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Ricoh GR1 – Admire its purity

Once upon a time I borrowed a couple of Ricoh GR cameras (one a V, the other an S, I think) from fellow Worcester-dweller and Very Nice Person Hamish of http://www.35mmc.com . And did I see what the fuss was about? Nope.

Both cameras had been in the wars. (Said wars being well documented on Hamish’s site.)

The two Ricohs, and I, we didn’t bond. Largely because they weren’t my cameras and I was a bit scared of breaking them (being broken being something they do).

[Insert cut scene representing time passing; calendar flipping over or some such. Days, days days; weeks, weeks, weeks; months, months months…]

Not long ago, tired of lugging a Canon 1DS around (loads of film cameras but only one decent – huge – digital camera), I went looking for a digital compact. I bought a Ricoh GR.

Now I get it. Ricoh are masters of the built-for-the-photographer camera. Every time I think ‘I wish I could set the…’ on the GR I find the setting, in a logical place. Brilliant. It’s the only digital camera I’ve ever used where I’ve set up the custom modes and used them.

Anyway, this has had the financially unfortunate side effect of making me want my own GR film compact. Yesterday it arrived.

I was a bit nervous opening the package. It’s not just Hamish’s GRs that are delicate. eBay is full of non-functioning GRs being sold for parts. More than one reviewer mentions broken cameras. And as if that wasn’t enough, Bellamy, King of the Japanese Compact, mentions their delicate nature on his site and in his Digital Rev appearance.

I was also nervous because at £170 it was a lot less who-cares-if-it-doesn’t-work than the £3 charity shop and £10-£20 eBay cameras I usually buy.

But (joy) it appears to work. The only problem was a layer of black gunk around the viewfinder (dealt with using cotton buds and isopropyl alcohol – in case you are wondering, the on/off and AE/flash graphics were missing before I started).

Having had my eyes opened by the GR, I can now appreciate the GR1’s design (everything you need, nothing you don’t, all in the right place), size (it really does fit in a shirt pocket) and feel (the cast magnesium alloy feels lovely; light but solid).

As Ash (who was a God-damn robot) said of the alien, I admire its purity.

Unlike some manufacturers who think that sticking their badge on any old thing will elevate the product, Ricoh aren’t selling a brand. They sell cameras. They don’t even put their name on the front. Like the GR, it is a stealth Ninja camera.

Fingers crossed that it actually takes photos… we shall see.

(It will be interesting to compare the results to that of its low-rent descendant, the R10.)

Later…

One film processed – see the gallery at the end of this post. [The gallery has been updated since I wrote this.]

And, well… I was really pleased with the first film I put through the R10; I’m not so really pleased with my first try with the GR1. (Though I am really pleased it works.)

Not that there’s anything at all wrong with the quality of the pictures; I’m just not so happy with the pictures I took.

One worry, I’m not sure about the shutter release. The step between the half press and release is a bit vague – I’ve taken a couple of shot without meaning to. I seem to remember the same thing with the borrowed GR cameras. (Its not a problem I’ve noticed with the R10.)

Next film I’m going to pretend it’s a £10 camera and see if I can relax a bit with it.

(I’m also going to stop pretending I’m a street photographer. A street photographer’s camera does not a street photographer make. I’m a rubbish street photographer. You won’t be seeing the rest of the pics from that roll.)

For now though, the comment I made about the R10 stands: If you are dithering about whether to get a GR film camera, save yourself a couple of hundred quid and get an R10.

Update

Update a couple of years later: This camera is amazing. It is my go-to pocket 35mm camera. A work of ergonomic genius with properly good picture quality. Go get one.

Links

Hamish’s GR tale of woe: http://www.35mmc.com/09/02/2014/ricoh-gr1-series-tale-woe/

Bellamy’s GR buyer’s guide: http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2012/04/the-ricoh-gr-a-buyers-guide/

Bellamy on Digital Rev: http://www.digitalrev.com/article/5-top-film-cameras-for/Mjc2NDAxNjA0

Manual: http://www.butkus.org/chinon/ricoh/ricoh_gr1/ricoh_gr1.htm

GR1 gallery

Ricoh GR1

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Email me at dank@dankspangle.com