Resurrecting My Abandoned Ricoh GR in Year 2024, Is It Worth My Effort?

Resurrecting My Abandoned Ricoh GR in Year 2024, Is It Worth My Effort?

Camera gear talk is probably something that we as photographers cannot resist often when we are discussing photography. Some cameras hold a special place in our hearts not just for their technical prowess but for the memories they carry. One such camera for me is the Ricoh GR.

Back when it was first launched, the Ricoh GR was a groundbreaking marvel, boasting features that were ahead of its time. However, as technology advanced and newer cameras flooded the market, the Ricoh GR started to feel ancient, which probably explains why it was abandoned in the first place when the lens was stuck seven years ago while I was busy constantly chasing after incremental camera specs upgrades during that period.

It wasn't until recently, amidst my obsession with portability in cameras, that I stumbled upon my neglected Ricoh GR with its stuck lens deep in the gear closet while spring cleaning. The decision to resurrect it was not an easy one. After all, why should I bother restoring a camera that seemed obsolete by today's standards except to just fulfill my inner obsession of re-exploring the idea of portability and invisibility when photographing? But as I went through the process of repairing and restoring it, something magical happened. I began to appreciate its quirks and unique features all over again.

I found appreciation towards little things like the built-in flash to the intuitive right-hand operations button and dial layouts that were taken for granted extremely useful for my current needs. Not to mention its surprisingly compact size that fits a 28mm full frame equivalent lens in its body which is smaller than my trusty Leica CL sparked my interest even more. Besides, from my short period of experimentation, it is also capable of producing very exceptional black and white JPEG images, which is probably why it has somewhat developed a cult following among photographers who appreciated its simplicity yet powerful performance.

I would have to say my skepticism towards the image quality I had back then was completely gone probably due to the change of approach in my photography as I continued to develop my own style. In fact, I find the rendering to be impeccable as it was very easy to shoot what I envision. Its light weight and discreteness are also a plus point for me as it allows me to capture moments that I struggled with before.

Despite all the fun I have with it, it is also crucial to acknowledge the shortcomings of this camera, especially in today's tech-savvy world. The images it produces may not match up to the dynamic range and detail of modern cameras, but personally, there's a charm in its imperfections. The more I use it, I've come to believe that if approached creatively, the Ricoh GR can yield film-like images that can evoke a sense of nostalgia and emotion in your work, which is a positive quality that's often missing in today's digital perfection.

As I continue to use my Ricoh GR, not as a proper camera, but as a tool to break free from my obsession with technicalities and settings, I'm reminded of the essence of photography, which is capturing organic moments that tell stories. And so, I pose this question to fellow photographers: In an era of ever-evolving technology where all of us are chasing perfection, can we find beauty in imperfection?

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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Beauty was never found in technical perfection. There're cameras that still feel right for a job, despite being old and having outdated technik.
I still love and use my Fuji X70, which is only 3 years younger than the GR. So, I can relate to this story, although I never put my X70 out of use, despite having more modern cameras.

PS: If Ricoh were to release a GR with flip screen, I'd probably buy one.

Very true.. something about old cameras just feels nostalgic while modern cameras get the job done easier

For the past 10+ years I have used Ricoh GR’s and Leica cameras, and no matter how much technology keeps improving, I must agree with you that there is something about the GR’s that kind of pulls you in into using them on a regular basis. In fact, they have supplanted my trusted Leica M in most circumstances, and for all the reasons you mentioned. Sure, the GR’s are kind of falling behind in both construction and technology, but we keep using them. I would argue, though, that I use my GR’s primarily when I travel to busy, urban environments, where personal space is at a premium and where arguably, there is an overload of sensory stimuli (people, architecture, etc.). I call it my “close combat” camera. Quick, beautiful colors, and an incredibly sharp lens for its size. It kind of goes where other more advanced cameras don’t dare to go: extremely close to the action while being unnoticed until it comes out in front of the photographer. And you can walk around all day without any discomfort too. Unfortunately, those smartphones are making great inroads into its turf, and if the Ricoh folks don’t pick up the pace, it may be a matter of a few years before it becomes a harder proposition to justify buying a GR when those smartphones do so much more, and so much better. The 5-year GR upgrade cycle is no longer in their favor.

well said Eric, it is also my go to camera despite having leica and all the other fancy stuffs in my arsenal. That being said, the GR is also more proned to damaging just because we use it so much more compared to the other cameras. I believe it still have an edge against smartphones currently, but i wouldn't guarantee that will still stay the same few more years down the road when the sensor technology is pushed even further.