Review: Ricoh GR II (One of the Best Compact Cameras We’ve Ever Tested)

The Ricoh GR II is and has been a hit with many photographers for a long time now. Based in part off of the classic Ricoh GR point and shoot film cameras that have forever been popular with street photographers, the Ricoh GR II brings modern updates to the previous camera. In many ways, this camera seems to simply ooze with quality. Much of it is an aesthetics based allure you won’t see with many other point and shoots out there. More than any others, this camera truly feels like a photographer’s compact and holds its own very well with the likes of the Sony RX1R II, Fujifilm X100F and the Leica Q.

Check out our list of photographers who are using the Ricoh GR II. Also be sure to check out our first reports and Eric Kim’s.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fantastic image quality
  • JPEGs so good that I’d have no problems just posting the JPEGs and not even bothering to edit the RAWs (yes, it’s true. That’s a very strong statement.)
  • Compact body
  • I actually like the rough texture of some of the body.
  • Pretty simply to use, though I wish there were a few more direct controls
  • Really nice effects simulations
  • Very low profile look
  • LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the factthis lens tends to embrace flares rather than killing them.
  • Feels as if it really should’ve had an integrated viewfinder; something like the Fujifilm X30.

Cons

  • Autofocus suffers in low light and with moving subjects
  • Those that want the clinical look of a photo probably won’t be able to embrace the grain at higher ISOs, the fun of the creative effects, or the lens flare that’s possible here.

Gear Used

We used the Ricoh GR II by itself. Alone. No extra flashes or anything.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the official Ricoh website.

Lens Lens Construction: 7 elements in 5 groups (2 aspherical lens elements)
Focal Length 18.3mm
35mm equivalent focal length Approx.28mm
Aperture F2.8-F16
Focus Modes Multi AF, Spot AF, Pinpoint AF,Subject tracking AF, MF,Snap, Infinity, Face detection priority AF (in Auto shooting mode / when Portrait of Effect is set), Continuous AF, Full Press Snap
Focus Range
(From lens face)
Approx. 0.3m to infinity (from the front edge of the lens)
Approx. 0.1m to infinity (Macro shooting, from the front edge of the lens)
Approx. 0.98ft to infinity (from the front edge of the lens)
Approx. 0.33ft to infinity (Macro shooting, from the front edge of the lens)
Face detection Up to 10 people’s faces
Total pixels Approx. 16.9 megapixels
Number of Effective pixels Approx. 16.2 megapixels
Image Sensor 23.7 x 15.7mm size CMOS
Number of Recorded pixels Still [3:2] 4928×3264(L)、3936×2608(M)、2912×1936(S)、1280×864(XS)
[4:3] 4352×3264(L)、3488×2608(M)、2592×1936(S)、1152×864(XS)
[1:1] 3264×3264(L)、2608×2608(M)、1936×1936(S)、864×864(XS)
Movie Full HD (1920×1080、30fps/25fps/24fps)
HD (1280×720、60fps/50fps/30fps/25fps/24fps)
VGA (640×480、30fps/25fps/24fps)
File format Still JPEG(conforms to Exif 2.3),RAW(DNG),
Movie MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Sensitivity (Standard Output Sensitivity) Auto, AUTO-HI(Maximum ISO/Minimum ISO selectable), Manual ISO 100 – 25600
White Balance Auto, Multi-P AUTO, Outdoors, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent 1, Incandescent 2, Daylight, Neutral White, Cool White, Warm White, CTE, CT(Details), M(Manual)
Display 3.0″ transparent LCD, approx. 1,230K dots, with protective cover, LCD Brightness(Auto/Manual)
Exposure Control Metering Multi, Center-weighted, Spot
Mode Program AE, Aperture priority AE, Shutter priority AE, Shutter/Aperture priority AE, Manual exposure
Exposure compensation Still image : ±4EV in increments of 1/3EV
Movie : ±2EV in increments of 1/3EV
Shooting mode Auto shooting mode, Program shift mode, Aperture priority mode, Shutter priority mode, Shutter/Aperture priority mode, Manual exposure mode, Movie, My Settings Mode
Effect Black&White, B&W(TE), Hi-Contrast B&W, Cross Process, Positive Film, Bleach Bypass, Retro, Miniaturize, Shift Crop, High Key, HDR Tone, Clarity, Brilliance, Slight, Vibrant, Bright, Portrait
Shooting Functions FA/Move Target, Crop(35mm/47mm), Continuous shooting, AE bracket(1/2EV / 1/3EV), White Balance bracket(Preset available), Effect bracket, Dynamic range bracket, Contrast bracket, Multiple exposure shooting, Interval shooting, Self-timer, Noise reduction, ND Filter(On/Off/Auto), Dynamic range compensation(Auto/Weak/Medium/Strong), Slow Shutter Speed NR, Color space setting, Interval composite, Histogram, Grid Guide, Depth-of-field indicator, Electronic level indicator
Playback Functions Auto Rotate, Highlight Alert, Thumbnail View, Enlarged Display (up to 16×), Slideshow, Protect, Resize, Skew Correction, Level Compensation, White Balance Compensation, Trim, DPOF Setting, Color Moire Correction, RAW Development, Clip Movie File, Save still image from movie
Shutter Speed 1/4000-300sec,Bulb,Time
Flash Modes Auto, Flash On, Flash Synchro., Manual Flash, Red-Eye Flash Auto, Red-Eye Flash On, Red-Eye Flash Synchro., Wireless
Range Approx. 0.2m~3.0m(ISO AUTO)
Approx. 0.66ft-9.8ft(ISO AUTO)
Guide number 5.4 (ISO 100 equivalent)
Continuous shooting approx. 4 frame/sec
The max. # of frames at continuous shooting JPEG:999 frames
RAW/RAW+:approx. 10 frames
Storage Media Internal memory (approx. 54 MB), SD/SDHC memory card, SDXC memory card (SDHC/SDXC memory cards conform to UHS-I standards)
Power Source Rechargeable battery DB-65
Battery life
(Rechargeable battery)
Still image*: Approx. 320 shots
Playback**: Approx. 190 min.
Movie recording time: Approx. 45 min.
Interfaces USB/AV output terminal (USB2.0, video output, audio output (monaural)), HDMI output terminal
Video Output NTSC/PAL
Wireless LAN Standards IEEE 802.11b/g/n (standard wireless LAN protocol)
Frequency
(Center Frequency)
2412MHz~2462MHz (1ch~11ch)
Security Authentication: WPA2, Encryption: AES
NFC Standards ISO/IEC14443 TypeA, ISO/IEC14443 TypeB, JIS X 6319-4 (Automatically selected)
Operating Frequency 13.56MHz
Dimensions Approx. 117.0 mm (W) × 62.8 mm (H) × 34.7 mm (D) (excluding projecting parts)
Approx. 4.6(W) ×2.5(H) ×1.4 (D) inches(excluding projecting parts)
Weight During shooting Approx. 251g (with battery and SD memory card)
Approx. 8.9oz.
Body only Approx. 221g (without battery and SD memory card)
Approx. 7.8oz.

