Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Ricoh GR and the Leica X1/2

Ricoh GR and the Leica X1/2

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At the Black Country Museum, UK, Ricoh GR

Jean Perenet’s excellent Ricoh photographs in his Myanmar articles proves yet again what a useful no-compromise pocket camera the GR can be. It may look like a £10 cardboard throwaway, but the capabilities of its f/2.8 28mm lens and the APS-C sensor belie its appearance. But the Leica X1 also makes a great pocketable travel camera and I’m hard pressed to choose which is the one to go for.

Art display in Mykonos, Greece, Ricoh GR
Art display in Mykonos, Greece, Ricoh GR

Ricoh

I have also spent a lot of time with the GR over the past few years and still own the first-generation model (which isn’t a lot different to the current model, although a replacement is now overdue) and definitely have a soft spot for it. My major concern is that the controls are small, therefore fiddly. And a big downer is the top-right-mounted see-saw lever for exposure control. It moves almost of its own will and I find it impossible to handle the camera without dialling in +3 or -3 without trying.

The new GRIII addresses this issue and, for me, it is a worthwhile (although expensive) upgrade.

1930s Brough Superior ice-cream float, Leica X2
1930s Brough Superior ice-cream float, Leica X2

Be that as it may, the GR I and II are both useful little cameras to have in the bag. And, as Jean so successfully demonstrates, the GR can be The One for important foreign trips. Apart from its small size, the appearance is so unthreatening that it succeeds in grabbing those candid shots that a big DSLR would never get.

Concorde lives on at Brooklands Museum, Leica X2
Concorde lives on at Brooklands Museum, Leica X2

Ideal for travel

The Leica X1 or X2 is another design that punches above its size and weight. The simplicity of the (chunky in this case) controls and the small size make it an ideal travel camera.

Comparison chart from Cameradecision.com
Comparison chart from Cameradecision.com

Although the X2 looks a lot bigger than the GR, this is something of an illusion. It is on 8mm longer and 8mm higher (without the accessory viewfinder, but then the same applies to the GR). It’s thicker, particularly when the larger Leica lens housing is taken into account — 52mm compared with 35mm. The Leica is also 50% heavier than the GR, 345g compared with 245g. Overall, though, the Leica is easier to handle because of the larger controls.

London horse bus, Leica X2
London horse bus, Leica X2

On balance, I do now prefer the X2, even with its outside EVF. It has a similar APS-C sensor to that in the Ricoh, possesses a truly excellent 36mm-equivalent lens which is well capable of producing usable 50mm-angle crops. Both have an f/2.8 aperture. The GR wins out with its wider 28mm field of view, of course, but that isn’t a big issue for me.

At the Black Country Museum, UK, Ricoh GR
At the Black Country Museum, UK, Ricoh GR

Both these cameras as now oddballs, both with a curiously stubborn cast of aficionados. They are further examples of purity and clarity of purpose. When they are too old to continue snapping, we will miss them. Let’s hope that someone in the camera world thinks it worthwhile to follow in their footsteps.

The other main contender in the APS-C mould is the Fujifilm X100F, one of the most popular fixed-lens cameras of its type in the past ten years. But the competition has moved up a notch or two with full-frame fixed-lens cameras such as the Sony RX1 and the Leica Q. The Q2 now brings greater levels of competence, although it is undeniably heftier than the Fuji, the Leica X1 or the Ricoh GR.

For the money, on the secondhand market, an X1 or X2, or GR I and II, represent great value and will give years of faithful service.

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18 COMMENTS

  1. In use, the GR is definitely more pocketable that either of the Leicas or the Fuji. I have recently been given back my GR, my daughter prefers her cheapo Canozoom.

    So I have taken to carrying it every time that I go out and I have even spent hours at home trying to figure out the menu system. I have been putting together some “my settings” so that I can get straight out of camera snaps in B&W, Colour, or some novelties, like high contrast and so on.

