|All Photos: © S. Banos|
Today marks the one year anniversary of shooting (almost) exclusively with a Ricoh GR, particularly significant since I've been a decades long B&W, analog, SLR kinda guy (who can't tolerate the bulbous blobs DSLR's have become). Hesitantly forcing myself into the 21st century, I had first taken the digital dive with the much heralded Fujifilm XT-1; I lusted for it's compact, drop dead, gorgeous body- and the quality of the lenses and overall IQ certainly did not disappoint. I just couldn't stand looking through its EVF in contrasty and direct sunlight; it was like using an SLR in a much diminished capacity. So much for the grand experiment...
Meanwhile, every winter I would get increasingly frustrated by the shortage of daylight hours, while my digital cohorts simply upped their ISO whenever necessary. The last straw came while pointing out a possible indoor photo op to my wife, I decided to get the camera, tripod and maybe a light or two to explore the possibility. By the time I turned on the room light just to look for all the above, she had already made the shot, applied a filter and posted on Instagram with her iphone- and I was supposed to be the photographer!
So how then did I settle on a camera that forces me to squint with my now aging eyes at a ridiculously minuscule screen in any and all kinds of light? How could I even contemplate a camera that removed all my beloved analog buttons and dials? Where was the fun to be had in any of this? Well... this time, I simply decided not to make the same mistake twice. My next digital device would not replace my analog SLR's- it would instead, complement them. Least, that was the plan...
I soon realized however, the freedom and potential this little gizmo offered- the ability to shoot various subject matter in a wide variety of situations using a wide variety of approaches: straight on, from the hip, in various aspect ratios, in all kinds of light! Even my trusty, compact FM3A looms large these days when pointed by persons unknown at an increasingly paranoid public. The GR has the visual imprint of the ever ubiquitous cell phone, thus making it considerably less threatening, and the user, considerably less conspicuous. The end result has been more than twice as many keepers this past year than any year previous.
|Up Close and Unawares!|
It's still not my do everything tool, then again, neither is any camera- but it is my new everyday camera. Admittedly, it took some time adjusting to that squinty little screen, and the lack of a traditional tactile interface (which to this day makes me sometimes forget to set the required settings). And I just didn't know if I could trust it at first; it looked as much toy as real camera. Was it capable only of haphazard results- or could it deliver consistently as a real and serious image making machine? Well, the IQ of the files did not lie- technically, it kept its part of the bargain and consistently produced outstanding results. And if you concentrated and took that little 3in space of real estate on the camera back seriously, it could actually reward one with some handsomely framed compositions. Respect it, and the damn thing respected you back!
I was used to shooting B&W almost exclusively with a 20mm, love how it allows one to position disparate scenarios into one composition to contrast or complement. Could I live with a longer, fixed focal length? Actually, I had made a point of shooting exclusively with every focal length from 50mm on down for at least a year, decades ago; I was already familiar with and a fan of the 28mm perspective. Color adds considerably more info with its various hues, sometimes it can be a bit much with extreme wide angles. The Ricoh 28mm(e) was just right for color, and that focal length certainly worked out just fine for that Eggleston guy (not to mention numerous others). Did I mention it's tack sharp, corner to corner?
|ISO 3200- 1/30 f2.8|
Still love B&W analog, and may even get a mirrorless ILC in the near future, but I have no plans on changing my new everyday camera any time soon. A lot of people suggest ways on how to improve the GR in its next iteration: more pixels, weather proofing, an EVF, a faster lens, and better this and that. Some of those suggestions would significantly add to its size- not good. I sincerely hope they do add a flip screen, that too would increase its depth- but not dramatically, and it would add significantly to its ease of use and stealth in the field!
After using analog exclusively for so long, using the GR has been like stepping into the future via warp drive- a palm sized, space age device capable of producing Big Time Results. It's been one fun ride thus far, and it's gonna stay in (and out of) my pocket for a long time to come...