Introduction We often see Ricoh's 28mm equiv GR cameras discussed alongside Fujifilm's X100 series models. The temptation is obvious: they're two of the only large-sensor fixed lens cameras sold at anything approaching a mainstream price.
But this ignores the fact that most photographers will have a strong preference for either the 28 or 35mm equivalent angle of view, and may be poorly served by one or other camera.
This changes entirely with the launch of the Ricoh GR IIIx, a 40mm equiv version of the company's storied photographers' compact. With slightly wide-of-normal lenses, the GR IIIx and Fujifilm X100V suddenly become much more meaningfully comparable, which lets us take a closer look at the real differences between two of the cameras most beloved of their users.
Both the GR and X100 designs are 'classic' in their own ways: the Fujifilm knowingly harks back to the appearance of 1960s rangefinders while the latest GR is styled in keeping with a lineage that stretches back 25 years to the GR1 film camera.
The conceptual distinction between the two cameras is clear the moment you put them alongside one another: the GR is small and discreet while the X100 is larger and much more ostentatious in its appearance. One of these cameras is designed not draw attention to itself whereas the X100 is more likely to be on display, hung around your neck and, even in its all-black form, almost begs to be a talking point.
When we say the GR IIIx is small, we mean it. The GR IIIx may be 2mm (0. 079") deeper than its 28mm equiv sibling, but it's still pretty much the only APS-C camera that can genuinely be described as pocketable. Despite this, Ricoh has found room to incorporate an image stabilization system, shifting the sensor to correct for pitch, yaw and roll.
The X100 is relatively compact but is much more difficult to stash away. Unlike the Ricoh, its lens doesn't retract into the body (though it can extend a little as it focuses). Notably, its 35mm equivalent lens opens up as far as F2, giving it a one stop advantage over the Ricoh.
Both have leaf shutters, allowing high flash sync speeds and both have built-in ND filters to allow the use of wide apertures in bright light. The Fujifilm finds room for a small built-in flash; it's not a lot but, thanks to the fast sync speed of the leaf shutter, can provide a bit of 'fill' for nearby subjects on bright days.
Viewfinders and displays
The other difference is that the X100 is built around a complex (and expensive) electronic/optical hybrid viewfinder. The latest 'V' model also has a tilt-out LCD, for waist-level shooting, but the viewfinder remains the X100's signature feature and is likely to be the most common way in which the camera is used.
By comparison, the GR has a fixed LCD, which represents its primary view on the world. A clip-in optical viewfinder is available but its 85% coverage figure and lack of settings display or connection to the camera means it's no substitute for the Fujifilm approach.
Both cameras offer touch-sensitive screens for placing the AF point or navigating menus and playback. The X100V also has a dedicated AF joystick, whereas on the Ricoh you'll need to reconfigure the camera if you want to use its four-way controller to move AF.
The conceptual differences between the cameras highlight themselves again when you go to use either of them. The Fujifilm is covered with marked dials and customizable buttons, encouraging you to take control over the camera's exposure settings and setup options. If anything, we feel the X100V might now have too many dials: having the choice of using command dials or dedicated dials for each function gives flexibility but also means that most people will find some of the controls redundant.
The Ricoh is distinctly minimalist, by comparison. It has a command dial on the front, a clickable jog lever on the rear and not a lot else. There's a fiddly ring around the four-way controller, but the camera can be set up so that everything can be controlled without moving out of the one-handed holding/shooting stance. That demands a degree of setup (it's well worth putting your most-used functions in a sensible order in the 'ADJ' menu that appears when you press the rear toggle switch inwards), but it's a way of shooting that a great many GR owners have come to love.
There's very little to call in terms of image quality between the 24MP FSI CMOS sensor in the Ricoh and the 26MP BSI one in the Fujifilm. Most of out concerns about aberrant, 'worm-like' textures appearing in images from X-Trans images (especially when processed with some third-party Raw converters) appear to have been alleviated by the move to higher resolutions, so that isn't a difference we'd be too concerned about.
