Monday, 20 January 2014

I love the AFL/AEL button on the Ricoh GR.

The Ricoh GR has a feature that non many compact cameras have, a thumb press Autofocus (AF) button.

I have used cameras for a long time, but my serious cameras were all manual focus film cameras, and I was unaware of the benefits of thumb AF. For example, even the last of the film cameras had thumb AF, like the Nikon F6. So in most higher end cameras, there is an auto focus button on the back of the camera near the LCD screen.

I don't know of many compact cameras that have this feature, but it is very useful in a camera that is not necessarily in the high end interchangeable lens market. I previously did not think of this as a necessary feature but upon continued use, I have grown to appreciate its function. The features of thumb AF, combined with the advantages of the Ricoh GR, can prove to be very useful for everyday shooting. Perhaps some of the weaknesses of the Ricoh GR can be overcome as well.

For most compact cameras, the AF is done with a slight press of the shutter button. In essence, you cannot focus first, then wait for your shutter chance, but you must do both the focus and shutter at the same time but not in the same instance, as there is a lag in taking the picture after the focus. Never mind the fact that the focus could lock somewhere you may not want. With the thumb AF feature, you can lock focus, and take photos as instantaneously as you press the shutter button, as you've already done focus. This kind of picture taking is akin to a manual focus camera, and one that I am more accustomed to.

The AEL/AFL lever setting enables AF, while C-AF setting will continuously AF while you are pressing the button down. A feature I find very useful is the distance meter, since it tells me where the focus is locked. Not many cameras have this feature, and the thumb AF and the distance meter make the Ricoh GR a serious picture taking machine, all coupled with a very nice lens and great customized sensor.

The button is placed in a great location for my hands, which are relatively small. I can access it easily with my right hand, all while retaining the ergonomics of the previous GRD series. For me, since I have used the GRDII for a long time, this is very important. I have always thought that the best way to make better pictures is sometimes dependent on the photographer's relationship with the equipment, how well we know how to use the tools. I have to know my way around a camera, and a great camera with a great lens but a menu system that confuses me will not let me take great pictures. For example, I know my way around a GR very well, and I can set up the custom settings so that I do not have to go through the menu system to change any of the settings that I need.

AF, ISO, exposure control, snap focus, AE, White balance, picture quality, effects, 35mm crop, flash, timer, RAW to JPEG conversion, all set without going to the menu. Apart from the thumb AF button, the +/- button for exposure control is something I am very used to, and would find it difficult, or at the very least more getting used to, with a different camera.

Along with the thumb AF feature, I really find that the Ricoh GR is made for its mantra, taking candid photos. I feel that the people behind the Ricoh GR really love photography, really love cameras, and really love the GR.