second long exposure times without a tripod. The lens is a new construction consisting of six lenses arranged in four groups. Thanks to highly refractive glass elements with low dispersion, it is said to deliver the clearest and sharpest images in GR history, while minimizing distortion and color errors. Nine slats should provide a natural bokeh. If you don’t like the 28mm equivalent focal length of the 18.3mm lens, you can switch to a crop mode with 35mm equivalent at 15 megapixels resolution and 50 millimeters at nine megapixels resolution.

The 24 megapixel resolution sensor is designed to provide DNG raw data images with 14-bit color depth, thanks to the new GR Engine 6 image processor and an accelerator unit, the GR III enables fast data processing and sensitivities of up to ISO 102,400. The image sensor does not require a resolution-reducing low-pass filter. If, however, one wishes to prevent the formation of moirés in critical motifs, a low-pass filter simulation can be switched on by means of micro-vibrations of the sensor. In the same way, dust is shaken off from the sensor, as the lens cannot even be removed for cleaning.

The Ricoh GR III should be ready for use in just 0.8 seconds and the fast autofocus works with a hybrid system of phase-to-autofocus measuring fields integrated on the sensor and a contrast-to-autofocus, which should be able to capture the subject within 0.3 seconds. A switchable macro mode shortens the focusing distance from ten centimeters to a working range of six to twelve centimeters, allowing a respectable maximum magnification of 1:3 (0.35 times magnification). This enables a smallest field of view of about 6.7 x 4.5 centimeters.

Less impressive are the continuous shooting and video functions. The Ricoh GR III can take only four continuous shots per second and the video function only achieves maximum Full HD resolution with a very smooth 60 frames per second. Also a stereo microphone is not missing. The GR III’s convenient interval function is limited to 99 frames. Exposure bracketing is also possible. Various effect modes are available for both photo and video recordings, which are intended to simulate analog films, for example for black-and-white recordings, cross-development, bright colors, bleach, etc…

 

Ricoh GR III Review

The program dial on the Ricoh GR III is limited to the essentials. The TTL flash shoe is compatible with the Pentax system, but can also accommodate an optical viewfinder. [Photo: Ricoh]

Both a built-in flash and a viewfinder are missing on the Ricoh GR III, but it offers a TTL system flash shoe compatible with the Pentax system, for which there is also a 24mm and 28mm viewfinder and, for the first time in the GR series, a touch screen. It measures 7.5 cm in the diagonal and has a resolution of 1.04 million pixels. Although it is firmly installed, it nevertheless offers a large viewing angle, a scratch-resistant display protection glass and a special anti-reflective coating. The design of the screen was also designed to be flat with fewer reflective surfaces. The touch function allows, for example, focusing on a motif detail with a fingertip, but the touch screen can also be used in the menu and during playback as an alternative to key control.

The necessary robustness of the 109 x 62 x 33 millimeters compact and 257 gram lightweight APS-C camera is to be ensured by the metal housing, which also consists of a magnesium-aluminium light alloy. The F2.8 fast fixed focal length lens also offers a central shutter, short exposure times of up to 1/2,500 seconds with open aperture and short exposure times of 1/4,000 seconds as soon as the aperture is slightly closed.

The replaceable lithium-ion battery DB-110 is designed to take up to 200 pictures according to the CIPA standard and can be charged in the camera via the USB-C port. With a more powerful USB power supply (than the one supplied), it should also be possible to use the USB-C cable for power supply, and Ricoh also offers an external power supply adapter kit. Bluetooth and WLAN are available for wireless communication. This allows a smartphone GPS to be used for geotagging, remote control of the camera via app and image transmission is also possible. As an optional accessory, Ricoh also offers a 24mm wide-angle attachment lens, in addition to the optical attachable viewfinders already mentioned, which also allows the connection of screw-in filters (even without the 24mm attachment).

First impression

 

Ricoh GR III Review

The Ricoh GR III is not exactly a beauty. But high quality and functional design and also the smallest APS-C camera ever built. [Photo: Ricoh]

The first 1.000 pieces of the Ricoh GR III in the United States and the European Union, will have in addition to the detachable black lens ring a blue anodized ring in the box and thus mark the rare first series.

Briefly on the main key figures: We are talking about a camera with a 24-megapixel sensor in APS-C format with hybrid autofocus and sensor shift image stabilizer. Such a thing is normally built into a reflex camera or a mirrorless system camera. Here we find the technology in the smallest compact camera with APS-C sensor ever built.