    Notwithstanding the dreaded inny-outy, I like this camera more than either of the X’s, I am even getting used to the lack of an EVF. I might even get used to 28mm! The added size of all three X’s, that is the X1, X2 and X100 even though the X100 has a viewfinder and a fixed lens, prevents them from being easily pocketable, so on balance the GR wins.

    I am hoping that the new Zeiss camera will be more interesting than the Q2, or the RX1 which is really fiddly.

    • Would you mind sharing a few of your favorite __ my settings– for the Ricoh?
      I have the new GR lll on the way and I am anxious to do some testing.

      Thanks

      • Henry, I now use the GR very sparingly and don’t have any favourite settings to share. And, since I normally shoot RAW, they wouldn’t be very interesting. We have some keen GR users here, including Jean, and he might be able to add some facts. Eric Kim, too, is a longtime GR fan and has published a lot on favourite settings. You could search his site at

        http://erickimphotography.com

      • My settings are a sfollow
        Button on the left hand side of the camera: self-timer
        Fn 1 : crop mode
        Fn 2 ; Image rendering (black and white, high contrast, positive film …)
        adjust button: in camera default settings
        Frony wheel: aperture
        Top right button : EV +/-
        Press the button at the center of ael or afl on single shot mode to have the DOF on the left hand side of the screen
        I rarely use the MY 1,2&3 as they keep the aperture you log in when choosing your settings and if you know the camera well it’s blazzing fast to navigate the menu.
        Otherwise in snap mode I have 1.5 meters
        Imagin; saturation 7 or sometimes 9
        contrast: 9
        sharpness: 9
        This is how I feel it works for me but it may not suit everyone. Hope it helps and please send some feedback or a review once you get hold of the gr iii.
        Jean

  2. The new Zeiss is big, perhaps too big, and the Android basis kills it for me. I’m Apple through and through. The concept of connectivity, a la smartphone, is all well and good. But on balance, I find I don’t use connectivity apps such as FOTOS (except for initial set up on the M10-D) and I am sure the Q2 is more my cup of tea than the Zeiss, however well it operates as a camera.

  3. I used to own the X2 (and later X 113) and loved it. Currently that niche is filled with the X100F which is a better camera in just about every way to actually shoot with, but then, its enough bigger that it should be.

    I’ve never tried the GR, and the new GRIII really tempts me with its improved layout and even smaller size. This just might be “the one” for non-photography trips and to slip into my bag when out with my M kit.

  4. Recently bought a Ewa Marine 3DL underwater housing for use with my X1 …http://www.hawksphotovideo.co.uk/marine-underwater-camera-housing-165x87x33mm-p-160956.html … budget price solution for a Leica APS-C underwater camera. The X1 fits OK after the accessory grip is removed and the lens bezel is unscrewed. Operating the aperture and shutter speed dials is a little fiddly but can be done. I plan to use the rejuvenated / waterproofed X1 at local ponds to photograph amphibians, pond molluscs and other underwater fauna – by laying at the pond edge and holding the camera underwater / partly underwater. Currently also adapting Leitz Elpro close-up lenses for use with the X1 inside the housing. There are lots of pond amphibians (i.e. toads, frogs and newts) in my locality. I’ve often used Leitz Elpo achromatic c/u lenses with the X1, X2 and X Vario to improve their macro capabilities.

    • I continue to be amazed, Dunk. When you have some sample prints perhaps we can do a little article. Definitely something unusual for Macfilos readers…..

  5. X1 X2 my go to’s but the Q has always caused me GAS, on the new Zeiss I think they took the TL to the next level, and their choice of 35mm makes me wonder if they see fixed lens like Rx 35 a bigger market than the 28? I think Zeiss is intriguing and is Sony their target.

