I started my photography journey as a street photographer, before becoming a photojournalist. As fate would have it, I have long since traded my camera for a laptop as a technology journalist.
But I still love to just roam the streets and take pictures. This is even more so with the new Ricoh GR II in hand.
This unassuming-looking and compact camera might not look like much but it packs a 16-megapixel APS-C image sensor found in entry-level and mid-range DSLRs. It also offers a superb 28mm f/2.8 lens.
In other words, it gives you great image quality with a fast and sharp prime lens - exactly what you need for street photography.
IMAGE SENSOR: 16-megapixel APS-C
LENS: 28mm f/2.8
SCREEN: 3-inch LCD screen with 1,230,000 dots
SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 25,600
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 4 frames per second
CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication
WEIGHT: 251g (with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 3/4
The GR II's predecessor, launched three years ago, has almost the same specifications. Among the small changes are the inclusion of Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) connectivity to aid image transfer and remote control. The two features keep the camera current, but do not do much for me.
What is important to me is its Full Press Snap feature. It makes the camera focus to a pre-determined position, such as 1m or 2.5m, so as to reduce press-to-shot lag.
The camera is very compact, measuring the same as an Apple iPod Touch in length. But with a body hewn from magnesium alloy, it is both lightweight and solid.
It has a nice rubberised grip with all its buttons located on the right side of the camera. The top Mode dial has a lock that you need to press before you can turn the dial to prevent accidental turns. I like the front wheel dial and the rear switch that can be used to toggle aperture and shutter speed respectively, in Manual mode. Overall, handling is superb.
The only downside is the lack of a built-in electronic viewfinder. However, composing with the fixed 3-inch LCD is likely to make your street photography subjects feel more at ease, which helps to create more candid photos.
Plus, this camera is fast. It starts up in 1.3sec and shuts down in 1.1sec. Using an SD card with a writing speed of 45MB per second, I was able to capture 10 RAW images in 1.3sec before the buffer ran out. There is a slight shutter lag of around 0.5sec. But the lag becomes negligible when you use the Full Press Snap feature.
Autofocusing (AF) is almost instantaneous in bright sunlight. In dim lighting conditions though, it sometimes takes slightly more than two seconds to secure a focus.
Photos taken with the GR II are outstanding - sharp and with great detail and smooth tones. But I found that the metering system tends to underexpose images by nearly one stop. I recommend putting exposure compensation to +1 when using Program or Aperture Priority modes.
Image noise control is stellar. There is no image noise up till ISO 1,600. And only at ISO 3,200 did noise artefacts start to appear. Even at ISO 6,400, I could see good colour saturation and details, despite the noise artefacts. Anything above ISO 6,400 is not recommended as the images look too washed out.
Battery life is average at around 320 still images on a full charge.
• Verdict: It may not have any significant upgrades from its predecessor, but the Ricoh GR II is still a great compact to get if you are into street photography.