Is Ricoh GR IIIX That Great For Street Shooting?

I had the privillege to borrow the Ricoh GR IIIX from my friend Matti Sulanto and took it out for a few days' worth of shutter therapy adventures in Malacca. The Ricoh GR series somehow gathered quite a cult-following status for being the perfect street photography machine. I wanted to try this out myself and see if that is really the case. My friend Matti of course loves his Ricoh GR III and IIIX and have made many videos singing praises for these cameras. I, on the other hand have my own reservations and I am discussing what I like and dislike about the camera after using the GR IIIX extensively for a few days. 

The 40mm equivalent lens is quite an interesting choice for Ricoh GR IIIX, sitting right in between the two popular focal lengths 35mm and 50mm. I can see why this has become a favourite for a lot of street shooters, since all the previous GR series iterations have always been 28mm wide angle equivalent coverage. Having slightly longer focal length can give a more natural and proportionate look, something I'd definitely prefer to work with over a wide angle such as 28mm. 

I especially treasure the slim build; it was truly slim when powered off that you can easily slide it into any pocket. This fits into what a street shooting machine should be, something you can bring with you easily everywhere, be always prepared for spontaneous unpredictable moments. 

The camera is very well built, feels solid in hand and inspires confidence when I was handling it. The hand-gripping area has a good bump that aids in stabilizing the camera when handholding it single-handedly. The overall image quality is very good, the 24MP APS-C sized image sensor, in combination with 40mm F2.8 equivalent lens produces excellent results. I get consistently sharp images with good contrast and the results are already so sharp when I was shooting wide open at F2.8. The camera was generally responsive, and it was quite a joy using the camera for street shooting. 

I did run into a few issues with the Ricoh GR IIIX. I found dust spots on image sensor, which was not supposed to happen since this was a non-interchangeable camera, so there is no way to clean it ourselves. Then the white balance engine is somewhat unreliable in artificial light. I also find the image stabilization quite useless, it was almost like not having image stabilization at all. I can't even get steady 1/5 second shots, and this is a shame because a powerful image stabilization will open up more opportunities, shooting with slower shutter speed to induce some motion and dynamics in the photographs, without using any support like tripod or monopods. 

Perhaps the deal-breaker for me was the autofocus performance, it was quite unreliable that I missed quite a lot of critical moments. I'd expect a modern camera released in the past few years to have much higher hit rate, and better AF efficiency. Some would argue that the snap focus is to mitigate the AF issues, but seriously, I find snap focus to be a lazy and poor excuse for lousy autofocus system. I have an F2.8 lens, I want my bokeh, and I expect the camera to do better at AF. 

I did enjoy shooting with the Ricoh GR IIIX. I got some images that I was happy with. I hope they can improve the AF in their next GR series camera, and hopefully also fix the dust on sensor problem. 

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  1. Have you tried it's "Positive Film" mode? If so, what do you think about it? I bought the GXII because of it's Positive Film mode. I tried to achieve that kind of look (Ricoh's Positive Film) using LR, ON1 Photoraw, CaptureOne, Photoshop, but the result weren''t even close enough to Ricoh's. I even tried some "Preset" that claimed to mimick that look, but none are as good as Ricoh's.

    As for the auto-focus' problem, I think the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 (version 1) also has the same problem. But, I got better results and keeper-rate after replacing it with it's "version 2".

    1. Thanks Loki for the comment. I shot all images in RAW and did my own post-processing. I am quite happy with the colors and overall image quality, and that lens is very sharp! So no complains from me in this department.
      Yeah the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 is known to be slow. However, when it locks focus, it locks accurately!