Ricoh GR III Review

The tidy back of the Ricoh GR III allows single-handed operation when shooting. New is the touchscreen on the back of the Ricoh GR III, which not only allows touch autofocus on a subject detail, but also operation in the menu and during playback. But the GR III can also be operated classically via the keys. The display on the back of the camera cannot be moved, but has a high viewing angle.[Photo: Ricoh]

Ricoh’s product management sees the GR series itself as a niche model for a rather top target group. The reason for this might be the missing zoom. Most people expect “real” cameras to have an optical zoom, while it was interestingly enough for years that mobile phones could not zoom. One secret of the pretty good picture quality of many smartphones lies precisely in the fact that they don’t have a zoom (or did, today they try to work around the “problem” with multiple cameras, among other things), but a sharp and powerful fixed focal length lens. If you transfer this concept – not a zoom, but a high-quality fixed focal length – to compact cameras, the result is a device like Ricoh’s GR series. A camera as small as you’d expect from a true compact, but with a really large APS-C format sensor and a 28mm fixed focal length lens in front of it. Of course Ricoh is not the only one with the concept on the market, but there are not many competitors. The Fujifilm XF10, for example, would be one of those. Also the Sigma dp-Quattro series should basically be called or the Fujifilm X100F.

But then you quickly reach a housing size where the camera is as big as a small system camera, i.e. nothing is really “compact” anymore. Even the difference in size between the Ricoh GR III and the Fujifilm XF10, which is also quite small, is considerable. The Ricoh is not only slightly narrower and lower, it is also 20 percent less thick! With a case depth of just 33 mm, the Ricoh GR III glides easily into any jeans pocket. Marketing Manager at Ricoh, said quite aptly: “Where a mobile phone fits in, the GR III fits in” This may not be true in the literal sense (smartphones are flatter), but it is practical: jacket pocket, trouser pocket, shirt pocket – no problem at all. Especially since the camera is nicely rounded at the corners and very light with only 257 grams. In view of the small volume, however, this weight already conveys a good value. The GR III has also become a good deal smaller than its direct predecessors GR and GR II. Unfortunately, the built-in pop-up flash fell victim to the diet (if you want to flash, you can use a Pentax flash in the flash shoe of the GR III).

Ricoh GR III Review

The Ricoh GR III is only 33 millimetres deep and yet a full-fledged APS-C camera with very good image quality. [Photo: Ricoh]

Ricoh GR III Review

The magnesium die-cast housing of the Ricoh GR III is super light and stable. [Photo: Ricoh]

The GR III is supplied with a hand strap instead of a neck strap. To mount the loop, there are three different mounting options, completely integrated into the magnesium die-cast housing. When the camera is switched off, the lens largely retracts into the housing and then only protrudes as far as the beautifully pronounced handle, with which the camera really lies securely in the hand, can. The design may not be really beautiful, looks a bit old-fashioned and not at all “stylish”. But the camera is totally secure in the hand and is even designed for one-hand operation (of course only for the right hand).

When switched off, the lens is protected by a practical curtain whose lamellae slide in front of the front lens to protect it. Despite this protection and the seemingly indestructible metal housing, the GR III is not protected against dust or splash water. Users of the predecessor models (GR and GR II) report that dust can get into the camera and onto the sensor despite the permanently mounted lens. In contrast to its two predecessors, however, the GR III has an image stabilizer built in, which as a side effect should also be able to shake possible dust from the sensor.

Ricoh GR III Review

The Ricoh GR III does not have a built-in flash. If you want to flash, you can use a Pentax system flash. [Photo: Ricoh]

When the camera is switched on, the lens moves out a bit at lightning speed and the lens curtain opens. The Ricoh GR III is ready to fire in just 0.8 seconds. In combination with the very fast hybrid autofocus it is a real snapshot camera. If you want, you can even use the “Snap” mode and preset a fixed focus distance, e.g.  B. 2.5 or 5 meters. With it, really lightning-fast snapshots can be taken virtually from the hip. One clever detail I found was that in normal photo mode, the front lens remains a good deal behind the extended lens tube. With its small, rectangular frame, the tube then acts like a lens hood. Only when the GR III is manually set to macro mode does the front lens move directly behind the “peep frame”. On the camera side of the lens tube there is a removable aluminium ring with bayonet for a wide-angle converter that will be available as an option later. This will be automatically detected via four electrical contacts opposite the camera and the camera then adjusts itself accordingly. With the predecessor model you had to do this manually in the menu.

The mode dial at the top right of the top is conveniently locked. To move it to another position, press a small button at the same time. This makes perfect sense, because the dial is right on the edge. Although it is easy to operate, it could easily be accidentally adjusted without the locking mechanism. The GR III no longer has the usual fully automatic mode marked in green on the mode dial, which the predecessor models still had. Of course you can use it in the program’s automatic mode, but there an inexperienced user also has the possibility to change all settings and thus, despite the automatic mode, take completely wrongly exposed photos, for example. This makes it clear who the GR developers see as the camera’s target group: certainly not beginners, but photographers who know what they’re doing – and who are looking for a super-compact second camera with great image quality to complement their existing equipment. The fact that the equipment and adjustment options are also otherwise opulent and rather professional and that common features for beginners are also missing in other places fits in well with this.

