Reviewing the Ricoh GR3x (Arrival in Sardinia)

So, first off, my use case isn’t the typical GR3 user. There are lots of people out there reviewing it as a street photography camera, a discrete shooter, and things of this nature, and I feel like the subject has been beaten to death. While I do some work that could sort of be called ‘street’, it’s more in the genre of walks with a camera, and I live where that happens in the street. I’ve discovered lately that I have no interest in not being seen.

My perspective on the camera, then, is how well it works as a camera to take with me when I don’t want to drag the whole bag along. I’ve tried a number of these cameras in the past (most recently the Sony RX100 IV) and usually I end up between somewhat and very disappointed in them. I keep coming back though, because those pro bodies I like, the Leicas and Nikons, are fucking heavy. Also, a secondary use of the camera is to take into environments where $10k of kit probably shouldn’t, like the beach, and places it can’t, like clubs that don’t allow interchangeable lens cameras.

Things I was excited about getting the camera: The 40mm (equivalent) focal length is probably my favorite? It can look like what you need it to, basically, although if what you need is a 200mm tele, you’re out of luck. I never have anything longer than 120 on me unless I know I’m going after birds (which is rare, because I hate schlepping an extra 5kg of lens). Also, it’s the same focal length as two other compacts I love: the Rollei 35 T and the Minolta CLE (the CLE can use any M lens, but I only ever use it with a 40mm).

Other than that? I was hopeful that it would ‘click’, but there are a couple areas I was worried about:

  • Focus: I needn’t have worried about this one. It has several modes, and in decent to fair light (down to a comfortably lit interior, let’s say) it’s plenty snappy. There was a bit of a learning curve, and I feel like learning the different modes is a good use of your time with this camera.
  • Depth: At f/2.8, I didn’t know if I would be able to have a narrow enough plane of focus for my taste. I think it works, but I’d be happier with f/2. Pretty please, Ricoh?
  • Startup time: This is often a pain with small cameras. Not so with the Ricoh. It’s faster to go from off to taking a picture than my M10-P. (Slower than the champ, my Nikon D750).
  • Shutter lag: it’s as near to instant as I can tell with my various Mark 1 senses. I didn’t use it for any super fast action (no race cars, no sportsing), but I think it’d be fine for that, if you can get close enough.
  • Battery life: people online will tell you 200 shots on a battery as if that’s small. For this kind of camera, it’s perfect, and a spare battery will fit in any pocket. Also, I feel like I got more than that from a battery, but they are brand new still.

It does the thing; I could tell within about half an hour of shooting with it that it was going to work for me. Along the way I hit a couple bumps, though. I didn’t know how to engage manual focus when I was shooting the Aurora from our transatlantic flight, so all those pictures are blurry. It took me a little bit to figure out how to adjust shutter and aperture in manual mode. Other than that? It’s a good little camera. I was reminded, working with it, of the sensation of shooting with my F5 when it was new. Just a clean, well thought out instrument that does the job it’s made for. No excuses, no compromises for size (except not having a viewfinder).

One last note, on pocketability: It does fit into a pants pocket. HOWEVER, it’s pretty noticeable. Is that a camera in your pocket or do you need to see a doctor? Goes better in a small bag or jacket pocket; I carried mine, for most of the trip, in a small sling, along with my kindle, a couple spare batteries, sunglasses, money, phone, maybe some bug spray? And kept my pockets empty, so I didn’t have to remember to take stuff out when I was going in the ocean. Beaches, man.

All photos taken with the Ricoh on Sardinia, way back in September. Various settings, who cares? A range of ISOs, mostly shooting with the lens at maximum aperture because that’s how I feel like doing it right now. More pictures with the same camera for the next couple posts, as it’s the only one I used the whole time on the island.

Posted on 2022-11-07 09:16:50Z GMT

Rome for a few hours

Woke up early-ish in our hotel in Florence, had what was probably the best breakfast of the trip (they had a pancake machine and real maple syrup), and took a city bus down to the Florence train station, Santa Maria Novella. We purchased tickets from a nice lady and had just enough time to grab some food before our train left for Rome. I want to say it was about two hours on the train, just sort of sinking into our jetlag and exhaustion. It was going to be a long day.

The first thing we did was stash our larger bags. Sophie and I both had packed relatively light for two weeks away from home, just a carry on and personal item (camera bag for me, backpack for her). But lugging even that much luggage around the city seemed like a real pain, and there are plenty of luggage storage spots that’ll hang onto your bags for a small fee right by the train station. Once that was stashed, we set off walking.

