Why the Ricoh GR is the best camera for street photography
Fast, discreet, highly portable, possessing the ability to produce great image quality and entirely usable as a second camera to a DSLR or Mirrorless CSC kit. That’s the Ricoh GR II. In this post I will outline how I have set up my little GR II to be the ultimate zone focusing point and shoot. Although there are a myriad of settings with these cameras I believe that they all came out with the snap focus feature and some sort of ability to dedicate custom functions, so the setup described below should apply to all of the GR lineage.
This post also appears on my blog at www.zonefocus.net along with a whole bunch of tips, thoughts and commentary on street photography. Check it out!!
Snap Focus is the glue that binds the Ricoh GRs compact size, stellar lens and impressive image quality. It also allows for all of that to take a back seat whilst you concentrate on the shooting rather than on trying to wrangle auto focus. I have my snap focus setting selected at “full press snap” at 2m, and I rarely move the dial off of that setting. Combined with exposure settings described below, I find that this is a rock steady combination for my style of shooting when I use this camera and its wide 28mm field of view.
Exposure settings are again set to work in conjunction with the 2m snap focus. I set the exposure manually, and first and foremost the aperture is always set at f/8. This pairs beautifully with the 2m focus distance and means that pretty much everything from about 2m to infinity is in acceptable (enough) focus, certainly for street photography where the story is king. Because I am always on the move and almost always shooting moving subjects, I like to keep my shutter speed at 1/500. With aperture and shutter speed fixed like this I rely on auto iso range of 100–3200 to manage exposure for me, although I do use exposure compensation when I have time to compose and assess the dynamic range of the scene. In the late afternoon, especially in shade I tend to drop the shutter speed by a stop to 1/250, but apart from that I let the camera do all the work.
I generally shoot in black and white when the sun and shadows are out and in colour when the sky is overcast. This is a general rule only and I break it often. With the Ricoh jpeg presets I like the standard black and white, whilst with the colour I like to use the contrasty clarity setting. I always shoot in jpeg plus raw, simply because I like to have options in post.
Custom Function Selection
Key to the usability of the Ricoh GR is the incredibly versatile function setting that is implemented as a selection right on the command dial. You have the choice of three custom settings (MY1, MY2, and MY3). I tend to use the setup described above, with the black and white setting, on MY1, and the colour setting on MY3, whilst I have a full auto mode in colour on MY2. The camera is capable of being tweaked in so many different ways it is mind boggling, but I like to keep it simple. It is so convenient to just flip to the custom settng and have snap focus, focus distance, and the exposure triangle all set for you instantly. It really just gets the camera out of the way and lets you shoot.
With the Ricoh I am primarily shooting from waist level, not just for discreet shooting. I think lower angles complement the wide focal length and in the city, everything has that epic feel when shot from lower than eye level. This article by Yiannis Yiasaris has some great tips for getting the most out of a wide angle lens when doing street photography.
The amazing thing about this camera is that it allows for incredibly discreet, fast and accurate shooting, with high quality images being pumped out of something that can fit into a jeans pocket. With a simple wrist strap I have found no reason not to have it either attached to my right hand or right there in my bag whenever and wherever I decide to leave the larger ILC at home. As an everyday carry for a dedicated street photographer I think you could do a lot worse than picking up one of the GRs and setting it up in a similar fashion to what I have described above.
If you are a GR shooter I would love to know what your setup is and how you use the camera — be sure to let me know in the comments below.