 

Ricoh GR III Review

Here you can see how large the image stabilizer unit of the Ricoh GR III is. In a “thick” reflex camera this is not noticeable any further. In the tiny GR III, it occupies a large part of the case. [Photo: Ricoh]

Ricoh GR III Review

The sensor shift image stabilizer of the Ricoh GR III has three axes: horizontal and vertical camera shake and rotation. [Photo: Ricoh]

I like the ergonomics of the Ricoh GR III very much. The camera lies securely in the hand thanks to the handle and non-slip rubber coating. The thumb also rests on non-slip rubber. Power switch, large shutter release, locked mode dial, index finger dial – everything is super. I didn’t like the adjoint seesaw that much. This is used to set the exposure correction or to operate the menu. The rocker is fully within the action radius of the thumb and is so sensitive that I accidentally activated the exposure correction several times while handling the camera.

The autofocus can be conveniently placed where you want it via touchscreen. You can also use the touch screen to operate the menu and to set various parameters via the quick settings, but this is not as ergonomic as using the hardware keys – a problem that all camera manufacturers have who install touch but whose menus are actually designed for key operation. The menu itself is very tidy and clear, but not always self-explanatory with such an advanced camera. To get to know the camera completely, you should take some time, because the possibilities are manifold. Thanks to Bluetooth and WLAN, the coupling to the smartphone including GPS data transfer from the smartphone to the camera and image data transfer in the background from the camera to the smartphone should also work.

The camera reacts very smoothly and quickly at all times. Switch on, focus, but also the menu, everything runs completely without delay. It’s a completely different feeling than the Fujifilm XF10, which I remember rather sluggishly (but the XF10 doesn’t cost more than half of the Ricoh).

I was very impressed by the GR III’s macro mode, which allows it to focus between 6 and 12 centimeters and take spectacular macro shots. The touch autofocus makes it easy to operate and the large sensor results in a very shallow depth of field at close range with very nice results in image design. With the normal photos, however, I miss exactly this exemption effect. The maximum aperture GR III is only F2.8, but unfortunately the lens is not more powerful. Since the focal length is fixed at 28 mm (35mm equivalent, in reality even only 18.3 mm due to the APS-C sensor), this results in a rather large depth of field. Not so big that it wouldn’t be important to pay attention to where you focus, but it’s too big to blur the background clearly Whenever it comes to “documentary” photos, the Ricoh GR III knows how to convince with its high resolution and sharpness.

28 mm as the only focal length is also generally quite wide-angle and has a corresponding image effect that is not suitable for everything. If in doubt, you should consider going a little further back and later choosing a 35mm image section, as the camera has resolution reserves with its 24 megapixels. An image section corresponding to 35 mm focal length still has 15 megapixels. At 50 mm, however, it would only be 7 megapixels. The camera also offers the image sections on these two standard focal lengths directly internally and then displays the image section on the monitor, but you can do this at any time later in image processing (and 7 megapixels make little sense anyway).

The shots are sometimes a bit tightly exposed, which at least ensures that no lights burn out. In such cases, image editing can help you get even more out of your photos. Of course, it is then a good idea to use DNG raw data files, which the GR III can also save on request. This extends the storage time, but in this way you get nice 29 megabyte raw files that can be opened and developed with any raw data converter.

Ergonomics and workmanship

The size of the Ricoh GR III is one of its most important features. That’s why the first thing we look at is the case. With dimensions of approx. 109 x 62 x 33 (W x H x D) millimetres and an operational weight of 250 grams, the camera is small and light. The housing is cleanly finished, the gap dimensions are right and the lens tube is very tight. The housing of the GR III is also made of a magnesium alloy, even if this is not obvious at first glance. The surface is covered with a rough varnish or a powder coating that suits the camera quite well.

The right “holding feeling” for smaller cameras is always difficult for manufacturers to construct, and they often attach more importance to the exterior of the camera than to ergonomic comfort and secure hold. The Ricoh GR III can convince here despite the small size. Of course, the photographer has to make compromises regarding the placement of the little finger and, depending on size and camera position, also the ring finger. Thanks to the low weight of the GR III and the pleasantly rounded handle, the middle finger can easily take over the task of the other two fingers. The camera can thus be grasped surprisingly comfortably and, above all, held securely. Even if it is generally not recommended, the GR III can also be operated with only one hand. However, the standard hand strap should then be used as a safety device.

