Ricoh GR IIIx Review: A Worthwhile Compact Shooter

Ricoh introduced the GR IIIx to its lineup to address focal length. However, Ricoh also wanted to prove that this compact camera can shoot bolder than its small size suggests.

The GR IIIx is a direct sequel to the GR III. They share the same layout and body. Ricoh is putting in a 40mm equivalent lens to make it easy for anyone complaining about how wide the old camera’s 18.3mm lens (28mm equivalent) shot. This camera may be what you need if you are looking to improve your shots while keeping the same inside dimensions.

Design and Build Quality

If you have used Ricoh’s previous GR camera models before, there will be plenty of familiarity. This was my first Ricoh GR camera, so I had to start from scratch learning the layout and menu system. It weighs in at 257g, which is not light, but its dimensions allow it to fit into a pocket. The magnesium alloy frame gave me the feeling that I was shooting with a professional.

The three-inch TFT LCD on the back is the only way to frame your shot, and it replaces any electronic viewfinder (EVF). There are four buttons that can be used to adjust the shutter speed, including playback, playback, function and standard menu. The power button, shutter and shooting mode dial are located at the top. A second lever adjusts the aperture towards the front is located towards the rear. The USB-C charging port is located to the right. To the left, a button is designated for WiFi and video connections.

A Ricoh GR IIIx on the edge of a fountain in the city.

The hot shoe is at the top and the mount at the bottom. There’s also a slip at the mode dial to attach the included lanyard. Although the GR IIIx does not come with a case, it is a good idea for safekeeping. Ricoh didn’t take any steps to weatherproof its camera in adverse weather conditions, perhaps because of the small design that allows heat to escape.

The Ricoh GR IIIx camera top-down view

These trappings are almost identical to the previous GR III. Ricoh’s 40mm equivalent fixed lens f/2.8 is the most significant change. This lens allows users to get closer to their subjects. This focal length is preferred by street photographers for many reasons. However, it is applicable to all types of shooters looking for a happy middle between 28mm and 50mm.

Ricoh’s GA-2 adapter can be attached to the lens’ ring cap to allow you to attach Ricoh’s GT-2 Teleconversion lens. This will increase the focal length by 75mm. If you need an EVF, the company’s GV-3 can also be used. These accessories were not tested by me so I don’t know how they perform.

Menu and Features

Ricoh did not change the menu system. They left the familiar settings as they are. The layout of the GR series is easy to understand for newbies, but it is worth taking the time to learn where everything is and what it is trying to do.

The shutter speed lever doubles up as a button. When you press it, you’ll be able to quickly select the type of filtering that you want for your images. This includes shortcuts for focus, metering and file format. The directional button has drive modes, as well as quick access to ISO, Macro, and white balance.

A photo of a flower taken in macro mode

Ricoh offers two crop factors, 50mm and 71mm, within its image capture settings menu. The default setting for the ND Filter is auto, with eye and face detection on. The ISO range is 100 to 102.400, and the shutter speed is 1/4000. You can also use hybrid autofocus or sensor-shift IBIS to keep your camera steady. Snap Focus allows you to set the focus distance of your camera from 1 meter up to infinity.

The GR IIIx is limited to 1080p at 24 frames per second in 30, 30 or 60 frames per seconds. This means that there’s no 4K. Ricoh doesn’t mind if it’s used as a still camera, but video versatility is not available if you want to shoot at higher resolutions.

Image Quality

Before you even take a shot, there are some elements that come into play. Snap Focus and the very fast startup time of 0.8 seconds are two examples. It is not a fast-fire shooter as it can only capture 4 frames per second in burst. The screen is also fixed to the body so it is difficult to articulate. The screen isn’t very bright by default so you might need to turn it up in certain situations to see what you are doing. This will ultimately impact battery life.

