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Ricoh GR III Review (A Street Photographer’s Dream Camera?)

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What benefits does the Ricoh GR III offer to the experienced photographer? We often consider DSLRs or mirrorless cameras the best choice for the “serious” photographer.

But some situations aren’t ideal for big bulky cameras. This would include street photography or documentary work. And this is where the GR III comes in. So take a look at our review of this well-liked compact camera and see if it’s what you need.

We Highly Recommend
Ricoh GR III
Ricoh GR III
Looking for a compact camera that delivers exceptional image quality and fast response? Look no further than the Ricoh GR III. It’s perfect for street photographers and documentary work.

[ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]

Ricoh GR III Overview and Specifications

Ricoh GR III

Ricoh GR III
Released 2018
Sensor Format
Lens Mount Fixed
24 MP
Autofocus Points
Maximum ISO (Native)
Frame Rate
4 fps
In-body Stabilization Yes
Video Yes

The Ricoh GR III is technically a premium compact camera. It’s suitable for this designation in most aspects. It’s small and lightweight, so much so that it fits in your pocket.

It has a non-removable lens that extends when turned on. And it slides back into the body when off. Its controls are somewhat similar, too. But only at first glance.

An outsider’s eye couldn’t tell the difference between the GR III and an everyday $100 compact camera. That’s where its power lies. In a small and dull-looking package, the camera gives you the possibilities and quality of an advanced mirrorless.

This makes it ideal for scenarios where you’re better off remaining inconspicuous as a photographer. It is primarily for street photography. But it also finds its way into concert photography and travel photography, and many more genres.

Ricoh GR III camera
Ricoh GR III compact camera

Key Features of the Ricoh GR III

Let’s take a look closer at the camera’s main selling points and general qualities.

Camera Sensor

The Ricoh GR III has a 1.5x APS-C-sized sensor. It was one of the smallest cameras ever produced with such a large sensor when it first came out. Its resolution is 24 MP (megapixels), in a 3:2 aspect ratio. This means 6000 x 4000 pixels.

Sony most likely manufactures this sensor. It is very similar to the one found in the a6400. And It offers an excellent dynamic range.

My main camera is a Canon 5D Mark III. It’s a top-tier, full frame workhorse, once one of Canon’s flagship models. And the sensor in the GR III is on par with it. It even outperforms it in some respects, like with shadow detail or noise quality.

Two friends hanging out in a meadow with trees and the sun setting behind them
Excellent dynamic range with the Ricoh GR III.

Shadows can be pulled up by quite a drastic amount without losing much detail. Highlights can be pulled back by almost two stops at base ISO without clipping. The RAW images you get from the GR III are on par with the best.

ISO performance is also impressive. At ISO 3,200, you still get lots of detail with noticeable but not distracting noise. At ISO 6,400 and 12,800, noise becomes more aggressive. But the images are still very workable, especially with proper noise reduction.

The quality of noise with the GR III is surprisingly great, though. It’s more film-like than any APS-C camera I’ve used. Often I find myself not reducing noise at all because it adds to an image.

ISO 25,600 is where I’d stop using the GR III. At this point, images are either a noisy mess or a blurred mess because of the reduction.

Overhead food photo shot with a Ricoh GR III camera
No distracting noise and still great dynamic range at ISO 8000 with no noise reduction.

Sensor Stabilization

A very important addition to the sensor is the three-axis image stabilization. I’ve found it to be very effective. I could always handhold at a shutter speed of 1/10 s and not get any blur due to handshake.

On some occasions, I was able to achieve tack-sharp shots at around 0.5 seconds. This option is called Shake Reduction (SR) in the menu.

With the implementation of SR, Ricoh removed the anti-aliasing filter. This, together with the excellent lens, is responsible for the very sharp images you get. In situations where moiré is a threat, SR is turned on and acts as a filter.

While it works miraculously with photos, I had trouble working with SR in video mode. While testing the Ricoh GR III, I shot visuals for use with my band on shows. This involved shooting photos in moving vehicles, buses, trams, and on ships.

When the vehicle accelerated, the stabilization system would try to counteract the movement. It moved the sensor (and thus the image) to one side. But this is normal and expected.

