I’m a heavy manual camera guy, but I’ve always admired and been envious of the point-and-shoots. Crisp black-and-whites taken on the fly without the need for a hunk of brass strapped around the neck. A throw-it-in-your pocket camera that doesn’t scream “steal me, I’m a vintage rangefinder.” A quiet, unassuming street shooter.
Over the years I’ve had an on-again off-again relationship with the Yashica T4. Takes great photos: excellent exposure, crisp focus. It also takes forever to focus and often on the wrong thing. I find it’s just as easy and fast to take a good shot with my fully manual Leica M4.
I also used a Leica C3 that I used a lot for color and slides. Despite its bulk, I loved it. It did a great job on almost everything, and the zoom, while unseemly to a purist like me, was, of course, handy. It’s just not held up well and the little rubber buttons on top have escaped their moorings and float about in the top deck. Servicing it would cost as much as replacing it.
I finally found a Ricoh GR1 that wasn’t horribly overpriced and started shooting with it right away. Love. I love this camera. Let’s look at the facts:
- It’s light
- It’s small (only slightly wider and taller than the GR Digital III)
- It has a thumb dial for aperture
- It has a manual switch for no-flash, auto-flash, flash
- The on/off switch is thumb-reachable
- It has a +/- 2 stops exposure wheel on the top deck
- It has infinity focus
- It has a 28mm lens (one of my favorite focal lengths)
One con is that it uses film really, really well. It can often get 38 shots out of a 36 shot roll. While the more frugal may rejoice, it’s a pain in my butt because I use the 6×6 Printfile sleeves (six rows of six-frame negative strips) so I have to add another sleeve for one or two frames if the photos are any good. The solution of course is to stop after 36 shots, but I’m not always paying attention and the LCD on the one I got is dodgy (hence the decent price) so I’m not always 100% sure what frame I’m on.
Note that it winds the entire roll into the camera before shooting. This means that your photos are in reverse order on the strip (good to know when you’re scanning a roll), and it also means that you can pull the roll early (there’s an option to leave the tongue of the film leader out when you rewind) and finish it in another camera, from the first frame. In other words, the GR1 starts at frame 36 (or 38) and goes backward to 1. So if you stop at frame 24, you can reload it in another camera and shoot 1-23. I don’t know who would do that, but hey, it’s a feature.
Autofocus is quick and the viewfinder gives immediate feedback for what’s getting the focus point and how far it’s focusing. So if you’re intending to focus close and you see the mountains icon in the viewfinder, you know you didn’t catch the correct focus point.
Anyway, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. They are remarkably well exposed and require very little adjustment after scanning. I haven’t printed from any of these negatives yet, but they look great and I would assume they get good results in the enlarger.
Now if only I could afford a GR21…
Any favorite point-and-shoots? Let ‘er rip in the comments.