Well, this should come as a surprise. I’ve been shooting with a Ricoh GRII again.
Yup, again (well only like ten photos so far, ha). My blog post- Why I Always End Up With Ricoh – is especially pertinent at these kind of moments.
The story goes something like this:
I had a GRII at the same time as I was starting to shoot film again. I really, really love shooting film. As you could probably see from my last post film is the part of photography that appeals to my soul.
The Ricoh part of photography – on the other hand – is the one that appeals to my brain.
It is an interesting thing and one that is tough to quantify. I don’t know what it is about using a Ricoh but it makes digital feel right to me. Admittedly, I feel somewhat similar about Fuji’s X100 (the original one). The Ricoh though, is the one that really “sings” to me.
So, to continue. I had sold this one to a friend. She used it for several months travelling through Asia, America, and Europe.
I originally sold it for two reasons:
1. I wanted to sell it before it broke my heart..
Ricoh’s were never known to be reliable. I have had several Ricoh GRs that all had some issue or another. I have had nearly 15 Ricoh digital cameras most of which ended up with lens problems or dust f$5kery. There is a meantime to failure about them that scares me. My Leica M3 on the other hand is from 1961 and still works like new. I know it won’t let me down.
Did I mention I have TWO Ricoh GR21s at home in a box because they are both broken.
Ricohs almost always break my heart. I love them to death.
It is a tough thing. I always feel I have a relationship with a Ricoh camera in the same way I do with an old car. Someday, it will invariably let me down but yet somehow I can’t help but love it just the same.
After re-buying my GRII from my friend after her trip I was worried about dust being on the sensor so I took the photo above (the one of the sky). On first glance I almost cried at seeing the two spots. Luckily upon closer inspection they are just fighter jets from the nearby Gunsan Airforce base. Thank the f%$k.
After all those countries there was no dust. I was shocked. The outside of the camera was fairly worn. So why no ill effects?
I think the key is the hood. Most of the dust seems to come in through the lens as it opens and retracts. Basically, when I originally got this one I cleaned the lens of dust and then put on the hood / filter kit (GH-3). The hood, stops most of the dust that might otherwise enter the lens from entering. I will always use one of these on any Ricoh GR from now on.
2. I end up not shooting with anything else..
Whenever I have a Ricoh I almost never use anything else. I don’t finish rolls of film because I don’t pick up my film camera as much. It isn’t a conscious thing as if I had to take one camera to my grave it would be the M3. It is the simplicity, I suppose. It is the fact that it takes no effort to carry, use, or store. It doesn’t become part of conversations like the Leica does.
It is kinda just there.
This might not seem a problem. Why not just shoot with the Ricoh? Well, the weird thing is I never feel like shooting with the Ricoh is intrinsically “fun.” As a photographic tool, it is probably the best out there for most of what I do but I never really feel anything when I’m using it.
It just sort of melts into the periphery.
Again, not really a negative. Actually, for sure this is more a positive. That being said, when shooting with my M3 I really enjoy myself. I feel happy even if the photos don’t turn out as well. It is a different sort of feeling. I feel involved in the process. I feel like my decisions matter a little more. I enjoy going home with a full roll and developing it with a beer or a glass of wine. It is certainly a different feeling.
All that aside, picking up the Ricoh from the table at dinner with my friend felt like picking up an old friend. It is extremely strange, in that, whenever I pick up any Leica M3 that isn’t my own beaten and battered one I don’t really feel anything. They AREN’T my camera. With a Ricoh, no matter who owns said camera or in what context I may be in every single one I pick up feels like a friend.
I suppose you’d call that an affinity. An affinity for a particular camera?
An affinity for a brand?
For a series?
This one will probably break my heart just like they all have done. Then, so will the next one.
And the next.
Iksan, South Korea.
As a side note, I am planning on starting print sales this month if anyone is interested please shoot me an email (jtinseoul @ gmail . com) or message me on my Instagram.
I wish you (more) luck with this one!
Great photos as ever!
So many interesting points here.
You say “As a photographic tool, it is probably the best out there for most of what I do but I never really feel anything when I’m using it.” Well, you put your finger right where the GR hurts me most. The GR just works, and works beyond expectation most of the time. But expectations are lower precisely because the tool is far from sensual (as Leica Film cameras —and possibly the M10, I can’t say— know how to be). There is no joy in handling a GR, and the total lack of physical commands makes it almost alien and definitely cold. But then you come back from a shoot or a walk (you don’t need to go out shooting to shoot a GR, you just need to go about your business), and you’ll discover little gems that you did not even know you had picked up from the rubble of the city. Amazing. As you say, it’s a camera that just is, transparent. Almost phone-like in its non-presence. Actually, more transparent than a phone, at least for me as I do not use the rear screen to compose at all, just the external OVF.
I’ll think about the hood thing as a dust protector. I don’t use one, and so far I’ve been lucky on the dust (and durability) front. But lucky streaks have a way to end. And since I don’t plan to replace the Ricoh much before its year 7, I’d better take care of it as best as I can…
Oh, one more thing: batteries. I hate Ricoh’s batteries, they rarely last me more than 60 shots. Is it because of the retracting lens using too much power just moving in and out? Even brand new, stupidly expensive original batteries don’t seem to have lasting power…
What’s your experience?
