Why Doesn’t the Ricoh GR II Get More Love?

Just earlier this afternoon in the midst of an elegiac, end-of-summer rainstorm, a postman snuck into our office and guiltily dropped off a press sample of the new Ricoh GR II.

I’m sorry, his gait seemed to imply as he sped away shamefully, this is your burden now.

It seems nobody really cares about Ricoh. Sometimes, it seems even Ricoh doesn’t care about Ricoh. There was so little fanfare over the announcement of the GR II in early June that I had almost forgotten it existed.

Only a small group of loyal fans (I know you guys are out there – give me a cheer) continues to sing along to the lonely tune of Ricoh, with most photographers falling instead for the siren call of Sony’s feature-packed RX100 IV, or Fuji’s admittedly incredible X100T.

Lok had his old GRD in the gear shelf for comparison.

This is a remarkable shame, because not only is the Ricoh GR II the cheapest of the three cameras, but it’s also one of the best digital point and shoots we’ve used yet.

Having said that, I don’t mean to compare the three cameras with the aim of seeing which one is neccesarily better—just that hopefully any potential buyers currently considering a premium point-and-shoot not neglect the Ricoh GR II.

Bigger for a good reason.

Lok’s been a fan of Ricoh’s cameras for a while, and even bought the GRD—Ricoh’s first digital edition of the cult favourite GR series—shortly after it was released in 2005. He fortunately had it in the office so that we could see what physical differences there are. It turns out the back design is almost identical, with only an extra dial for ISO control and extra width for a larger LCD.

All GR series cameras feature a fixed 28mm, with the exception of the GR21 in 2001.

One of Ricoh’s strengths as a company is knowing when to stop tinkering with a winning formula. From the intuitive menu to the minimalistic controls, it’s clear that the GR II is a camera made with love; this time-honoured design hasn’t evolved much since the first GR1 from 1996, and it’s all the better for it.

Sony on the other hand haven’t done enough with the design of the RX100 IV to differentiate it from any other Cybershot, and that alone is a good enough reason why it should be taken down to the river and drowned.

No annoying wheels or image modes. Just simple, important controls.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what is exactly so pleasing about the GR II, but the moment I had one in my hands, involuntarily I began to fondle it, which is always a good sign. Cameras should be fun to use, not a bloody hassle (here’s looking at you, Sony).

Fair enough, the upgrade of the Ricoh GR II from the Ricoh GR isn’t really exciting. I get it. We’ll be doing a full review later with photos, but basically the GR II has the same 16-megapixel APS-C sensor as its predecessor, with only a few new WiFi features that don’t really interest anyone.

Regardless of that disappointment—we still need to beat the drum for a rebel—Ricoh deserve plaudits for making a camera designed for photographers and not breaking what isn’t broken.

As Fuji understands, there’s something to be argued for better ergonomics in point-and-shoots. Cameras aren’t all about functions and features, and personally I’ll always value easily accesible manual overrides in a premium point-and-shoot than 30-megapixels, although when one day they manage to cram ISO 4,000,000 into a pocket camera I won’t be complaining.