Very few compact cameras adopt the same size sensor as in crop mirrorless, the APS-C. But the Ricoh GR IIIx is one of those few, along with cameras like the Fujifilm X100V and the outdated Canon G1X Mark III. Despite being nearly as compact as a smartphone, the Ricoh GR IIIx fits in that large sensor and a 40mm equivalent f2.8 prime lens. That allows the camera to deliver images that are just as good, if not better, than a $1,000 mirrorless camera in a much smaller body. Photographers need more great compact cameras like the Ricoh GR IIIx.
However, the GR IIIx is more of a one-trick pony than a jack-of-all-trades. Street photographers often rave about the GR series, and those praises remain intact for the latest reiteration. But, lagging autofocus and lack of weather sealing prevents the compact camera from venturing into many other genres.
The Big Picture
The Ricoh GR IIIx is a camera that isn’t trying to be everything to everybody — and as a result, it does an exceptional job at the type of photographs it was designed for. The series has long been appreciated by street photographers, and that’s no different with the latest iteration. The camera is compact and inconspicuous, yet it packs a large sensor and sharp lens, creating swoon-worthy images. The camera is a quick and lightweight way of snapping street, landscape, and travel. That’s made even more so by the built-in stabilization and ND filter, meaning accessories can often be left behind.
While the GR IIIx is great at the genres it’s designed for, it falters quickly when trying to fit into other molds. It’s not made for action. It also lacks the viewfinder of competing cameras like the Fujifilm X100V. While the camera has a magnesium alloy build, it’s not weather-sealed. The 200-shot battery life also means travelers will want to pack extra batteries. I also really wish this camera had a tilt screen.
If you shoot street or travel, consider the Ricoh GR IIIx a four out of five stars camera. But, if I were to compare it to other cameras meant to cover a wider variety of subjects, I’d give it three out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.
- A beautiful, inconspicuous design
- Super compact
- Magnesium alloy construction
- Excellent JPEG quality and versatile RAW
- Lots of great in-camera black-and-white profiles
- Sharp images thanks to the fixed lens
- Macro mode
- Simple, well-organized menu
- Image stabilization
- Built-in 2EV ND filter
- No weather-sealing
- No viewfinder (though you can add one to the hot shoe)
- No tilt screen
- Autofocus and burst mode aren’t made for action, so you have to zone focus
- Battery life of 200 shots needs improvement
I tested the all-black version of the Ricoh GR IIIx. The camera is on temporary loan from Ricoh.
The Ricoh GR IIIx is more of a marginal update than a complete overhaul. It sports Ricoh’s newer processor and in-camera RAW editing. But what’s most exciting is the updated lens. The built-in glass is 26.1mm, equivalent to 40mm on a full-frame camera designed for sharper images with minimal distortion and colored fringing.
The Ricoh GR IIIx is a compact camera designed to be unobtrusive. Between the all-black design and the fact that it’s not much larger than a smartphone, the Ricoh GR IIIx doesn’t scream, “hey, I’m taking a photo.” For street photographers and anyone looking to capture candids, that’s an important feature. The Ricoh GR IIIx is a small camera that’s inconspicuous and unpretentious.
The compact camera is shorter than an iPhone, but the depth of about two phones is stacked together. That makes the camera easy to tuck into any bag or even a jacket pocket. One of the most significant sacrifices for that small size is the lack of a viewfinder. While I prefer cameras with viewfinders, I minded a bit less here. The GR IIIx feels like a camera designed to keep you at the moment. When you’re not narrowing your view inside a viewfinder, that’s easier to do.
The LCD screen is also fixed, so you can’t adjust the angle to better see in scenarios with glare or unusual shooting positions. Without the viewfinder, I think a tilting screen would have been beneficial.
While the compact design means less space for controls, I still found almost all of my must-haves. There are still two control dials plus a third at the back that doubles for menu navigation and shortcuts like ISO and macro. The mode dial (which doesn’t have an auto) has a locking design and sits right next to a good-sized shutter button at the top. A Wi-Fi and video button is also tucked away on the side by the left hand.
I missed two controls — the camera doesn’t have a joystick, and there’s no control ring around the lens. The first would have made adjusting the focal point easier than using the touchscreen. But, without a viewfinder, the joystick is less necessary since you don’t have to pull your face away in order to use the touchscreen. Having a control ring around the lens is a personal preference — an aperture ring just makes sense on the lens, and it seems like there would have been room for it.
