There is a lot of negatives on the internet about the Ricoh GRIII at the moment, and I can appreciate that a lot of them are very relevant. However, it does feel like some out there have overlooked about what this camera is about, and have been focusing on the issues.
Let’s get this out the way, the GRIII was advertised as a simple and efficient tool, with no extra fat, but what was delivered was a camera with some gimmicks thrown in, and one of the most effective parts removed (built in flash).
The most efficient way to use this camera is the snap function with most of the extras turned off. A straight and simple street shooter, that has a decent macro function. When used in this way the camera excels.
What feels like the biggest concern to me is all the gimmicky type stuff such as WiFi, Bluetooth, touch screen, etc. These specs are perfectly fine on a main stream camera for the masses, but for a camera that is built on the ideal that is simple and effective for street photography, these things just feel rather pointless. Further more, it feels like the time and effort going into these things could have been used to improve upon what was in the GRII
Okay, so you cannot make everyone happy. But the GRII is a great platform to start from, and most of us would have been happy with the same thing with better resolution, faster auto focus, and improved macro mode. I think this is the crux of the matter, that there was a lot right with the GRII, which the GRIII seems to have overlooked.
The battery life gets me about 3 hours constantly on and shooting. Not perfect, but I appreciate that with the IS and all the extra stuff in a slightly smaller body means there will be a big drain on the battery. I also believe you should always have an extra battery, and this makes more sense for the people spending hours and hours on the street. For me, having another battery just over 50 pounds is quite a bit, considering that most people feel the need to buy one.
The Auto Focus speed has improved over the GRII, but feels less accurate. There is not a problem in this regard to the snap function, which works as it should (even if it does not have the option for 1.2 meters...). This is something that can easily be fixed with firmware, so at this point I am not worried.
The macro function is great. I feel that simple improving the distance at which this works is great. The F2.8 aperture in this mode produces some decent bokeh, and if the auto focus is improved in the next firemware update, then I have no qualms with this mode.
The menu system threw me the most. I don’t mean in regard to understanding or complexity, but it is a lot more convoluted with too much going on. The GRII menu is by far one of the simplest and most effective menus I have ever used in a camera. The GRIII feels like you have to turn all the extra crap they threw in off before having the camera ready for comfortable and effective use. Things like standby and auto turn off, WiFi, and all the in camera processing sections should automatically be off when you start, which would make the battery last longer and the camera more effective. There is nothing more annoying that walking down the street you go to capture a photo and.... the camera has to switch itself back on, try and auto-focus or snap, and you miss the moment. This is a really pointless feature in a camera built for street photography.
The in built memory I was originally unsure of. In lieu of the ability to have a second card slot (which I am not fussed about for a GR series camera), it is a neat feature. It’s rare I am out of memory cards or forget them, but the one time I do forget I am covered up to 2G, which although is not huge, does allow you to capture photos when you ordinarily would not be able to.
The update to 24mp is also handy. They have managed to keep the look that the GRII produced (which I love), but increased it to 24mp. These 8 extra megapixels are handy if you need to crop, and lets face it, sometimes you need to. Some people may feel that this is dragging behind other brands in regard to resolution, but 24 is pretty standard at the moment, and is enough to get the job done for street photography.
I touched briefly on the look of the images, but I will go into a bit more detail. The RAW files are lovely, and the look and colours are right up my street. Although I am most at home in B&W, I mostly shoot colour with high contrast and less punchy/ pastel type feel. This is easily done with the files from GRIII. This camera is more than adequate for a camera capturing moments on the street, and is clearly not a top end camera for portraits or landscapes. It can do these things, and certainly in urban and street type photography, but it is not built for amazing landscape photography with loads of detail for massive prints on walls. This was built for gritty street photographs and capturing moments and abstracts.
The lens is your standard GR focal length with F2.8 maximum aperture. Again, this is enough for street photographs, and fast enough for most needs. The images are sharp (when auto focuses works), and there are very slight chromatic abhorations and minor vignetting at some apertures. However, without an AA filter, you are opening yourself up to certain things like this, that again are less important for your battle hardened street photographers, and are the whinging complaints of pizzeria peepers. This also bothers me less as I do a lot of film photography, where these things tend to be fairly normal. These things in no way step over the images in a way that makes them not useable, they are VERY minor compared to a lot of cheapo lenses that are out there. Photos in macro do a good job, but is not ‘true’ macro and will not replace a macro lens. Again, a very useful feature on this camera.
There have been a lot of comments around overheating. I have not had this camera get hot or overheat from shooting stills. However, it has gotten really warm when shooting video. The video mode is below average - as you would expect from this sort of camera- but the fact that it is there at all is handy. It would be useful for B-roll footage at a pinch, but is about how far it excels on that front. You still get motion issues in this mode despite IS, but again you should not be expecting a lot from video mode on this camera.
IS with stills is handy, and allows you to shoot at slower shutter speeds. I feel more than comfortable using this at 1/15 with no issues for photography. Being that this is the entry IS for a GR system, it is not perfect, and feels exactly that: first time entry into IS. It does what it says on the tin, and although I feel cameras don’t always need IS for stills. M43 has utilised IS in a fantastic way to aid low light with stills, and I can see why a lot of other brands are starting to test the waters.
Conclusion: The Ricoh GRIII with all the extras turned off is a decent street camera. You will need an extra battery, but this can be used an effective tool. The best stand out features are the move to 24mp, the improved macro distance, and ultimately the images that it produces are good. You will need an extra battery, but that is normal for anyone that spends hours on the streets.
The main negatives as I see it is all the extra stuff that is just not required for such a niche camera; WiFi, Bluetooth, touch screens, etc. It feels like there was a lot of effort to get these things and IS into a camera whose main strengths are that it is simple and should not extra stuff in it. The autofocus is a buggy for some people and needs to be noted.
Ultimately, if Ricoh can pull out some quality improvements on the firmware update, then a lot of the niggling concerns people have around autofocus and the like could be ironed out. This is a good camera, but I think a lot of it boils down to the potential that it could have achieved more than anything else. As mentioned above, the GRII was a great platform to make a great leap from, but instead of realising the full potential, it feels like there was a lot of compromise to shove as much as possible into this little box. You can not please everyone, so this is a lesson in do not try, but listen to users of this camera series. All I want is quality updates to basic features, the ability to have something that does not slow me down on the streets, and something that is not focused on gimmicks like WiFi, Bluetooth, touch screens, etc. These are throw away things, and although the main stream love JPGs and sending standard images to their phone, a large portion of this niche market will use RAW files, and everyone else will use their phone because finding around with Bluetooth and WiFi on a camera is far more awkward.