In the past year, I’ve lost count of how many cameras I’ve tried. I’ve been on the search for my next camera ever since my Ricoh GR started getting problems with dust and debris getting on the sensor.
I tried a bunch of digital cameras, and they were mostly fine, but I didn’t really gel with any of them. Then I moved onto my experiments with film, and that didn’t quite end how I’d imagined it either.
With my upcoming trip to Korea fast approaching I had been starting to think about what camera to take with me. Eventually, I decided that I was gonna take the Sony RX100 and that enough was enough and it was time to have a clear out.
While I was in the attic gathering up all the cameras from their graveyard to put them on eBay I stumbled across the box for the GR. I opened it up and picked up the camera. I forgot just how good this camera feels in the hand. After a few minutes reminiscing over the good times we spent together, I was in the garage hunting for my screwdrivers to pull the thing apart and clean the sensor again.
I’ve written previously about my treacherous love affair with the Ricoh GR. I don’t know what possessed me to try it again, but I did.
AN OLD FRIEND
That day I was on usher duty at a friends wedding, and decided to take the GR with me.
I loved shooting with it. I’d been using the Fuji X70 and the Sony RX100 lately, but using the GR eclipsed them both. The ergonomics of the GR are spot on. I felt like I had been reunited with an old flame.
When I got home I imported the photos and applied my old Lightroom GR preset. The photos looked killer. Better than I’d remembered actually. It made me question why I’d thought I needed to shoot film anyway.
Not too sharp, not too soft – just right. An awesome lens, great colours and plenty of character. I remembered how much I’d loved the little pop-up flash too. The vignette it creates gives that compact camera snapshot look I’d been hunting for in film cameras.
I don’t know what it was, but my photos felt like mine again. When I sent the photos to a few friends to get a second opinion, they all agreed.
I really don’t think my camera search and experiments with film would have happened at all if the Ricoh had just carried on working. Until I started having problems with it I had no intention of trying anything else.
Now you might question my sanity here with all the problems I had with my first Ricoh GR, but I put all my other cameras on ebay, sold them, and bought the Ricoh GR II. I was just sick of pissing around with cameras and trying to get along with film. I’d lost focus on making photos and was more worried about finding the right kit.
Now I could’ve carried on using the first GR, but the insides were getting in a pretty bad way from being opened up so many times for cleaning. Stripped screws and that kind of thing. Not to mention a whole bunch of dust flying around in there. It would need to be cleaned weekly.
I got the new one because I don’t want to spend two weeks in Korea worrying that when I get home my photos might have dust specks all over them. For obvious reasons, they also won’t let you take sharp tools like screwdrivers in your carry on bag.
I figured I’d probably spent way more on film cameras, scanner, chemicals, etc than the £480 the new Ricoh GR-II had cost. Besides that, selling all my other stuff meant it wasn’t really costing anything – I actually had money left over for my trip.
Of course, buying a new Ricoh meant I just had to accept the fact that it was going to get problems with dust and other crap making its way onto the sensor eventually; even if it survived my trip to Korea.
Essentially, I was buying a rather expensive disposable camera. I figure if I get 12 months out of a GR, I’ve had my money’s worth and will just buy another to replace it.
RICOH GR DUST PREVENTION
On the subject of dust, I’ve tried to take some precautions with this camera to try and reduce the likelihood of issues.
First off, I’ve bought this one new – so it has a warranty. My last one was bought second hand and lasted about 6 months before I saw any dust. With the new one, any problems I get in the next twelve months will be covered. Peace of mind.
I’d heard that the GH-3 hood, when used in combination with a UV filter, prevented a lot of the dust issues that have plagued the GR series of cameras. However, having that ugly thing stuck on your camera all the time makes it a lot bigger.
I ended up getting a self-adhesive UV filter by ACMAXX that sticks onto the front of the lens. I’m hoping this will stop a lot of the dust getting inside the lens. It wont prevent dust getting between the outside of the lens assembly and the body though like the hood would, but I guess that’s the price I pay for vanity.
I also put hockey tape over the microphone holes to try to stop dust having anywhere to get into the body.
Apologies for the ropey iPhone photos. I don’t have another camera now (aside from my film camera).
Some people go crazy about not putting filters in front of their lenses, but honestly, I’ve used both cheap and expensive UV filters in the past and I can’t tell the difference. I don’t use any sharpening in post-processing and I add a bunch of grain anyway. Since I’m already degrading the image on purpose, I figured it makes no difference.
Chris Leskovek uses the same filter on his GR, and he told me he’d only had a couple of minor dust spots in the three years he’d had it – which is a lot more than can be said for the kind of crap I was finding inside my old Ricoh:
Now, I figured most of the dust my first Ricoh GR had picked up had come from me keeping it in my pocket. Now, I loved keeping the Ricoh in my pocket, but having used a bunch of other cameras since that weren’t entirely pocket friendly, I’d kind of got used to using a strap or keeping the camera in my bag when it wasn’t being used.
Enter the Pelican 1020 Micro Dry Case. This little beauty is built like a tank. I think you could drive a car over it. It’s also completely waterproof and dust proof. It’s got a rubberised lining, with foam in the lid. It looks pretty badass too, which is a bonus. This keeps the camera away from any dust when it’s stowed in my backpack.
Keeping the camera dust free when in use was another challenge. I figured wearing the camera on a strap would keep it out of my pockets, but there’s not actually many straps that fit the GR, cos it doesn’t have proper strap lugs. The official Ricoh GS-3 strap, the Peak Design Leash and the Dsptch Sling are the only real options that I could find.
I wound up going with the Dsptch cos I preferred the more understated look. I’m not entirely happy with it – the material is a bit scratchy and it’s a touch too long for my tastes even at its shortest setting. There’s some nice photos of it on the GR here. In the long run, I’ll probably steal the connectors and have Felix at Lucida Straps make me a custom strap.
There are almost no new features on the Ricoh GR II in comparison to the GR. There is wifi – if you’re into processing on your phone/tablet then great, but I prefer to use lightroom to process the GR files. Pointless to me, and they had to add a slightly unsightly hump to the top of the camera to fit it in. You can’t please everyone I guess.
There is one new feature I do like though. They added a minimum iso setting to the Auto-Hi ISO setting. This means that shooting in P mode is even more awesome. I have it set at 400 minimum, 3200 maximum, with a minimum shutter speed of 1/250th. With these settings the camera will almost always pick a small aperture and fast shutter speed, only dropping below 1/250th in very low light conditions. Point and shoot on steroids – no unwanted surprises.
If you want to see more photos, you can check out my new diary I’ve made. There’s a link up on the menu at the top of this page, or you can go to endlessproof.tumblr.com.
Shooting with the Ricoh GR II has been a joy so far. It never gets in the way. I’ve gone as far as asking all my friends to talk me around if I ever try to buy another camera besides this one.
I just hope the dust devil keeps his distance and that this re-kindled love affair lasts longer than the last one.
Feel free to enjoy your ‘I told you so’ moment now.