Ricoh GR III: the Perfect Compact Camera for Street and Travel Photography

Is the Ricoh GR III the perfect compact camera for street and travel photography? Based on my time with the camera this year, I’d say yes. Having made the switch from the Fujifilm X100V to the Ricoh GR III I took the camera on a 3 week trip to Japan. It quickly became my most used camera - shooting with it was an absolute joy. 

In this article, I’ll review the GR III, I’ll tell you why I think this is the best everyday carry for street and travel photographers, and I’ll show you plenty of photos from my Japan trip. 

Kyoto Station, Japan. 
© Matt Murray

Ricoh GR III Specifications 

The GR III came out in early 2019, so it’s over 4 years old now. Let’s start off by looking at the GR III specs: 

  • 18.3mm F2.8-F16 lens (approximately 28mm in full frame terms).
  • 6 elements in 4 groups, including 3 aspherical lens elements.
  • CMOS image sensor, approximately 24.24 megapixels.
  • 3 axis sensor shift shake reduction.
  • Like Ricoh’s legendary film cameras, it has Snap Focus.
  • Build in ND filter.
  • Built in image control simulations. 
  • 3 inch TFT color LCD. 
  • No viewfinder. 
  • It has a hotshoe, but no inbuilt flash. 
  • Weighs 9oz (257g) including battery and SD card. 

The specifications hold up fairly well, however there are a few things on photographer’s wish lists for this line. People are quick to point out the GR III has no GPS, no viewfinder, and is not weather resistant. Although these are all valid concerns, cameras cannot be all things to all photographers - something is invariably compromised along the way. 

Design and build quality 

Although I’m a big fan of the Diary Edition colors and inclusions, I must say the GR III is not as attractive as many other Ricoh cameras. On a purely aesthetic level, I much prefer the look of both the GR film cameras and the original GR Digital line from 2005. 

Overall, the build quality of the camera is very good. Having used my GR III for the past 8 months there are no issues to report, other than slight discoloration to the canvas case. 

Dust Issue 

The main issue I’ve heard about with the build of the GR III is dust. At first I thought this was an odd thing to hear about - one advantage of fixed lens cameras is that you shouldn’t have to worry about dust getting on the sensor - but apparently it does. 

Depending on who you listen to, this is either the camera’s greatest flaw or it’s non-existent. So far this issue has not affected me. 

The Diary Edition Special Limited Edition Kit. 

Camera Turning On Accidentally 

My biggest annoyance with the design of the camera is the ease with which it can be accidentally turned on. Several times I’ve gone to reach for the camera in my pocket and found it warm to the touch. 

Upon taking it out of the case, the camera was turned on and the battery was almost drained. To counteract this, I have been checking the camera more often to make sure this issue is minimized.

Diary Edition Finger Strap 

When I first unboxed the GR III, I looked at the finger strap and thought it was utterly ridiculous. I thought it was actually a wrist strap and my first inclination was not to ditch it and attach a strap from another camera. 

I have to say though, I was wrong. The finger strap is perfect for this camera. Using the strap while holding on to the camera’s grip works very well. 

Shooting With the GR III

The GR III is fun to shoot with and easy to use. Most of the functions you need while shooting are easy to find, you can customize the dials and buttons on the camera for the features you use the most. 

On my camera I’ve made sure that I can easily change aperture, dial in exposure compensation, go into macro mode, switch ISO settings, and switch JPG simulations. Quite often I operate the camera with one hand. 

The camera is quick to start up so if you see something you want to capture it’s easy to whip it out of your pocket, turn it on and snap away. 

Osaka, Japan. 
​​​​​​​© Matt Murray

Battery and Memory Card

The battery performance is good, without being great. However the battery is tiny - so it’s easy to carry spares. 

The GR III has a single SD card slot - so I suggest a 128GB or bigger card if you wish to capture both JPGs and RAW files. 

Image Stabilization 

The 3 axis sensor shake shift reduction makes this camera super versatile - you can capture sharp images in low light conditions or when taking images handheld with slow shutter speeds. 

LCD Screen

Generally the screen works really well to compose images. It’s certainly a more discrete way of taking images, especially given the camera’s size. 

The only issue for me is in really bright conditions it can be hard to see, though there are custom brightness options in the camera menu to ease this. 

Autofocus and Auto Exposure 

Autofocus is fantastic in good lighting conditions - I don’t think I’ve had any shots miss focus. In dark conditions the camera can struggle a bit - it does emit a green beam to try and achieve focus in these conditions. It works well, but it does alert people to the fact you’re taking a photo. 

The GR III has Ricoh’s Snap Focus mode - a feature that has been around since the film days. Snap Focus is the ability to set your focus distance in-camera. While a lot of street photographers rave about this feature, I haven’t quite nailed it yet, but hope to practice more with it soon. 

Auto exposure is generally very good with the camera in aperture priority mode. I generally err on the side of caution with my exposures, I tend to underexpose rather than overexpose. You can of course shoot with a histogram on screen if you wish to avoid overexposure. 

