Dust in the Ricoh GR II & my opinion about the GR IIIx

A couple of weeks ago I was shooting some editorial for a brand. The owners became fans of the Ricoh GR after I used it for some of their photos, so they let me know they would enjoy for it to be used whenever possible. That would have been a pleasure as usual, if I didn’t get my first dust on the sensor.

Yes indeed –– after years being careful, I finally got dust inside my GR II. I don’t know when or how it happened, as you may remember from my Ricoh GR II review I have been quite careful with this. Some of the specks of dust are big enough to be visible at all fstop values and they are in a position where it is often not practical removing it in Photoshop.

Circles around dust, a triangle around a burned pixel. Shot at f8 for making the dust more defined.

Ricoh cameras have no assistance at all in Italy unless you buy them with Italian FOWA insurance, and since I had no idea about this I bought mine years ago outside FOWA circuit. So there is no place I can send the camera to for service in Italy. I could look for a place outside Italy maybe, but I think the total of costs would be too high compared to the cost of a new GR II. I will see what to do. So, what happened with the shooting?

Ricoh GR II, Positive Film and adjusted in post.

I still brought the Ricoh GR with me and managed to shoot something (I share some of these here in the post), but for the majority of the session I went back to the Nikon D850 with the Nikkor 28mm f1.4, a truly magnificent lens. Yes, this way I lost the Ricoh’s unique organic look and colors, and of course I also missed the fast and flowing shooting experience, but at least I was able of capturing photos devoid of dust.

This brings me to the same old considerations: GR cameras need to have the dust issue solved, because it is not acceptable that such expensive cameras are bound to become useless or seriously limited over a short amount of time, with normal usage.

Ricoh GR II, DNG and adjusted in post.

When we got the GR III we saw no real solution to the dust issue, and we received instead a new issue in the form of the heating. You all know my opinion about that camera. I just saw a video of a popular YouTuber that celebrates his 2 years of GR III. He is not mentioning the heating (as usual in his videos about the camera) and he says that even if his camera is now showing some malfunctioning that affects the AF, it is fine because he doesn’t “baby sit” his cameras and it is ok if they stop working properly at some point.

I can’t help but feel some disconcert if a person says it is ok a camera stops working as it should after 2 years because you didn’t “baby sit it”. I was raised to give money more value and expect objects to last more and keep working unless being seriously damaged. The GR III, like my beloved the GR II, is not very well built. It definitely has some design and quality control issues. That is why so many users are sooner or later having the same problems.

Ricoh GR II, Positive Film and adjusted in post.

My GR II recently started having another issue that seems very common: during usage it registers button clicks that are not happening, so if you are in a menu it kicks you out of it, it doesn’t let you access effects, etc. It happens rarely and randomly and then it goes away. It may be some false electronic contact happening. Is this fine? Is it fine a camera paid 800 euros has such problems? I definitely don’t “baby sit” my cameras but I am also careful enough and I never dropped one or had any damaging event happening to them.

I still love the GR, even with all these problems. For me it is as close to perfection as a camera can be, and I will keep suggesting people to get one (a GR or GR II, of course, not a GR III). But I can’t ignore these little marvellous cameras have some issues that one must be aware of.

Ricoh GR II, Positive Film and adjusted in post.

When Ricoh announced the GR IIIx I hoped it was a GR III with the heating and sealing issues sorted out. I really wanted it to be true. But instead what Ricoh announced is a GR III with a 40mm equivalent lens.

Many desired that focal length and I guess it is nice Ricoh listened, but still… I think there are other and much higher priorities in GR’s world. So, will I buy one? Probably not, and here is why.

First of all and most important: it is still a GR III, with all the issues I found in it and that you can read about in my posts, here and here. Unless Ricoh finally fixed major issues but doesn’t want to get credit for that, the GR IIIx will still overheat, get dust, randomly register false contacts, etc.

Ricoh GR II, DNG and adjusted in post.

Some people wrote to me their GR III is working great and has no issues, and I am happy for them. But to this day I bought and sent back the GR III three times, because it always became hot after few minutes of usage. Tens of users wrote to me saying they also sent the camera back because of heating, and Internet is filled with people complaining about this. The problem is real and it is not so rare. Again, I am happy is there are people that can enjoy the GR III without problems, but I still must report my experience and the experience of people I know.

Ricoh GR II, DNG and adjusted in post.

Second, I am not interested in the GR IIIx because I love the 28mm focal length. That’s why I bought a GR years ago. I would keep with me a second GR with a different focal length only if it provided a relevant difference in terms of composition. There is definitely a difference between 28mm and 40mm, but not big enough to make me want to carry two cameras and switch them on the fly. Yes they are light and small but I would still need to go from one to another, and if I am in the middle of a shooting I still need to keep both at hand. Most of the times you can get a 40mm framing moving your 28mm closer one meter. Compression may change but how many times is that truly relevant?

