Ricoh GR Digital

If you’re serious about blending photography and mountaineering, you’ll know that the list of cameras suitable for professional quality photographs that can withstand the rigors of mountain life and weather is extremely short.

The criteria are simple: pocketable, reliable, fast, easy, weather resistant, and exceptional lens quality.

To that end, the short list pretty much ends with the Ricoh GR, Contax T3, and for those on a budget, the Yashica T4. The latter’s build quality means that it’s not going to last you through a lot of banging and hacking, so it’s the former two models that really grab the fame. Of those two, it’s the Ricoh GR that garnered cult status among the pros, due to its more comfortable form factor and rubber grip: a nice feature when one hand is hanging from an ice tool shaft and the other is left to snap a photo of your belay partner.

The pending release of the Ricoh GR Digital, then, is bound to create excitement among those who appreciate these minute details that make for high quality mountaineering and backpacking photographs.

I’ve been using the Ricoh GR Digital for a bit now, and it feels great in hand and pocket. Solid build quality, metal case, and light. It’s very fast (‘on’ to ‘record’) which means I won’t lose a lot of shots, and the most important functions seem to be managed by a button and not buried in a menu nest: flash, self timer, exposure compensation, aperture control, macro mode, and more.

I’m sure the pro-lab reviewers will have critiques about those nether portions of the image field as the Ricoh GR Digital hits the US market this winter (uhhh, when is that again?) but the lens quality is good enough to create crisp, well-saturated mountain images that are nothing short of stunning on the web for print journalism. We don’t really need this camera to do gallery prints, but at 8 mp and the f/2.4 GR lens, its enlargements do well.

I’m writing the review for the Ricoh GR Digital for Backpacking Light Magazine, so if you have an online subscription there, stay tuned for more: I’m putting the camera through its paces in an outdoor wilderness context, and I have plenty to say about durability, weather resistance, and ease of use.

The short version: it’s money well spent. This one’s a beaut. And Japan’s got’em.

Holler if you can’t figure out how to convert the menus to English…