When it reached the limit of correctable movement, it simply jumped back to the middle. This resulted in a very sudden shift in framing. And it ruined several takes. So after a while, I simply didn’t use it.

Coastal town at evening time
Hand-held image shot with the GR III at 0.6 seconds. Perfectly sharp

Camera Lens

The lens you’ll find on the Ricoh GR III is an 18.3mm f/2.8 lens. It is equivalent to a 28mm f/4 lens in full frame measures. It’s very sharp and contrasty. And it’s as good as you’d expect a similar, professional lens on a DSLR to be.

It fully utilizes the 24 MP pixel count of the sensor. Even when further upscaled digitally, photos remain outstandingly detailed. This combo allows for extensive cropping or large prints.

Cropped Ccose up street scene taken with the Ricoh GR III
100% crop from the image above.

I’m unsure if there isn’t distortion correction baked into the RAW files. It seems, anyway, that the lens is largely free of distortion.

The lens is capable of impressive, almost macro close focusing. If you switch on macro mode (which you can do by pressing a separate button), it focuses as close as 6 cm. Image quality remains stellar in this setting, too. I’ve found it to be very useful.

A close up of daisies
The flowers are about 2 cm in diameter (no crop).

As an extra feature, you can purchase a wide-angle filter. It converts the view from 28mm to 21mm. This accessory makes the camera significantly larger. But it’s ideal for tighter scenes, landscapes, and potentially selfies as well.

Camera Focus

A heavily advertised feature of the Ricoh GR III is its focusing system. For the first time in the large-sensor GR line, it employs on-sensor phase-detection autofocus (AF).

This is along with traditional contrast detection. And focusing points cover almost the entire sensor.

It has a fixed-lens construction. So engineers were able to optimize it better than you’d expect in an average mirrorless camera. The AF system works like a charm. It’s snappy and accurate.

Even in low light, I’ve found it hard to misfocus with the GR III. But it was considerably slower.

A signature function of the GR series is the Snap Focus feature. It lets you set a predetermined focus distance and activate it at the press of a button.

Essentially, it’s a sped-up way to do zone focusing. It’s quicker and more reliable than any autofocusing system currently on the market. But it definitely has a learning curve.

This feature, again, makes the camera a very compelling choice for street photography. In a street scene, getting your subjects in focus is often a hit-and-miss process. An advanced system like this one increases your success rate noticeably.

Video Features

The Ricoh GR III shoots up to 1080p footage at 60 fps. This is in a usable 8-bit 4:2:0 format.

The colors are truly nice. Stabilization helps a lot with smoothing out hand movement. And focusing is accurate. But in most settings, including 1080p/60, the video is very soft.

Many reviewers have complained about the lack of 4K recording. To be fair, most people buying this camera probably won’t use it for shooting video, especially in a context where 4K is necessary. But now, a 4K camera is commonplace.

Another drawback is that while the camera offers full manual controls when taking stills, that isn’t the case with video. You can only shoot video in Program (P) mode.

So if you’re planning to shoot more than casual videos with your new street photography camera, the GR III is not your best choice. (You can take a peek at our article on cameras for videography.)

Special Features

Unlike conventional cameras, which have curtain shutters, the GR III uses a leaf shutter. This makes it possible to use normal flash throughout the entire shutter speed range.

You’re not limited by the sync speed. But you’ll need to get an external flash. There’s no built-in flash in the camera.

There is also a two-stop ND filter included. It’s useful for slowing down your shutter speed for videos. And it’s helpful to use with a wide aperture in bright daylight.

Body and Handling

The Ricoh GR III is built to be very small but tough. It’s constructed of sturdy magnesium alloy and high-quality plastic. It feels solid in the hands and has a comfortable, albeit still small, grip.

One thing you’ll notice instantly is something wobbling inside the camera when it’s turned off. It took some time to figure out whether this was normal. But it absolutely is. And all GR IIIs behave like this.

It’s actually just the stabilization system floating freely. This even protects the system from larger shocks.

The body is 4.3 inches wide and 2.4 inches tall (109 x 62 mm). It’s not much larger than a smartphone. And it weighs 0.6 lb (257 g).