After using the Ricoh GR IIIx, I can see why street photographers love this camera — it’s easy to take anywhere. But, more than that, the size, lack of a viewfinder, and inconspicuous design created a balance between making compositional decisions and being aware of what else was happening around me.
The GR IIIx is a compact camera — but it doesn’t feel like a point-and-shoot. The exterior is made from magnesium alloy, bestowing a lovely metallic feel. The grip has a textured wrap that helps keep fingers from sliding. This is particularly important because it helps make the small grip feel more comfortable than something of this size would typically be.
However, the compact camera isn’t weather-sealed. Compacts, of course, aren’t as susceptible to sensor dust as interchangeable lens cameras that expose the sensor during lens swaps. But it’ll need an umbrella to shoot in the rain. That’s disappointing as the rain can create a lot of great opportunities for the street photographers this camera is designed for.
The autofocus menu on the GR IIIx is bursting with different options, including more than one that I hadn’t seen before in over a decade of testing cameras. Snap mode is designed for zone focusing, a common technique for street photographers. This mode locks the focal point into a set distance customized inside the camera menu. It’s a way to use the zone focusing technique when you don’t have a lens barrel with a focus ring and a depth of field scale.
Similarly, the compact camera also houses an infinity mode. Again, this solves the problem created by not having a lens barrel with a focus ring and scale. This mode sets the focus to infinity, such as when photographing the stars.
The remaining focus modes are the more familiar options, including auto-area AF, pinpoint, and tracking. Eye AF is included, but it’s for people only, not pets. Continuous autofocus is its own mode rather than being an option that can be used in multiple AF area modes. That’s a bit odd, but the camera isn’t one that’s really meant for a lot of fast movement in the first place.
The GR IIIx isn’t designed for action, as evidenced by the slow 4 fps burst mode. In fact, the burst mode was so slow that it was hard to test how well the autofocus kept up with fast action. It had a hard time keeping up with dogs and toddlers. However, this isn’t what the GR IIIx is designed for, so it’s hardly surprising. But it’s less of an all-rounder than cameras like the Sony RX100 VI or the Canon G5 X MII.
In low light and underexposed shots, the GR IIIx locks on easily enough when the focal point is placed somewhere with contrast. In the dimmest environments, the camera takes a second or two to lock on, temporarily brightening the viewfinder to focus. The camera also doesn’t have the option to turn off the exposure preview I could find, which can often improve the autofocus speed in limited light.
A great feature of the GR IIIx is the macro mode, which allows it to shoot 4.72” from the front of the lens. That’s not as impressively close as cameras with smaller sensors can achieve, nor as close as the GR III. But it’s a valuable tool to have and works pretty well.
Ease of Use
The Ricoh GR IIIx walks the fine line between advanced controls and simple operation. The compact has enough controls and options to keep serious photographers happy, yet it uses a streamlined design to keep the camera from becoming a distraction. Maybe it’s the all-black design or the lack of a viewfinder, but I felt more part of the moment shooting with the GR IIIx.
While the GR IIIx is a compact camera, it’s not made for beginners. There’s no auto mode — just the four manual modes and three spots for saving user presets. But, a handful of options are difficult to find in other cameras outside the GR line. This includes a simulated AA filter to activate when photographing fine patterns and the option to turn off in-camera vignette corrections.
Ricoh also built in in-camera RAW processing. Using the playback menu, it’s possible to go in and adjust the white balance, color profile, vignetting, and exposure compensation. The feature will likely be most helpful for photographers using the built-in Wi-Fi to transfer the photos to a smartphone for immediate sharing.
Despite the small size, the GR IIIx is stabilized with three-axis sensor-shift stabilization. It also has a built-in 2-stop ND filter that you can turn on and off. That makes it exceptionally fun to capture long exposures. The photo above was taken at 1/10th of a second in the middle of the day. Those two features — stabilization and an ND filter — make the GR IIIx even more portable. When a tripod and filters aren’t always necessary to take a long exposure photograph, more photographers will experiment, which is great.
Despite this being my first experience with the GR line, I found the menu easy to navigate. The camera settings are all well organized, and easy to scroll through to find the right options.
Using the Sunny 16 rule, the GR IIIx took a fairly accurate exposure, if perhaps a little bit underexposed.
Most advanced compact cameras use a one-inch sensor, but the Ricoh GR IIIx is one of a handful that still sports an APS-C sensor, the same as in crop sensor mirrorless cameras. (The Fujifilm X100V and aging Canon G1X Mark III also use APS-C sensors). That, mixed with the fixed 40mm equivalent f2.8 lens, delivers sharp, colorful images despite the camera’s compact size.
