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Ricoh GRD IV

(Bleach Bypass cold)


a few days ago, i did a first post on the Ricoh GRD IV on my website Sparthphoto, and i thought i was going to develop a bit more on the camera right here.


It's having a lot of advantages, and when it comes to ergonomy as well as the fun factor, i will have a hard time spotting things i am not liking.

However i still have hesitations with some elements in the image quality, or let's rather say, i'm still trying to accept the fact it's a small sensor camera. i was so used to large sensors that the fact of capturing a scene was all about composition, not about "how to avoid highlights". Besides, your RAW would have contained enough informations to obtain the best exposure so you never had to worry. That small sensor is another story, and despite the fact i love shooting with it, it does contain this issue of instantly going from dark to light, as well as skipping a lot of subtle in-between values that we would have considered vital for a decent image quality.


the problem is also coming from the fact it's a camera mostly good at producing B&W shots. i'm not saying the colors are bad, take the bleach bypass mode for example, it's awesome!, but the gritty and harsh aspect of the shots corresponds to an aesthetic that is, in a way, less compatible with color. as i was saying in an earlier post, i was also finding the bleach bypass mode very harsh as soon as light goes down, and once again i'm still undecided if i like it or not. and at the same time, i have that addictive habit of always going back to that mode, letting aside B&W!


Limitations ... The thing is ...... in a way, that's the whole Point of the camera. all these elements are what gives the GRD line that special touch. in other words, they've been able to avoid falling into the traps of limitations, taking as a pure advantage the fact of having a narrow dynamic range, for example, and produce a nervous contrasty look that appeals to many. same for the noise. it does look good. you can play with it, make it yours, if i might say. i am not saying at all that limitations are always a good thing, it all depends of the rendering, and in the case of the GRD IV, it's a plus.


so the whole point here is mostly that you have to accept the specific aesthetic the camera can give you, not fight it or compare it to higher end "noise free" systems. There is a logic to it all.

"the sketchy small sensor B&W look" that's what Wouter Brandsma, who has been having a long experience with the GR line, was writing in a comment yesterday, and i found it best describes the philosophy here. sketch, or "esquisse". describing things in a loose way, like you would with a sketchpad and a pen.


i still have so much to discover about the GRD IV. i'll probably write more thoughts as they come. Is the camera worth it? definitely. just do NOT expect what you can get out of an fuji x100 or the Leica x1. it's not about definition. the small sensor catches only the vital informations, nothing else. exactly like with a pen and paper sketch...

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Taken on November 24, 2011