Tech review: Ricoh GR III a nifty compact for street photographers

In terms of design, the GR III looks like its predecessors - the same magnesium alloy body with a matt black, textured finish. The rubberised grip continues to be a joy to hold.
In terms of design, the GR III looks like its predecessors - the same magnesium alloy body with a matt black, textured finish. The rubberised grip continues to be a joy to hold.PHOTO: ST FILE

For fans of the Ricoh GR fixed-lens compact digital camera, the wait is over. The Ricoh GR III is here.

The original GR, released in 2013, packs an APS-C image sensor and an excellent 28mm wide-angle fixed lens, making it an instant classic among street photographers. Its follow-up in 2015, the GR II, added only Wi-Fi as the main new feature.

But this third iteration, the GR III, finally gets some real upgrades. For a start, it has a 24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor, an upgrade from the 16-megapixel sensor in its predecessors. It also has the GR Engine 6 image processor for improved responsiveness. Also new is its faster phase-detection autofocusing (AF) feature, which works alongside the slower contrast AF system.

The famed 28mm f/2.8 prime lens now has an all-new six-element and four-group optical system for better edge-to-edge sharpness.

The addition of anin-body image- stabilisation system helps prevent camera shake. Plus, the 3-inch display is now a touchscreen.

In terms of design, the GR III looks like its predecessors - the same magnesium alloy body with a matt black, textured finish. The rubberised grip continues to be a joy to hold.

The camera issmaller than its predecessors. As a result, it loses the pop-up flash found in the previous GRs.

  • FOR

    - Lightweight and compact

    - Great build and handles well

    - Superb still image quality

    AGAINST

    - No 4K video

    - Mediocre video quality

    - Non-tiltable display

    SPECS

    PRICE: $1,299

    IMAGE SENSOR: 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS

    LENS: 28mm f/2.8

    DISPLAY: 3-inch fixed touchscreen LCD with 1,037,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 102,400

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 4 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 257g (body with battery and memory card)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 2.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The top right mode dial is also smaller, with no space for the video recording mode selector. Instead, the selector has been moved to the button on the left side of the camera and, if you press and hold it, also works as a Wi-Fi button. There is also a new rear dial wheel that doubles as a four-way directional pad. The handling is great overall.

The touchscreen display is responsive, whether I am tapping on it to focus on a subject or to change settings. A slight downside is that the display is still not tiltable, which would have made it handy for "shooting from the hip" - somethingstreet photographers like to do.

The new AF system feels much faster than before. Getting a focus lock on subjects in bright sunlight is instantaneous. The face-tracking function also ensures that your subject's face is sharp most of the time.

In dim lighting conditions, it usually takes around a second to secure a focus with the aid of AF assist light - not bad for a compact camera.

Operation-wise, it is pretty fast compared with the competition. It takes 0.7 seconds to power up and 1.3 seconds to shut down. Most large-sensor compact cameras take around two seconds for both powering up and shutting down.

Using an SD Card with a writing speed rated at 30MB per second, the GR III captures 12 RAW images in 2.8 seconds before the buffer runs out. This is pretty much as advertised.

The image quality is superb with crisp details. Colour reproduction is spot-on and looks natural. I particularly like the monochrome modes as they give photos a film-like feel.

Noise performance is good. There are no noise artefacts even at ISO 1,600. Visible noise artefacts appear only at ISO 3,200, but there is not much detail loss. However, expect images to be visibly grainy at ISO 12,800 and above. The highest ISO setting I recommend is ISO 6,400.

The battery life is rated at 200 still images. I get 250 images before the battery went flat. This is slightly below average, but you can charge the camera via a USB-C cable using a power bank.

Another minus: The camera cannot shoot 4K videos and its full high-definition videos lack the sharpness and quality of its stills. This is certainly not a camera to get if you are a video-inclined person.

But for street photographers looking for a superb compact camera to discreetly document the things that happen around them, the Ricoh GR III is a great choice.