Auto exposure is excellent, even in tricky conditions. 
Jozankei, Hokkaido, Japan. 
© Matt Murray

No Flash 

Not having a flash suits me just fine, the only time I missed it was when I was taking family shots at night in a bar or restaurant.  There’s a hot shoe on the camera so of course you can use a compatible flash. 


Connectivity is good with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Transferring images to your smartphone is a breeze and can be done in 30 seconds or less. 

Customizing the Camera 

Good range of customization options in the camera, this includes being able to program the U1, U2, U3 modes on the dial (which I haven’t as I just use Aperture priority mode) and also the ability to customize the inbuilt image control simulations as well as 2 custom slots for your own recipes. 

Image Quality 

The images this camera is capable of producing are just gorgeous. The lens is sharp with excellent contrast and color rendition.

Sometimes I long for a slighter longer lens, especially when taking portraits, but there is another camera - the Ricoh GR IIIx with an equivalent 40mm field of view for that. 

JPG Simulations 

Although you don’t have the famous roll call of films like Fujifilm, don’t underestimate the Ricoh JPG simulations. I really like the Ricoh colors, here’s the options you have in-camera: 

  • Standard
  • Vivid
  • Monotone
  • Soft Monotone
  • Hard Monotone
  • High-Contrast B&W
  • Negative Film
  • Positive Film
  • Bleach Bypass
  • Retro
  • HDR Tone
  • Cross Processing
  • Custom 1 
  • Custom 2.

Positive is just beautiful it’s the one I use the most. At night time or in low light conditions, positive film sometimes looks like it has too strong a colour cast and too saturated,  so Negative Film is a better choice in those conditions.  

I actually like Negative Film, but straight out of the box, it makes reds orange which I’m not too keen on. I have tweaked it to be a little more saturated though, so I will see how that goes. 

Blossoms, Nara, Japan. Ricoh's Positive Film simulation produces striking colors. 
​​​​​​​© Matt Murray

Is This the Perfect Everyday Carry For Street and Travel Photographers?  

Here’s my criteria for the perfect everyday carry: 

  • Light and compact - your everyday carry should be so light and compact that taking it with you everywhere is a no brainer. 
  • Effortless - by that I mean you have to be able to turn the camera on and take a photo quickly without even thinking about it. 
  • Excellent image quality. 
  • The ability to easily transfer images to your smartphone. 
  • Great JPGs straight out of camera.  

The Ricoh GR III excels in all of the criteria above. Detractors might suggest that it has no flash or is not weather resistant, but no camera can be everything to everyone. 

What I Liked

There's a lot to like about the GR III, here are the top things I love about it:

  • Size and weight
  • Image quality
  • JPG colors
  • Smartphone connectivity
  • Diary Edition kit inclusions.   

What Could Be Improved

I love the GR III because of its size and weight, so I don't want to suggest it needs a lot of other features that would make it bigger or heavier or more expensive.

Listening to others who've had this camera a lot longer than me, the main thing that needs to be improved is the dust issue. If Ricoh can sort this out, the camera will be even better. Any new or extra features would be a bonus on top of that. 


The Ricoh GR III Diary Edition camera has become my everyday carry. It has a perfect mix of portability, image quality, and features. 

The GR III is ideally suited for street photographers, travel photographers, and those wanting a compact everyday carry. 

Being over four years old now, many wonder if and when Ricoh will bring out a successor to this camera and what features and specifications it will have. Let’s hope the next iteration in this line is even better. 

Matt Murray is a travel and portrait photographer from Brisbane, Australia.

Matt loves shooting with compact cameras: both film and digital. His YouTube features reviews of film cameras, film stocks, and travel photography with the Ricoh GR III, Fujifilm X100V, and Olympus OM-1.

See more of Matt's photography and writing on his Substack.

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Love the camera myself but it has other issues few seem to experience or want to admit. Firstly unreliable scroll or jog wheel. On my second GR3 and the issue is still the same with not even sending it off for repair fixing the issue. It's unreliable and unusable. After sometime manipulating it as intended will give a UI response of jittery and inaccurate. Second issue, a horrible "bug" that give you an "memory card is full message" despite the memory being so. One has to reformat after a day of shooting or else the camera, again after 25 hrs will not be able to write a new folder to the memory card. This happens regardless the type of card. Third though related to the second, you're not able to perform in-camera devolping. You'll get a message "unable to create folder". Reached out to Ricoh these issues with no response. Fourth, Ricoh heavily casters to the Japanese market which hurst fans elsewhere where no meetups are conducted by their team, or user input is considered for features.

Also, a favorite pocket companion of mine! If I have one of my other cameras in hand, I use them of course, but if I put them down or have packed them away, I still have the GRIII in my pocket that is super easy to power up and start using. It took a bit of getting used to its operations When I first got it but, with a little practice, it becomes second nature like everything else you practice with.

Thank you for this article. I know this is one camera I'll probably never buy, now.