Ricoh GR III size
The GR III sitting next to a Canon 7D Mark II and a Sony a6400

The controls on this camera are great. There are dedicated buttons for every important setting. This includes burst mode, white balance, macro mode, and more.

A fully-fledged mode dial is located on the top. It has a Manual mode, priority modes, and three user-configurable modes.

There are two control dials and an adjustment lever. This is wonderful and truly surprising to see in a camera of such a small size.

It would be great if we could set up a quick manual operation using a separate dial for aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. But even though the facilities are there, you can’t map ISO to any of the dials directly. But a firmware update could solve this.

A serial issue covered by an unlimited manufacturer warranty is that many GR IIIs have a slightly wobbly main dial. The one I tested indeed had this problem. But I didn’t find it distracting at all.

On the back, you’ll find a three-inch touchscreen in a 3:2 aspect ratio. It’s colorful and detailed. But I’ve found it to be not bright enough in some situations. The menu system is fairly simple and optimized to be used with the touchscreen.Ricoh GR III camera

A painfully missing feature is some level of weather sealing. This is evident from the construction of the camera. There’s a large gap between the lens and the extended lens housing. So water and dust can easily get in there.

This is probably the single most important disadvantage of the Ricoh GR III. I personally love shooting in the rain. And many photographers do.

Street scenes have a very different vibe on a rainy day. And I’d love to capture that with the GR III. But the lack of sealing makes it a very hard sell.

Battery life is also not quite impressive, at 200-odd shots per battery on average. But you can always carry an extra battery or charge the camera via the USB-C port. So I wouldn’t consider this a large problem.

The GR III can house a standard UHS-I SD memory card. But if you’ve just left that at home, don’t worry. There is also 2 GB of built-in storage. This is a rare, welcome feature.

The camera also shoots RAW files in DNG format. You can quickly transfer them to your phone via Wi-Fi and edit them in Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

Ricoh GR III camera


The GR III has several alternatives. One of them is its predecessor, the Ricoh GR II. Now available for a reduced price, it shares most design elements with the third generation. That includes a very similar lens.

But it also has a built-in flash, which the GR III doesn’t have. And it offers significantly less resolution at 16 MP. Its sensor is not stabilized, which makes the f/2.8 lens much less appealing in low light.

Another key difference in favor of the GR III is the autofocus system. While still better than most similar AF systems, the GR II’s contrast-detection-only solution is much slower in comparison with the GR III’s hybrid one.

There is also an updated version of the GR III called the GR IIIx. You can compare GR III with the GR IIIx.

The Ricoh GR IIIx features a wider 40mm equivalent lens compare to the GR III’s 28mm equivalent lens. And the GR IIIx has a higher-resolution LCD screen.

Another viable alternative is the Fujifilm X100F. It’s a compact camera, too, albeit built with a very different philosophy. It’s larger, heavier, and slightly more expensive.

In a rangefinder-style body, it houses similar features. It has full manual controls and a 24 MP but unstabilized sensor. And it remains fairly inconspicuous with its retro look.

A key difference is its lens. The X100F utilizes a 23mm f/2 lens. It’s tighter, equivalent to a 35mm view on full frame (vs 28mm on the GR III), but also a stop faster.


The Ricoh GR III is a fantastic little camera for a niche of photographers. It’s not limited to street photography overall. You can very much use it in any casual and documentary situation where you don’t need to zoom.

It is not cheap. And it’s not really versatile because of its prime lens. But it offers exceptional image quality, a very user-friendly build and interface, fast response, and a discrete exterior. All of this fits comfortably in your pocket.

The only thing preventing it to be the perfect casual camera is the lack of weather sealing. But if you’re comfortable with that, you’ll be rewarded with great user experience and, thus, great images.

In the end, I liked this little camera so much that I decided to purchase one. And so far, it has been a pleasant journey.


Main Features 84%
Extra Features 84%
Construction and Durability 80%
Handling and Ergonomics 93%
Value for Money 95%
Total Score 87%

We Highly Recommend
Ricoh GR III
Ricoh GR III
Looking for a compact camera that delivers exceptional image quality and fast response? Look no further than the Ricoh GR III. It’s perfect for street photographers and documentary work.

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