A waterfall with the movement blurred
Straight out of Camera, unprocessed JPEG
Environmental portrait of a man next to a brick building
Straight out of Camera, unprocessed JPEG

You can create stunning images with the GR IIIx if you take these nuances into consideration. To test the quality of both unprocessed JPEGs and DNG files, I shot in RAW + JPEG. The ISO flexibility is remarkable with shots as high as 6400 being possible. Also, the wide aperture can produce creamy bokeh. Even though I had seen them on the display, night and low-light shots turned out to be even better than I thought.

Ricoh GRIIIx Snap focus screen options

Although I struggled to focus at first, it became easier after a few shots. Although it’s simple to touch the screen to lock onto the subject, Snap Focus will also automatically focus on the subject when you press the shutter button. Ricoh places it at 2.5m to begin, and offers options to move from 1 to 2.5m in increments of 0.5 meters, or to choose to go longer to 5 meters. If you don’t feel the need for it, you can set it to infinite. The GR IIIx locks quickly, as long as it can see the subject clearly enough. This is something I often found in night conditions.

Photo of wine and spirits behind a bar.

It snaps images with great consistency. In the images I took, I didn’t notice any barrel distortion or chromatic aberration. The edges of the images were clear and free from nasty vignetting that could be used to force crop in post. Images were crisp and clear with great detail under a variety circumstances.

This is not only for DNG images, but also JPEGs, provided that they were taken in the best conditions and with the correct settings. Even though you have full control of the settings in Manual mode, the image sensor can sometimes brighten highlights. This may be why the camera has a built-in editor that you can access by pressing the button to the side. It’s simple and well-balanced enough to work with photos you might want to transfer to your phone or tablet for sharing on social media. To work in Lightroom, I prefer to save RAW images to my smartphone.

High-angle, wide shot of Budapest during blue hour.
A photo of a cathedral taken in low light.
A photo of a building and the Danube river.

You can at least decide what is best for you. It is important to not expose images too much, as it can make it difficult to extract detail from them later.

Ricoh GR IIIx in-camera photo editor example

The GR III’s 28mm focal distance might make it more tourist-friendly due to how many frames it captures. Because the GR III’s focal length is 40mm shorter, I found it difficult to photograph architecture or views. I decided to fire off a few pieces and then blend them in Photoshop or another similar program. This camera is far more suitable for street scenes and other unusual perspectives than a smartphone. The quality is almost certain to be better.

Battery Life

Ricoh claims that the GR IIIx can take 200 shots per charge. However, this is not true in real world conditions. With some long exposure photos and the default screen brightness, I was able to capture 115 shots before my battery ran out. My best result was 152 photos. It’s good that it switches on and off quickly, because that was the only way I had to deal with the horrible battery life.

You will need to consider whether you intend to use the GR IIIx a lot. This can be done by either getting a second or portable battery pack, or simply keeping the screen brightness at a minimum. All of these are not ideal, but photographers don’t mind making compromises and adapting to the situation.

A Ricoh GR IIIx camera in front of a cityscape

A valuable compact gun

Ricoh GR IIIx is not cheap at $1000, but its quality makes it worth the cost. Although it wouldn’t be my primary camera, I would keep it in my bag or pocket as a backup or support camera. Its versatility and ability to capture images in all conditions is impressive, along with its depth of customization make it appealing on many levels.

This camera is perfect for photographers who are skilled at taking stills. It’s small enough to carry anywhere and quick enough to snap a quick photo, making it a great option for lifestyle and street photographers who don’t want to invest in a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

What are the Alternatives?

If you want a wider field, the GR III is your best choice. The GR IIIx receives the same firmware updates as the GR IIIx, so many features can be interchangeable between them. Another compact camera with retro styling is the Fujifilm X100V, which also shoots video at 30fps in 4K. Ricoh has the advantage of being smaller and more convenient to carry around.

The Leica D-Lux 7 may be a good option if you are willing to spend more. However, it does have a lower resolution with the Four Thirds sensor despite having better video specs. It also came on the market in 2018.

Should You Buy It?

If you are a photographer looking to buy a compact camera with a prime lens, then yes. Those with a GR III already have a greater choice, as the only difference between the two lenses is the focal length.