Home Cameras/Lenses Fujifilm Fuji X70 v Ricoh GR: Which is the best large-sensor pocket camera?

Fuji X70 v Ricoh GR: Which is the best large-sensor pocket camera?

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 Street photography as it was, Ricoh GR (Photo Mike Evans)
Street photography as it was, Ricoh GR (Photo Mike Evans)

For serious photographers there is a great attraction to owning a high-performance camera that can actually fit in a trouser pocket without any danger of a Mae West encounter. Most people I know, including Bill Palmer, choose the Ricoh GR for its combination of size and outstanding performance. It’s amazing they can squeeze an APS-C sensor in such a small body. In fact, the camera is hardly larger than the 1in-sensor trio — Sony’s RX100, Panasonic’s LX15 and Canon’s G7 X.

 While the GR is slightly longer, it has a narrower profile which suits a small pocket. Comparison by  Camerasize.com
While the GR is slightly longer, it has a narrower profile which suits a small pocket. Comparison by Camerasize.com

Many, I know, prefer the 1in cameras for their zoom lenses and the added versatility (in the case of the Sony extending to a built-in EVF) but here we are discussing APS-C fixed lens pocket cameras. APS-C zoom cameras and pockets are incompatible. I also exclude the prime-lens Fuji X100 because, while it is an excellent street photography tool, it is more M3 in size than GR. It isn’t really pocketable. So we are down to the Ricoh and the Fuji X70. Both are similar in spec, with a 28mm f/2.8 prime lens and no EVF. Both produce great results, no need to worry about that.

  Hmmm, is that a Fuji X100T you have in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? The Fuji X100 is ruled out on size alone.
Hmmm, is that a Fuji X100T you have in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? The Fuji X100 is ruled out on size alone.
 The Fuji (above) has lots of physical controls to keep you busy and involved. The Ricoh (below) is minimalist and relies largely on menus for adjustment
The Fuji (above) has lots of physical controls to keep you busy and involved. The Ricoh (below) is minimalist and relies largely on menus for adjustment

But the Fuji X70 is a tad bigger than the Ricoh, which is longer but thinner. Its lens protrudes more (at rest) and has no protection. You have to buy an adapter in order to fit a filter. The Ricoh, on the other hand, has a much flatter lens (which extends when the camera is powered on), barely protruding from the body at rest, and sports an auto lens cap. Perfect for pocketing.

The Fuji has a better set of physical controls — a shutter speed dial, exposure compensation dial and a physical aperture ring. It also has a tilt screen which is useful in the absence of a viewfinder.

The Ricoh, on the other hand, has fiddly, tiny controls, including a push-push on/off toggle that is always second best to a physical switch as on the Fuji. Most functions, including aperture setting, speed are made through the menu. By rights I should be firmly in favour of the Fuji when it comes to ergonomics.

There is a physical exposure compensation rocker switch mounted on the top right of the GR’s back, just where the thumb rests. This is a supremely annoying feature of the Ricoh and is constantly being knocked by mistake. It is my main complaint about the camera which, in other respects, is well sorted.

 Fuji X70, photo by Claus Sassenberg
Fuji X70, photo by Claus Sassenberg
 Fuji X70, Photo by Claus Sassenberg
Fuji X70, Photo by Claus Sassenberg

There are many more detail differences between these cameras but this isn’t a comprehensive review. It comes down to size and function. The Ricoh, despite its age, is by far the most pocketable camera of the two. It is the one you can carry around without a thought day in, day out. It makes a perfect complement to a film camera, for those digital moments, and it produces amazingly good results.

 Ricoh GR by Mike Evans
Ricoh GR by Mike Evans

In comparison with the retro, manual controlled complexity of the X70, the Ricoh is bland — an Olympus mju sort of camera which is understated and rather boring in its matte black finish. But it is definitely pocketable, it looks like a simple point and shoot and is the ultimate discreet camera for street photography.

 Ricoh GR, by Mike Evans
Ricoh GR, by Mike Evans

True, the X70 is alluring with all those vital settings on permanent display. Ultimately it is the better camera, I have no doubt. But much as I would love to upgrade to the X70 with its much more appealing control layout I cannot justify it. The Ricoh occupies a special place in my stock of cameras. It’s the only one I want to carry every day, irrespective of which “main” camera takes my fickle fancy.  