I think a 50mm or even better a 58mm equivalent lens would have brought enough differences to make this an interesting scenario. But as we know, each photographer has a different dream!

Ricoh GR II, DNG and adjusted in post.

It seems Ricoh is wanting to do what Sigma did years ago with the DP1 (28mm eq), DP2 (41mm eq) and DP3 (75mm eq). The Sigma DP line had an amazing image quality if you managed to keep the ISO at base level or slightly above it. Values of 400 would already start crushing the image quality. That made these cameras an extremely niche product inside a very restricted market, and they didn’t have the success they deserved.

A 40mm Ricoh GR makes sense for people that prefer that focal length to 28mm. Some m43 users love the Panasonic 20mm 1.7, that brings a similar experience to a 40mm lens.

My little Smena 8M. I used to have so much fun with it, ignoring all of its shortcomings. Comparing it to modern cameras is revealing.

When ages ago I started taking photography seriously I used to shoot a lot with the Smena 8M, a soviet compact plastic camera, fully manual, with a 40mm f4 fixed lens: for this reason it became a focal length I learned to like and that I still enjoy from time to time, but for me the GR remains a 28mm camera.

I am happy whenever Ricoh / Pentax realeases something, even if it is something I won’t get. I hope people will buy the GR IIIx and enjoy it. I could eventually get one just to test it, but at the moment that’s very low among my photo priorities!

Ricoh GR II, Positive Film and adjusted in post.

The GR IIIx is probably another camera release for taking time before (hopefully!) releasing a GR IV, and it is ok. Take your time Ricoh, but please for your next camera try to listen to photographers more than to YouTubers looking for a passive income and blind fans. The next GR has to fix the heating and dust issue, and we need to get better quality control. You are one of the most honorable companies –– you can do it. That is top priority.

As I said somewhere else, the GR occupies a niche and I think the first goal in a niche is to reach excellence within it. Ricoh should manifacture a compact camera with high quality fixed 28mm equivalent lens, a good APSC sensor, very high image quality, no heating, some degree of sealing, few but good and unique in camera film simulations, good battery life.

Let’s all hope they will get it right soon, because the GR truly is the last romantic camera.

18 comments

  1. Your Blogs are always spot on! To me I staying away from 3x because same crappy battery. Love my GR2 and since I got it put tape on any holes on chassis and no dust issues! Use GRD4 along with 2, and the Q, that’s my line up. Had the d850 and may I suggest you borrow a Tamron lens, you won’t go back Nikkor. Please keep your wonderful informative articles coming! Stay away from you and yours!

    1. Hi John! I never got around to understanding how much the GR III battery would last, because all three cameras started getting hot very fast 🙂

      I had a Tamron 45 1.8 SP for the Nikon, it was a very good lens! Definitely sharper than the 50mm 1.8 and 1.4 from Nikon, and it had very good stabilization. I also tried the Tamron 24-70 2.8 G2 and it was amazing. One problem with third party lenses on high resolution dslr cameras is that they often require accurate calibration, and this can become a mess especially with zooms. I luckily never had to calibrate a Nikkor lens, but I had to calibrate all my Tamron and Sigma ones. The problem is mostly disappearing if using these lenses on a Nikon Z camera, of course: I recently got a Z6 II and I could write about it in a post! Bottom line is that it’s an amazing camera but I prefer the D850 optical viewfinder to the EVF 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Have a good time!

  2. I managed to get rid of a dust spot in my GRII by putting the vacuum cleaner hose over the lens, it was just the right size, and switching it on for a few seconds. The dust disappeared and I haven’t had another one since. Might be worth a try but it could also make it worse I suppose.

    1. I tried something similar but it didn’t help, I guess my dust is just too much and too sticky : ) I will try opening the GR and cleaning it on my own following a guide, and then let you all know how it went!

  3. I’ve held off from the GRIII largely due to your comments, Andrea, but I’m afraid the 40mm is just too tempting. Probably I’d be even more excited by a 75mm (I loved the Sigma DP3m) but 40mm does seem like a commercially sensible compromise. Note, I managed to shake dust off of my GRii simply by using a compressed air blower around the lens. I was probably lucky, I could easily have made things worse 🙂

    1. Hello David! Please share your experience if you get the GR IIIx! I may also get one just to test it for the blog. About the dust: I tried that technique but it didn’t help much. I was suggested to use the detailed guide written by Jamie Collison and I will report on the blog after doing it! Thanks for reading the blog and giving your feedback!

