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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Fuji X70 first impressions by Claus Sassenberg
- Why I’m sticking with the Ricoh GR by Bill “Fuji” Palmer
- Full test of the Fuji X70
- Full test of the Ricoh GR
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