The wait is over
Fans of the Ricoh GR, which was announced way back in 2013 (and preceded by both smaller-sensored and film GRs,) have been waiting a long time for an updated model. Sure, there was the GR II in 2015, but the biggest new feature on that model was Wi-Fi.
Four years later, the true replacement of the GR is here, in the Ricoh GR III. It has a higher-res sensor, a redesigned lens, in-body image stabilization and a hybrid AF system, to name just a few things. And Ricoh did all that without increasing the size of the camera, a favorite of street photographers.
New 24MP sensor and in-body stabilization
The GR III now has a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, up from 16MP on its predecessors. It offers an ISO range of 100 – 102,400 and uses 14-bit DNG as its Raw format.
Probably the most significant addition to the GR III is in-body image stabilization. By shifting its sensor, the GR III is able to provide up to four stops of shake reduction, according to Ricoh.
While the new 24MP sensor has no anti-aliasing filter, the GR III can take advantage of its shake reduction system to simulate one. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Pentax DSLRs have had this feature for many years.
Ricoh has also made an effort to keep dust off of the sensor, which was an issue for some owners of previous GR models. Like modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras, it uses ultrasonic vibrations to literally shake the dust away.
Redesigned lens and on-sensor phase detection
While it maintains the same 28mm equivalent focal length and F2.8 maximum aperture of the previous GR models, the GR III’s lens has been totally redesigned. It has six elements in four groups, with two of the elements being aspherical.
The lens has a built-in two-stop neutral density filter, which can now be set to engage automatically, meaning you can keep using the maximum aperture in bright light. The maximum shutter speed on the GR III, which continues to use a leaf shutter, is 1/4000 sec.
However, because it’s a leaf shutter, it can’t maintain this maximum speed when shooting at F2.8. Instead the maximum shutter speed tops out at 1/2500 sec at F2.8 (1/3EV improved, compared with the GR II). This, combined with the 2-stop ND and near-silent operation should mean you’ll rarely find yourself limited by the absence of a full-electronic shutter mode.
As you can see from the above photo, the lens ring can be removed so the optional GW-4 wide-angle lens can be attached. This brings the focal length of the lens down to 21mm equiv. and it’s a new optic designed to match the GR III’s new lens – so sorry, if you own the wide adapter for the GR or GR II, it won’t work on the new camera.
Another big feature on the GR III is on-sensor phase detection autofocus. We don’t know much about the system at this point, such as the number of points or frame coverage, but we hope that the combination of the updated AF system and new lens will give the GR III’s focus speeds a boost.
Touchscreen and rear controls
The back of GR III has been significantly redesigned. It includes a 3″ touchscreen LCD for the first time in the series’ history. This make selecting an AF point quicker and easier than on GRs past. Touch operation is responsive, but menu navigation can be a little awkward as the GUI isn’t designed for fingers.
Long time fans of the GR might miss the auto exposure/focus lock and vertical rocker switch from previous models. But we can assure you the camera has a familiar form factor, size and weight. The familiar rocker control is still directly under your thumb for applying exposure compensation.
Top plate controls and missing pop-up flash
The top of the GR III is nearly unchanged from recent models. It retains the iconic pill-shaped shutter release. Top plate controls, including the vertical dial, on/off switch and mode dial, are also unchanged.
We’d come to know and love the small tilt-up flash found on previous GR models, sadly it did not find its way into the GR III. Good thing the hot shoe did.
Another small change: TAv mode has been removed as an option from the mode dial. Fortunately, the basic premise of TAv should be achievable using Auto ISO in Manual exposure mode. Anyone familiar with the Pre-APS-C GR Digital models probably won’t notice this absence.
Video and connectivity
The GR III offers modest video specs, with the ability to capture 1080/60p footage. Recording is capped at 25 mins or 4GB of footage. The camera includes a built-in stereo mic, but not microphone or headphone sockets.
While the GR II had Wi-Fi, Ricoh has given the GR III Bluetooth, as well. This should make pairing a bit quicker while allowing for a constant connection between camera and smartphone.
Battery and charging
The GR III’s battery life has taken a serious nosedive, dropping 38% over the GR II. It offers a CIPA-rated 200 shots per charge which isn’t great. Our first attempt shooting with this new model gave us less than an hour-and-a-half of shooting time, so that’s something we’ll keep a close eye on when we get our hands on a camera running final firmware.
Since the new DB-110 battery is more powerful than the one on the GR II, it’s likely that the IBIS system is the main culprit for the drop.
On a more positive note, the GR I/II’s proprietary charging port has been replaced by USB-C. I supports USB-PD which allows it to be powered by external power banks.
Limited edition GR III and accessories
The GR III will be shipping in mid-March for $899 / £799 ($100/£200 more than the previous version). In some regions, that snazzy blue lens ring pictured above will be included.
Accessories include the WG-4 wide-angle conversion lens, the GV-1 and GV-2 optical viewfinders and the usual assortment of cases and straps.
There was some concern when Ricoh first unveiled mockups of the GR III, with long-time fans of the series concerned about the impact of the control changes that have been introduced.
Our first impressions are that the main command dial and rear jog control are just where you expect them, so the shooting experience isn’t too significantly changed. The loss of dedicated buttons will take some getting used to, but we found we still had access to the things we change most.
The touchscreen makes it much easier to quickly position the AF point than on previous GRs. At least for now there’s a considerable lag if you use the rear screen for touch shutter. Even with the new focus system, there’s still a noticeable pause even if you’ve placed the AF point and use the shutter button to fire. We’ll see whether responsiveness picks up with final firmware.
Of course the alternative is to use Snap Focus to keep the lens focused at a predetermined point. Which, if you’ve used an GR before, may already be your preferred way of working.