Ergonomics

The Ricoh GR II is a very low profile, sleek and slim looking camera. Just by looking at the front of the camera you see those qualities. Here you’ll find the lens and a bit of branding on the leatherette grip. Notice how the texture from the grip to the camera body itself completely changes.

Move to the top of the camera and what you’ll find are very minimal controls. Here you’ll see the hot shoe, mode dial, on/off switch, shutter button, and an exposure dial. That’s really about all.

Turn to the back of the camera and what you’ll find is this giant LCD screen dominating the body. Then there are the controls, dials and buttons on the right side of the camera. All of the buttons feel nice and they’re all in places that make sense.

Move to the left of the camera and what you’ll spot are these two controls. One lets the flash pop up (it’s small and can’t bounce). The other button controls the effects and the WiFi setting.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Ricoh GR II is in some ways unconventional but in other ways works out pretty darned well. It’s covered by this leatherette surface but then when you touch other parts of the camera, it’s rough and textured almost like sandpaper. I liken it to the look of film grain.

Weather sealing admittedly would’ve been a nice touch. But otherwise, you’ll find yourself going around with the camera with relative ease. It’s more or less designed to be shot in aperture priority though manual mode is also pretty simple to work with as long as you start to get a bearing on the muscle memory.

This camera quite literally fits into jean pockets; and that’s beautiful.

Ease of Use

More or less, I expect most people who use this camera to set it to aperture priority, lock their ISO and aperture, and then go about life. And to be honest, that’s the best way to use this camera. Once you switch to manual mode, expect to use it in a way that’s very similar to how film camera are used except that you still have the option of changing your ISO setting. You can do this with the lever on the back of the camera. Pushing it in lets you change a variety of different parameters. With all this said, manual mode would be easier if there were simply more dials vs the +/- buttons on the top right corner.

Switching the autofocus point is also a bit of a weird and slow process, but most of the time I’ve never had an issue with focusing and recomposing considering that this is an APS-C sensor at its heart.

One of the nicest things is you can simply go about shooting with the display off–so in that way it becomes a very stealthy camera.

Metering

Lucky for street photographers, the Ricoh GR II more or less follows the rules of Sunny 16. At certain times, you may want to overexpose just a bit. This also depends on what creative look mode you’re using. Of course, you can also always just fix the images later in RAW. However, the fun that the Ricoh GR II elicits makes you want to get as close to perfect as possible in-camera.

