Ricoh GR III – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ricoh GR III was announced Sep 25, 2018 and released in 2019 so after two years of extensive use I have my observations and conclusions about different cons and imperfections of this camera.

There was and is a lot of hype and glorification about what a great camera it is, many reviewers presented advantages and pros of this camera. I do agree with them but would like to show what's wrong or what they might have missed to mention. My goal is to give you an honest view of this camera and the compromise you take upon buying it. Please note this is very subjective and personal opinion and I do make comparisons to previous GR because I would love Ricoh to give us consistency and preserve all those great features, but the fact is Ricoh is just adjusting this product to their needs. I like when the manufacturer is improving the product and listen to customers but with Ricoh I see different, also in terms of not fixing what is possible to fix.

Disclaimer : It is not a review but a compilation/list of all 'bad and ugly' issues that might or might not appear while using the camera. Don't expect to find here pros of the camera, image examples or comparison to other brands. It is not my intention to attack, discourage or creating a bad image. I want to show all of you what Ricoh didn't put in a manual, didn't fix nor explained why changed or removed. It might be a good place for a potential buyer to check if there is a deal breaker or one might be better with GRII instead. I have my hopes that Ricoh engineers can learn about these problems and eliminate them in the upcoming products or firmware updates.

#1 Camera size

GR III is smaller than GR I/II and Ricoh did it on purpose to stick with their idea of pocketability. This camera is mainly for Japanese market and their customers, so presumably users from Japan requested smaller size, but I have my doubts about that. Fact is that 'nobody' asked the rest of the world and going with a smaller body created multiple different problems which I'll describe below.

Seeing this statement from GR engineer explains a lot about the way Ricoh is going with GR (you can enable English subs)

#2 Battery

Camera has smaller dimensions, so there is no space for DB-65 battery from GR I/II and new battery was introduced - DB-110. While DB-65 could last 150 minutes DB-110 will deliver 65-80 minutes of use but in real life scenario it is usually around 60 minutes of constant use. It is disappointing that a camera offers only an hour of operational time. For occasional shots it might be enough but if you want to work with a camera shooting some live event, parade or etc. you need to buy more batteries. GR III weights 6 grams more than GR II but in real you carry GRIII with more batteries to cover the same amount of expected shooting time. You have to pay more (for extra batteries) to carry more weight. DB110 offers twice less operational time than DB65 so it would had been a nice gesture to see two of these batteries in the box instead of just one. TIP : It is possible to use DB-100 (from CX series) in GRIII but expect shorter battery time.

#3 Overheating

Yes, you are reading it right. GRIII is overheating just from taking pictures, and it is not a bug, it is a feature. Smaller dimensions of a camera and redesigned battery cover results in poor heat dispersion from the battery. Battery compartment has no vents so all the heat from battery is accumulating and adding a fact of proximity of CPU/GPU and LCD we have an area (right side of the camera) that is generating a lot of heat (that you feels under your palm). Ricoh knows that but instead of solving this problem they implemented a software feature that is warning you that the camera is getting too hot and if you continue to use the camera then it automatically shuts off to prevent from overheating. You pay a significant amount of money for a camera that will suddenly turn itself off and stop you from taking pictures. Most photographers have to rely on their gear to be operational as long as it is required, but it's not the case with Ricoh. Company decided that customers have to accept that compromise : overheating and sudden turning off for the price of camera being smaller and having IBIS. Overheating is not a major issue for many. If you use the camera for occasional snaps then you won't stress the camera enough to overheat but if you keep the camera turned on for prolonged time (for example walking for hours and taking pictures) or you take lots of pictures this will probably happen. Ricoh never addressed the issue and left customers with a problem. My camera was twice in service under warranty, and they didn't fix it. I've managed to find a working solution by myself and right now my camera is 99% is safe from overheating. Details about problem and a fix you can find in this video and comments :

#3.1 Intervalometer

If you watched the video above you may ask yourself why there is an intervalometer in this camera ? It's a valid point because using intervalometer often requires greater amount of time and power. Both of these are not an option with GRIII because camera will overheat and there is no way to provide constant power supply while outdoors. I guess if powering camera via USB-C will become possible then you would pull out the battery. Camera won't overheat (from the battery temp) and will shoot as long as you deliver power over USB-C.