The operating elements are ergonomically arranged. With his thumb, the photographer can easily reach all controls such as the control pad and the surrounding rotary wheel. Even the smaller keys can be easily operated. In addition to the various buttons, the photographer has a rotating wheel in front of the shutter release and a multifunction rocker on the back. Depending on the operating mode set, these two operating elements can be used for a wide variety of settings. The multifunction rocker also has two operating levels that can be switched with a short press on the rocker. Both the front control wheel and the multifunction rocker are unfortunately very smooth-running, so that there is a danger that you can change the recording parameters with a light, careless touch. This makes the two elements seem rather cheap and not very appropriate for the camera.

The mode dial of the GR III has undergone a slimming treatment compared to its predecessor GR II. So there are now only seven instead of ten operating modes on it. For example, the complete automatic mode has been omitted, the GR III only has one program automatic with shift function. In other words, the photographer can make changes to the time and aperture in the program automatic mode. It was incomprehensible that the video function was also banned from the mode dial, although there would have been enough space left. The rest of the space is shared between the semi-automatic and manual recording modes, as well as the three memory slots for individual camera configurations, but more on that later. The mode dial is equipped with a push-button for safety. Just outside the “line of fire” on the left side of the GR III is a mode button that switches between photo and video mode. If the button is pressed longer, the WLAN function is also activated. Ricoh clearly shows that GR III photographers are the target group and that video recording is not the core competence of the camera.

Due to the small size of the GR III, the battery and memory card share a flap on the underside. The camera stores images and videos either on the internal memory of two gigabytes or on SD memory cards (SDHC, SDXC and UHS-I are supported). Whether the cards should be particularly fast, we clarify in the equipment section of this test report. Somewhat unfortunate is the 1/4″ tripod thread positioned. This is located on the one hand outside the optical axis and on the other hand directly adjacent to the battery and memory card compartment flap. Thus, it cannot be opened if the camera is mounted on a tripod or a quick-release plate.

The powerful electronics, especially the optical image stabilizer, heat up the small case quite a bit during operation. So it’s not surprising that the small 1,350mAh DB-110 battery is only sufficient for 200 photos according to the CIPA standard. The GR III does not even have a lightning strike that would have to be taken into account at the operating time. During our test, in which we tried out the various menu settings intensively, we came across even fewer photos with one battery charge. So it’s good that you can recharge your batteries at any time via USB-C, for example from a battery pack on the go or in the car via a 12V USB adapter.

Around the lens there is a fine, rather too easily removable ring. If the camera is taken out of the bag, it may accidentally remove itself from the camera. Under the ring hides a bayonet with three golden contacts. The GA-1 attachment tube can be mounted here, which in turn accommodates the optional 0.75x wide-angle converter GW-4. This shortens the focal length to a 35mm equivalent of 21 millimetres. In contrast to the GR II, with the GR III it is no longer necessary to set an optical converter via the menu. The camera knows by itself that the image stabilizer has to work adjusted and the autofocus then only works contrast based.

Ricoh GR III Review

The tidy back of the Ricoh GR III allows single-handed operation when shooting. New is the touchscreen on the back of the Ricoh GR III, which not only allows touch autofocus on a subject detail, but also operation in the menu and during playback. But the GR III can also be operated classically via the keys. The display on the back of the camera cannot be moved, but has a high viewing angle.[Photo: Ricoh]

When designing the GR III, the primary goal was to build as small a camera as possible, even though some features, such as the fold-out flashlight, had to be dispensed with. What has remained is the system flash shoe, on which Pentax flash units can be used. An electronic viewfinder can also be found in vain on the GR III. If you still need a viewfinder, you can use the optional GV-1 or GV-2 optical viewfinders. The viewfinders cover the image angles of lenses with 24 or 28 millimetres and are simply pushed onto the flash shoe.

The 7.5 centimeter monitor on the back of the GR III has a resolution of 1.04 million pixels and is permanently installed. On the other hand, the viewing angle is very wide and the maximum luminosity of the display is a good 580 candelas per square meter, just enough in bright sunlight. A new feature is the precise touch function of the display. This allows the photographer to easily navigate through menu items or displayed images by wiping. Of course, the “pinch-to-zoom” gesture can also be used and can be used to zoom in and out during image reproduction.

The Ricoh GR III’s settings menu is clearly arranged and can be conveniently operated using the precise touch screen or the optional control pad. We particularly liked a help function offered by the GR III. In the menus, small numbers appear at the top that refer to the menu list in the operating instructions. The photographer only has to remember in which menu area he is and can find the corresponding entry in the list with the help of the displayed number. What’s less nice, however, is that nothing is explained in the list. The explanation for the entry only exists with the page number at the end of the respective line. Fortunately, the PDF manual is equipped with links, so that one click is enough to get to the appropriate place in the manual. However, since the manual only contains 172 pages, one could have decided to display the page number instead of an index number, even if it would have cost more work in localizing the cameras.

