Photos & Projects

Up Close and Personal with the Ricoh GR1s and Kodak T-Max P3200 at EI12,800 – By Steven Bleistein

January 15, 2020

The Ricoh GR cameras have had a kind of cult following as a street photographer’s tool of choice going back to the days when Daido Moriyama was roaming the streets of Kabukicho and Ikebukuro in Tokyo during the 1990s, creating what are now his iconic works of art with one of the early film versions of the Ricoh GR series. 

Recently, I found myself pining for the digital GRIII for street photography, the latest digital incarnation of the GR series. I wanted to try its snap shooting function, where you can lock the focus to fixed close distance focal point, like two meters or less, and zone shoot in some crowded part of Tokyo. 

Now I can fix focus and zone shoot in exactly the same way with my Fujifilm X100F and even my Leica M240. However, there is something appealing about the sleek, low profile, form-factor of the GR series cameras, which has mostly remained consistent since the inception of the first analog GR1.

Nonetheless, I am reluctant to acquire yet another piece of gear, particularly a digital camera, just to satisfy a bit of curiosity. No matter though. I reminded myself that I actually have an analog Ricoh GR1s, with which I could likely have a similar experience.

The only thing is, when zone focusing so close, you don’t get much in terms of depth of field, which can be challenging when shooting people in motion while in a moving crowd. I really want to have as much depth of field as I can get, which means shooting at f/16 or higher while also shooting at no less than 1/250 of second in order to freeze motion. That means I need a high ISO, particularly on an overcast day, like say 6400 or 12,800. For the digital GRIII ISO 12,800 is no problem, but what about the analog Ricoh GR1s?

I’ve written about the GR1s on 35mmc previously, and if you do a search, you will find other articles as well, so I won’t go into much technical detail here. The GR1s an auto-exposure camera, but can be used in aperture priority mode, and you can stop down to f/22. The maximum shutter speed is 1/500th of a second, but the camera does not allow selecting shutter speed. The best I can do is judge the light and set the aperture such that the camera choses no slower than 1/250th of second but does not require any shutter speed faster than 1/500th. 

I am not sure what the maximum ISO the GR1s can handle. The GR1s has no option to manually select ISO, but rather has a DX reader. Most 35mm films have a DX code painted on the case indicating box speed for cameras with DX readers. There is also a dial for compensating exposure plus or minus two stops, so as long as you are not squeamish about push-processing film, you have some serious latitude on speed without having to resort to spoofing the DX reader by scraping black paint off the film case or putting black tape on it. A good article on how to spoof a DX reader if your camera does not have a manual ISO setting is here. 

I decided to take myself to Asakusa one morning in December, wander among the throngs around Sensoji temple, and shoot with my GR1s. It was heavy overcast weather, so ISO 12,800 was the order of the day, particularly if I also wanted to shoot in the shadows of the narrow alleys around the temple. 

Ever since I read Johnny Martyr’s excellent piece on Kodak T-Max P3200, I have made sure always to have some stock on-hand. Kodak reintroduced the film in 2018, so that’s not a problem. Kodak T-Max stocks are all eminently pushable, and P3200 is no exception, particularly if Kodak T-Max Developer is used. Kodak provides guidelines for pushing as high as three stops—a whopping ISO 25,600!

So, I loaded a roll of T-Max P3200 into the GR1s, and set the exposure compensation to minus two EV, effectively giving me ISO 12,800—plenty for my purposes shooting at f/16 and f/22. I set the focus to the GR1s standard snap mode, which is fixed at two meters. With the GR1s, you have the option to fix the focus to other distances by focusing on an object and then locking focus with snap mode, but I figured two meters would do with the camera’s 28mm lens. 

And then I was off, shooting in close range in the teaming throngs of school kids on field trip outings, foreign tourists, and local Japanese taking a day off. 

I had a great time shooting with the GR1s. When I got home, I immediately developed the film and scanned the negatives. You can see the results for yourself.

And do I still pine for the digital GRIII after this experience with the GR1s? Nah. Not really.

