If you had asked me a year ago what the best compact camera was, my answer would have been the Fujifilm X100V. I'm a big fan of Fujifilm's fixed lens compact line, having owned one ever since the original X100 was released in 2010. What captivated me about it 13 years ago were the straight-out-of-camera JPGs. The color rendition of the f/2 Fujinon lens was simply gorgeous.
As the years went by, I upgraded to the X100T, then the X100F, and finally the X100V. Each new model improved upon the last with an impressive array of new features. The X100V is undeniably one of the most stunning compact cameras created by any manufacturer.
However, somewhere along the line, it lost its magic for me.
The Influence of Compact 35mm Cameras
Perhaps it's because my go-to film cameras are compact. Cameras like the Contax T3, the Ricoh R1s, and the Minolta TC-1 are among the smallest full-frame film cameras ever produced. During a trip to Sydney in January 2023, the X100V felt like a deadweight in my pocket and around my neck compared to these super compact 35mm options.
Maybe it's also because I delved into the world of Fujifilm film simulation recipes that everyone raves about. I even created a video on my YouTube channel trying three of them out. Upon reflection, I don't really think any of them look particularly "film-like," and endlessly tinkering with simulation recipes feels like a distraction from actually taking photos.
It was during this trip to Sydney that I met up with a group of photographers. As we sat down for coffee on a rainy morning at Circular Quay, one of them placed a Ricoh GR III on the table. Immediately, my curiosity was piqued - having a super compact digital camera that fits in my pocket seemed very appealing.
GR III Diary Edition Special Limited Kit
I started researching Ricoh's compact cameras when I got back to Brisbane. I saw a lot of mentions of an upcoming release: the Ricoh GR III Diary Edition Special Limited Kit. I’ve never owned a Ricoh digital camera, but having fallen in love with the Ricoh R1/R1s 35mm point and shoot film camera, I became more intrigued by the company.
Ricoh Pentax plans to launch two new compact 35mm film cameras in early 2024, though after hearing their updates, I doubt any of them will look like my predictions in this article on Fstoppers.
The Diary Edition camera is a new version of the GR III with a different color scheme. Instead of the usual black, this camera is metallic gray with the addition of silver accents around the lens.
The special edition kit shipped with a few extra goodies:
- A cream-colored canvas case with mocha-colored leather accents
- A finger strap in the same mocha color
- Redemption of a code to get an engraved hot shoe
There were also a couple of bonus features in the firmware:
- On power-off, a screen tells you the number of images you've shot that day
- A new film simulation - negative film - which was later rolled out to other cameras via a firmware update.
Ricoh only produced 2,000 Diary Edition Special Limited Edition Kits worldwide, with just 20 available here in Australia. While you can’t buy the kit anymore, you can buy the standalone version of the camera.
Ricoh Design Philosophy
It wasn’t just the size of the camera or the limited edition kit that won me over — the marketing was slick. Ricoh produced two blog posts describing how the camera could be used by photographers. Here’s an excerpt on their thinking behind this latest Diary edition model:
Maybe you'll love this explanation, maybe you'll just think it's marketing spiel. Personally, I think it's refreshing to read blogs like this from a camera company that shares its design philosophy with consumers, especially since they are actively looking to bring back film cameras. This approach seems to be paying off - Ricoh's latest financial results look quite promising.
Online Talk About the Dairy Edition
There was a lot of chatter about the Diary Edition camera online — some loved it and some hated it. There were a few misspellings of the camera's name, with many calling it the "dairy" edition — no doubt an unintentional autocorrect fail.
Either way, this new camera was "moo-sic" to my ears. (Buckle up, there are a few more cow puns.) I have a lot of cameras, and I've been trying to "thin the herd," but who can resist a "dairy" edition camera? I managed to buy the last one available in Australia.
"Dairy" edition is not such a bad description, the colors of this camera remind me of a lovely creamy cappuccino or flat white. The comparisons don't end there: detractors have accused Ricoh of "milking the cow for all it's worth" by bringing out new editions of existing cameras. But why wouldn't they if the demand is clearly there?
I, for one, think it's an "udderly" beautiful-looking product and see these special edition cameras as a positive thing for two reasons:
- Photographers love special edition cameras.
- The more money Ricoh makes, the more they will be encouraged to launch new cameras - both digital and film.
Differences Between the Fujifilm X100V and the Ricoh GR III
In my next article, I'll review the GR III and give you a rundown of the specs and what the camera is like to shoot with. For now, I’ll describe seven differences between the X100V and the GR III.
1. The GR III Has No Viewfinder
This was a mindshift for me. The only camera I regularly use that doesn't have a viewfinder is my iPhone. There are some similarities with the iPhone and the GR III: you can keep both in your pocket and whip them out to take a photo pretty quickly.
With both, you can also do stealthier shooting. People don't seem to take as much notice of you with a smaller camera, especially when you're not raising it to your eye to look through the viewfinder.
Of course, you can shoot just using the screen with the X100V, but I must admit, I rarely do.
2) Field of View
The X100V has a 35mm equivalent lens in full frame terms, whereas the GR III is more 28mm. For street and travel I prefer the wider view, but if you like a longer lens, Ricoh also makes the GR IIIx, which has a 40mm equivalent lens.
3) GR III is Super Light and Super Compact
The GR III weighs around half of what the X100V weighs and has a much smaller footprint. It may not be quite as compact as some of Ricoh's film cameras, but it's not far off. Being super light and super compact means this truly is a candidate for your everyday carry.
4) Ricoh's Smartphone App Works Well
One issue many Fujifilm owners have complained about for years is the Fujifilm smartphone app. The Ricoh smartphone app is a breeze in comparison. Within 60 seconds of first using it, I was transferring images from the camera to my iPhone.
5) GR III has Shake Reduction
This might be important for you, or it might not. If you like taking images with slower shutter speeds, this could be a game-changer for you.
6) GR III has No Flash
The GR III has no flash. This isn't a big deal for me as I rarely use the inbuilt flash on the X100V. The GR III does have a hotshoe though, so grab a compatible flash and you're set. Check out my review of the Godox Lux Junior here on Fstoppers.
7) GR III Film Simulations
At first glance, this is no competition. Fujifilm cameras have a roll call of famous film simulations like Acros, Provia and Velvia. Ricoh's film sims have generic names, but they are good. I love the colors of the Positive Film sim, and the Negative Film sim is great for portraits.
So, despite switching from one camera to the other, I don’t think the GR III is better than the X100V or vice versa. They’re both extremely capable cameras. Whether you prefer one or the other will depend on what you shoot and how you shoot.
Despite the ridiculous prices the X100V is going for now, I have resisted the temptation to sell mine, as I do still love it. For now, I’m enjoying exploring the world through the GR III - especially as I've been traveling more this year and love having it in my pocket as I walk through cities. Having a super compact digital camera with an excellent lens and beautiful colors suits me very well at the moment.
Make sure you look out for Part Two of this series coming soon: a review of the Ricoh GR III Diary Edition camera with lots of street and travel photos from Japan.