The Ricoh GRii in the Delivery Room – When Less is More Than Enough

Most plans are pretty good until they aren’t. I know I had it all planned out in my head as I waited for the birth of my son – the cameras, the lenses, and even the settings.  But my son came four weeks ahead of schedule while I was in the hospital due to issues of my own.

At the time, I was 15 years into photography having tried all sorts of systems.  And when you build up a bit of gear, sometimes having too many choices is the enemy.

But fate took care of that.

The day before my son was born I took myself to the hospital as I could not hold down food.  Later that  same day, my wife felt she needed to have herself checked by her ob-gyn. It turned out that the amniotic sac was leaking and she had to give brith within the next 24 hours. She was not allowed to leave the hospital and I had to stay too.

Through a combination of timing and luck both the mother and her photographer were not prepared.

We called a family member to bring over some clothes and the “the tiny black camera on the beside table”.  Now we had some clothes and a fixed-lens compact camera with one battery— it gave me 294 shots that day (right about the average number of shots one per charge).

Here are some shots from the delivery room and the hospital’s nursery.  I shot DNG + JPEG in High-Contrast B&W at Auto ISO.  The photos you see are the JPEGs that came straight out of the camera or were converted from DNG in-camera to Positive Film. There wasn’t any LR retouching done except for lifting the shadows in a handful of photos.

The Epidural. I’ve seen the needle go in and out once before and I swore to never again face the back side.
The Grandmother-To-Be. I particularly like how this built-in Hi-Contrast B&W effect makes highlights glow, in this case of the strong light coming in through the gap in the blinds.
Team Effort. Here, the Hi-Contrast B&W mode helps tell the story by focusing on the entire scene and not certain characters. In monochrome, movement, gesture and texture stand out more prominently which works here.
Getting in there. Pun intended but this is the 47mm crop mode which helped with the framing of the shot without the camera getting too close to the team. I was standing right beside my wife holding with one hand and shooting with the other.
Work, Pray, and Wait. Wide angles might be challenging on the streets but in this small space the 28mm was perfect. With the Snap Focus mode was convenient too as I didn’t have to worry about AF while all the action was taking place and I was rewarded with this photo.
Clinging to faith. Another great thing about compacts is they allow you to get close, if I had brought my Leica M (it was in the Gear List), I would not have been able to do close-ups like this.
Delivery. While I do like the coloured version of this photo, the Hi-Contrast B&W mode rendition keeps the gory details (blood mostly) under control.
In her womb to in her arms. Yet again the wide angle helped me fill the frame in close quarters without much effort while I marvelled at seeing my child for the first time. Lucky shot for sure.
Alone for some Light Therapy. Hospital lighting is green and almost always awful but here, in B&W, it the picture is quite nice— calm and peaceful after a lot of action in the delivery room.
Life in Colour. Here in Positive Film mode, one can really see how sharp the GR lens resolves even as I shot through glass to get this photo. The tiny bumps around the nose and forehead are quite sharp despite going into an ISO range that’s a bit high for this sensor.

It is almost six years since that day in the Delivery Room.  Looking back, it was the perfect camera for the occasion.  It handled the job masterfully while allowing me to be present and supportive to my my wife.  As a bonus, I have photos I really love and enjoy looking at every now and again.  I’m glad fate made that decision for me otherwise I’d have 3 cameras in there and no good photos. 

Have I used my GR much? Not really.  I find it to be a special purpose camera these days when the occasions call for a better camera than an iPhone or when my M rangefinder is too much to take around.  Those few occasions are maybe going out to do street photography in places that aren’t so safe or at social occasions where I want a competent tool but I don’t want to get sucked in the photography too much.   

Here’s my take on the Ricoh GRII:

  • It is a great camera for portability, quality, and convenience. While the lens, Snap Focus, size, and ergonomics get a lot of praise, I feel the excellent Effect Modes, the in-camera DNG processing, and WiFi are equally great. 
  • It is for times when photography isn’t your #1 priority.  It is made for you to be in moments with the chance to capture them.  In my use case, this embodies the best of the genre Point and Shoot.   
  • It could use a few improvements on AF and battery life.  Many have said this, but I guess it could be plus because it might teach you to anticipate and react faster within the camera’s limitations. But please do considering buying at least two spare batteries and a dedicated charger because the default is charge-by-cable. 

While this camera has seen little use the last few years, I got a full return on my investment for the fine camera it was on the day my son was born.  I have been keeping it around for that infrequent special purpose and each time, it put a smile on my face.  

In Flight. As my son grew up and became more and more active, Snap AF on the camera was my go-to for action shots.
Take Off (2020). The pandemic kept me from doing street photography but I got some practice at home.
Starting Young (2021). My son with my GRII taken with the timeless classic, the Leica M8.

Find more of my photos on Instagram and my Leica M8 review here.


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10 thoughts on “The Ricoh GRii in the Delivery Room – When Less is More Than Enough”

  1. Great story, great photography, great Dad. I photographed my first daughter’s birth in 1991 with a Nikon FM2 and am now inspired to go back and look at the prints! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Stewart, thanks! I’m happy that this is bring you back to printing a special and joyous milestone in life. I’m jealous that you’re going to print negatives. Have loads of fun!

  2. Castelli Daniel

    Great story! Some of the pics, with the dramatic contrasting light, remind me of W. Eugene Smith’s “Country Doctor” story.
    I photographed our daughter’s entrance into the world back in 1986. I used a Nikon F2 & a 50mm Nikkor (1.4). Tri-X. I too, need to dig up the negs again and reprint.

    1. Hi Castelli Daniel, your comment is flattering. I looked up Country Doctor and those images are absolutely special. LIke Stewart above, I hope those negatives take you back to time of joy and awe. Cheers!

  3. Excellent photos! The GR is a great camera for just such as this. I don’t use mine much either but there’s nothing that can replace it when I need it. I even took mine to my last colonoscopy. No, I don’t have photos of the procedure itself–I was asleep during that and, besides, no one wants to see my fat ass. I do have good photos pre and post procedure. A camera made for hospital photos, I guess.

    1. Hi Dogman, you nailed it “there’s nothing that can replace it when I need it”. I guess this is why despite the significant upgrade, I can’t bring myself to get the GRIII — I don’t actually get to use it all that much. I hope your health is better after the colonoscopy, it is an experience for sure and good thing patients are out cold when they do it!

  4. Very expressive and powerful photos of such a life changing event! Thanks!
    I would love to have a go with this camera – I had been looking for a small quality digital compact but this along with all the others are way out of my budget range – so I been using small old film ones instead!

    1. Hi Ibraar! Thank you for the kind words. This was a big moment for someone like me who only really wanted to be someone’s father!

      From what I know, the GR1 is has the same sensor as the GR2 and if you can find one in good condition it might not be that expensive these days. Old film ones are cheaper for sure but the price of film where I am has really pushed me to the digital side. I have kept though my processing gear and an old scanner just in case. The GR has my full endorsement — small, fun, and those JPEGs are very nice.

  5. Great photos and narrative!

    I totally relate to this. Funny enough, I also used my grii to report on my sons birth in 2018, including a video of the actual delivery moment and first cry. Same reason as you, so small and great image quality in any conditions.

    Hope you’re enjoying combining fatherhood and the grii!

    1. There must be some secret GR club we don’t know about, Alex! Thoroughly enjoying both. I’m old so it I get tired keeping up with the movement and all the questions but having a camera in hand gives me a bit of extra energy 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying your camera and fatherhood as well!

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