In terms of lenses, there's not a huge amount to choose between them, optically, though our initial impression is that the Ricoh remains a little sharper at the corners. The Fujifilm can focus a little closer (10cm, rather than the GR IIIx's 12cm), but it still gets a little soft at close distances and wide apertures, even though it's improved over its predecessors in this regard. Then, of course, there's the Fujifilm's brighter lens, which offers slightly shallower depth-of-field and more scope for working in low light.
In terms of JPEGs, both offer a range of interesting processing modes, both color and black and white, but we'd give the edge to the Fujifilm, just by dint of offering such a wide choice of relatively subtle, attractive options.
The Fujifilm is a touch faster to autofocus than the GR IIIx but neither is super speedy. They'll both perform well for most of the types of photography they're likely to be used for, but neither is quite as rapid as the very quickest mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. And, while both offer subject tracking and face detection modes, neither camera is especially good in this regard, either. They're both quick enough that you needn't demand your subject hold their pose and expression for the camera, but they're not as immediately, unerringly in-focus as the best mirrorless models.
Where the Ricoh makes up for its lack of pace is in its signature Snap Focus mode, where the camera shifts focus to a predetermined distance (specified in the menus), when you hit the shutter button. It's a feature much appreciated by street shooters who can simply dial-in the distance they anticipate the action happening at and hit the shutter knowing where the camera will then focus. There's also a 'Full Press Snap' option that activates Snap Focus if you fully press the shutter button without half-pressing to AF.
Both the Ricoh and Fujifilm are relatively small cameras, once you've taken into account how much space the hybrid viewfinder and lens take up in the X100V's case.
Fujifilm gives numbers of 350 and 420 shots per charge for using its EVF and OVF modes, respectively. These are very respectable numbers, helped by the move to using the larger, 8. 7Wh NP-W126S battery. The Ricoh only has room for a 4. 9Wh DB-110 battery, and its battery life rating only reaches 200 shots per charge, as a result.
We find these ratings, derived from a testing protocol laid down by industry body CIPA, are distinctly under-representative of the number of shots we'll typically get, when shooting. However, a rating as low as 200 usually means constant low-level anxiety about keeping the camera charged, because it will be prone to running out if you use the camera intensively. Thankfully, both cameras can be charged or powered over their USB-C connectors, so it's easy enough to keep them topped-up, especially if you have a small power bank battery to hand.
Price and value
Neither camera is especially inexpensive but, considering you're getting a very good APS-C sensor and a sharp F2. 8 prime for your money, the Ricoh GR IIIx's list price of $1000 doesn't seem unreasonable. Its solid-feeling magnesium alloy construction is unlikely to leave you feeling short-changed.
The Fujifilm doesn't feel quite as well built as the Ricoh, with it seemingly using thinner-gauge metal to prevent things getting too hefty and the multitudinous controls not always feeling especially firm. You'll need slightly deeper pockets (its list price is $1400), but for that extra money you gain the complex hybrid viewfinder and a lens that's a whole stop brighter. In the end, both cameras feel special enough that the price tags don't feel undeserved.
The more we look at the GR IIIx and the X100V the more we feel – almost paradoxically for cameras aimed at dedicated photographers – that image quality is one of the least important factors to consider. This apparent tension is resolved because the image quality is very high in both cases.
Similarly, whereas the (non x) GR III vs X100V decision is simply a question of focal length, here the difference between the slightly wider angle Fujifilm and the nearer normal Ricoh gives us much less to choose between.
And both cameras, in their own ways, could fairly be described as modern classics: progressive iterations on designs that have built up groups of devoted users.
And yet, despite all these fundamental similarities, they remain easy to choose between. The Fujifilm is no match for the genuine pocketability of the Ricoh, while the Ricoh can't compete with the Fujifilm's dashing good looks. The (duplicative) knobs and dials for everything approach of the X100V will appeal to some people every bit as much as the 'everything you want at your fingertips' ethos of the GR IIIx.
We suspect that however you shoot, the winner will be obvious, for you. Let us know which one it is in the comments.. dpreview.com