UPDATE, 2020: I have now published my long term, real world review of the Ricoh GR III.
The long wait is over! Ricoh has chosen Photokina 2018 to finally end all rumors, and announce the development of the successor to the Ricoh GR and GR II.
The bad news is, it won’t be coming until at least spring 2019. Some rumor sites have published “early 2019”, but sources closer to the ground at Photokina say that Ricoh have explicitly stated “spring 2019” as the expected release date.
Price is still unknown at this time, but Ricoh have said that they hope for it to be at ‘under 1000 Euro”. I’m hoping it will be well below that, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’ve also heard that Ricoh-Pentax may keep the GR II in the line-up, and sell both models at the same time, similar to what Sony is doing with their RX100 line where all six (!) models of the RX100 series are currently being sold alongside each other at different price points. With the GR II currently going for just under USD $600, that could likely mean a closer to $1000 SRP for the GR III.
Here’s what we know so far:
What’s new – Ricoh GR III vs the GR II:
- Updated 24 megapixel APS-C sensor – a much needed upgrade. This keeps it in-line with current APS-C sensors, and will make the 35mm and 50mm crop modes much more useful. Unfortunately, all those rumors of a full frame GR turned out to be wrong.
- In-body image stabilization (IBIS) aka sensor shift shake reduction (SR) – this one is a bit of a surprise. The old, small sensor Ricoh GRD IV did have image stabilization, but I didn’t expect this to be a priority in such a small APS-C body with a 28mm-equivalent lens. But it is a welcome, and very useful addition. I don’t believe there is any current fixed lens compact camera with sensor based stabilization right now. While not so useful for street photographers (who mostly use high shutter speeds to freeze movement), having stabilization can vastly add to the shooting envelope of the GR III, making it more useful in a variety of situations. An added benefit is that the sensor stabilization mechanism can be used to shake dust off the sensor, similar to Pentax DSLR’s.
- Smaller body size – the GR and GR II were already some of the smallest and most pocketable large sensor cameras in the market, but the GR III takes it a step further and goes back to almost the same size as the Ricoh GRD series (small sensor compacts).
- Touch screen – this was the biggest surprise for me. One of the biggest selling points of the GR and GR II (at least for me) is the ability to operate the camera completely one handed. The addition of a touch screen obviously changes that (although you don’t have to use it, of course), but still, a touchscreen is a potentially useful tool. If well implemented, touch AF and touch shutter will be a welcome addition when not using snap focus.
- Phase detect AF – along with the new 24mp sensor, we also get a new hybrid AF system, with added phase detect AF points. This is another welcome upgrade, and along with the redesigned lens, should keep AF speeds at least in line with the competition. Like the IBIS, it’s not something that’s going to be very useful to most street photographers (most GR street shooters use snap focus) – but it does also extend the shooting envelope, making the GR more useful as a social, everyday carry camera.
- New lens design – it’s still an 18.3mm lens (28mm-equivalent), but it is a simpler design, with 4 groups containing 6 elements (the GR/GR2 lens had 7 elements in 5 groups. How this new lens will compare to the superb lens on the older GR’s remains to be seen, but the redesign was necessary in order to accommodate the shake reduction system without significantly increasing the body size. The new lens is also lighter, which contributes to faster AF speed. Another benefit of the new design is a closer minimum focus distance of 2.4 inches (from the previous 3.9 inches)
- Ability to charge via a new USB Type-C port – in-camera charging is finally available. Not a biggie, but it could be a lifesaver, especially for a take-anywhere everyday carry compact camera. I know I always have a USB battery pack in my bag, for my cellphone. It’s great to know I can top up my GRIII, in case I forget my extra batteries at home.
- It will use an entirely new battery. The old DB-65 and DB-60 batteries will not be compatible with the GR III. Battery life is unknown at this time. It still won’t be able to take AAA batteries, like the GRD’s
- Moire reduction function – the addition of the shake reduction system (image stabilization) means that we now get a moire-reduction function similar to Pentax cameras (it can be set to weak, strong, off)
What we’ve lost – Ricoh GR III vs Ricoh GR and GR2
- The built-in flash – personally, the loss of the flash isn’t a biggie for me, since I hardly ever use it. But I know a lot of street shooters who loved using flash with the GR. A built-in flash + the leaf shutter would have made for some interesting possibilities.
- Exposure compensation buttons – another huge change is the loss of the exposure compensation buttons on the left side of the camera. The ADJ. lever now defaults to exposure compensation (it used to default to ISO). Not a biggie for me, since I sometimes found myself hitting it accidentally. The problem with the exposure compensation buttons is that Ricoh removed the ability to turn it off on the GR and GR2 (you used to be able to turn if off on the GRD IV).
- TAv mode and green mode – if you look closely at the new mode dial, you’ll see that it’s pretty sparse compared to the GR/GRII. The GR3 no longer has Pentax’s famed TAv mode (basically, it’s a psuedo-manual mode – i.e. you set aperture and shutter speed, but you still get auto-ISO AND exposure compensation – very useful!), the green automatic mode (aka the hand-it-to-a-stranger fully automatic mode) and the movie mode on the mode dial (movie mode appears to have moved to the left of the body – on the old “effects” button).
- Maximum shutter speed remains at 1/4000.
- The built-in 2-stop ND filter is still there.
- The GRIII will likely not be compatible with the GW-3 21mm adapter and the GH-3 hood – but they did say that they are exploring the possibility of adding an UWA adapter to the GRIII.
It’s a bit of a controversial upgrade, for sure. The loss of the built-in flash appears to be the biggest change that’s getting the most backlash. But as someone who doesn’t use the flash much, I’m very excited about the upgrades to the GR III. The new sensor and the addition of sensor shift stabilization makes the GR III a better all-around camera. Those who use the GR strictly as street photography cameras are probably less excited about this iteration, but for those of us who use the GR for more than street shooting, most of the changes have to be more than welcome.
Don’t forget to check out my real world review of the Ricoh GR, to find out why it is my favorite compact camera of all time.