#4 Software bugs

Most of the bugs are related to camera overheating and so different hardware parts causing problems. Since I fixed the overheating issue with my camera many of these stopped popping out. List of bugs : camera won't turn on, problems with LCD refresh, camera doesn't inform about ND filter being active or sets the wrong exposure, freeze so won't turn off with a button, camera won't fire the shutter. I'll be posting a link to evidence videos that show that happening.

#5 Duplicate filenames

GR III changed for the worse the way the camera is naming files and folders, so now the counter is hidden somewhere in the firmware and susceptible to memory errors. With GR I/II you could easily manipulate a single db file on the memory card and change the file naming, but now you can't do that. I'm using decent and fast Lexar Professional SDHC cards and experienced the following bug a few times. Let's say I filled my first card and continued shooting with another one. GR III for unknown reason is creating new folder but not iterate filenames, instead it jumps to some number that it already created on previous card. It results in having two or more folders with pictures having exactly same filenames. Imagine that you don't know about this fact, you could easily overwrite your photos and later realize something is missing. It is not happening all the time but still is a serious flaw and never addressed in any firmware update. Let's say you changed all filenames (good and duplicate) to iterate from the first good one and so you have everything as it should be from the start in the camera. You can't place these lasts files (with fixed filename) on a card and camera will continue to iterate it. GRI/II had this option called 'Card Sequence No.' that used the serial number continuously from the previous memory card when memory cards are replaced. That system was way better than relying solely on the counter in firmware.

#5.1 File counter

If your camera will ever have to be repaired and service will change some parts, it is most likely they will zeroize your filename counter. It is bizarre they have no will or power to set the counter to whatever it was before the repair. If you do nothing you will have photos with same filenames as already taken before. What you can do is to change prefix in menu settings (letter and number). Filename for sRGB files has 7 digits, but you can change only the first one, so there is no way to continue from the number you had before a repair.

#6 Service centers

Ricoh has strange politics regarding repairs of this camera. In Europe your country authorized service center will accept the camera under warranty but can't repair it. They have to send it to Hamburg because this is the place where Ricoh wants GR III being repaired. It is not so convenient because you are no longer a client of this German service, and they will not talk with you nor reveal what is happening with your camera. Only that service center that sent the camera can ask the questions. German service will not tell you if they acknowledged problems listed by you or if they fixed the camera, the only thing will be an information that they replaced certain parts like lens module or mainboard. Why they did this or what was the reason it is unknown. Worse than that is the fact there is a lot of waiting because the process of sending, repairing and receiving camera could take even a month. I know that service center in the USA is no better in terms of customer service.

#7 AEL/AFL button

GRIII lacks one of the best features from GRI/II which is an option to lock exposure/focus/exposure+focus with a single press of a button. This was very useful and often used, especially by street photographers as they often find an interesting scene and wait for someone to enter the frame. GRIII has a different approach; you can assign AF+AE Lock to Fn however you need to keep pressing the button, for AE Lock it is on/off operation and there is no AF lock but you can assign 'Set MF' which will set MF to previously set AF.

#7.1 Removal of additional Fn button

Harold Glit noticed that smaller dimensions of GRIII resulted in removal of the second Fn button. I know some other buttons can be customized however all in all having two of these was very handy.

#8 Exposure compensation button

Vertical exposure compensation button was nearly a trademark of GRI/II. This button was very much liked by users but decision to shrink the camera forced removal of this button.

Right now you can use ADJ button, but it is more susceptible to sudden unwanted change. GRIII has interesting feature that was not present in GR I/II. If you lock your AF with half pressed shutter button then it is possible to adjust exposure compensation and then fire the shutter.

#9 Rotary control dial

Changing the control dial from push buttons to wheel is yet another unwanted changed that resulted in more bad than good. First it became wobbly and Ricoh repaired for free that first batch. I bought mine without that problem, but that's not the end of trouble. Dial has clicks, but bad design results in dial often stopping between clicks so if you are unaware of this fact and press menu or review button, then the camera goes crazy and scrolls/jumps very fast as it receives two contradictory signals at the same time.

#10 No option to power from external source

GRI/II had an option to use dummy battery and power the camera from external power source but GR III lacks this option. It has USB-C port, but it is for charging the battery and not powering the camera. Charging is another issue because the only indicator is a green light, no LCD message about progress or other information. I know there is a dedicated K-AC166U AC power adapter, but it looks like something to use indoors with AC power and not a portable power source.

