The One Underlying Issue of the Ricoh GR: A Photographer’s Shortest Love Story

The One Underlying Issue of the Ricoh GR: A Photographer’s Shortest Love Story

Being a photographer for more than a decade, this is probably the shortest love story I have with camera gear, pushing the definition of a love-hate relationship to the next level.

Previously, I went through all the hassle of resurrecting the Ricoh GR, as I fell in love with its capability to shoot great black and white images and its superbly compact size. While it felt like reuniting with an old flame, all I had was a mere 2 weeks before it was broken again after approximately 1,000 frames. The lens refused to budge, the shutter remained stubbornly shut, and my once-beloved Ricoh GR seemed to mock me with its inactivity once again.

Motivated by my curiosity, I began to research the root cause of this recurring incident and discovered this is actually quite common among the Ricoh GR community, and most of them claim it to be caused by the weak flex cable. A known issue bound to happen with most Ricoh GRs.

The broken flex cable

From experience, the symptoms began subtly with a randomly stuck lens and shutter. Yet if you force the shutter and power button enough times, the camera will persist, allowing intermittent functionality. Gradually, these quirks intensified until the camera ceased to function altogether, leaving me with a frustrating puzzle to solve.

Black frames in between shots caused by stuck shutter

Determined to revive my cherished companion, I went ahead and ordered a replacement cable from AliExpress, an e-commerce site known for selling odd components. Fueled by my naivety and knowledge from YouTube, I eagerly set out to replace the damaged flex cable. However, reality hit hard when I discovered that the delicate flex cable, originally soldered onto the micro stepper motor with plastic pins, was prone to melting upon contact with heat. To further escalate the issue, finding a replacement stepper motor is close to impossible as there are none available in the market.

Melted pins of the stepper motor

Out of desperation, I turned to online forums for help. Some advocated for soldering extra copper wire to the tiny motor wires and connecting these makeshift leads to the flex cable. It sounded plausible yet daunting, requiring precision and expertise beyond my amateur capabilities. And there are no technicians willing to take risks doing it. I also tried contacting the official Ricoh Camera Service Center here in Malaysia but was told that parts were no longer available as the camera has long been discontinued.

As I weigh my options and spiral deeper down the rabbit hole, I consider seeking generic parts from online stores and most probably enlisting professional help to weld and match the specifications of the stepper motor's bracket. Here I would like to share a PSA warning to all Ricoh GR users who are facing the same issue as I had. Do not attempt to replace the flex cable yourself as the risk of irreparable damage looms large. The best course of action remains consulting professionals who may have better odds of restoring this beloved but troubled camera.

Going through all this, I can’t help but wonder if this is the price we pay for our passion, or simply another chapter in the ever-evolving relationship between photographers and their tools. Since this is a long-known issue that was not solved in the final production models, are Ricoh GRs meant to be disposable and built to break? The mystery remains unsolved.

Zhen Siang Yang's picture

Yang Zhen Siang is a commercial photographer specialising in architecture, food and product photography. He help businesses to present themselves through the art of photography, crafting visually appealing and outstanding images that sells.

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Would grant you that those GR's are not the most robust cameras out there, and after using every model in the past 10+ years, their somewhat flimsy construction remains a GR reality to this day. Now with the GRIII and GRIIIx, I've had one work great since buying it (the GRIIIx) and one totally defective out of the box (the GRIII). That the service center here in the USA twice sent back that defective GRIII without apparently checking their own work (even my store that sent the camera there was appalled by the lack of quality control) added to my disappointment with that GRIII. Still remains messed up, but I gave up on them. After so many years my take on the GR's is basically this: amazing photographic tools with somewhat flimsy construction and excessive wait time for new versions (now going into five years since the GRIII came out). As their prices creep upwards, all of us will no doubt will be expecting a bit more from our dear GR's when it comes to construction and quality control.

Very true.. which is sad.. I mean after all the GR does hit the marks where others have missed. If only they are a little more durable i think it will easily be my most favourite camera of all time. The prices have gone up for most compact cameras, even cameras like the canon g7x mark 2/3. (I believe this is due to the trend).

QA on cameras seems to be a dice roll at the best of times. My GRIII has lasted with zero issues — not even dust. Even the dials function fine with no slip.

My Fujifilm X-T body however, has stopped receiving power from any batteries, locked the mechanical shutter open, and had the EVF lag to the point it's unusable. Plus, I've had multiple copies of the 18f2 lens just stop auto focusing for a few months only to randomly revive themselves and die again. The irony is that I bought it for the robust weather sealed flagship build. 😂

🤷‍♂️ It's just bad luck sometimes, but it will sour your trust about a whole brand. Especially because that XF 18f2 died right as I arrived to Ankor Wat on a trip around SEA. Now I feel like if I ever buy a Fujifilm again I need to bring a backup alternate brand with me for important things.

Ouch, that hurts so badly especially when you keep trying and hoping they could deliver only to be disappointed. I would usually not bring anything new to a trip or job as they are just too risky. But I have also reach a point where a backup camera is just too much for me haha if all else fail I may just find an alternative lens or just dont shoot at all. But so far, my experience with fujifilm has been great. Its just the paint on the camera body just isnt as durable as I hope for them to be.

As someone who does micro soldering and has soldered together many a severed flex cable, I second the author’s advice: don’t try to DIY this one. Unless you want to put in the effort to learn the skill properly before trying it on something precious to you. It’s such a p.i.t.a. and it’s one of my least favourite things to do.

Hey! Thanks for this. There have been online tutorials out there with successful cases.. But I reckon the chances are slim and advising the others they should probably not attempt it. I have gotten a replacement motor of similar specs, but the bracket still does not match. Do you happen to have any experience in changing the bracket?

After 7 years, 5 of which it was used as every day camera, my Fuji X70 is still fine. (I admit using it only with filter adapter and filter to prevent dust from getting sucked into the lens when focusing.)

As there's still no successor for the X70, I checked the various iterations of the GR more than once. But the absence of a flip screen plus how often one would hear about the not so great build quality made me keep my X70.

I believe the golden rule is still don’t replace anything that is not broken.. it has been more than once that I replace something and it went down the spiral of trying to compensate what I had worked out flawlessly prior to this