Straight from the camera, the GR IIIx captures excellent color. The colors feel accurate yet soft and not overdone. The camera also has a slew of black and white profiles, so you can customize your shots whether you want soft or hard contrast monochrome. The GR IIIx has a lot of different settings that up the odds of capturing what you envision in-camera.
High ISO Output
I was impressed by how sharp my indoor images with higher ISOs turned out. When pixel peeping, noise is noticeable at ISO 6400, but the camera still creates a printable, sharable image at this level. The in-camera noise reduction doesn’t generate a noticeable lack of sharpness until right around ISO 6400 and above. Even at ISO 12800, you get a lot of grain, but it’s the kind that photographers sometimes add to their image to get that film-like feel. Color noise is very minimal.
RAW File Versatility
The DNG files start slightly darker with deeper colors than the JPEGs in the standard color mode. It’s a great starting point for dramatic edits. I recovered many lost details in the highlights. Take a look at blown-out sky above. Yes, the clouds still look wonky, and I should have lowered the exposure in the camera. But the fact that I could bring back some blue in what shows as a completely white sky on the JPEG is impressive. The only highlights I couldn’t recover were areas exposed to complete white (which no camera can recover from, and the histogram will alert you to).
The RAW files also allow salvaging details in the shadows. The files are versatile enough to take an unevenly lit photograph and make it almost look like HDR.
With an f2.8 lens, the GR IIIx can capture sharp subjects with soft backgrounds. The 26mm lens makes it hard to get circle bokeh balls under normal circumstances, but the macro creates bokeh much faster, such as the out-of-focus catchlights in the cat’s eyes above. These bokeh balls are round with a nice soft edge.
While the GR IIIx loses some versatility by having a fixed lens, it gains quite a bit of sharpness. Images had the same level of sharpness that I would expect from a mirrorless camera with a prime lens. The lens also produced some soft flare when pointing toward the sun. I also didn’t detect any colored fringing, even when looking at high-contrast edges.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy It?
The Ricoh GR IIIx isn’t a camera designed to do it all — but for the genres it is made for, this tiny camera shines. Street photographers will love the compact design, unobtrusive design, and sharp images straight from the camera. Images are impressive for such a tiny camera — and I think many travel and landscape photographers will love this camera as well, mainly when size is a priority. A built-in ND filter and image stabilization extend this camera’s portability by making tripods rarely needed.
While the GR IIIx does well at exactly what it is designed for, it’s not one of those cameras that can easily move from one subject to the next. Avoid this compact camera if you want to photograph fast action, such as kids, sports, and wildlife. Cameras like the Sony RX100 VII have the zoom and autofocus speed geared to cover a wide variety of subjects but with some significant sacrifices, including a smaller 1-inch sensor, a dimmer lens, and a poorly designed grip.
The Ricoh GR IIIx’s closest competitor is the Fujifilm X100V, which we called “the closest they’ve come to a perfect camera.” It has the viewfinder that the GR IIIx lacks, along with a faster burst speed and snappier autofocus. But, it lacks the stabilization and built-in ND filter; the build is more plasticky and it costs about $200 more.
LensRentals lists the following specifications for the Ricoh GR IIIx:
- Aspect Ratio: 1:1, 3:2
- Audio Recording: Built-In Microphone (Stereo)
- Battery: 1 x DB-110 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion, 3.6 VDC, 1350 mAh (Approx. 200 Shots)
- Bit Depth: 14-Bit
- Brand: Ricoh
- Camera Type: Compact
- Connectivity: USB Type-C (USB 3.0)
- Dimensions: W x H x D: 4.3 × 2.4 × 1.4″
- Exposure Compensation: -5 to +5 EV (1/3 EV Steps)
- Exposure Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority
- Built-In Flash: No
- Flash Modes: Flash On, Flash On w/ Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync/Red-Eye Reduction
- External Flash Connection: Hot Shoe
- GPS: No
- ISO Range: Auto, 100 to 102400
- Image File Formats: JPEG, RAW
- Image Stabilization: Sensor-Shift (3-Axis)
- Internal Storage: 2 GB
- Interval Recording: Yes
- Item Type: Camera
- Lens: Focal Length: 26.1mm (35mm Equivalent Focal Length: 40mm)
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Focus Range: Normal: 7.9″ to Infinity / 0.2 m to Infinity; Macro: 4.72″ to 4.72″ / 0.12 m to 0.12 cm
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