  6. I know my X typ 113 is a bit bigger (mainly the lens), but as you all know I love it. I did consider the GRII – mainly because Ming Therin suggested it to me, he reckoned it was miles better pound for pound. But I took the punt on my beloved X, and have never looked back. I love what Jean has done with his GR, and the images look excellent and cannot be faulted. However I am happy with the decision I made, and will carry on with it until I next get itchy feet, or fingers for a new camera.

  7. I’ve been a long time user of both ricoh GR and a not so long leica X cameras. I’ll try to weigh the pros and cons of both as travel cameras.

    Let’s start with a major flaw. Both being pump lenses the ricoh and the leica are dust prone no matter how careful you are with your camera. When travelling in Asia I usually add the ricoh adapter on the gr or the horrible kiwiphoto adpater on the X with a uv filter to prevent dust from entering the lens. They’re no longer pocketable but the package is small enough and still stealthy in both cases, much smaller than a micro 4/3 with a couple of lenses or a dslr. I had to change the sensor once on the ricoh as I did not use the adapter in Sri Lanka and Laos and I guess the leica would have collected dust had it had the same treatment. Compared to the x the gr sensor is not as sturdy and you do have some dead pixels after a few years of use. I had the same problem with my M8.

    Some may complain that there’s no viewfinder on either cameras but that not a problem as you can add one in difficult light conditions. the gr ovf is tiny and excellent and the X tilting evf proves really handy. The ricoh screen wins over the X 230000 dots back screen. There’s also a level gauge on the gr and a little bar which gives you the DOF at any given aperture.

    Both cameras have amazing razorsharp lenses that cover the needs for street, portraits in their environment, landscape and a bit of macro or close photography. The gr however proves handier as you have the possibility to crop 35 and 47 mm and there’s a ND filter that can be activated.

    The menu system of the X is more simple and straightforward than the gr. You need to read the user manual of the ricoh to customize the fn buttons at your convenience But onve you’ve done that it’s as simple as the X.

    Autofocus speed is about the same. Manual focus is easier on the X than on the gr. I usually use aperture priority and the ring on the x is more sturdy after years of use. The overall built quality is better with the X. I’ve not shot as many images with the X but after some 40K images the ricoh buttons are not working that well anymore.

    Now when one think of the images both cameras produce, the leica wins to my eyes. for color photographs the ricoh camera lacks micro-contrast, produces rather flat and dull unprocessed files and it takes quite some time postprocessing to have a rendering that approaches the X quality. I prefer the gr high contrast black and white compared to the leica and that’s where the ricoh shines.

    However it’s a tough call as to which one to choose when travelling. What you win with the gr inversatilty you lose in colour imaging. I’ve used the gr for the past 6 years (with the grd 4 as a backup) but for my last trips I only took the X2 + the grd4 in the rare cases I need a 28mm fov and I think I’ll stick to the X for the years to come.

    Jean

    • Thanks for all this useful additional information, Jean. I think you have given a very fair assessment of both cameras in their role as travel companions. Personally, I find the controls on the Ricoh a little fiddly and prefer the overall feel and direct control facilities of the X1 or X2. In the end, it all comes down to choice and it’s good to have so much long experience to rely on.

  8. Just bought an X-E now they are cheap(!) enough; it means when I travel I don’t always need to take my M8 which seems to be getting heavier every day nor my Lumix GF1 which has served me very well over the years but is getting outclassed.

    • Meant to add, I use an external non-electronic viewfinder on the GF1 (Ricoh 28mm + 40mm) and X-E (currently nasty plastic 32mm). Stops all that silly and all too obvious arm’s-length stuff.

  9. I had preordered the GRIII as it promised to be an updated replacement for my beloved, but aging, X2. But initial first hand reviews seem to indicate that this is a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time camera, with very poor battery life, sub-par autofocus in dim light, and build quality issues. Most of this could (probably) be fixed with a firmware update or two, but right now, it sounds like it, at its best, equals the X2, and in some respects (battery) falls behind the X2.
    So I’ve cancelled my order. Long live the X2!

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