If you know me (in a photography context) then I’m sure you already know how much I love Ricoh GR cameras. You can read more about my general journey into photography in my post How It Started, but in this post I will specifically be talking about how I got into GR cameras and why I still use them today. I should also preface this by saying there is absolutely no benefit for me to write this – I have no affiliation with Ricoh/GR/Pentax, I just love the cameras.
I’ve been ‘into photography’ since around 15 years ago, but I wasn’t always learning or practicing during that time. Even after I bought my first DSLR, I only took it out if I had a specific reason to take photos (like going to some event or cool location). It was never for the enjoyment of taking photos because that camera wasn’t a joy to carry or use.
I can’t even remember how I first heard of GR cameras, but after I heard about them I couldn’t stop thinking about buying one. It seemed really cool that there were such small cameras with large sensors and good image quality on the market, and many people online already seemed to be raving about them. However, I was hesitant to buy one because the price of a GRII at the time was more than the total price I paid for my DSLR plus the two bundled lenses (around $700). How could I justify spending that much money on a pocket camera that can’t even zoom (especially given that my photography skill was nothing special)?
Anyway, I obviously ended up buying the GRII (in 2017?) after deliberating for many months, and I basically did not touch my DSLR (and the 4 lenses I had) for the next 4 years until I sold them all. I loved my GRII immediately – it was so small and compact, the photo quality was amazing, and it was intuitive to use (well, it still IS all of these things). It also has a certain understated aesthetic that I love. Above all else, it was simply a joy to use.
Despite liking photography for a long time (and studying how to take better photos online for years), it wasn’t until I got my GRII that I started carrying a camera with me all the time and actually practicing photography on a regular basis – that was the first camera I ever loved and the camera that actually ignited my passion for photography. I currently have a Fujifilm XT-3 (and several lenses), and I used to have an X100V; they’re both great cameras, but I have never felt anything for any camera that can compare to my love for my original GRII.
I took my GRII everywhere with me; not only was it in my backpack almost every day when I was in university, I also took it on trips to Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hawaii, Yosemite, Sequoia National Park, Taiwan (4 times), and brought it with me on several short-term military assignments. However, I recently sold my precious GRII to a friend because I currently have a GRIII and GRIIIx that I carry most of the time. I felt that my wonderful GRII deserves to be cherished and used until the very end, not neglected on a shelf, and I know my friend will love that camera and put it to good use.
A GR is not a good all-around camera, and it was never designed to be that. It has a specific set of uses, and is amazing at those. While GR cameras are most famous in the street photography world, they are also great for everyday life photography, travel photography, environmental portrait photography, or basically anything you use your phone for, since it’s the same field of view, but with 100x better image quality (in my opinion). Although I love street photography now, I did not do any street photography during the time I used my GRII, and I definitely did not use it to its full potential; I hope my friend will be able to unleash its true potential and make me regret selling it (even more than I already do).
I tend to be a bit scatter-brained and always have a lot of stuff running through my mind; it calms me to live a relatively minimalistic life. A simple and peaceful outer-life helps to balance out my chaotic inner-life, and a GR is the perfect camera for this. A GR is pure simplicity, utilitarianism, and minimalism in camera form – they added only what is necessary and designed a camera that is meant to be used, not stared at. There is also no need to worry about getting afflicted with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) or buying tons of lenses and accessories.
While I love my GRIII and GRIIIx, I feel that the GRII was (mostly) perfect. I would have loved if they re-made the GRII with an updated sensor and with the GRIII menus and customization options (even if they took away IBIS). Although I didn’t often use the integrated flash on my GRII, I wish I had the option when using my GRIII. The lack of flash is the only thing I dislike about the GRIII and GRIIIx, but I bought a small external flash just in case! If they make an updated version of the GRII (preferably with better dust sealing) I would buy it without hesitation, even though I just recently spent a bunch of money on my GRIIIx!
The internet already has a million people who have written about GR cameras, and I haven’t added anything new with this post, but I felt it would be a disservice for me to feel such great love for a line of cameras and say nothing about it. So I guess you can think of this as me ‘shouting it from the rooftops.’
Have you used GR cameras? What experiences have you had? Feel free to leave a comment!