Return of the Legend: Ricoh GRII Follow Up

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Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GRII.

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.

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Ricoh GRII. 

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.

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Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GRII.

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:

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Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GRII.

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.

Literally.

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.

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Seoul. Ricoh GR2.

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Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GRII.

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.

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Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GRII. 

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.

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Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GRII.

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.

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Seoul, South Korea. Ricoh GRII. 

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.

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Busan, South Korea. Ricoh GR. 

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.

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Iksan, South Korea. Ricoh GRII.

I suppose you’d call that an affinity. An affinity for a particular camera?

Not really.

An affinity for a brand?

For a series?

Definitely.

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.

September 2017.

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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.

18 thoughts on “Return of the Legend: Ricoh GRII Follow Up

  1. 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…

  2. 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.

    • 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…
        Damn!

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

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