Although the operation of the recording settings is clear, it takes some getting used to. In shooting mode, the multifunction rocker switch must be pressed in once to enter shooting settings. Once here, the operation is transferred to the touch screen or the control pad. Once you have reached the appropriate setting, the desired function is selected. To exit the settings menu, either press the multifunction rocker switch again or press the OK button in the middle of the control cross. Confirmation with the touch screen is not provided. Nor does the menu disappear by itself when the shutter release button is pressed halfway. In addition, you cannot access these menus from the touchscreen. This degrades the ergonomic touch screen in this area and leaves it behind.

 

Ricoh GR III Review

On the right side of the camera, the USB-C interface is hidden under a soft rubber flap. Charging cables, data cables, HDMI cables or remote release cables can be connected here. [Photo: Ricoh]

 The photographer has his own menu item in the camera settings, which only contains individual settings. Here you can change key functions and much more. But the individualization doesn’t stop there, because the camera has six so-called boxes. Each box can contain the complete configuration of all camera settings and can be saved under its own name. Such a User Box can then be assigned to one of the three custom functions on the mode dial. So the photographer can store up to six highly specialized camera configurations and then load them with a shoot or menu selection. This eliminates the need for cumbersome on-site adjustments to the scene mode.

In addition to the aforementioned USB-C interface, to which a remote shutter release can also be connected, the camera also has the option of establishing a connection to a smart device via WLAN and Bluetooth. Prerequisite is the corresponding app installed on the device to be connected. But more about that later. The GR III does not have an HDMI interface directly, because the USB-C interface is also used for this.

Equipment

The optically stabilized APS-C sensor is one of the Ricoh GR III’s highlights. With a focal length of 18.3 mm, it corresponds to the shooting angle of a 35mm lens with a focal length of 28 mm. The resolution of the sensor is 24.2 megapixels. What this combination does in terms of image quality is explained in the relevant section below. According to Ricoh, the stabilizer should allow up to five exposure levels longer exposure times. In the practical test there were solid three levels. Exposure times of more than 0.3 seconds without a print run are therefore not recommended.

Ricoh GR III Review

The small switch on the left side of the camera is used to switch between video and photo mode. If it is pressed longer, the GR III activates the WLAN.

A hybrid autofocus system with fast phase AF sensors is being used for the first time in the GR III. This is clearly noticeable in the autofocus speed, which we measured in our laboratory test with 0.25 seconds. The pure release delay was measured at 0.04 seconds and to complete the trio of fast measurements, the GR III was ready to go in just 0.9 seconds after power-up. That makes the camera pretty fast.

The focus functions are extensive. For example, AF points can be activated by tapping on the monitor; alternatively, the camera can decide which focus points are used for the measurement. But also a modern tracking autofocus (tracking AF) was implemented. It can be operated intuitively and tracks objects quickly and accurately. Even though the snapshot function is not actually an autofocus function, it should be mentioned. It allows the photographer to preset a shooting distance and the camera no longer has to worry about focusing when taking pictures. Thanks to the large focus range of the lens, this function can be used quite universally. The selectable focus distances range from one to 2.5 metres in 50-centimetre increments. In addition, there is a five-meter and an “infinite” setting.

Manual focusing is supported by a focus-peaking and a magnifying glass function. The magnifying glass achieves a maximum 16x magnification in various steps. The manual focusing itself is only done via the rotary knob on the back of the camera, which, as with other compact cameras, is a tedious affair, as the adjustment steps become smaller and smaller as the shooting distance decreases.

Since the GR III is rather a photographically puristic camera, one must do without scene mode programs, one also searches in vain for an automatic scene mode control. For this there is a program automatic with the possibility to change time or aperture settings, this is also called program shift. There is also an automatic timer and aperture control as well as manual exposure adjustment.

Ricoh GR III Review

The 18.3 mm lens is only F2.8, but the movable sensor stabilizes the image so that exposures of up to 1/3 second can be made freehand.

Although the camera doesn’t offer any exuberant special effects, you don’t have to do without color effects to realize retro or black-and-white shots, for example. A total of ten prefabricated color effects are available. In addition, two memory locations can be filled with your own creations. Ten parameters are available for this, covering everything from edge sharpness and contrast to color settings. In addition, the prefabricated color settings can also be individualized.