The analog GR1s is thinner and sleeker than the GRIII, has an excellent finder whereas the GRIII has only an LCD on its back, and the GR1s comes equipped with a flash that gets perfect exposure every time, whereas a flash is completely missing from the GRIII!

So why on earth would I want to pay more to downgrade? I forget what got me all excited about the GRIII to begin with. 

I am a street photographer who lives in Japan. If you would like to see more of my work, have a look at my website bleisteinphoto.com, or my Instagram @sbleistein.

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Jim Rose
    January 15, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Great photographs Steven, love the one with the capped kids doing the peace signs, the P3200 has a really good look even when pushed to 12 800.

  • Reply
    Rock
    January 15, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    I like the results of the push…well done.

    • Reply
      Steven Bleistein
      January 15, 2020 at 7:56 pm

      Thanks! With a tabular grain film monochrome film, there is never any need to feel restricted to box speed. I shoot T-Max 100 at EI 50-800, T-Max 400 at EI 100-3200, and T-Max P3200 at EI 800-25,600. Speed is never an issue. It is just the esthetic look of each film that is different for each of these.

  • Reply
    Johnny Martyr
    January 15, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for the shout-out, Steven. Fantastic images that really demonstrate that you don’t have to shoot high speed film in low light!

  • Reply
    eric
    January 15, 2020 at 11:08 pm

    It’s impressive how this film can give a touch of starting talent. Kids are great subject ;-), they make things easier 😉

  • Reply
    eric
    January 15, 2020 at 11:10 pm

    It’s impressive how this TmaX3200 can give a little touch of talent…
    Kids are great subject 😉
    they make things easier 😉

    • Reply
      Steven Bleistein
      January 15, 2020 at 11:13 pm

      Not really. Kids are no easier nor harder subject than any other. Film has no inherent talent. Only the photographer does.

      • Reply
        eric
        January 17, 2020 at 1:59 am

        I am agree, yes, Daido Moriyama has really a wonderful great talent !!!

        • Reply
          Steven Bleistein
          January 17, 2020 at 4:12 am

          Yes, and he never used any of the cameras you consider “best!”

          • eric
            January 18, 2020 at 6:45 am

            Every photographer as fetish camera is considered nearly the best, Nikon FM2 / Steve McCurry, Graflex Speed Graphic / Weegee, Rolleiflex TLR / Diane Arbus and Vivian Maier, Leica M3 / Henri Cartier-Bresson … I at my very very very low level compare to this great very talented photographer, for film, the camera which is nearly the best is the M3, and my image are not very good, this is the reason why I like to see web site like 35mmc and see the pictures of a lot of great photographers, … next time, if you can help us to remember the great talented work of Daido Moriyama, it will be very helpfull, please … 😉

          • Steven Bleistein
            January 18, 2020 at 7:20 am

            You are going to like my next article!

          • eric
            January 19, 2020 at 12:58 am

            Do you work in the advertising industry?

          • Steven Bleistein
            January 19, 2020 at 1:13 am

            No.

  • Reply
    eric
    January 17, 2020 at 1:23 am

    Yes, this time I am agree, Daido Moriyama has really a lot of talent 😉

  • Reply
    Facekat
    January 17, 2020 at 1:50 am

    So just to be clear, the -EV on these is exactly one stop, so if I’m at 3200 and set it to -1 it will then be at 6400? What if I set the isi (in a gr1v) at 5000 to -2 EV? I’m confused about the push from a non standard iso ..

    • Reply
      Steven Bleistein
      January 17, 2020 at 4:11 am

      Yes. Nothing to be confused about. The principles are the same whether a standard or non-standard ISO. -2 EV of ISO 5000 is 5000 x 2^2 = 5000 x 4 = ISO 20,000. Basically, you double ISO 5000 twice just as you would any standard ISO.

  • Reply
    Ricoh GRIII and GR1s Experience Comparison by a Film Agnostic - By Steven Bleistein - 35mmc
    February 18, 2020 at 10:00 am

    […] am sure to get some grief about this piece given that my last article on the analoge Ricoh GR1s ended with my resolution that I was not interested in buying a digital GR. Well, that sentiment […]

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