Shooting with the RicohGR II
Keeping up with camera technology is a dangerous hobby. It’s one I try to avoid, afraid of being sucked into the gear-head mentality of always needed the latest this, the most recent that.
But, I succumb occasionally. Most recently, after a few hours of research into a more pocket-able camera. My search lead me to the Ricoh GR II.
At first, I was ardent that I would not buy something without a ‘proper’ viewfinder. Weeks ago I couldn’t stand the thought of holding the camera in a way I only associated with cellphone selfies and repetitive tourism photos of food and monuments.
My fear was in vain, my refusal to embrace the new was a cliche.
There are enough reviews floating around about the camera, so rather than talk about that, I’m just going to write how I shoot with it. I haven’t seen anyone, online, discuss using it in a similar way.
I shoot on manual. It’s derived from an inability to trust the camera fully, a method for getting exactly what I want, a stubbornness, and a way to force myself to learn and understand photography.
With the dial toggled to “M”, I can easily switch the ISO, shutter-speed, and aperture with my right hand.
Out of laziness and habit, I usually switch between f2.8 when light is limited, and f8 when I’m outdoors in the day time. The Ricoh shoots really damn crisp on all apertures, and unless I have something specific in mind, I generally swing between these two.
I try never to go above ISO 1600, or 2000 at most. Even in low light, I find that camera and lens crisp enough that I can get a solid photo at a shutter speed of about 1/20th. In most situations, this is fine. But, if the lights really low, it’s not great. That’s what my D610 is for, anyways.
I always shoot manual focus, which can sound strange given how terribly slow it is on this camera. There is no focusing ring, and to manually adjust you have to use the little plus/minus tool on the back. It’s a pain. But, I have a reason.
Without manual focus selected, every time you press the shutter button halfway, the focusing lamp on the front comes to life, seeking out its object. It’s frustrating. Most times, I already know I’m in focus, having just taken a photo. Not to mention, it can occasionally miss-focus an already in-focus photo. Plus, time is fleeting, and it adds precious seconds to the endeavor.
Rather, I use the AFL button on the back when I need to focus. It’s just as easy to use, and if you’re already set for focus, you can just go straight to the shutter button. Whatever focus you set here is locked until you refocus.
This I’ve found, has pretty much made the spot focusing function that everyone loves, redundant — for me at least.
If I’m shooting street, I just pre-focus to a distance I’m comfortable with and carry on without thinking. If I need to swap for a closer or further distance, I simply quickly refocus and continue.
So far this method has worked wonders, but I haven’t seen anyone talking about using it.
I also tend to shoot in black and white, using the high contrast setting number 2 (less intense). I shoot in raw, so in the end it doesn’t really mean much. However, this is easier for me to gauge the focus and exposure. I also generally convert the photos to black and white after, so it helps me conceive how it will look in real time.
Also, the photos tend to just look nicer on the review panel. It makes me excited to get home and edit the photos.
Other than that, I don’t mess with the settings too much. The FN buttons are set for to toggle between burst mode, and toggle between 28mm and 35mm crops. I don’t use them much, though the burst mode is helpful in low-light situations.
All this rambling to say, I like this camera. It is not without its limitations, but for the quality of the photos, the solid build, the size, and the price, I couldn’t be happier.
At the end of the day, I’m shooting much more than I was with my lovely, lunky, impressive, burdensome, D610. They both serve different purposes, but what really matters is that I’m shooting more.
Here are some photos from my first few weeks with El Ricoh