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Ricoh Revival

old camera, new tricks

in Ricoh , Tuesday, October 05, 2021

I’ve been using Ricoh GR cameras since 1997. In fact, the Ricoh GR1 was the first camera I bought new*, and had a significant part to play in my starting to take photography seriously. Since then, I’ve always owned a Ricoh GR of one kind or another, although my use of them goes in peaks and troughs.

Two recent events revived my interest in the GR - or rather, reinforced it, it hadn’t lapsed that much - the announcement of the new GRIIIx, and an application called Ricoh Recipes. I’ll start with Ricoh Recipes: given the tagline “It’s like shooting film on your Ricoh GR” how could I resist?

Ricoh Recipes is an app for IOS and Android which presents various parameter configurations you can manually load into your GR, GR II or GR III, and register under one of the custom entries on the mode dial. The process is a bit finicky, but it works, and the results are quite interesting. I tried out the “Color Chrome” and “Monochrome Negative” for the GR II.

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Ricoh Recipes Color Chrome

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Ricoh Recipes Monochrome Negative

Well, they don’t turn bad photos into good photos, but they can inject a bit of a spark into mundane local scenes you’ve seen a thousand times before, and make using the camera more fun and interesting. And they’re free - although there is a paid level, it does some a bit expensive given that it is essentially just a “thank you” to the developer. Even more so as it is a subscription… had it been a one-off I’d have happily put some coins in the tip jar.

The second event was the out of the blue announcement of the Ricoh GRIIIx. This is a really big deal. With the sole exception of the film era GR21, all GR cameras have a 28mm-equivalent field of view. Asking for anything else was near-heresy to the cult of GR. But no more: the GRIIIx has a 40mm equivalent lens. In all other ways it is identical to the standard GRIII. My immediate reaction was to want to order one immediately, but unfortunately no sooner did it become available to order, some 3 weeks after the announcement, it became unavailable until further notice. December, perhaps. It could be ordered from the official Ricoh online store, provided you managed to register for, sign on to, navigate that arcane mess, but Switzerland is not a country known to Ricoh Imaging.

So I’ll have to wait. Actually, I don’t even own a GRIII, given that it hasn’t always been favourably compared to the GRII I already own, and misses what is for me a key GRII feature, the 4:3 crop mode. Maybe if and when I get a GRIIIx, if I like the handling I’ll get a standard GRIII to go with it.

While I’m here I may as well take the excuse to show a few photos. I’ve tried to find one I particularly like from each instance of a GR I’ve owned.

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Mumbai, India, 2001. Either from the GR1 or GR1s, and probably Provia 100F. Totally blurred of course, but I like the atmosphere.

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Venice, Italy, 2010 - GR Digital II

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West Iceland, 2012 - GR Digital IV

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Barichara, Colombia, 2014 - GR

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Lugano, Switzerland, 2021 - GR II


* some time in late 1997, I was looking for a compact camera to take to Venezuela. I already owned a secondhand Minox 35ML, but this had developed some issue, and I wasn’t confident it was reliable. So, and as far as I remember, I wanted to buy a new Minox. I found a small shop in Central London, in Picadilly Arcade, which sold Minox, and went there to buy one. Picadilly Arcade is a pretty upmarket location, I discovered, and probably the shop if it still existed today would cater for gold-plated Leica collector type customers. But in fact they were very friendly and helpful, and managed to talk me out of a Minox and into this new camera from a company I’d never heard of. So that’s how I became the owner of a new Ricoh GR1 Date, which went to Venezuela, survived being dropped in a tropical river, and gave many years of reliable service. It taught me the value of a good, or rather great, lens, also. A few years later I bought a second GR, a GR1s, from the same shop while visiting London. I don’t know what later became of them - another victim of online shopping, I imagine.

 

 

 

Ferragosto

the sargasso of the soul

in Photography in Ticino , Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ferragosto is an Italian and public holiday celebrated on 15 August, coinciding with the major Catholic feast of the Assumption of Mary. These days it commonly marks the end of a standard two week work close down and summer vacation period, during which Italian cities are deserted, and nobody, but nobody, answers the phone. Even the carabinieri have gone to the beach. Unlike Northern Europeans, in general Italians seek out crowds, and actually seem to enjoy being packed in like sardines on the beaches of Rimini and Viareggio, and saying that you’re not going anywhere at “Ferragosto” is to be marked out as a weirdo.

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Since the Canton Ticino is at least culturally an extension of Northern Italy, and since over 50,000 Italians cross the border every day to work here (Ticino has a population of about 330,000), Ferragosto strikes Ticino as well.

Apart from the tourists, and the few people like me still working, the trains are empty, and the streets emptier still. The wind-down starts as the the schools and universities close at the beginning of July, accelerates towards August, and then peaks during the Ferragosto. The heat and the lack of activity lead to strange, subdued atmosphere, like an urban Sargasso Sea.

I wrote a little about this last year, with a short set of photos.  Here’s a few more.

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After the 15th of August, people start drifting back. You might, just might, be able to reach a plumber or an electrician, but it’s still unlikely. Then it all accelerates. In a few short days the 50,000 people are once again crossing the border to jam up an infrastructure which was never designed to support them, the trains are full, the streets are busy. Ferragosto and the dog days of August are a receding dream.

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Hello (again) Ricoh

you’ve been gone, too long

in Ricoh , Monday, November 10, 2014

Just under 2 years ago I became unwillingly separated from my Ricoh GRD4 due to a bit of carelessness in Buenos Aires and some anonymous Argentinian who doubtlessly is now roasting in hell for his/her misdemeanours. This interrupted something like 14 years of continuously using Ricoh GR series cameras. Although I had (and still have) a GRD2, it was falling apart and frequently refused to work. I adored the look of the “new GR” when it first came out, but it was a bit too expensive for me.

But no more. Thanks to a very low special offer from Digitec here in Switzerland, I am now the new owner of an APS-C sensor Ricoh GR, quite a different proposition from the GRD4 from an image quality point of view (although not always necessarily better) but with the same fantastic usability, design and build quality. And I’ve got it just in time for our next Latin America jaunt, to Colombia, where discretion is highly advisable. Hopefully it won’t get “liberated” like its predecessor.

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GRs old and new - the GR1S film camera, GRD2 digital, and new GR.

Due to the large sensor and subsequent shallower depth of field, it isn’t quite as forgiving in use as the the GRDs.  Closer in a way to the film GR, and also closer in size.  But from my first hurried attempts in grim weather, it gives great results. And it fits in my pocket.

All the photos here are pretty much straight from camera…no time for faffing around right now.

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28mm

revisiting Ricoh

in Film , Sunday, April 21, 2013

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.

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