The original plan was to walk quite a long way, to try to stay awake as long as possible. We sat down at a cafe in Rome and got some espressos, and immediately felt tired. The coffee picture was taken at 6am California time, or about 2pm in rome. Our flight out of Fiumicino was later, like 8pm, so we had time to see a few things. We ventured inside a church that had us go through a metal detector that didn’t care at all about my cameras; I was hauling the whole kit, since I didn’t want to leave the real valuables in a luggage storage spot of unknown provenance. They didn’t seem to care or even want to look in my bag when it made the thing beep. I must’ve looked pretty harmless or very jet lagged or both.

Inside the church, there were a lot of incredible works of art, just amazing, and not a ton of light. This wasn’t one of the big main churches, just one that was sort of in our path. There is an unbelievable amount of wealth in rome, just centuries of the church paying for people to make cool shit and then gild it with gold from faraway lands.

After the church, we walked another 20ish minutes, slowly, to the Colosseum. It’s possible we could’ve ridden the metro and been there in just a few minutes, but remember, time to kill (on checking, now, I think the metro station may have been under construction? hard to say for sure). So we walked through a pretty scruffy park and there were other ruins, less famous, fenced off there. It came into view from kind of the top of a hill. Lots of tourists, huge line to get it, so we decided, at least for this trip, to just walk around. It was super hot anyway.

Walking around, about 3/4 of the way, both myself and Sophie hit a wall, and just sat in the shade for a minute drinking water. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor and majority rules, we hopped a taxi back to the train station. The taxi driver dropped us off a couple blocks from the station because from the direction of the Colosseum the traffic was kind of impossible. Which turned out to be a stroke of luck, because we sat down at the first pasta joint we saw and ordered what looked good, plus a beer for me and a wine for Sophie, just for safety. And the food was really good, like pretty much every other meal we had while we were in Italy. Seriously, they export their tomatoes, but they keep the best stuff for domestic consumption.

Then, back into the train station, tickets on the Leonardo Express to Fiumicino. I think we both dozed a bit on the train, and then while we were in the airport, I lost my hat shuffling things in my bag. We bought a bottle of champs in the terminal so we’d have something for breakfast, and I had to put it in my bigger bag, which had my hat; after that point, the hat was not seen. RIP cubs hat with the neon logo. Anyway, our flight was on time for a change, so we left Rome at around 9 and landed in Olbia around 10. Someone Sophie knew on from the festival group on Facebook gave us a ride from there to San Teodoro, where the festival was held. Finally got to our airbnb around 11 and crashed pretty hard.

Next: festival and probably finally review the tiny camera…

Posted on 2022-10-28 07:20:33Z GMT

Getting there (Italy pt 1)

So, after Point Reyes and my birthday on Tuesday, I basically did laundry and started packing again, this time for two weeks away in Italy. A for-real vacation for the first time in a while. Two years? Maybe three? 2020 we went to Colorado in the fall, but that was a working trip, where we were just isolated somewhere else and doing our jobs remotely. I don’t recall a vacation in 2021. NYC in 2019 might be the last one? Anyway. New camera came wednesday of that week, and I have some thoughts, which I’m gonna share at a later date. It came on the trip.

We went to the airport mid-afternoon, for a 7something departure, SFO to Frankfurt, and then Frankfurt to Florence, where we were stopping overnight. I’m sure Frankfurt is a lovely town, but Florence is a short train ride from Rome, and for some reason the tickets were cheaper (and our hotel, too). It made a sort of sense when we were planning, anyway.

I really do love the international terminal’s departures hall. Just a big airy space. People going somewhere, people coming from somewhere. Also, I never knew that SFO has an out-of-doors patio at the far end of the G terminal, but it was right by our gate, so we took the opportunity to get a couple last breaths of fresh air and sunlight.

Anyway, we boarded and were delayed, but finally took off. I sat there, reading for quite a while, and then I looked out the window and noticed some odd lights: it took me a moment to realize, in my sleep-deprived state, that it was the Aurora. I’d never seen it in person before. Of course, I only had the tiny camera, and didn’t yet know how to lock it to infinity, so the resulting pictures are even blurrier than they would be normally. Still, it’s something.

Arrived in Frankfurt, got our passports stamped for entry into the EU, and ran for our flight to Florence, only to see that it too was delayed, and then it was delayed again. Finally, we boarded, flew another hour, and landed at sunset in Florence (beautiful, but through a dirty window; the pictures look like they were taken with vaseline on the lens). Wandered out to find the Taxi stand and the queue, waited another 30 minutes, and got to our hotel just in time to get dinner.

