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A thinking photographer’s pocket camera

15 March 2006

I carry a camera with me wherever I go. Normally this means my Domke bag containing my Canon DSLR and a few lenses. But there are times when this is just not feasible–for example, if I am going on a one-day business trip to London. Or this week, which finds me in Val d’Isere, spending a lot of time in the mountains. So I have always had a pocket camera for such occasions. In my film-shooting days I have used several pocketable cameras, including a Rollei 35 (great lens, great build quality, but lack of coupled rangefinder can be a handicap); an Olympus mju II (known in the USA as a Stylus Epic)–excellent image quality, weather-sealing, but too much automation for my taste; a Leica Minilux–great lens, solidly built, but expensive and with stupid ergonomics; finally I settled on a Ricoh GR1. This camera was truly pocketable, had an excellent f2.8/28mm lens, was solidly built and had many thoughtful features for a serious photographer.

Now that I shoot digitally, I was looking for a pocket camera. I had a Canon G6 for a while. It delivered excellent images but was a bit on the large side, and had one very annoying feature: the on/off rocker switch was so sensitive that half the time I would accidentally turn on the camera while putting it in my pocket. So I ended up selling it to a fellow photographer who is making excellent use of it.

A few weeks ago I acquired a Ricoh GR Digital, a digital version of the GR1. It is perfect for my purposes: a 2.4/28mm (equivalent) lens, same great ergonomics as the GR1, speeds up to 1600 (800 in RAW mode), shoots RAW, and the manual controls of aperture and shutter speed are easy to use, in sharp contrast to many other digital point-and-shoot cameras. The camera cost 480 Euro in Germany–not cheap but worth it for the quality one gets. Like the GR1, the GRD has many thoughtful features; for example, the camera can be powered either by the rechargeable battery it comes with, or by two AAA-batteries which can be purchased anywhere–so I am never stuck without power. The only negative is that the GRD lacks an optical viewfinder. But even that shortcoming is easily fixed by attaching a 28mm finder in the hot shoe–I bought an excellent Cosina brightline finder from Stephen Gandy.

The bottom line: image quality is excellent for a P&S. Here are some unedited examples taken during this week in Val d’Isere.

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One Comment
  1. Dear Nathan:
    Great images- the quality is beautiful. That would be, contrast and colour (to say nothing of the composition). I have been afraid to invest in a “wide-angle only” camera. I do not find that I shoot much wide stuff. More medium and long telephoto. What prompted you to by a camera with a fixed 28? Bests: Roger

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