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Mike Kobal

November 10, 2013

Long term user report: the streets of NYC with the Fuji X100s and the Ricoh GR

if you like what you hear, Bonobo, Magicman

2013 is an exciting year for photographers. The race amongst camera makers continues. Competition is good, it accelerates innovation, keeps pricing somewhat sane and gives us plenty of choices. The last thing we need is a single company monopolizing the market. Without healthy competition, two of my favorite, most amazing cameras probably wouldn’t exist, the Fuji X100s and the Ricoh GR.
more after the break

I love walking the streets of NYC, observing the flow of life, one of my favorite things to do when I am not on assignment. I find it relaxing and it keeps me alert at the same time. I am addicted to it. This addiction got a lot worse or better? :) since I acquired the Fuji X100s and the Ricoh GR.

I have been shooting with these two cameras since the day they were released. I love the X100s and the GR, like for many, these cameras have rekindled my enthusiasm for photography just like I remember it from the film days. Every time I reach for either the X100s or the GR I have a smile on my face, like a kid picking up one of his favorite toys. The X100s is a “positive camera” or a “people friendly camera”, it doesn’t scare the one being photographed. Shooting portraits of friends, snaps of models or asking strangers on the street to pose, everybody shows interest and comments on the camera, many wondering if it still takes film. This of course is a huge plus. I always feel welcome when shooting with the X100s, regardless if I am among friends or strangers.

I shoot raw and found that both cameras perform very well when paired with the fastest SD cards. I absolutely love the inaudible shutter sound on the X100s and the GR, it makes life much easier during candid shooting. The 35mm equiv is the perfect focal length for classic street photography and the 28mm lens adapter works well when things get crowded. On the X100s, in good light af speed is generally very fast and I feel confident about nailing the shot. Always set to high performance mode and “indefinitely on” , the reason I pack about 5 spare batteries. Perhaps one could consider the short battery life a drawback, not a big deal since one can find high quality 3rd party batteries on eBay.
I love the size, silent shutter, look (wish there was a black version) and positive effect this camera has on friends and strangers alike.
X-trans sensor skin tone and low light rendering puts it above the competition.
Ergonomically, every control dial/button is in the right place and after shooting with it for a couple of days, operation becomes totally intuitive. I absolutely love the Hybrid view finder, although I find myself in EVF mode more often than in rangefinder mode.
Two things I would like to see improved on the Fuji X200, the on/off switch needs to have more resistance, it is too loose. I keep turning it off on accident and have missed a few good shots.
Another thing on my wishlist is a manual pre-focus or snap shot mode, just like in the GR. A very real advantage in good light.

This brings us back to the Ricoh.

I seriously think I would not be using this camera if it wasn’t for the snap mode. Although the sensor/lens combo is the best of any APSC sized camera as of this writing, it falls short in the AF dept when compared to the X100s and is outright terrible in low light. Like on the Fuji, the shutter is silent. For such a small camera with full manual control the buttons and quick menu access are first rate. Most camera makers should take a look at the Ricoh GR and learn from it.

Spec’t with the incredible 28mm 2.8 equiv, which is already tack sharp wide open, but for many too wide as a normal lens-a digital crop mode for 35mm and 47mm is available, but it really defeats the purpose of this camera.
I personally like 28mm and also welcome the option to put the 21mm super wide converter on it. Of course I would like to have a built in EVF or the option to attach one (there is an optical viewfinder option). Battery life isn’t great either. Personally I find these two cameras complement each other very well. The GR with the slightly wider lens and point and shoot appearance, the ultra wide option, snap mode and the classic rangefinder style experience with the X100s. So far both cameras have performed as expected, rain or shine.

Now what about usability beyond street shooting? The Fuji X100s wins this one, a very well rounded, classic rangerfinder style camera able to satisfy most photographers shooting pretty much anything. As a bonus the leaf shutter allows you to sync you flash up to 1/4000.
The Ricoh GR is a more specific camera, smaller and easier to pack, has a very slight edge during street photography in good light because of the snap mode and would make a better landscape camera. Oddly, the shutter on the Ricoh, syncs up to 1/400 “only”.

I will keep them both, at least until Fuji releases the X200! :)
Fuji, please integrate a snap mode like in the GR and you will be the undisputed champion on the streets of this world!

UPDATE:
The Fuji X-E2 arrived, you can read my first impressions here.

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17 Comments »

  1. Glad to get the chance to be first to comment on this as it’s a wonderful set of images, such feeling and sense of life. I come by your site now and then and I seen all together this is a great set of street photographs.

    Comment by mike — November 10, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

  2. thanks much, Mike, really appreciate it!

