Ricoh GR IIIx review: a compact and powerful camera

The Ricoh GR IIIx is a pocket-sized camera with a seriously impressive 40mm-equivalent f/2.8 lens and a capable 24-megapixel APS-C sensor. The image quality is excellent: the lens is perfectly sharp all over the frame. The camera has built-in image stabilization to reduce camera shake (for stills only), and it works well. The GR IIIx is very small and as such the controls are a bit cluttered. The LCD screen is average in size and resolution, and it’s a shame it can’t tilt up for waist-level shooting.

The negative points are few, although they are important. The biggest issue we had with the GR IIIx is its battery life: it’s just not good. Movie mode isn’t impressive but, again, this camera isn’t aimed at that market. The only other benefit would be some sort of weather protection, but maybe Ricoh saves that for the GR IIIx Mark II.

Advantages:

  • Excellent combination of lens and sensor for excellent image quality
  • Ultra-compact and well-built
  • Effective image stabilization
  • Fast performance

The inconvenients:

  • Bad battery life
  • Dull film mode
  • Weather protection would have been nice

Hardware and Key Specs

The GR IIIx uses the same 24-megapixel APS-C sensor as the GR III. The sensor is stabilized on three axes and can reduce shaking up to 4 stops, according to Ricoh. While one is missing anti-aliasing (AA) filterthe GR IIIx can simulate having one by shifting its sensor, which helps reduce moire, which can be annoying, especially in video.

Key specs:

  • Image stabilization by sensor shift
  • Built-in ND filter
  • 3-inch, 1.04 million-dot touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 2GB internal memory and SDXC UHS-I card slot
  • 200 shots per battery charge

The real highlight of the GR IIIx is its 40mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, which is also what sets it apart from the vanilla GR III, which has a 28mm equivalent lens. The GR IIIx’s lens can get as close to your subject as close to 4.7 inches.

The lens does not support screw-on filters, although it does have a built-in neutral density (ND) filter, which allows you to use slower shutter speeds or smaller apertures in bright light. An optional teleconverter accessory increases the equivalent focal length to 75mm. A small optical viewfinderwhich attaches via the hot shoe, is another optional accessory.

A field full of flowers
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 200 | 1/800s | f/5.6
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller

The camera’s 3-inch LCD screen is average in size and resolution for a compact camera. Its touchscreen lets you tap to focus, navigate menus and review photos. As this is a fixed (non-articulated) screen, shooting at waist level is not possible. The GR IIIx does not have a built-in flash but there is a hot shoe.

The USB Type-C port is used to transfer images, connect to a display (DisplayPort required), or charge the battery. Ricoh estimates you can shoot 200 photos on a single charge, more or less.

What is it to use

The GR IIIx’s shooting experience has changed little from its predecessors, which for its fans is a good thing. The compact, well-constructed body is easy to pocket – yes, even in skinny jeans – and one-handed pulling is no problem. The IIIx has the same pill-shaped triggers as the generations of GR-series models that preceded it. The controls on the rear of the camera are cluttered, but that’s the tradeoff for keeping the body as small as possible. The mode dial on the top plate has a lock, although it would be nice to have an option for it to spin freely.

Ricoh GR IIIx roof.
The GR IIIx offers a hot shoe on the top to mount a flash and other accessories. Jeff Keller

The GR IIIx starts up quickly, which is how the camera works as a whole. You can browse photos or menus as fast as your finger can move. Speaking of menus, they’re quite extensive for a compact camera and allow for quite extensive customization of the GR IIIx. The camera has two command dials as well as the “ADJ” lever, which is used for exposure compensation and shortcuts to up to five settings.

Ricoh GR IIIx Monitor
The 3-inch touchscreen on the back is quite responsive. Jeff Keller

Composing photos on the LCD outdoors is a challenge, but Ricoh has come to the rescue with an ‘outdoor view setting’ that lets you quickly adjust the screen’s brightness. Going up through a stop did the job for me.

Cat.
Converted from Raw to ACR | ISO 1600 | 1/60s | f/2.8
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller

The placement of the video button on the left side of the camera suggests that video is an afterthought on the GR IIIx, and it is. You can capture 1080/60p video, but the controls are limited and the camera is slow when adjusting focus. There’s cropping when shooting video, and its electronic shake reduction isn’t the best.

The GR IIIx integrates both Wi-Fi (2.4 Ghz) and Bluetooth. Although its application is not belovedI had very few problems connecting and transferring images from the camera.

Image quality

A field full of flowers
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 200 | 1/250 sec | f/4.5
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller

The GR IIIx’s sensor and lens combo delivers excellent image quality. Images are very sharp in the center and in the corners, even wide open at f/2.8. A trip to the local tulip fields illustrated the kind of vibrant colors the GR IIIx produces. The camera offers several color (and B&W) modes to be a little more creative.

A street shot of two people under a building canopy.
Converted from Raw to ACR | ISO 200 | 1/250 sec | f/4
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller

The 24-megapixel sensor inside the GR IIIx impresses, with good dynamic range and low noise at higher sensitivities.

Autofocus and operating speed

The GR IIIx focuses quickly and its hybrid autofocus system (phase and contrast detection) is quick and precise. The camera sticks to its subject quite well when using tracking autofocus. If I didn’t want to wait for the camera to lock focus, I could just mash the shutter button all the way and the GR IIIx would use a preset distance, such as 2.5m (just over 8ft) .

A detail shot of a Ferris wheel.
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 200 | 1/1250s | f/5.6
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller

If you want to take photos quickly, the GR IIIx is not your camera. It advances at 4 frames per second and stops after less than 10 shots if you are shooting Raw (DNG).

Battery and Ricoh GR IIIx memory card.
The battery and memory card share one compartment. Jeff Keller

At 200 shots per charge, battery life is pretty lousy. If you’re away for the day, bring a spare or portable USB-C charger.

Ricoh GR IIIx compared to…

Ricoh GR IIIx in hand.
The Ricoh GR IIIx and its siblings are some of the most compact APS-C cameras available. Jeff Keller

You can count the number of fixed lens large sensor cameras on one hand. Except Rioch GR III with its 28mm lens, the only other camera in this class is the Fujifilm X100V. The X100V has a 35mm equivalent f/2 lens and an excellent 26-megapixel sensor. It’s a bulkier camera, but that makes room for an electronic viewfinder and plenty of dials. Like the GR III series, the X100V has a sizable fanbase and should be considered if you want a more hands-on approach to shooting and have a higher budget.

Another option is to buy a compact mirrorless camera and a fast prime lens. One of these options is the Fujifilm X-E4 paired with the company’s 28mm f/2.8 lens (equivalent to 41mm). As with the X100V, it’s a thicker camera, but it offers a viewfinder, tilting LCD and plenty of dials. However, it lacks image stabilization.

A budget option is the Olympus PEN E-PL10 and Panasonic 20mm (40mm equivalent) f/1.7 combination. The E-PL10 has an aging 16-megapixel sensor that’s smaller than the GR IIIx’s, but it’s still a capable camera with a huge selection of lenses.

Additional samples

The Columbia Tower looking up.
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 100 | 1/400 sec | f/5.6
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller
Two empty red chairs on a green lawn.
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 200 | 1/1600s | f/2.8
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller
A fountain with a skyline in the background
Converted from Raw to ACR | ISO 200 | 1/500s | f/5.6
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller
A field full of flowers
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 200 | 1/1000s | f/5.6
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller
Seattle skyline from the water.
Off Camera JPEG | ISO 100 | 1/640s | f/5.6
Click for full resolution Jeff Keller

Stewart C. Hartline