Home Cameras/Lenses Leica The Ricoh GRD IV, a retrospective view in Le Havre

The Ricoh GRD IV, a retrospective view in Le Havre

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Le Havre city library and cultural centre built in the 1970s by Osacr Niemeyer
Le Havre city library and cultural centre built in the 1970s by Osacr Niemeyer

A bit of history

A couple of years ago, I bought a Ricoh GRD IV for £60 at my local camera dealer. You may wonder why I was interested in an almost ten-year-old camera with a tiny CCD sensor in these days of 24MP CMOS and 47MP full-frame sensors. So let’s journey into the past.

Ten years ago, I had my Leica M8 with a couple of lenses and wanted a small and carry-everywhere camera. I knew the works of Daido Moriyama and consequently decided upon the 2007 Ricoh GRD III. The M8 was a wonderful camera but a bit bulky, with its couple of lenses, when you wanted to go light, especially when hiking or mountaineering in the Alps. The Ricoh became the camera I would pick up on these occasions and enjoyed the results. So, when I saw the Ricoh GRD IV I did not hesitate a second and bought it as a back-up to my Leica X2.

Review

As you know, the Ricoh GRD IV is a small point-and-shoot camera with a tiny 1/7 inch CCD sensor and a 6mm f/1.9 lens (28mm full frame equivalence, the same angle of view as the current GR III with its APS-C CMOS sensor). The GRD IV features image stabilisation and a small built-in flash. The body is made of magnesium alloy. You can shoot either jpegs or RAW. There is a choice between program mode, aperture priority, speed and three custom settngs, MY1, 2 and 3. Of course, as in any Ricoh camera, you have the snap-focus mode which allows you to choose a fixed shooting distance and take a photo without focusing delay

The menus are similar to all Ricoh’s digital cameras. You can choose the size of the image (4:3 / 3:2 / 1:1). You have various imaging modes (black and white, high contrast, standard, vivid, positive film …) which can be customised in the menus to your liking and you can adjust sharpness, contrast and saturation. It takes a little time to get the settings to your liking but once it’s done you never look back.

Once you have admitted its limitations (you’ll never print more than 30×45 cm, the images are a bit grainy but that can be fixed in post, the colours can be off the mark and really saturated if you wish to) this small camera is a real powerhouse you can carry almost everywhere. The camera does not like rain but the sensor is not prone to dust, unlike those of the later GRs.

Accompanying this article are a few shots from my home town, Le Havre in Normandy, and surrounding areas with various setting I like.

The fishing harbour

The traditional harbour is a bit of an oddity as it’s one of the few areas in town which were not bombed during the Second World Wart. It’s a colourful place not far from the ferry harbour, with fishing nets, crabs and lobster creels and traditional boats. That world is gone now as they are building a new fishing harbour with no access to outsiders. On a sunny day the colours can be totally saturated. I used high contrast and saturation for these three shots.

The city art gallery

When you walk further west by the water you arrive at the city art gallery, one of my favourite photographic haunts. The sea is not far off so inside the museum you can glimpse the water. There is an amazing combination of lights coming from the museum and from the sea. The gallery is home to many excellent exhibitions, whether it be paintings or photography (there’s a Dufy exhibition at the moment running till 3 November 2019). For these images I used standard black and white and colours.

The seafront

Once you leave the museum, you’re on the seafront. It starts with the pier and the bell and, after walking past the pleasure-boat harbour, you reach the beach. This consists mainly of pebbles but you do get sand when the tide is out. I like going there to walk my dog when the conditions allow.

Incidentally, we are lucky to have a forest within the city boundaries. It can be accessed directly from the city and is a nice escape from the city traffic although a road runs in the middle of it.

Macro capabilities

The macro capabilities of the GRD IV are truly amazing. You can shoot from 10mm (no, you’re not dreaming) and still get the focus right on the camera. I always take the Ricoh with me in autumn and spring as they are the two most pleasant seasons for making pictures. The lens is always tack sharp when you get close up and you can achieve a pleasing bokeh whatever the aperture. The real bonus is the ability to focus so close. There’s something crisp in the way the lens renders and it’s something I truly appreciate and where the camera shines.