 Ricoh GR by Mike Evans
Ricoh GR by Mike Evans

Sadly, Ricoh seem to have lost interest in the GR. It was barely featured at Photokina and exhibits all the signs of being an end-of-line camera. I hope not. On the contrary I look forward to an updated GR because, truly, it is still the one to beat when it comes to ultimate convenience combined with amazingly competent performance.

But if you are interested in one of these pocket cameras, there’s price to take into account. At the time of writing the Ricoh has a street price of £499 while the Fuji is £50 cheaper at £449. It just makes the decision that more difficult. 

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19 COMMENTS

  1. The thing the GR does and always has hold/held over all comers is body shape. It is leagues ahead of everything. I am not certain what role patent infringement law may play in the decisions of other camera makers, pertaining to the shape of their cameras, but I am surprised by the fact that none have even attempted to approximate the GR pattern. As far as I am concerned, a competing model would have to have earth-shattering superiority in result, in order to displace my GR as a go-anywhere compact. It is a true pocket camera. The others always seem to be a camera that will fit in a pocket….but not not nearly as comfortably.

  2. Hi Mike, a question: in your opinion, how much better is the GR when compared to a Leica X2, shooting RAW and PP the files in Lightroom, both colour and B&W?

    • That’s a very difficult question, Nico. The Ricoh produces very similar results to the X2. It’s smaller and more pocketable but lacks the direct manual control of the X2. I think it is faster. The results are very similar. If you look at some of the stuff I’ve shot with the Ricoh you will see I am not disappointed. It’s one of those instances where the heart might go for the Leica because it’s a Leica while the head would see the advantages of the GR.

      Sorry I can’t say definitively one way or the other.

      • Not to worry, Mike! It confirms what I already thought 🙂
        I have a X2, but with lots photographers raving about the GR, I thought I was missing something.

        As for the Fuji X70: no thanks!

        • Well yes, it’s hard to understand the enthusiasm for the GR until you’ve tried it. It’s definitely an acquired taste. It looks so bland, just like an old point and shoot, that only a dedicated fan would buy one at that price. I have an old X1 so can compare the size. That’s also quite small unless you fit a VF (same applies to the Ricoh, though) but of course the Leica has presence. People still come up to talk about the Leica (nice camera, that must have been expensive) whereas no one notices the Ricoh.

          The big difference is that I have the Ricoh in my bag all the time. I see the X1 more as a "camera for the day" rather than something for emergency. I would seldom carry the X1 as well as an M or the SL. But I do carry the Ricoh irrespective of which camera I choose. I also love it for occasions when I can’t carry a bag.

          • Interesting point about the difference between a ‘camera for the day’ and a camera you take with you ‘just in case’. I don’t have a ‘just in case’ camera at the moment, so a secondhand GR would do just nicely. But the problem seems to be that I can’t find a secondhand one here in Holland…

          • It’s not a camera you see around a lot on the secondhand market. I suspect that’s because it is an "also" type of camera. Once you have it there’s no point in selling it because it does that job so well and there is no compelling alternative. I imagine most people just keep them.

    • Mine is the Mark I. Bill Palmer and I had a conflab about the merits of the MkII and saw no reason to update. I don’t think there’s that much real-word difference.

  3. Fascinating and timely piece, Mike. I have little to add save some comments that I made no more than a couple of weeks ago on a forum where one of the members asked the deceptively simple question – why did you sell your GR – or why do you still have and love it?

    "A good friend of mine asked my advice recently because he was in the market for a carry-anywhere, high quality, small fixed lens compact. I pointed him at both the GR (which I have) and the X70. He chose the latter, partly because his local dealer had one in stock (to even see the GR he would have had to pay in full before they would order one in) and partly because it is a younger design. It’s absolutely true to say that the GR (GRII) is long in the tooth, but it is still a tremendous camera and the latest in a distinguished line that reaches back to the film GR1 (I had one of those back in the day too.)

    I find it frustrating that Ricoh bought Pentax but that the Pentax tail appears to be wagging the Ricoh dog. I would have loved to have seen evolution of the GXR concept and I feel that the Pentax designers are holding the talking stick and are inherently more conservative in their designs.