  4. Hi, Andrea! Love your blogs and also share your view. Some years ago, I discovered GRII, thanks to you, and loved it and the colors that it produced. I tried GRIII, and just like you, felt that the magic was lost somehow. The colors felt just off. I then switched to a camera with a rangefinder and manual focus – a totally different thing from the GR line. I played with a variety of lenses, settling on just two eventually. Found my thing, I guess. I may try GRII again, and see how it feels now that I have some skill in LR and understand more about how I want things. Keep up the good work! Again, I appreciate your blogs. Hi from Alaska!

    1. Hi Andrei! I just visited your gallery at 500px and I love your photography — beautiful colors and tones, you are capturing wonderful scenes. I am also thinking about getting the same kind of camera you got, but I am still conflicted. I shot film rangefinders for kinda 10 years before getting into digital, and I do miss that feeling. As the same time, I love the immediate interaction given by the GR — it’s quite interesting how we can be attracted by opposites at the same time! Thanks for reading the blog, take care! Greetings from Sardinia : )

  5. Welcome back, Andrea, and thanks for the new blog. As always, informative, interesting and challenging, too.
    When you approach Ricoh with your list of issues to be addressed could you please add ‘Effects Bracketing’ (present on the GRII, absent from the GRIII). It was great to be able to take Hi contrast B&W, HDR, and Vivid colour images simultaneously.
    Touch wood, I’m still very happy with my GRIII and no issue with heating.
    I hope you are successful in removing / minimizing the dust spots. If so, or if you decide to get another GRII, you could add the filter adaptor and a UV filter. I does add a little bulk, but it does encase the lens assembly and should deter the dust from entering the camera body.

    1. Hi Peter! Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it. I didn’t remember they removed the Effects Bracketing from the GR III — its seems a weird choice indeed! Let’s hope they will bring it back with a firmware update.

      Some people think I am hating the GR III and hoping them all to malfunction, but it’s not the case. On the contrary, I hope everyone is happy with what they bought, that’s why I am glad your GR III is working great and I wish it to go on this way! 🙂

      I always had the adaptor and UV filter on my GR II, and when I didn’t have that, I had the adaptor and 21mm converter. So there are only two solutions: the dust entered while changing adaptors, or it entered even if the adaptor was mounted. Either way, quite unlucky! But I hope I will fix it on my own following the guide I mentioned before. I will keep you all informed 🙂

      Have a great time!

  6. Loving the blog and images.
    I love the Ricoh GRIII and use it as my EDC. I keep it in a belt case, actually the Ricoh GC-1 from the original GRD. I love the return to the original size, the GR and GRII became a bit to big for a proper EDC for me, although I used it as such.
    I’ve so far had no problems with dust, heating and find the battery life fine for my use. I’m not interested in shots per charge but how frequently I need to charge/swap battery , which is about once every 2-3 weeks with a bit of use most days. I don’t keep the camera switched on between shots as it is so fast to start up I’ve never felt I’ve missed a shot because of this.
    I find the JPEGs better than the GR and especially appreciate the additional presets and the massive amount of adjustments that can be applied to each, meaning I’m able to customise the camera to my taste. IBIS, faster AF, built-in macro and extra Mpixels are icing on the cake. The GR hasn’t seen any use since I got the GRIII just after its release.

  7. Hi Andrea,
    I very much look up to you work, appreciate your thoughts on cameras and photography. I share the love you have for the Ricoh GR (I or II) and don’t seem to be able to truly enjoy the GR III and IIIx. Similar to you I have bought the III three times already and always ended up selling it again. Currently I’m in the process of giving the IIIx a go. While I also think that a camera should never heat up from usage the biggest flaw for me is the altered look of Positive Film. I guess we’re spoiled by the files we get from our GR I and II 😉
    Anyway, I wanted to write to you before you open up your GR II for sensor cleaning. Have you tried holding something vibrating to your camera, like the back of an electronic toothbrush or hair clippers? This has worked for me multiple times. Good luck!
    Best,
    Jakob

    1. Hi Jakob! Thanks for sharing your experience. The different rendition of Positive Film and Hi-Contrast B&W is the other major issue I found with the GR III, yes. I guess that even if it didn’t heat I would have used the GR III only for DNG shooting, doing my own colors and bw in post.That’s a different situation than what we can enjoy with the GR II and its amazing jpgs!
      I tried different kinds of vibrations on the GR and the dust sadly never moved a mm. I applied them all around the back of the camera and also to the front, without any luck. On which part of the camera did you apply the vibration?
      Thanks very much for reading and commenting!

      EDIT: I watched your video and I tweeted about it, it is very interesting!

  8. Love your blog and sorry to hear about the dust on your GR2.
    There are cheaper models from Japan that are on good condition maybe you want to buy a new one to replace it if ever you can’t fix it. I will buy them there soon. Thanks for the great reviews about the GR2!

    1. Thank you for your comment, I am glad you like the blog. I never ordered from Japan, I usually prefer to buy from italian shops when possible, so I can bother the shop if necessary 🙂

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