Street shooting

Many photographers rave about the Ricoh GRs and they has an enviable reputation as the ultimate street cameras. The GRD IV is small, unobtrusive and has a huge depth of field. This is sometimes seen as a drawback of the tiny sensor. However, what you lose in narrow depth of field you gain in versatility and practicality. You don’t have to bother wondering what will be in focus; you can be almost certain that everything will be in focus, even with the aperture at its widest f/1.9.

You don’t even have to focus with the snap focus mode, just raise your camera when you feel like it. The snap focus allows you to respond in a split second when you see something that might turn out well. The autofocus is also really fast so you have the possibility of both options really.

Some more images from the local beach. I also enjoy shooting kitesurfers as it is often windy in autumn and spring. I did try to snap some of them with my Leica X2 but I prefer the GRD with its 28mm-equivalent lens (the Leica often lacks that extra angle with its 35mm optic).

Landscape

The Ricoh is not designed as a landscape camera. The output certainly lacks detail when compared with images created on cameras with larger sensors. Yet you are able to grab some nice shots when the light is right. What is particularly pleasing with the sensor, to my eyes, is the separation, depth and relief you get in your images. Images look dense and structured, something I haven’t noticed in the APS-C GR models.

There are many things to like in the GRD IV, despite its limitations, and it has been a welcome addition to my equipment. It shows that even older cameras — ten years old in this case — can still entertain and produce impressive results.

Related articles

Read more from Jean Perenet on Macfilos

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this post Jean. You well illustrate that in good light a small sensor does just fine, as long as it has good glass in front of it. And the added depth of field can be a plus in an age when marketing departments want us to chase broker bokeh bokeh.

    • Thanks Wayne. I guess the grd4 works in any kind of light. The only thing to consider is to have spot light metering on highlights. Shooting almost exclusively 28mm FOV I won’t get much bokeh in general conditions whether I use a f.1.4 or a f.2.8 unless I get really close to the subject.

  2. Jean, these are truly excellent images which are a tribute to your wonderful eye for an image across the genres of landscape, action, nature, architecture, people, patterns, indeed the lot! Any limitations of the ten year old camera are utterly transcended and Le Havre is accorded star treatment. Thank you for a great article.

    • Thanks David, The city is picturesque in its own respect and I still got some areas to explore. Living by the sea, I love the light in the city and the skies are truly amazing. Looking forward to retirement to be able to capture the various moods of the skies down here.

  3. I so enjoyed these pictures with their different moods and sonorities (if pictures can make a sound !). I never went down the Ricoh road but would echo much of what you say in relation to my first digital camera, the Leica D-Lux 4. I was always stunned by the results, from landscape to macro, and you prompt me to take it out again and enjoy the simplicity and light weight. Your bonding with the GRD IV really shows through.

    • Thanks John,
      My first digital was the C-Lux 2. I must admit I rarely use it nowadays as it is in want of repair and it is not really worth the investment. I remember I used the 28mm equivalent of the zoom most of the time. All GRs are really small and unobstrusive cameras with razor-sharp 28mm equivalent lenses. I’ve seen many images with the D-Lux 4 and I guess I’d bond with it really quickly.

  4. I was just sitting here with my tablet looking for GR articles, then while early surfing Mike and You ended my week and started my weekend with this tremendous gift. Why hasn’t Ricoh made you an Ambassador yet? I think Mike and you and all Mac GR users that are close should do an outing and publish the results. You folks would have a tremendous time and Mac readers would reap the photo reward, question is who would you call post bail? Thank you Jean I always wondered what your part of Normandy looked it, just downright gorgeous.

    • Thanks John for your kind comments.
      You may find a recent article on the GR iii on Steve Huff site. I do not appreciate his site but I stumbled on it by mere chance when browsing on the web. The coast in the area I live in is really beautiful. Now to answer your queries, once I retire, I’d love to meet other Macfilos contributors but I don’t think I’d like to be a Ricoh ambassador.

  5. Yes Jean, David Bailey is right, you have a great “eye”.

    Add to the mix a rather photogenic hometown and you make that old CCD sensor sing.

