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.
I owned (and broke) two of these cameras during 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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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- If you accidentally open the film back mid-roll, you won’t lose all the photos you’ve already taken.
- 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 cameras, as you’ll 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.
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 a 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!
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.
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 of shots taken with the camera over the last couple of months:
Thanks for reading!
Ricoh GR1s DATE specifications
|Camera name||Ricoh GR1s DATE|
|Camera type||Point and shoot|
|Manufacture dates||1997 onwards|
|Lens||GR Lens 28mm f/2.8-22
7 elements, 4 groups
|Viewfinder||"Real image viewfinder"
Parallax correction guides
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
|Focusing||Active multi-beam autofocus
Wide beam focus
SNAP prefocus -
~0.35m to infinity
|Metering||Automatic exposure control or spot metering
|Viewfinder||~83% field of view
Bright viewfinder with low-light illumination
Parallax correction marks for close focus (x2)
Shutter speed indicator
Program mode indicatior
Focus point indication
Shooting mode indication
|ISO||DX coded: ISO 50-3200
ISO 100 default for non-DX coded films
|Flash||Built-in with auto, red-eye reduction, slow-sync\
ISO 100 - 0.3-3.5 meters
ISO 400 - 0.3-7 meters
|Loading||Auto load and rewind
Manual mid-roll rewind
|Date/time stamp||Yes - DATE versions only|
|Power||1x CR123 / CR123A (3v)|
|Weight||Weight: 180g (without battery)|
|117 x 67 x 26.5mm (WxHxD)|
|Accessories||30.5 mm filter adapter (bayonet)
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