Cameras I own: Ricoh GR-D

Part two in a series. See part one here.

This was the first digital camera that I actually liked using. I think in a lot of ways it was because of the look, which was largely based on the original late 90’s Ricoh GR1, only slightly smaller, and (of course) digital. I bought it because I was about to go on a long overseas trip, and decided it was finally time to make the leap from film (I really didn’t want to carry enough film with me to last 3 months). It was 2007.

Its small size and wide-angle lens made it great for street photography

When I bought the GR-D I was still in a ‘film’ frame of mind though, and couldn’t quite cope with not having a viewfinder. I shelled out for an add-on optical viewfinder that sat on the hotshoe (that’s the funny lump on the top). It was clear and bright, but it only gave you framing, no other feedback.

I liked the GR-D for its constraints, which reminded my of my film-based rangefinders. It has a fixed lens and a large amount of manual control. It was the first digital camera that made me think that maybe manufacturers are starting to ‘get it’: there are photographers out there that want a good-quality point and shoot that reflects the quality and characteristics (including controls) of good, small, film cameras. Unfortunately this ‘getting it’ hasn’t really panned out in the subsequent years, with the notable exceptions of the Panasonic Lumix GF1 (which I own and love), and the prohibitively expensive Fuji X100 (which I don’t). The GR-D never really lived up to this standard anyway in terms of speed or quality, but it was fun to pretend that the digital camera industry was getting somewhere.

Somewhere outside Reykjavik

Somewhere outside Reykjavik. Damn rocks!

My GR-D didn’t actually get very much use in the end. One month in to my travels, I managed to drop it on a rock in Iceland and damage the lens mechanism. My next camera-shop-stop was in London, and I couldn’t afford a replacement with the Australian dollar being what it was back then. I ended up shooting the rest of my trip with a Canon IXUS, which is a fine pocket camera, but comparatively boring.

You don’t get a sense from my illustration, but it was very small, light, sturdily built and quiet. A true pocket camera. My iPhone has effectively taken over my needs in that regard now, so I don’t really miss the GR-D. Plus the look of it fits right in on the shelf next to my various vintage film cameras.

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