So what on earth would possess anyone to part with £900 (or around $999 / AU$1,699) for a compact camera, when the money could instead be used to upgrade to something like the iPhone 13 Pro? Well, let me answer that by telling you a little bit about my new camera. The Ricoh GR III X isn’t any ordinary compact camera, which is why it costs the same as an iPhone 13 Pro. It’s purpose-built for the likes of street photography, with a rapid start-up time of under a second, plus controls and dials that I can customize ahead of time to ensure that the settings are right for the moment that is unfolding before me.
It’s been said that the best camera is the one you have with you, and I always have a camera with me. It’s in my pocket right now. It’s… my brand-new Ricoh GR III X camera. Of course, I have a smartphone in my other pocket, though I’d rather it to be the Ricoh GR III. Despite the fact that both the GR III X and my Google Pixel 4a have excellent cameras, I spent around three times as much time with the camera as I did with my phone – and it doesn’t make calls, organise my life, or direct me where to go.
I can assign every camera setting to a custom shooting mode, and I can do that for three different user-defined collections. For example, one of those can have its focus set to a very specific distance via ‘Snap Focus’, its picture style set to a dynamic black and white, the exposure metering set to protect the highlights, and the list goes on.
Despite its tiny size, the GR III X packs a large 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and sharp 40mm f/2.8 lens. That’s a lot of pixels to play with, plus the sensor size and wide aperture lens give me organic control over depth of field. I can blur backgrounds in my portraits for real, and the results trump any Portrait mode. This isn’t a fallible smartphone computational workaround; this is the real thing and you can tell.
But what does that all mean? Well, as I’ve gotten to know the camera and tweaked it over time, I can instinctively flick a switch or turn a dial and the camera is ready to capture the decisive moment with precision, with the exposure and style that I like. Minimal fiddling involved, and far quicker than a phone.
Tim Coleman has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo industry. Image maker, writer, camera-kit reviewer and video producer, Tim was part of the team at Amateur Photographer Magazine for three years as Deputy Technical Editor and then worked as Editor for Vanguard Europe. Currently, he freelances for numerous photo titles alongside video production for Studio 44 and volunteering for a non-profit in East Africa.