Hands On: Street Photography with the Ricoh GR3 in Japan

Photography Gear

I’ve always tried to create visual content with the highest possible quality and resolution, paying a lot of attention to detail and composition. In the beginning of my career that meant using large and medium formats, but lately, one of my favorite cameras is quite the opposite.

I’ve done a lot of studio work and have always been intrigued by hardware. I used Hasselblad, Sinar P2, Fuji 68 and Pentax 67 cameras for a long time, but with the digital mirrorless revolution I ended up favoring lighter and more compact systems like the X1D and the Canon R5. Still, resolution and quality were always top of mind, so I tended to stick with full-frame or medium format.

I’ve always been a fan of Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Frank, but it wasn’t until I came across Vivian Maier’s images in late 2008 that I was inspired to pursue street photography. From the beginning, I realized that smaller cameras would be more appropriate. I normally don’t ask people for permission as I try to capture candid situations–I shoot and then I smile and normally people smile back.

I started with the full-frame Sony RX1 and then I moved on to a Leica Q2, but when I first tested a GR3 I got hooked. A pocket size camera with a 24MP APS-C sensor, touch screen and IBIS? I was impressed. Recently, I had the chance to put the GR3 through its paces on a trip to Japan, where I did a lot of street photography and came back with some of my favorite photos thus far, cementing my love of this unassuming little camera:


The GR3 is perfect for street photography. The best candid images always happen when you least expect it, and having a full-featured camera that fits in your pocket is really great. This little camera is less intimidating also; since it looks like a basic point & shoot, you can avoid unnecessary confrontations.

The fixed focal length 28mm lens is ideal for street shooting and the f/2.8 is fast enough to shoot at dusk. I also really like the Snap mode where you can shoot from the hip with camera always focused on a predetermined distance (I personally set it at 2 meters).

The AF system is pretty fast; plus, you can touch-screen on an area you’d like to focus on and there’s also face detection and macro mode which can come in handy. I always shoot in RAW + JPG, usually in the B&W high contrast mode, with Snap focus enabled and the aperture set to f/8. This way I can preview my results in black and white and decide if I want to use color later on.

The only two significant issues I had with the camera were the battery life–you need at least couple of batteries for a 1/2 day shoot–and the noise that it produces in low-light situations.

So… am I going to sell my beloved Leica Q2? Nope, I don’t think so… the depth of field control, the EVF, and the full-frame 47MP sensor are all very important to me. But I’m convinced the Ricoh GR3 is the best option when I don’t have (or don’t want to carry) my Q2 in my backpack.

About the author: Caesar Lima’s artistic approach is meticulously crafted. With an emphasis on the unusual, Lima thrives on doing the wrong thing. The personal side project and reportage outlet for high-end commercial, fine art, and beauty photographer Caesar Lima, “Puffybrain” is to the street photography as Lima is to the studio sork. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.

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