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Camera review: Me and my Ricoh GR1s Date by James Gifford-Mead

Here are a few thoughts on my recently purchased Ricoh GR1s Date – aka the GR1s, and also a few reasons why I bought it. I;ve broken this review into the following sections:

 

 

A bit of background on me

I work as full time photographer during the week taking pictures for corporate companies and shooting events, so unfortunately photography was becoming more and more like work. I have a feeling this happens a lot to photographers who pay their bills with shooting photography!

Anyway I thought the best way to get photography to be more fun and enjoyable was to venture back into the addictive world of shooting film.

There is so much choice out there and you can easily spend hours (when your wife isn’t looking over your shoulder!) scrolling through the endless camera choices that are on eBay and Facebook groups, so I decided to gently dip my toe into the film world with something familiar – a Ricoh GR1s.

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

I owned (and broke) two of these cameras during my my early twenties when I was backpacking in Africa, India and South America taking portraits and street scenes. The skinny Ricoh was perfect to have in my pocket for every day snapping. I took one of my favourite pictures which is proudly hanging up on my office wall of a young kite seller with a small bird watching him taken in India.

This was taken over 11 years ago!

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Anyway I (impatiently) spent a while looking for a good condition Ricoh online but I eventually found one at a great price at London Camera Exchange on the Strand, so I didn’t give it a second thought and bought it on the spot!

 

 

Camera modes

I am definitely not a technical person but I like to have a bit of control over what my camera is going to do… I tend to leave the flash off and press the Mode button on top of the camera until I get to the Centre Spot mode but there are four other modes which you can choose depending on what you are going to shoot:

  • Landscape mode (infinity)
  • Auto mode
  • SNAP mode
  • Macro mode

SNAP mode is interesting in that it allows you to set the focus of the camera to a specific distance – no refocusing, no AF seek, just shoot.

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

The other brief specs about the camera are that it has a self timer (10 seconds) and an exposure compensation dial on the top left; and an aperture dial with F stops ranging from f/2.8 to 22 on the right. The aperture selection dial also has a “Program” option if you don’t want to worry about setting it manually.

 

Layout

The left of the camera has a recessed manual film rewind button – tap it twice to rewind the film and leave the leader out. There’s also a release switch for the film door. The right of the camera has two strap mounts similar to those on some older phones and my version (the “Date”), has the option to print the date on the film.

The rear of the camera has the film door (naturally), flash setting switch and power switch. Finally, the bottom of the camera has the battery compartment door and a tripod mount, which could be useful if you are doing landscapes on a slow film.

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

 

 

PREwind

Another very nice feature of the GR1s is it’s film PREwind. When you load a new roll and close the film door, the camera prewinds the the film out of the cassette and gives you an actual count of how many shots you’ll be able to take. Each time you take a photograph, the exposed frame is wound back into the cassette. This camera shoots from the END, not START of the roll.

This has two benefits:

  1. If you accidentally open the film back mid-roll, you won’t lose all the photos you’ve already taken.
  2. If you double tap the film rewind button (to rewind leaving the leader out), it’s possible to immediately shoot the rest of the unexposed film on an SLR or other camera, as you’l be shooting from the start of the film.

If the GR1s shows 10 shots left on the roll, then you know you have ~10 shots to shoot in another camera.

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

I tend to shoot on either 35mm Ilford Delta 400 Professional or Kodak T-Max 400 and occasionally pop in an out of date colour film that a mate kindly donated a bunch of different types of (thanks Gav!).

 

 

Points of attraction

The big selling points of the camera for me is its slim size (it is little bit thicker than my iPhone SE), the manual aperture dial (I try to shoot between F5.6 to f11 so I have most things within the picture in focus), and probably most importantly: the brilliant the 28mm lens.

I love shooting wide and this camera ticks so many boxes!

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

Ricoh GR1s

The seemingly biggest downside of Ricoh GR1s is that you can’t manually set the ISO to push/pull film. The camera relies on DX coding to set the ISO automatically. The GR1v has a manual ISO setting (amongst other enhancements) but the GR1s still has a semi-hidden function: the exposure compensation dial.