Then the next day, we had breakfast and set off for a day in Rome. Next time!

Posted on 2022-10-25 08:29:53Z GMT

Drink n Draw, July 2021

This was summer 2021, after everyone got vaccinated but before Delta came and took away our hopes and dreams. Drink and Draw is a little get together for creative folks to be creative in an easygoing space. I haven’t been in a while, but the format is probably the same now; they’re announced on insta @drinkndraw.elis.

Anyway, at the start, everybody throws out a prompt, and someone makes a list of all of them. Then you just sit there and chat and draw the prompts and have drinks and food and sometimes there’s a dog. I’m a terrible draw-er but it’s still fun to see what people come up with, to figure out interesting ways to interpret the prompts, and just have fun being creative with folks.

Pausing on the recent for a little bit while I live with the next photos off the queue from my month-ish of travel. It’s nice to get a little distance from the photos. At least, that’s what I tell myself to justify a year+ of backlog that I haven’t posted. Also, I feel like the next post is going to be somewhat camera-reviewy, which makes me cringe reading it back to myself. but I spent a long time agonizing over this new camera, and really ended up liking it, and I think there are things about it not covered in the endless algorithm optimized reviews that are already out there. So, a review.

Oh, look at the time, seems I’m all out of words. Go read Tony’s blog, he’s better at words anyway.

Posted on 2022-10-11 07:34:45Z GMT

Point Reyes at Sunset

So we set out from James and Janelle’s, heading due west on back roads. Pretty quickly we were in the middle of nowhere, practically. North of Petaluma and west of 101 is ranch and wine country. Lots of big hills that don’t quite make mountains. We got to the 1 at Tomales, and followed it south.

There are a half dozen little towns you pass through on the way down the eastern side of Tomales Bay; little places that may have once subsisted on fishing industry, but now seem to exist mostly for people to visit. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a gem of a little bay, and the rolling hills make for an excellent drive, even on the sunday of a big holiday weekend. The traffic wasn’t bad, but there were a lot of tourists hitting the open restaurants.

For no particular reason (OK, a very peculiar one unrelated to anything here), I’ve been thinking about dowsing the last couple of days. You know, the thing where someone gets a forked stick, or sometimes two bent wires, and they walk around and find where to dig for a well. You might be thinking, “Surely that must be fake, and there’s no way hard-headed Matt believes in such nonsense,” but you’d be wrong. You see, I have the knack for dowsing myself.

I don’t remember how it started. I think we’d seen some show on the history channel about it, and the person in the show had used bent wires, L shaped, one in each hand, with the long part of the L being maybe 18” and sticking out in front. My dad said, yeah, some folk have the knack and some don’t. Your Great Uncle Shorty, (or some other relative, I don’t recall) he could dowse.” Well, one of us realized we had a surplus of wire coat hangers and pliers.

Next thing we knew, all three of us were out in the back yard pacing around. The first time the wires crossed in my hand ( and every time after, too) it felt as though some force was pushing on them, and there was no way for me to stop them. We had well water, despite living in a house in the middle of a suburb of 35,000; the house predated the development of the area by a few years. The wires would always cross when I walked over where the pipes fed from the wellhouse to the house proper. Eyes closed, eyes open. Weird, inexplicable, not terribly useful skill, in the days of ground penetrating radar and sonar and whatnot.

I tell that story because it feels a little bit like the process of making pictures for me. Like there’s this inexplicable force between me and the image. Sometimes I go out with my camera (bend coat hanger rods) and look for the pictures (the water) and can’t find it, other times it’s there and I can’t stop it. There are a lot of easy explanations that flatten an essentially inexplicable experience; if you try to examine it too closely it disappears.

I’ve talked recently about good days shooting, and this is kind of like that. I think what I was talking about in that post was a kind of mastery, of getting the thing right. A dowser day, a day like this sunday afternoon, is more like something rolling down the hill. It’s a thing that happens as a side effect of pointing the camera at stuff and pushing the button. “In the moment of aiming, the [camera] turns like a dowser’s wand” (to steal a paraphrase from Tom Waits) and even though it feels like you haven’t done anything, the pictures happen.

OK, enough blather. I probably should have tried for a tighter edit; maybe one less boat? I had so many of that long beach that I cut, and other images of pretty much everything you see here. This edit started out at like 40 pictures. Anyway. Next: Matt goes to Europe and reviews a camera (maybe).

Posted on 2022-10-05 06:01:12Z GMT