Good day you war torn hardcore camera geeks! My apologies for the long transit time between reviews. As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am concentrating on building up our YouTube channel. I think if and when I hit 1000 subscribers I will return to posting articles here full time 🙂
Hopefully, the length of this article will make it up to you somewhat. Hopefully, it’s all the information you will need on this classic digital camera.
If I may, I’d like to ask you a few questions before I begin. Do you still listen to CDs in your CD player? Is John Paul II still the Pope? Is George W. Bush still President of the United States? Do you still use your original Ricoh GR Digital? Yes, I’m asking you about the GRD 8.1 megapixels!
This reminds me of those comments people leave for old music videos which might go something like this: “Anyone still paying attention in 2021?”
Is it just me or does time seem to be flying by at a breakneck pace? Man, in my mind 2005 wasn’t all that long ago and yet here we are 16 years later in 2021!
Where is this all leading to? Let’s get to it!
THE RICOH GR DIGITAL
The Ricoh GR Digital is an 8.1 megapixel compact digital camera introduced by Ricoh Corporation of Japan in 2005. It sports a 5.9mm (28mm in 35mm equivalent) f/2.4 GR lens with a 1/1.8″ CCD sensor. It is the first direct digital descendant of the Ricoh GR1 film camera.
In subsequent years, Ricoh introduced the GR Digital II 10mp, GR Digital III 10mp, and GR Digital IV 10mp. All had incremental advances.
In 2013 Ricoh released the Ricoh GR, dropping the “Digital” from the name. This camera offered significant advances, most notably the inclusion of a new 16 megapixel APS-C sized sensor. The latest of which is the GR III introduced in 2019. This model sports a 24mp APS-C sensor.
While I will make some references to newer models, please note that this review’s primary focus will be on the original 8.1mp Ricoh GR Digital model.
Hindsight is an invaluable thing. So in hindsight, when I wrote my first review on the GR Digital I called it a point and shoot camera, and even though one can use it as such, it may be more accurate to call it an advanced compact camera because you can do more with the camera than just point and shoot. You have control over the aperture and shutter speed and various other settings. And even though the lens is fixed, you can increase its versatility through the addition of add on lenses.
I also implied that its color images were just ok. In reality, the camera takes very good color images particularly at low ISO values. But the reason I said that was because it was and still is my opinion that the black and white files from this camera overshadows its color output.
The GR Digital was and still is very popular with its cult of fanatics, but it’s not all that popular or well known to the masses so when I wrote my article in 2014 I sought to take a fresh look at this digital classic. Prior to this, the only real review on this camera was the DPReview article way back in 2006.
I like to proudly and humbly say that in 2014 we brought this camera and its filmic b&w back into the spotlight. Continue reading, I have some facts to back this up!
It took me many years to write this review update as well as put up a video on this camera, despite the fact that it remains one of the most consistently popular articles on Camera Legend and a camera people have asked me to do a video on. Why did it take so long?
Here’s the GR Digital 8.1mp Video :
In this video, not only do we look back on the GR Digital 8.1mp in hindsight, we also look at a compressed view of fifteen years of the original GRD, and I give you my settings to help you get the best black and white images out of this digital camera classic!
WHY IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO MAKE THE VIDEO
Well, I apologize for the delay but here’s why I took my sweet time with this! Ok, so in 2014 when I wrote my original article I had no idea that the camera was still as popular as it was. I mean, this is a cult camera in that it has a loyal following among its fans but the vast majority of the general public probably has no clue about it.
So I wrote my article and thought nothing more of it. The problem came when I was looking around to buy another one. Keep in mind I already had three, yes three, because I liked them so much! The first one I got back in 2006 in which I paid several hundred dollars, but the other two were bought at really low prices like $30-50! At that time I think the prices were trending at $50-80 USD.
Ok so a few weeks after I wrote my article, I looked for another one and I was dismayed to see the prices of the camera going for around $150-200. I said, hey what’s going on?!