Hey Giovanni! You’re right here, of course. Honestly though, I have the same sort of feeling with a digital Leica. It “tricks” me for a couple of days but eventually I end up feeling the same as I do with the Ricoh in terms of “coldness”.. The battery thing has never been much of an issue for me. I rarely shoot more than 20-30 photos during an outing so I rarely even notice the battery in cameras. I usually charge the GR like every two weeks or so. I haven’t really “tested” one per say but I have a bunch of the batteries.
Yes, the M9 (and Mono CCD) do not feel as sensuous as the M6. Too thick!
That’s one reason why I am avoiding physical contact with an M10: I’m afraid I would not be able to let go of it!
Haha, I think it is something about specific cameras to me.
quite an interesting point: many I shoot a lot of photos in a row, because of catching the moment. so I frequently get home with several hundred, sometimes even more than thousand pictures. so I do get minimum 300, maximum even 800 pictures out of one battery (I have two). I turn it on and off a lot, taking it in and out of my pocket. hence the msin power drain doesnt seem to come from lens extension (and neither of flash use), but from the screen, and maybe metering, or other electronics running.
btw. one battery is considerably more powerful than the other. both are original, I would recommend sigma, as one of theirs is identical, but cheaper and still a brand.
I see, interesting points. I shoot around 800-1200 photos a year including film and digital so I almost never have to charge batteries. Although they seem to go a bit flat just sitting around once in a while. I have five or six for the Ricoh but usually only end up using the original one I got with the camera. Anyway, never been a problem for me really.
Believe it or not, today I walked out with three spare batteries I had not touched since July, and ALL of them were totally flat. Would hardly start up the camera and shut off immediately. I’m recharging them all as I write, hope it was a total fluke… (all originals btw). Will update this as I test them further…
Hope it was indeed a fluke. Recharged and not flat. But still, little more than 80 shots on one fresh charged…
Nice! As I said, that is about a month’s worth of shooting for me so it is hard for me to tell if a battery sucks or not ;(
I find that I tend to read through books and watch movies twice, and generally enjoy them more the second time around; I find it is the same with your posts, hopefully you will see that as a compliment, Josh. Anyway, random fact aside I hope the dust-demons leave you be this time around with the GR.
You and me too. My dust paranoia now just goes to my negatives as well haha.
When you add the hood/filter, doesn’t it get too bulky and looses its main feature, i.e. perfectly fit a pocket?
Never put a camera in my pocket anyway. Just wear them around my neck, even the small ones. She handed it to me with the wrist strap so I took the picture with it on.
Thanks a lot for your recent posts; happy to read more of them in the past weeks: all of them interesting and worth reading. Still very content with a GR and its versatility and inconspicuousness after almost 3 yrds now – kind regards to Korea
I am kinda in same relations with x100t. For 2 years +\- we are stick together. This thing just do his job well.
The Ricoh GR is a great camera in terms of output. In terms of handeling I prefer my Leica but that’s film and film means a lot of extra work for me. Digital is now so good that I will be using the Ricoh more. In the end the image counts. Nobody gives a …… how it was taken.
I had a Ricoh GR (the predecessor to the II) a few years ago and sold it for fear of getting dust on the sensor. I regret doing that. It was a lovely camera.
Hey, JT – I just wanted to thank you for this now 3-year-old review of yours, which I reread awhile ago – and enjoyed immensely. I’m currently on my 3rd Ricoh now – and, surprise of surprises, it happens to be a GR II too! I started some years ago with the 1st generation of the APS-C cameras, the one they came out with in 2015 or 2016, and I used it on and off and somehow it always gave me some truly great images but (it’s a long story) I wound up selling it. Both because I didn’t quite ‘bond’ with it – and also I wasn’t using it enough. Fast forward to the beginning of this year (2020) when I gave in to impulse and nostalgia and bought an older GRDiii, the dinky little one with the tiny sensor, which I have to admit is a remarkably cool little tool. I have used that quite a bit on and off – but using it made me actually miss the quality (imagewise I mean) and capabilities of my former GR. So…….
So I purchased a lightly used GRii from another photographer who wasn’t using it and, maybe the 3rd time’s the charm? but this time around, it has really ‘gelled’ (is that even a word?) with me. It seems to have become my pocketable take-everywhere camera, though the tiny little clip-on Ricoh viewfinder makes it a bit less pocketable but, still…..damn, it’s a tool which just sort of seems to feel right in the hand. I can say from experience – being a writer by both trade and profession and mental inclination – that certain writing devices make a person want to write more, or aid the process. That includes a small handful of older typewriters I have used and used to use, and a small handful of portable (and not portable) Mac computers, whose keyboards, screens, and undefinable je-ne-sais-quoi’s….have made me want to use them more than other so-called dedicated word processors or writing tools or computers or whatnot. It’s the same with cameras sometimes, and—
And for me, I don’t understand why, but the GRII is light-years ahead of its earlier sibling, the GR – while at the same time somehow being like an old familiar friend or an almost worn-out but stupidly comfortable pair of favorite shoes. Long story short, it’s a fine, fine small camera—and since your thoughtful, honest, occasionally funny, and often poignant words (and sometimes reviews) about it (and other cameras as well) have illuminated some of the darker parts of my brain—I just wanted to check in and say thank you. For this review – and in general, for your writing — and for quite a few photographs that I keep coming back to and wanting to look at again and again.
Hope you are staying well in all the madness. Here in the United States, we have other varieties of madness and madmen to deal with – but these are good times to keep breathing, and flexing those creative muscles before they atrophy.
Stay well – and muchas gracias again, dude.