Camera Geekery: Ricoh GR1s Review By Ben Beech

Ben Beech brings us a great little guest review about his experience with the Ricoh GR1s. Come and have a read.

Towards the end of spring this year I decided to start shooting in film again, after years of shooting digital. I missed certain aspects of shooting analogue, for example the thought processes behind making a shot, and the anticipation of not getting instant results. So, I went down to the annual camera fair in Shibuya (Tokyo) and got myself a pristine SLR, which I shoot with weekly and I like very much. After a month or so of shooting with the SLR though I decided I wanted to add another dynamic to my analogue experience. I wanted a point and shoot camera to accompany me on my day to day travels, I wanted something that didn’t require a bag when out and about on my bicycle. I wanted something I could literally take with me everywhere!

I looked into various ‘pocket sized’ point and shoot cameras and finally, after a bit of research I settled on the Ricoh GRIs. I contacted a friend of a friend called Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter to see if he could track one down for me and within a week a mint GRIs was in my hands, ready to shoot with!

The first thing I noticed as soon as I unwrapped this camera, was the convenient size and ergonomics of it. It really is a ‘pocket size’ camera that slips quite comfortably into your trouser or jacket pocket without weighing you down. The slim line body has a width of 117mm and a depth of just 26mm, and all of the important dials and buttons are within easy reach of your thumb and index finger while holding the camera up to your eye. The chassis and body covers are made from magnesium, meaning it is rugged yet lightweight, perfect for shooting on the go.

So I popped my first film inside, and I was surprised to see that the camera automatically pre-winds the entire roll and then the film is fed back into the canister as you shoot, this is great, because if you accidentally open the back mid film, you won’t damage all of your shots. There is an illuminated LCD screen on top of the camera which tells you how many shots you have left. The one drag about the pre-wind feature is the thirty second wait, that thirty seconds can feel a lot longer when you’re on the streets and want to catch a particular scene before it disappears! Overall though, first impressions were good.

What about the specs? The camera features a fixed 28mm lens, which affords nice wide shots without too much distortion. The lens is also super sharp and the contrast is great. There is a manual aperture function which will allow you to shoot between f2.8 and f22, and the dial includes half stops too – or you can opt to shoot in aperture priority mode. There is the option of exposure compensation, which can be set manually in half stops from +2 to –2 EV. Neither of these settings reset after you power off either, so you can continue shooting with the same settings the next time you pick the camera up.

The camera has multi subject auto focus options with a focus lock and a distance measuring range of 0.35 – infinity, and shutter speeds range from 2 – 1/500th of a second.
The built in flash isn’t bad (guide number 7 at 100 iso), it comes with three settings; off, auto mode and forced on. It also has a handy ‘out of range’ warning system and it slow-syncs in aperture priority mode.

These various features mean this camera offers a lot more then your average point and shoot and there are options available to you in terms of creativity.

And the end result? I use this camera almost exclusively for shooting street, I take it everywhere with me. It’s a nice inconspicuous camera that really lends itself to candid street shooting and delivers great results. Shutter lag is next to nil, when using the focus lock, which also makes for a nice quick ‘stealth’ shooting experience. If you are looking to add a lightweight compact film camera to your arsenal, ideal for shooting on the move, the Ricoh GR1s is definitely worth considering.

Here are some shots I took with this camera over the summer on my travels through Japan and Europe:

If you’d like to see more feel free to check out my homepage
Or check out my Flickr

Thanks for the review Ben, a nice personal point of view instead of a technical snore fest.