Friday, February 16, 2018

Ricoh GR II Review

 © Ricoh Imaging USA


Always on the lookout for the perfect fixed lens camera, we've been through a few.   Hoping that the Fuji X100 series would be it, we've owned and tested the X100, X100S and the X100T.  While the X100T was the best iteration we've still fell a little flat in system and AF performance.  The optical viewfinder was great and Fuji does put out some good JPGs.

Ultimately, those cameras were sold.  The just didn't "do it" for me enough to want to keep it.

The other big players in the fixed lens compact were the Nikon Coolpix A and the Ricoh GR.

As luck would have it, a recent trip to a local camera store had a reasonably priced Ricoh GR II.  Snapping it up, we run it through the paces.

Is it something worth keeping?  Is it better than the Fuji?  All that and more on this episode of Best Light Photographic Review!

© Ricoh Imaging USA


Small and light, but there is enough of a grip to be able to hold it comfortably, even one handed.  Handling is also enhanced by the roughly textured materials that the body is composed of.

Throwing this into a coat disappears.  It even does well in the back pocket of your jeans.

The dials and controls are in a good place.   The mode dial can only be moved when the button next to it is pressed.  No accidental turning.  My one complaint is the location of the exposure compensation rocker.  It sits right by your thumb and can be bumped accidentally when carrying the camera about.  I've done it several times while walking around.

© Ricoh Imaging USA
One thing you will notice is that this is a rear LCD only display.  No OVF or EVF comes with the camera, but Ricoh does make a $200 optical viewfinder add on.

The rear LCD is quite good and somewhat usable in full sun.  I do plan on getting some kind of viewfinder setup for this camera, for those times when the LCD gets on my nerves.  I think it could be a decent, low cost option for these compact fixed lens companies to either bundle in or sell for low cost an old type sports finder.  For those unfamiliar, a sports finder was used on older film cameras that is essentially a wire or metal frame that gave you an approximate field of view.  This was an option to use instead of the ground glass back or the optical tube common on cameras of that age.

I'm thinking of making my own or perhaps plunking down $40USD on eBay and getting a low cost viewfinder.

Image Quality

A16mp sensor is at the heart of the GRII.  It performs very well.  I've no qualms shooting this up to ISO 6400.  The Ricoh JPG engine is pretty robust, but you can pull a lot more from the sensor shooting in RAW.  Even so, if you just wanted to shoot JPG, most people would be very happy with the output.

The three images below were all shot in JPG and minimally processed in Lightroom.

1/40, f/2.8, ISO 400

1/40, F/2.8, ISO 400

1/40, f/2.8, ISO 280
in camera cross process effect used

Auto Focus

Don't expect DSLR or even mirrorless interchangeable lens camera performance, however it performs very well.  In good to moderate light you get excellent performance.  Solid locks, and a quick acquisition.  You do get that signature "pump"at the end of the focus typical of a contrast detect AF system.

In low light, speed slows down quite a bit, but I found the accuracy was still very high.

Moving the AF point is not the best either.  The rear direction pad cannot be re-assigned to be something else.  I like to have my direction pad be a direct button to move the AF point.  On The GR II, only the left pad is setup for initiating AF pointer movement, after pressing it the other direction buttons allow for moving the point.  Fuji did address this in newer X100 iterations to allow for these direction buttons to be full time AF point selectors.  Not a deal breaker on the GR II, but definitely slows down the functionality of the camera in some situations.

RAW Images Processed in Lightroom below:

1/40, f/2.8, ISO 1600

1/40, f/2.8, ISO 400

1/40, f/4, ISO 3200

1/40, f/4, ISO 640

1/40, f/4, ISO 640

Battery Life

Much better than I expected.  I was able to shoot with it for most of a day and not deplete the battery fully.  The big rear LCD does use up a bit more power than I would like, but that is not a major concern as after market batteries for this camera can be found for under $20.


Nothing really special here.  A typical 1080p offering in a camera like this.  It would work in a pinch but not something you would want to use as a main camera for a video project.  As with most cameras like this, the video specs are most likely there to tick the spec sheet.

Other Misc. Items of Note

Shutter Sound:
The shutter sound is quite, plus you get the all electronic shutter modes.  Quiet is good.

Snap Focus:
I'm not a big fan of zone focusing, but I know a lot of people are.  My way of shooting is a bit more dynamic, so I've not really used this feature.  For those that like to have your focus set precisely at a specific distance and then get your aperture setup to have a "ribbon of in-focus", then this is definitely something that you'll love to have available.

Built-In ND Filter:
Great to have if you are pushing the 1/4000 shutter or want to shoot the very usable f/2.8 lens wide open.  It can be set to on/off/auto.

Bottom Line

While not having the pleasure of using a Nikon Coolpix A, it would be a hard road for the Nikon to beat out the Ricoh GR II.  This little camera can slip into a pocket and be there with you when other cameras cannot.

The fixed 18.5mm lens at 28mm field of view may not be for everyone, also, not having any viewfinder of any kind may not make the camera suitable for every application.

What the Ricoh GR II gets right, and there is a lot that it does in handling and IQ is well worth your consideration.

I know this is a keeper in my book.

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