#11 No way to check shutter count directly in the camera

Past models of GR line had this option to check errors and shutter count directly in the camera but with GR III there is no known way to do this. The only option is to use computer software to read that information from the picture file. I know it wasn't an official feature but apart from shutter count gave users access to some statistics about their gear which you can't read otherwise.

#12 Touch operation

It is a nice addition to have touch operated LCD because you can for example touch to select focus point, but the big disadvantage is the fact that touch area is limited. You can't select point closer than 7 mm to the sides or 5 mm top/bottom. There are plenty of situations where you want to quickly enable/disable touch operation. You might think that assigning Fn button would be the best way to do this. Unfortunately Ricoh doesn't allow to assign 'LCD Touch Operation - ON/OFF' to Fn button. What you can assign is 'Touch AF' menu so solution is to enable 'LCD Touch Operation' from C menu and then enable/disable touch from 'Touch AF' menu but it takes away the ability to operate the camera quickly.

#13 Wasted space on mode dial

It looks like they wanted to put something between U3 and M, but they forgot, or it was too late. It is a clear waste of space to leave blank on mode dial. Pentax K1 has 5 user modes so having U4 in GR would be welcomed. Some people miss another feature that GR III lacks which is Tav mode.

#14 Slow readout from buffer

Ricoh GRIII now has 2 GB of internal space in case you forgot your memory card but in real it is rarely used feature and I would like to have 2 GB more RAM than internal space. GR III supports only UHS-I cards but even having fast card it takes significant time to clear the buffer while shooting continuous. If you shoot series (RAW+jpeg) and then want to review pictures it gives you loading indicator on blank screen. You have no idea how long would it take or what's the progress of copying the images. It looks like GRIII needs 1 second per image so if you shoot 9 pictures in a row you wait 9 seconds to see the first one.

#15 Worse continuous speed

GRIII having newer CPU is slower by 2 FPS than GRII for RAW or RAW+JPEG resulting in 4 FPS which is not impressive for APSC camera in 2019.

#16 Smaller grip

It might not be so obvious but shrinking the camera reduced the space between the grip and lens so if you have bigger hands then you got less grip comfort than in GRI/II.

#17 No official lens hood

GRI/II had this accessory called GH-3 which was a tube that you could attach and then screw some filters and use the outer bayonet for a fancy rectangle lens hood. GR III has no such accessory so if you want to use filters you need to buy GA-1 tube that has no bayonet for lens hood. Lens hood is available but with wide conversion lens. It is bizarre and strange that Ricoh doesn't offer GH-3 replacement or at least some lens hood. You need to but third party products for filters or use screw-in lens hood. I managed to make an adapter so GH-3 can be used with GRIII, but why do I have to do this by myself ? What is so hard for Ricoh to make such an accessory ? Here is a link to pictures of my adapter

#17.1 Terrible lens ring

Original lens ring is flimsy and might fall off easily resulting in pricey loss. Once changed to cheaper 3rd party metal one everything is as it should.

#18 No integrated flash

Once again Ricoh decided that having a heavier but smaller camera would be an acceptable compromise to remove flash from the camera. Having that small flash in GR I/II was highly appreciated and forcing users to resort to off camera flash is not OK. IMHO they should stick to previous dimensions of GR or enlarging it by a bit but making an interchangeable EVF/flash module that accommodate space on left side of the camera. This way it can preserve relatively small dimensions but giving an option to use EVF or flash. Flash could also be redesigned. I liked how they did this in Panasonic GX7, so you could point flash upwards if needed.

#19 No continuous with AF

New camera, new CPU and it is still not capable of shooting continuous with AF. The autofocus is fixed in the first frame. GR is used widely by street photographers and at streets people are moving (very often towards you), so it is a very much needed feature. Other manufacturers that released their cameras in the same time as Ricoh gave users that feature even in basic models.

#19.1 Wrong AF selection areas

This needs further testing and checking on different units however for 100 pictures taken one or two have autofocus areas out of the main subject. There are many factors that can cause this however I wouldn't expect this to happen so soon (within a 100 pictures). Images and explanation can be found under this link

#20 No auto snap

I had big hopes that GRIII having these phase detect points on the sensor will revive auto-snap feature from Ricoh GR Digital IV but still it is not present.

