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What I Talk About When I Talk About Gears - Ricoh GR

I love camera gears. I like to read about them and learn about them and discuss them. I'm subscribed to various camera review channels on YouTube, my news feeds never miss the latest trend in the camera world, and I have more than one friends on Facebook who never get bored of posting the camera news. So, as you can see, I spend enough time musing on the gear.

Meanwhile, as much as I like them, I try hard to avoid them as it took me a couple of years to realise that the type of camera I use has the least amount of contribution to the quality of the photo.

Even worse, I (personally) do believe that spending more time of gear has an adverse impact on developing photographic skills of my own. So, there I said it. Considering what I stated above, I'm definitely contradicting myself when it comes down to camera gear.

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The funny thing though is that the primary motivation behind starting this blog was the new gear I fell in love with at that time, which I still do - Fujifilm X100. Check the first entry in this blog. I was about to pop the question to it, "Will you marry me?"

Using X100 was simply a joyful experience even with some functional limitations it originally had. Because the camera was so pleasant to use, I spent more time on photography, and because I spent more time on it, I wished to learn more about it. So, it eventually led me to join the community college classes, read about the old masters and try to understand their work, and buy many photo book - Buy Books, Not Gear, even shooting/developing films and so on, the journey still goes on.

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Hence, on the one hand, my love for gear is an unnecessary source of dissatisfaction and often I used it as an excuse to avoid the blame on my poor photographic skills. On the other hand, it does inspire me in various ways and keep me interested in photography itself because it's just purely fun to understand and operate them.

So, I do have this ongoing love-hate relationship with gear, and there's nothing much I can do about it. So, this time, I decided to embrace the love side of personal addiction - a new gear, Ricoh GR.


Like the way I bought X100, it took me some time to digest the camera first as it was originally released June last year, 2013. The amount of time I waited was worth it as I can start using the camera with two firmware updates (v2.03 and v3.0).

Being a person who makes living from software development myself, I feel much safer to use the product being patched at least once. Furthermore, the camera was 20% cheaper than the original price now. So, if you are not a professional - meaning that you don't make your living solely from photography, think about this strategy of being a (slightly) late adapter.

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Anyway people got very excited about this camera, and now I truly understand why they did.

"The camera performs brilliantly well at what it does well." - Scott Kim

I just love this camera so much that I had to quote myself.

If you are looking for a camera for street shooting, then consider this as a serious option. You can find plenty of information available for the details of the camera, for this reason, I will just stick to my personal experiences with it.


Snap Focus Mode


No need to say more on this, the snap focus mode must be the biggest reason why people buy this camera, and I'm no exception. Getting a slight feel of it on the weekend, I found myself loving the feature but also I have to be very careful of how to use it.

In summary, the snap focus is the ability to set the pre-focus at the fixed distance like 1.5m or 2m to remove any shutter lag from the autofocus. No shutter lag means zero delays to take a photo when you are after the decisive moment of your own. Even in addition to this, you can effortlessly set to the hyper focal distance with the visual indicator.

When I think about this, it's not something new as you can do pretty much the same thing in manual focus mode of any reasonably advanced cameras. Just that with Ricoh GR, it's bloody easy to use this feature as one Fn button click or full shutter press can instantly let you do it. Having said that the instantness of snap focus brought me two issues.

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First, I literally move my hand too quickly when I see the subject I wanna shoot assuming that snap focus will do the reset. Remember that this camera does not have an advanced image stabilisation like Olympus OM-D E-M10 (by the way, I strongly believe that whoever created this ridiculous name must be high on something). Consequently, if you have a shaky hand, it will be reflected in the photo and especially when you are using the full press snap focus. As an example, the above photo had to have rather a high amount of grain effect because my hand was not stable enough.

Second, it made me think less about the composition. Yes, the snap focus let you take a photo certainly fast and thanks to that, you may not miss the greatest photographic moment of your life. However, that doesn't automatically mean that it will create a nicely composed quality photo for you. It's still your job to do it right. When I was shooting with Ricoh, I was so into 'snapping' photos, many of them turned out to be loads of shitty ones, no matter how much I try to convince myself the opposite.


So yes, in the end, it's up to me. If I use it right, it will introduce me the new world of opportunities, but equally and very likely that I won't be able to think as much as I should when I press the shutter. Use it wisely, just because Daido Moriyama uses it, it wouldn't make me 'Scotto Moriyama'.


28mm Lens


Last two years, I have been mostly shooting 35mm and 50mm. The X100 has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens on it, and the previous 40D I used with 50mm and 80mm equivalent lenses and the Olympus film camera I shoot with 35mm and 50mm lenses. In other words, I haven't used 28mm perspective since I sold the kit zoom lens came with 40D more than two years ago. In fact, this 28mm perspective gave me the biggest hesitation to choose this camera because I was afraid of the wideness. Before I go on about the lens, let me talk about my post-processing.

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When I post-process my photos, 7 out of 10 I use cropping. Simply put it, most of the times there is too many stuff that I don't want to be in my photos. As I'm only shooting with the fixed lenses, it only tells me one thing; I'm not close enough to the subject. It's time to use my legs and walk towards them. So, here comes my problem.

Nowadays, the only interesting subject I want to shoot is a human and to get physically close to them, I have to take the risk of awkwardly facing them out of my social comfort zone. Yes and yes, I know, you don't have to tell me that I just have to get over the fear. Watching how Bruce Gilden shooting is on the streets of New York City made me want to hang myself.

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So, when I knew Ricoh had 28mm lens, I was worried that I will distance myself farther away from the subject that I actually need to get closer to. Honestly, the digital cropping options of 35mm and 47mm don't sound that attractive to me.

Although I still think my concerns were valid ones, it turned out that I'm quite happy with 28mm after all. In fact, when I saw some of the landscape-like ones I took, it felt like someone is blowing the oxygen to my lung while I'm at the bottom of the sea with no air. And when I need to get close and personal with my subjects, its APS-C sensor captured enough (for me and my printing size) details. Let's face it. I won't display my photos at the NSW Art Gallery anytime soon.

Conclusion

So here we go. As you can guess, all the photos here were taken with Ricoh GR, and I can confidently say that I'm more than happy with the results I have. The raw files are sharp (yeah damn sharp) and pleasant to work with the workflow I have placed in Aperture 3.

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As I mentioned earlier, this camera doesn't make me Scotto Moriyama. However, it gave the tiny bit of chance to experience how my personal photography role model would feel when he works with his Ricoh cameras and motivates me to simulate his styles.

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And that's enough for me. This is already a very capable camera that has everything I need for what I like to shoot, and if I have to blame for something for my boring works, then it would be only me.

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P.S:
  1. I used Google Nik Collection and VSCO film preset for post processing. So, all the grains you see on the photos are intentionally added during the post-processing.
  2. I would like to say farewell to my old Canon 40D DSLR. I learnt photography with you and that I'll never forget. I do hope your new master will love you and utilise you at full extent. Bye~

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