You can use this to under/over expose your film by up to two stops in 1/3 increments.

 

 

Conclusions

One major flaw with the GR1 series is that the button for turning the camera on/off tends to fall off after heavy use, which how my last two Ricoh cameras became paperweights. Also you have to watch out for the LCD screen on top of the camera, as it will start to fade and die after time…

That said, the pros of the Ricoh GR1s totally outweigh the few minor downsides. I do love having this camera in my coat pocket for everyday picture taking. The main thing is that it makes taking pictures fun again!

Anyway, enough of my endless rambling here is a couple shots taken with the camera over the last couple of months:

Ricoh GR1s - Blackpool

Ricoh GR1s – Blackpool

Man having a smoke during his lunchbreak. Shot on Ilford FP4 Plus

Man having a smoke during his lunchbreak. Shot on Ilford FP4 Plus

My nephew and his tractor in Wales. Out of date Jessops C41 film.

My nephew and his tractor in Wales. Out of date Jessops C41 film.

Two men waiting outside a theatre near Tottenham Court Road, London

Two men waiting outside a theatre near Tottenham Court Road, London

Ricoh GR1s - Grundy art gallery show

Ricoh GR1s – Grundy art gallery show

Ricoh GR1s - Ballroom dancing in Blackpool

Ricoh GR1s – Ballroom dancing in Blackpool

Thanks for reading!

~ James Gifford-Mead

 

 

Ricoh GR1s DATE specifications

Camera nameRicoh GR1s DATE
Camera typePoint and shoot
Format35mm
ManufacturerRicoh
Manufacture dates1997 onwards
LensGR Lens 28mm f/2.8-22
7 elements, 4 groups
Multi-coated
Aspherical glass
Viewfinder"Real image viewfinder"
Autofocus mark
Parallax correction guides
AF indicator
Flash indicator
ShutterElectronically controlled

f/2.8-8 - 2-1/250 sec
f/8 - 2-1/325 sec
f/16 - 2-1/500 sec

Bulb mode (T)

Self timer - 10 secs
FocusingActive multi-beam autofocus
Wide beam focus
Spot focus
Infinity focus
SNAP prefocus -
~0.35m to infinity
MeteringAutomatic exposure control or spot metering
EV 2-17
Viewfinder~83% field of view
0.43 magnification
Bright viewfinder with low-light illumination
Parallax correction marks for close focus (x2)
Shutter speed indicator
Program mode indicatior
Under/overfocus warnings
Focus point indication
Shooting mode indication
ISODX coded: ISO 50-3200
ISO 100 default for non-DX coded films
FlashBuilt-in with auto, red-eye reduction, slow-sync\

Working ranges:
ISO 100 - 0.3-3.5 meters
ISO 400 - 0.3-7 meters
LoadingAuto load and rewind
Prewinds roll
Manual mid-roll rewind
Date/time stampYes - DATE versions only
WeatherproofingNo
Power1x CR123 / CR123A (3v)
WeightWeight: 180g (without battery)
Dimensions
(appx)
117 x 67 x 26.5mm (WxHxD)
Accessories30.5 mm filter adapter (bayonet)
Lens shade

 

 

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About The Author

James Gifford-Mead

I work as a Professional photographer during the week but during my spare time for fun and pleasure, I like to shoot with film.

6 Comments

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  1. great article! Now to start looking for an affordable one of these… 😉

    Reply
  2. I’m a keen amateur photographer and I had one of these a few years ago – but traded it as I wasn’t the biggest fan of 28mm as a standard / only lens. However, I really miss it – all the more since reading your article. I’ll have to see if I can track one down again – or a GR1v…..

    Reply
  3. @JGIFFORDMEAD instead of purchasing MF cameras, I really have to buy myself one of these! Pity UWA model costs way too much.

    Reply
  4. perfect article and explain about the camera that i have with me all the time in my bag 🙂
    thank you

    Reply

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