With the special photographic functions, the camera offers an exposure bracketing function that can take a maximum of three shots with a maximum of five f-stops apart. Two interval functions are also available. The first function is a conventional interval function with the possibility of setting interval duration (one second to 60 minutes), start time and the number of shots (two to 99 or unlimited). The second interval function is called Interval Composition Exposure and allows you to set the start time and recording time. The images are internally calculated by the camera in such a way that only changes in brightness are recorded. So the popular Star Trails can be realized without much effort.

The Ricoh GR III has a continuous shooting function that writes a maximum of 4.6 frames per second in DNG raw data format to the memory card, but can only hold the speed for eleven shots at a time. The camera then randomly stutters subsequent images onto the memory card at an average frequency of about 1.4 frames per second. But this is still quite good, considering that the images have an average size of 45 megabytes. The GR III thus manages to shovel about 61.2 megabytes per second onto the memory card. So the minimum writing speed of the memory card should be accordingly fast if it is not to slow down the camera. In contrast, the GR III only achieves 4.2 frames per second in JPEG-format continuous shooting, but it keeps up the speed until the memory card is full or the battery is empty.

The video function seemed to be a very low priority for Ricoh. Not only has it been banned from the mode dial, it’s also quite unexciting for a camera in this price range. The maximum video resolution is only FullHD (1,920 x 1,080) with up to 60 frames per second. The color effects of photo mode are also available in video mode. If videos are to be recorded, at least one SDHC or SDXC memory card with speed class 6 must be used. However, before buying a memory card, you should take a look at the continuous shooting speed.

Ricoh GR III Review

The top view shows the system flash shoe for Pentax flash units as well as the upper control elements, for example the secured mode selector switch.

In terms of connectivity, the camera’s range of functions is quite small. The reason for this is that the free Ricoh “Image Sync” app only allows the transfer of images to the smart device. Ricoh promises functions such as the transmission of position data, remote control function, remote release function and background image transmission at some point in the future. A period is unfortunately not known. But perhaps this is also part of the concept of the purist camera for photo enthusiasts. We will update this test if necessary, if the app is able to provide these promised features.

Picture quality

The image processing of the Ricoh GR III is clearly restrained in the sharpening and thus produces only very small sharpness artifacts. The resolution at 50 percent contrast, however, only achieves a maximum of 44 line pairs per millimeter in the 35mm equivalent in the center of the image. The loss of resolution towards the edge is at least very small. This means that the resolution is only at the level of the Ricoh GR, which has a 16 megapixel sensor and not a 24 megapixel sensor. After all, the JPEG recordings are suitable for external post-processing without any problems. If you would like to have a bit more crisp to use the images immediately, you should raise the internal sharpening to your liking. Especially at ISO 800 and above, the images lose their sharpness visibly (see next but one paragraph).

Ricoh GR III Review

The tripod thread of the GR III was placed somewhat unhappily. It lies outside the optical axis and directly next to the battery compartment flap.

A further indicator that the image processor does not work very much on the image data is shown by the chromatic aberrations that are quite high for a fixed focal length and the uncorrected slight barrel distortion. Nevertheless, the F2.8 fast 18.3 millimeter lens cuts a good figure.

The image noise is beautifully fine-grained in its anatomy and the disturbing color noise is never a problem. The less disturbing luminance noise becomes visible at ISO 3,200 and increases continuously with increasing ISO sensitivity. Fine details decrease from ISO 800, but are still visible up to ISO 6,400. At higher sensitivities, image noise and noise reduction clearly leave their traces. Fine details are then eliminated along with the image noise. ISO 102.400 is practically unusable even for low photographic demands.

The maximum input dynamic that the camera can handle is slightly less than eleven f-stops and is therefore quite high. This dynamic decreases with increasing ISO sensitivity. However, the input dynamics only become critically lower above ISO 6.400. On the output side of the tonal values, the GR III performs well up to about ISO 800. From ISO 3.200 the output tonal range becomes poor. The camera achieves a maximum of slightly more than 224 displayable brightness levels.

Ricoh GR III Review

Three contacts are hidden under the very smooth-running lens protection ring. These “inform” the camera whether the optional wide-angle converter (21 mm KB) is mounted.

Ricoh GR III Review

In the GR III, the battery and memory card share a cover flap.

The camera performs well with the color display. The largest deviations from the colour chart are in the red-green and greenish-yellow areas. The orange tones are minimally desaturated; apparently in order not to make the skin tones too glaring.

Bottom line

The GR camera series looks back on a long tradition and was not an unknown name even in the days of silver halide film. This is exactly where Ricoh wants to score the GR III as a purist (second) camera for new and old photo enthusiasts. The classic elegance of the GR III doesn’t look that way, so the camera would be a real hand-catcher, but the impression is deceptive. The sturdy case lies well in the hand and the positioning of the controls is wonderfully solved. The positive housing impression is somewhat clouded by the very smooth front rotating wheel and the soft multifunction rocker on the back. But why Ricoh did without a tripod thread lying in the optical axis is incomprehensible with the demands of the camera.