#21 No BW filters

Sure there is something called filter effect that mimics BW filters, but these are not exactly BW filters and manual doesn't explain which filter number corresponds to what filter color. It was found out by some users however I experience that it applies filtering in a strange way and especially with sky it gets weird from time to time. I can't understand what is so hard for Ricoh when other manufacturers implemented that with ease.

#22 Effects

Another bunch of features that were changed for worse vs previous GR I/II. A lot of people loved Positive Film and for me Cross Processing was very attractive and used a lot. GR III effects have same names but yield different results and not as great as in GR I/II. There will be no consistency in your artwork if you would like to expect same picture processing. Other manufacturers understand that if there is same name you expect same processing.

#23 RAW development

GR records raw files in DNG format however there is no option for in camera processing of files taken with previous GR or to process GRIII DNGs in older camera. It would be very welcomed to have the ability to process new raw files with older filter effects.

#24 User modes

The whole idea of user modes is to have predefined settings that will be enabled upon turning the mode dial to the corresponding Ux position. No matter what changes you do in user mode it won't be remembered unless you save them. This is super handy because you can very fast get your set of camera settings, shoot and maybe adjust exposure or other parameters and the simple act of turning the mode dial to something else and then back to this Ux will reset it. The same applies to the act of turning camera off and on. This is where GRIII is different vs GR I/II because with the previous model you can rely on that. If you switched off your camera and called a day and next day turned camera on you knew camera will power on with that predefined settings. GRIII changed that to worse. I see that as a firmware fault, but it might be a new undocumented feature. If you don't turn the mode dial from this one certain Ux to something else and just power off/power on then the camera will be powered on with all that changes made to Ux before power off. Ricoh knowing that battery lasts only for 60 minutes might think that you want to continue shooting with that changes after replacing battery to fresh one. It is totally OK with normal program but not 'user modes' because it is problematic. Once I was shooting macro and my battery died, while changing battery I saw an interesting subject and had seconds to capture it, so I inserted new battery, powered on the camera, fired and realized that picture is out of focus because for GRIII priority is state of settings before power off and not saved predefined ones. Another nightmare is making a simple and small change to user mode. With GR I/II it was quite fast to enter menu, selecting MYx&settings and click to confirm. GRIII has multiple boxes of settings that you can apply to one of three user modes so if for example you want to quickly change ISO for your user mode you need to scroll to corresponding box then deny changing a name on that box, scroll once again to corresponding box  and confirm. You better be careful because it might get confusing and result in a bad outcome.

#25 Aspect ratio

I thank Harold Glit who noticed that GRIII lacks 4:3 aspect ratio. It is hard to think why would they remove such popular aspect. What good does it make to prevent users from using 4:3 ?

#26 Focus peaking

It is very debatable if that's a con but I think it is. Ricoh always had it's own approach to focus peaking that differs from other manufacturers but nowadays cameras are widely available and many people are switching systems or buying multiple cameras so they get used to one system used by the most of cameras. I would love to see an addition of standard focus peaking mode which accommodates color stripes and is implemented same way by different manufacturers.

#27 Jpeg compression algorithm

Many can argue that it is expected and compression can process images like that however from my point of view if a scene is static and images differ not more than 1% from each other then difference in size by 6 Megabytes is significant. This needs further testing and checking on different units however if confirmed then will indicate that GRIII has some problems with handling compression. Images and explanation can be found under this link

#28 Cost of an upgrade

Having a smaller dimensions vs previous models required the change of battery and accessories. For those who were using GR since 2013 and invested in different accessories like wide conversion lens and etc. the cost of upgrade is significant. Some of old accessories probably could be adapted but most of them you have to buy again and others like GH3 are not available anymore. If you are a new buyer (having no accessories yet) then it's not a big issue but otherwise you might want to calculate if GRIII advantages are worth it. In my country GRII is still in stock brand new and costs 653 USD vs GRIII which goes for 1000 USD (prices for 27.05.2021).

#29 No auto macro option

It is very debatable if that's a con but I think it is. GRIII normal AF range is from 10cm to infinity and macro range is from 6cm to 12cm. Imagine that you are taking photos at 10cm, slight movement and you are out of focus so it would better to have auto-macro option in menu or at least some sort of a system that will switch between modes so you will be covered in the whole range. If that could be a possibility from technical point of view then GRIII would benefit from Fn 2 that it lacks. Those who need two Fn buttons will have them and those who need dedicated macro could assign macro to Fn 2.

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