Autofocus

I tried working with the various autofocus points that the Ricoh GR II offers. But time after time, I found it easier to just simply focus and recompose my photo. The autofocus in daylight situations is pretty darn quick, and where it begins to suffer is with dim lighting such as the interior of a Korean Fried Chicken joint in Williamsburg. When shooting outside with streetlight lamps, I didn’t really seem to encounter any major issues with the autofocus.

One thing I sort of don’t like is the Macro focusing mode. It’s very nice that the camera can focus really close, but I wouldn’t exactly call it macro. Additionally, when in Macro mode the lens will only focus in that distance. You need to remember to switch it off when you’re done. Macro focus mode is also understandably slower to ensure that it gets the accuracy I’m positive everyone wants. But when going around Brooklyn and Manhattan in an attempt  to document my innate urge to eat my equivalent weight in chicken wings, the lighting in countless venues didn’t exactly lend itself to the situation.

Correction: the Ricoh GR II will indeed focus on everything in a scene when in macro mode. But it’s slower and samples a larger area of the scene by default.

In a case like that, I’d sadly just rather reach for my iPhone if I know I’ll get the accuracy. Sony, Fujifilm and Leica all have better autofocus with perhaps Fujifilm being a bit better than Sony and Leica. At the tail end of the court is the Ricoh GR II.

Image Quality

One of the best things about this camera is how fun it is to use. It’s very difficult to take a bad photo with the Ricoh GR II and that’s part of what brings the fun of photography back to the advanced shooter. With all this said, let’s dig into the image quality.

JPEG Quality

During my first days with the camera, I shot a lot of RAW + JPEG photos. The Ricoh GR II honestly delivers JPEGs I have no problems sending right over to my phone or even to my portfolio. To be fair though, part of this has to do with how I shoot. I manually set my white balances to either Daylight or Tungsten. On top of this, I tend to ensure that the metering from the camera is exactly what I want.

Fujifilm and Olympus tend to deliver really nice JPEGs, but the Ricoh GR II beats both of them in my opinion.

Bokeh

The only way you’re really going to get bokeh from a 28mm f2.8 equivalent lens with an APS-C sensor is by getting close to a subject. With that said though, the bokeh isn’t half bad.

Sharpness

The sharpness from this lens is absolutely incredible. It’s evident in the LCD screen but then it’s also when you move the image onto a larger screen. Part of this is due to the way the sensor was designed. When you switch the camera to the black and white mode, it really tends to come out even more.

Color Rendition

My absolute favorite colors from this camera come out when you manually set the white balance. In post-production, they really aren’t that versatile as a proper DSLR or mirrorless camera. There’s this mode on the camera called positive film that I feel emulates the look of the tones more than it does film itself. But it’s still a nice look. Then there’s bleach bypass and cross process, which are both pretty nice.

Chromatic Aberration

Some photographers may not like the flare that this lens can output. Me however, I’m absolutely smitten with it. Most lenses created by Japanese manufacturers are the result of hours of seeking absolute perfection. As a result, I genuinely feel that a lot of them are sterile vs what the Germans, Russians, Americans, and others offer. For their own purposes, the Japanese do a fantastic job of achieving their goals. But sometimes just a bit of distortion or flare is really nice. That’s surely the case here.

Otherwise, I didn’t find a single fringing issue.

High ISO Output

You’re surely going to see noise at higher ISOs of 6400 and higher. But it’s not that bad. Plus you’re not losing details due to the sensor design.

RAW File Versatility

The RAW Files have a decent amount of information in them, but every other manufacturer has RAW files that are more capable than the Ricoh GR II’s.

Extra Sample Photos

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small, compact size
  • A lot of performance
  • Nice colors
  • Great lens
  • Autofocus that is good enough for many situations
  • Fantastic battery life

Dislikes

  • Low light autofocus
  • Wish there were more dials on the camera
  • A bit expensive

It’s an absolute honor to give the Ricoh GR II the Editor’s Choice award. This camera is fantastic for the street photographer, travel photographer or even for a blogger that doesn’t want to or care to shoot a whole lot of video. Its compact size, great image quality, fairly reliable autofocus, and fantastic lens make it a must for many photographers. Even better, the JPEG image quality is so good that I’d probably never worry about doing a whole lot of editing to my RAW files. The autofocus suffers in low light and sometimes the controls can be a bit finicky, such as in manual exposure mode, but I’m positive most shooters will probably just work with this camera in aperture priority and call it a day.

The Ricoh GR II is surely a fantastic camera if it’s going to be your only camera at this price point.

The Ricoh GR II receives an Editor’s Choice award and five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for more.