The menu structure is transparent at the settings level and provides good approaches. The combination of index numbers and a function table in the PDF manual is good and thanks to internal links in the user manual PDF, the photographer is quickly guided to the desired explanations. The integration of the touch screen is also well solved on the setting level.

The shooting concept sometimes feels unnecessarily complicated and old-fashioned, so the photographer cannot access the shooting menu via the touchscreen. By default, the multifunction rocker switch must always be pressed to change the exposure metering mode, for example. After all, the GR III can be very finely configured to your own photographic needs. We didn’t really like the way the configurations were stored in boxes and assigned to the mode dial at first, but as the test progressed we learned to appreciate the possibilities it opened up.

In terms of image quality, the GR III does not appear to be a shoot-to-print camera. It delivers images in both JPEG and DNG (raw data) that should be post-produced, if only to adjust sharpness to the output.

Otherwise the GR III is not a hypermodern noble compact with a gigantic equipment list, but it doesn’t want to be that at all. Rather, the cleanly processed compact is aimed at the ambitious photographer who has no desire to deal with hundreds of functions, but still wants to make little compromise. This impression is clouded only by the poor energy efficiency of the GR III and the hefty price of around 900 euros.

The Ricoh GR III fascinates me very much. As a family camera it is eliminated, discarded. In addition, the fully automatic function is missing and the exposure correction is adjusted too easily inadvertently. But in the hands of an experienced photographer, it is the ideal second camera for your trouser or jacket pocket, for very fast, high-quality photos, wherever the 28mm focal length fits. I hardly miss a built-in flash and a viewfinder. But this would not only have made the camera even more expensive, but also bigger, so that it might have lost its unique selling point: The GR III is by far the smallest camera with an APS-C sensor, and also with a sensor shift image stabilizer. If you’re looking for a high quality always with you camera, you should definitely take a look at the little Ricoh.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Ricoh
Model GR III
Sensor CMOS APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)24.8 megapixels (physical)
24.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3.9 µm
Resolution (max.) 4.000 x 4.000
Video (max.) 1.920 x 1.080 60p
Lens F2,8/28 mm
Filter threads 49 mm (optional)
Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm)
Disbandment 1.037.000 pixels
tiltable
rotatable
swivelling
Touchscreen yes
AV connector HDMI via USB-C
Fully automatic yes
Automatic scene mode control
Program automation yes
Program shift yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
Manual yes
Bulb long time exposure yes
HDR function
Panorama function
Exposure metering Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Spot
fastest shutter speed 1/4.000 s
Synchronous time 1/4.000 s
Flash connection Pentax, standard centre contact flash shoe
WLAN yes
NFC
GPS
Remote release yes, cable release, remote control via Smartphone/Tablet
Interval shooting yes
Storage medium
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
Sensitivity
automatic ISO 100-102,400
manually ISO 100-102,400
White balance
automatic yes
manual measurement yes
Kelvin input yes
Fine correction yes
Autofocus yes
Number of measuring fields
Speed 0,25 s
AF auxiliary light LED
Dimensions (WxHxD) 109 x 62 x 33 mm
Weight (ready for operation) 255 g
Tripod socket outside the optical axis
Zoom
Zoom adjustment k. A.
Battery life 200 images according to CIPA standard
– = “not applicable” or “not available”

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Small and good quality housing
  • Fast autofocus
  • Good menu navigation for camera settings
  • Interesting support concept

Cons

  • Few video functions
  • Weak battery life
  • Currently poor app functionality
  • Too smooth-running rotating wheels or multi-function rocker

Firmware update 1.20 for Ricoh GR III: Now with digital film grain

Ricoh is providing new firmware for its APS-C compact camera that not only enhances functionality, but also adds new features. After installing the firmware in black and white mode, a digital film grain of selectable strength can be activated. The automatic horizon correction, which is realized by means of the sensor shift image stabilizer, could also prove to be very useful.

When image stabilization is deactivated, an inclination of up to 1.5 degrees can be automatically compensated. With activated image stabilization, on the other hand, only a maximum compensation of one degree is possible, as the image stabilizer also needs some leeway for its actual work. Furthermore, the update shortens the start time of the picture playback, improves the reaction of the shutter release button and the AF function. The update can be downloaded via a link hidden in the PDF installation guide. Details of the new features and how to use them, as well as the link to the PDF, can be found on the Ricoh support website. If you do not have the confidence to perform the installation yourself, you should contact your dealer or Ricoh Service for assistance.