    I hope that the next 12 months brings a new generation GR with a 24mp sensor – perhaps even FF, if it can be achieved in that diminutive but distinctive magnesium alloy body shell.

    Why do I still use my GR? Because there is nothing else quite like it. it handles like an extension of my arm and doesn’t interpose its handling quirks between me and my subject. It performs, delivering crisp sharp images time after time. It has a HiBW mode that I have never been able to replicate with another make of camera, or in post. It fits in a pouch on my belt, in my briefcase and in my life. It’s the camera I carry when I don’t carry a camera. If it didn’t exist I’d probably have an X70, but it does, and it doesn’t have gimmicks like a tilty touch screen. It’s a dowdy, workmanlike tool but I love it. If mine died tonight, I would buy another and breathe a slight sigh of relief as I unboxed it. I can just about imagine life without Marmite or bacon sandwiches or Earl Grey tea, or espresso porridge or a Land Rover but I simply cannot imagine life without a little Ricoh."

    • I don’t get why any one wouldn’t want a tilt screen…it hardly changes the size of the camera. Can make you even more incospicous than without one by being able to shoot at the hip (without needing to hyperfocal shoot) you can frame a low shot without lying on the ground. whats not to like?

      • Everything, in my experience, Steve. A tilty screen adds complexity. It adds fragility. When I had my X-T1 I taped it down. I don’t need one to shoot from the hip and neither did "Johnny Stiletto" back in the 1980s (Have a Google). I can also frame low shots without lying on the ground or using a tilty screen. There is absolutely no benefit to me of such a facility and it is a "feature" that would actually dissuade me from a purchase.

    • I can’t speak for Claus’s X70 shots but I think most of not all of mine would have been processed in Silver Efex Pro from RAW. The Ricoh does produce good jpegs, though, as Bill pointed out in his comment.

  4. I haven’t used the X70 but my experiences with the GR mirror yours. It’s the camera I hate to love. It is not particularly interesting looking on the outside, lacking manual controls, etc and it is kind of a typical, engineer approach to a digital camera in use. Honestly I prefer the output of the X100 over the GR but the Ricoh is such a responsive, fast camera to use that I end up taking it out more often. Its unobtrusiveness and stealthiness on the street cannot be overstated.

  5. Some very nice images here. A nice diversity to strive for.

    I’m a Fuji fan (XP2/X100) but I also have a Ricoh GR plus an extensive Nikon Df system of AF and MF lenses and an especially useful strobe system.

    All these cameras have been my workhorse camera at one time or another in my photographic development. Each of these cameras can be labeled quirky based on some ideal standard, but each are very capable picture machines.

    The GR is IMO the quirkiest but that word never seems to bubble into my subconscious (until this kind of discussion) because it delivers such amazing results in situations where it really shouldn’t be the best camera choice. It’s an especially PITA camera to use when I’m traveling in the USA desert southwest. OTOH it’s one that slips into any pocket, isn’t much of an addition to any daypack, one that allows me to carry two extra bottles of water over the Nikon choice and one that’s impossible to see the VF/LCD in the blazing sun. Still it’s a 28mm equiv lens, it stands up well to cropping, just guessing the framing is often sufficient and that’s made possible by the fact that all the other systems like exposure and focusing are so spot on reliable that I have confidence in a good results even though I’m unsure of the framing. Not exactly a great marketing pitch, but if you are a photographer having a pocketable camera that you can depend on (primarily because you have great confidence in it) is a very freeing way to operate.

    The fast press AF/exposure system gives you box camera reliability backed by a great exposure system. It’s almost like having a second camera that’s programmed to get-the-image anyway instant backup.

    Enjoy your GR, I certainly do. I’m considering getting a second so I am sure to always have one around. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a 24MP sensor in that package. The lens is certainly stellar at 16MP.

    RogerB

    • I agree with everything you say, especially the PITA bit. It is quirky, it is a PITA at times but, as you say, the pocketability and the outstanding results are stellar features. I was thinking more about it since writing the article and I’m convinced that the auto lens protector is one of the main reasons it is so easy to pocket. Anything with a removable lens cap or, even, a UV filter, is somehow more vulnerable. Thanks for your input.

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