I’ve been a long-time fan of the Ricoh GR series of cameras. This dates back to the late 90s, when I went into a shop in Central London looking for a replacement for my Minox GT, and was convinced by the salesman to try the then-new GR1 instead. Well, I was convinced, and duly took it on a tour of Venezuela, where it was scandalously mistreated (including being dropped in a river) and yet worked just fine. It also opened my eyes to the difference that a high quality lens could make, and was a major contribution to me taken photography a bit more seriously. A few years later it was joined by a GR1v and the two of them went to India with me. Eventually I gave away the GR1. I still have the GR1s, but it is fairly infirm. Ricoh introduced a digital take on the GR - logically enough, the GR Digital, or GRD, around 2004. I passed on this, but bought the follow-up GRD 2. Unfortunately, despite their very high build quality, in my experience Ricoh GRs, both film and digital, have never been all that reliable, and the GRD 2 carried on the tradition with the lens extension mechanism getting very unreliable when it was just out of warranty. Eventually I gave up on it, and bought the latest version, the GRD 4, which had a better sensor, faster lens, superb screen and sensor stabilisation. It worked, until, largely due to brain fade on my part, it got stolen in Buenos Aires back in January. I doubt it found much interest from the fences. I was in a mind to replace it, but I couldn’t find one at a good price in this part of the world, and then the tempting Nikon Coolpix A came along.
But before I could succumb to temptation, I came across an Olympus XA for sale in a local market.
This, it turns out, was a stroke of luck in more than one way, because as well as reconnecting me with the joys of the XA series, it also saved me from spending a lot of money on a Nikon which I can now save for the imminent new Ricoh GR. While there had been some wishful thinking on various fora that a GRD 5 might turn up sometime, maybe towards the end of the year, the sudden appearance of a model that looks like it trumps the Coolpix A in every department, apparently for a lower price, is quite a surprise.
I also questioned if I really like shooting with a 28mm field of view, or if in fact I just like the fact that the GRs are wonderfully engineered and fit in my pocket. After all, conventional internet wisdom decides that 28mm is for “street”, whatever the hell that is, or “landscape”. Well, I don’t really do street, and the only people who think that landscape exclusively means wide angle either don’t do landscape or make very boring photos. So, just to reassure myself, I had a go at resuscitating the GRD 2, and this has been partially successful. And I found a cheap secondhand Lumix 14mm (28mm equivalent) to put on the front of my Olympus PEN, for good measure. And I decided that yes, I do like 28mm, which really should not have come as a surprise.
So, in anticipation of a new Ricoh GR, here are some recent shots, all taken during lunchtime walks in the last week or so, with an old, battered and recalcitrant GRD 2. Hey, it still seems to work.