So I took to Google to do a search and see if there was anything causing this spike. To my surprise, MY review showed up in the top spot of the Google search! At the same time, I noticed through the stats that WordPress provides me, that the GR Digital article was my most viewed article. I started putting two and two together…
Ok ok, before I get ahead of myself I just want to say I take no credit for the price increases on the original GRD! I’ve read criticisms of other reviewers from geeks on places like the DPReview forums with people saying stuff like: “Oh this guy must think he’s hot shit if he thinks that he can raise the prices based on his reviews” or “This guy must be an arrogant son of a bitch!” Those were actually comments on other camera reviewers about other cameras but I don’t want that kind of ire.
I personally think it was just coincidence, but…what a coincidence! 🙂
Anyway, I stopped doing articles on this camera because, and I’m making a confession here: I was HOARDING them! Yes that’s right. By 2017, I had about five of them! All of them were the same 8.1mp model. I love the camera that much!
I figure, if I helped raise the prices in any way through my article then I don’t want to do it again. Not just for me but for my fellow GRD 8.1mp lovers!
Today, I’m down to three. I have one for color, one for black and white with the wide angle attachment making it a poor man’s GR21 in digital form. And I keep one in the drawer in case one or both of the other two break.
As I recall, my original GR Digital article was in the Google top spot for a couple of years then fell down the list as others started to review this camera. However, as of tonight the Camera Legend article appears to be back in the top spot. It sounds great but it doesn’t really matter much. Remember, this is a cult camera. It’s not like a Sony A7III or Nikon Z7 or EOS R where the whole world is looking for reviews.
Below are selected photos from fifteen years of GR Digital images, all from the Original 8.1mp model.
TIMELESS BUT DATED
Personally, for me the original Ricoh GR Digital’s b&w implementation is timeless. It looked great in 2005 and it looks great today. It has been said by me and many others that the b&w files from this camera have a look that resembles Tri-X film. But one of the reasons I am doing this article now is because I believe that finally, its time has come and gone for most except for its hardest of hardcore fanatics like me.
Why? Because in 2005 and indeed even in 2014 when I wrote my first article, its digital b&w files were uncommon and hard to emulate in-camera by any other camera save for the Leica Monochrom. Today, in 2021, many more cameras are able to produce similar film-like digital b&w files.
Another factor for the decreased interest in this camera is that today we live in a 20-50mp world. Eight megapixels just seem way too low for the modern crowd, let alone an eight megapixel camera with a tiny sensor. But that’s fine, let them think that way!
To me, one of the ingredients in the original GRD’s secret sauce is its “low” 8.1mp count! Yes, just as I mentioned in my Contax N Digital 6mp review, I find that cameras with lower not higher megapixels produces files more reminiscent of scanned 35mm film.
While its siblings like the 16 or 24mp GR cameras produce sharper, more noise free images, those qualities also make the files from those cameras more digital in appearance, in my opinion. I have the 16mp GR and I still to this day prefer the b&w files from the 8.1mp original because its files are noisier, grittier, grainier. That’s what gives it that “film-like” look.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
If you’re seeking the original 8.1mp GR Digital, the good news is that the camera is still easily found but mostly on eBay and usually from dealers in Japan. The prices are trending at $100-150 which to any point and shoot from the 2005 era would seem really high but for the GRD I think it’s a fair price for an amazing camera for black and white photography.
The original Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp has remained one of my favorite cameras since I got my first copy in 2006. And it also remains one of my most frequently used. Coming from a dedicated gear head who has gone through countless cameras I think that says a lot about how much I love this camera!
However, I concede that it’s not for everyone. If you’re not a fan of black and white photography, this camera is not for you. If you are anti digital and will accept only black and white images from film then this camera is not for you.
But for anyone who loves black and white photography, especially black and white street photography the original GRD remains a compelling and low cost choice for b&w work.
Today in 2021, the original GR Digital may seem very basic in comparison to its 16 and 24 megapixel GR siblings but in my opinion its black and white files will still give the newer cameras a run for their money while putting more money in your pocket!
The original Ricoh GR Digital 8.1mp has been a constant companion during the last 16 years and it is one of my most loved Camera Legend cameras of all time. If you love black and white photography, get it!
ALTERNATIVES Ricoh GR III Leica M10 Monochrom Fuji X-T4 Olympus Pen F