    I mentioned in my last comment that I am not doing much with a camera at the moment, but maybe it is because the charms of London (and Croydon) have worn a bit thin, there is so much street art that even Martha Cooper might have a problem coping with it, and pretty it ain’t.

    Great pictures, thanks.

    • Thanks Stephen for the kind comment. Having owned 5 Ricoh gr cameras so far (grd 1, 3, 4, gr1&gr2 + a gxr) the grd 4 is my favourite when it comes to imaging. Old CCD sensors have that “je ne sais quoi” that I far prefer to CMOS sensors but that’s a personal choice.

  6. Superb photos and an excellent illustration of how versatile a small sensor camera can be. The interior shots show that a CCD sensor can work just fine in low light. The shot I like best though is the first, with it’s Moriyama like contrast, and the added interest of the photographer’s shadow makes for an excellent picture and composition.

    • Thanks Richard for your comment. As for the first shot most ricoh cameras offer that extreme B&W high contrast. I did shoot a similar image at a Leica workshop with a Q but the result was different and I did not keep it. I love the contrasty imaging of the grd4 which only keeps the outlines. If you like Moriyama I recommend you have a look at some of Mario Giacomelli’s images.

  7. Thanks Jean. Superb photographs from an impressive camera and a really enjoyable read. I love the northern French coast and you have certainly done Le Havre justice.
    I wish I could do Dunkerque similar justice when I visit next week but then I am going to the Wine and Food Festival where a little stabilisation might be a necessary to come back with anything worthwhile on the photographic front!

  8. Thanks Mike for the kind comment. Enjoy your Dunkerque weekend and I hope they extend the national wine fair. If so 5 axis body and lens stabilization might be necessary. Never been to Dunkerque although it’s not that far from Le Havre but I’d love to make images of the industrial area with it’s fumes and chimneys stacks that I’ve seen from a distance.

  9. I really like your black and white photos inside the gallery especially the first and that through the frame. Your timing was spot on. Thanks Jean.

    • Thanks Kevin. I was just wondering if you’d have an article on macfilos about your Turkish trip in B&W later this year or early next year.

    • Thanks. However flawed internet may be it connects people you would have never heard of without it. It’s a great invention in some ways.

  10. Thanks Jean just read review on Huff site, dawned on me, that where I came to King of Leica x1 and Mayanmar. Thanks for heads up.

    • I first saw John S. images and Steve site. as for your request for the prints, I’ll email you the files so you can get it processed in the States. don’t go over 30cm by 45mm. Sweet spot is 24 by 36 cm. It reminds me of that “old” Ilford photopaper which was the exact size of the negatives.
      Have a nice weekend

  11. great photo’s, Jean.

    I always like to see results from older, long superceded cameras. They’re usually reminders that outright image quality hasn’t necessarily advanced as far as we may think, and good composition/ideas often dominate a photo. Good stuff.

    Jason

    • Thanks for the kind comment. Old cameras tend to be like good bottles of wine. Just a case of maturing and in the case of cameras using them.

  12. A very in-depth article about a camera that I’ve never seen, let alone used.

    I do like the harbour set, and the wonderful seascape reflections. The colours look good, but accept you may have resolved those in post.

    Normandy is a part of the world I have yet to visit, I have often wondered what a few weeks traipsing around with my camera would be like.

    Thank you Jean for sharing these with us, a good start to my weekend.

    Dave

  13. Thanks Dave
    believe it or not these images are all OCC Jpegs without post whatsoever. I just have my settings n°2 with saturation, contrast and sharpness at their maximum. As for your answer in the chimp article, I have a suggestion. you know that Chippendale furniture has quite a number of followers on your side of the channel so I suggest you start a new fashion every time you go to north York moors called chimp in dale!
    Have a nice WE

  14. Hello Jean,

    You already know my feelings about that GRD 4. I already enjoyed seeing photos made with this tiny camera. I’m always blasted by the quality of this 10 MP camera. That CCD sensor really have an organic feel that the other GR don’t have. That makes it so special.

    Best regards and very fine photos accompanying this article

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