Ricoh GR III Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)24.8 megapixels (physical), 24.2 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 3.9 µm
Photo resolution
4.800 x 3.200 pixels (3:2)
4.240 x 2.832 pixels (3:2)
4.000 x 4.000 pixels (1:1)
3.360 x 2.240 pixels (3:2)
3.200 x 3.200 pixels (1:1)
2.240 x 2.240 pixels (1:1)
1.920 x 1.280 pixels (3:2)
1.280 x 1.280 pixels (1:1)
Picture formats DNG, JPG
Colour depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard (version 2.0)
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 60 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
Maximum recording time 25 min
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)

Lens

Focal length 28 mm (35mm equivalent
)18.3 mm (physical)
Focus range 10 cm to infinity (wide angle)
Macro sector 6-12 cm (wide angle)
Apertures F2.8 to F16 (wide angle)
ND filter ND filter (2.0 EV levels)
Fixed focus present
Autofocus yes
Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus, contrast autofocus
Autofocus Functions Single Auto Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Area Auto Focus, Tracking Auto Focus, Manual, AF Assist Light (LED)
Focus control Depth of field control, Live View
Filter threads 49 mm, optional filter thread

Viewfinder and Monitor

Monitor 3.0″ (7.5 cm) TFT LCD monitor with 1,037,000 pixels, touch screen, anti-glare, brightness adjustable, colour adjustable

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Auto
)Bulb with maximum 1,200 s exposure time
Exposure control Fully Automatic, Program Automatic (with Program Shift), Aperture Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 3 shots, step size from 0.3 to 5 EV
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 100 to ISO 102.400 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 102.400 (manual)
Remote access Cable release, remote control via smartphone/tablet
, remote control from computer: no
Picture effects Bleach bypass, HDR effect, vibrant colors, retro, black and white, 7 more image effects
White balance Auto, Clouds, Sun, Fine Tuning, Shadows, Flash, Fluorescent Lamp, Incandescent Light, Kelvin Input, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 4 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with interval of 10 s, special features: additional 10 seconds
Timer Timer/interval recording with max. 99 recordings, start time adjustable
Shooting functions AEL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash no built-in flash availableFlash shoe
: Pentax, standard center contact
Flash range Flash sync time 1/4,000 s
Flash functions Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Flash On Second Shutter Curtain

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
Internal memory yes (2048 MByte)
Microphone Stereo
Power supply no power supply connectionUSB charging function
Power supply 1 x Ricoh DB-110 (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 3.6 V, 1,350 mAh
)200 CIPA-standard images
Playback Functions Image rotation, Protect image, Highlights / Shadow warning, Playback histogram, Playback magnifier with 16.0x magnification, Image index
Face recognition Face recognition
Picture parameters Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Grid can be faded in during recording yes
Special functions Electronic water level, pixel mapping, orientation sensor, live view, user profiles with 3 user profiles
Ports Data interfaces: Bluetooth, USBUSB type
: USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlusWLAN
: available (type: B, G, N)
Audio output: noAudio input
: noVideo output
: yes (HDMI via USB-C)
Tripod socket 1/4″ not in optical axis
Features and Miscellaneous Dust Removal II Sensor cleaning via ultrasonic-based piezo electronicsMulti-exposureFilm grain simulationDynamic range adjustmentVideo

exposure correction +/- 2 EV 1/3 stepsCompostite modeVideo

Image Control (Standard, Vivid, Monotone, Hard Monotone, Hi-Contrast B&W, Positive Film, Bleach Bypass, Retro, HDR Tone, Custom1, Custom2)RAW development

Size and weight

Weight 255 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 109 x 62 x 33 mm

Other

included accessories Ricoh DB-110 Special BatteryRicoh
GR (Hot Shoe Cover)
Ricoh I-USB166 USB CableUSB Power Adapter
optional accessory Ricoh BJ-11 Battery charger for special batteriesRicoh
CA-3 Remote cable releaseRicoh
GA-1 (attachment adapter) Lens accessoriesRicoh
GC-10 (soft bag) Camera bagRicoh
GC-9 (soft bag) Camera bagRicoh
GF-1 Slip-on flash with swivel reflectorRicoh
GK-1 metal (flash shoe cover)
Ricoh GS-2

WW (leather hand strap) Storage AccessoriesRicoh
GS-3 WW (camera strap) Storage AccessoriesRicoh
GV-1 (viewfinder)
Ricoh GV-2 (view

finder)Ricoh

GW-4 (wide-angle converter) ConverterRicoh
K-AC166 AC AdapterRicoh
ST-2 WW (camera strap) Storage Accessories

USB
USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (Type C)

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