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 11, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  3. What a great feel your images have! The music is very fitting as well. You really capture the peak moments and feel of the city that I know and enjoy. I’ve an X100 and use it for travel and street photos because of it’s quality and no need to think about lens choices. You demonstrate it’s capabilities very well.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Ken

    Comment by ken — November 11, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

  4. Thank you so much, Ken! glad to hear that.

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 11, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

  5. Wednesday, November 13, 2013
    Mike Kobal,
    NYC Street Photography NICELY Done. Thank you!
    I wonder if you would sometime compare the Ricoh GR vs. The Fuji X-M1 with The XF18mmF2 R lens for street photography?

    Comment by pizzolog — November 13, 2013 @ 3:58 am

  6. Thanks Pizoolog! The Fuji X-M1 will make a nice street camera, esp with the fast focusing 18mm. If you already have a Fuji X and a few lenses, makes perfect sense. The shutter sound is there, just like on to the X-E1 and it will keep you about 3 to 5 feet further away from your subjects. This can make enough of a difference between getting that intimate feel in your photos or just another generic capture. The other thing, I found it a lot harder to preset manual focus on the 18mm, it is too easy to accidentally change the distance, the best lenses for hyperfocal presets are the 14mm and the newly released 23mm 1.4. Those are the +-, hope this helps!

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 13, 2013 @ 8:08 am

  7. Very nice Mike! I enjoyed it! The sense of REALISM is strong, and I love that you did it without color! Color is distracting!

    Comment by Dmitri Tsitelauri — November 20, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

  8. Thanks so much, Dmitri! I tried color – just doesn’t anything of value to the shots, glad you like it!:)

    Comment by mike.kobal — November 20, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

  9. Hi Mike,
    Love your work and your ever helpful articles. I am in the process of switching to the Fuji X system form Canon. I already have the X100s and am going to buy the XE-2,when it releases here in India. I’l get a really good deal on the Fuji XE 2 and 35mm bundle, cheaper than the kit 18-55 version! I plan to get the 14 mm and 56mm (when it releases) to complete my system. The only gap will be the 18mm (28mm), The “kit” lens on its own is almost as expensive as the Ricoh GR or I can get the wide conversion for X100S. I’m all jelly in the head as to which direction I should go to. Optically speaking is the Fuji Wide conversion same as the GR? If I understand correctly, GR’s snap focus mode is the real main advantage yeah?

    Sorry for the long post but any advice will help me making the decision!
    Thanks.

    Comment by Aashim — December 26, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

  10. Hi Aashim, that is correct, the snap mode sets the GR apart. It also has the sharpest lens/apsc combo of any apsc sized camera. However, this only matters for pixel peepers. It really depends on what you shoot, consider the WA attachment for the X100s, it is very good, i found it even speeds up the already fast af in good light, you can’t go wrong with either,
    a matter of personal preference, if you shoot a lot of traditional street, give the GR a try, if you are more into staged scenarios and portraits, stick with the Fuji system and get either the 18mm f2 or the WA attachment for the X100s. hope this helps!

    Comment by mike.kobal — December 26, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

  11. Thanks Mike! I think for now I should get the wide conversion for x100s as it is cheaper as well and build the rest of the system. But sigh the GR is something special as well, must control greed. Thanks again for your time! :)

    Comment by Aashim — December 28, 2013 @ 2:05 am

  12. Sorry, one final question though. I’ve read reports that the GR is not a great low light performer as compared to X100s. Any credence to that? How is it in your experience to use it at night?

    Comment by Aashim — December 28, 2013 @ 2:49 am

  13. fyuh really really goood mr mike, your video make me wanna throw out my 5d mark 2 :D

    Anyway can you tell me about how you edit your photo, i mean how can you make an “edgy, porcelain skintone in a 300 leonidas vilage”, how much do you do your photoshop, can you tell me whats your step maybe just in general, or detail perhaps

    i know those photoshop will be your fairy dust on your secret sauce, so just if you dont mind please share em with me

    thank you mike
    keep entertain the world with your breath taking pictures
    *blitz!!

    Comment by Arthur — April 10, 2014 @ 6:48 am

  14. Hi Arthur, I don’t really have a recipe in that sense, in LR just play with contrast and toning, it varies greatly from image to image, have fun!

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 11, 2014 @ 8:45 am

  15. Hi Mike,

    seriously its just LR? can you email me the “before edited version” of pictures in this video, because right now if its that good i don’t see any reason for me to keep my big buffy DSLR anymore, i really gonna migrate to mirrorles :D

    i am still waiting for the rite push to empty all of my camera dry cabinet and buy mirror less and start to walking around with only my thinktank retrospective 5

    thanks Mike,
    *blitz!

    Comment by Arthur — April 11, 2014 @ 10:49 pm

  16. Your work is amaizing. The pictures is so alive!

    Comment by Donatas — April 21, 2014 @ 10:27 am

  17. thank you, Donatas!

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 25, 2014 @ 8:46 am

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