Ricoh Round-Up from CP+: Hands-on with the GR III, new Custom KP DSLRs & 2.5D printing concept


posted Thursday, February 28, 2019 at 12:56 PM EDT


Here at the CP+ expo in Japan Ricoh has a lot of interesting goodies to show off, one of which being the very popular Ricoh GR III compact camera. As one of the first booths I came across in my show floor wanderings this morning, I not only jumped in line to get some hands-on time with the updated GR camera, but I also explored around to some of the more unique and intriguing products on display from the folks at Ricoh/Pentax.

Hands-On: Ricoh GR III

Ricoh's GR line has amassed almost cult-like status among enthusiast photographers, especially street photographers who want a discreet yet high-quality camera that's also extremely portable. The revamped Ricoh GR debuted all the way back in 2013, upgrading the line from a 1/1.7-inch sensor to a much larger APS-C sensor, yet maintaining its characteristic 28mm-eq. prime lens. The GR II successor maintained a practically identical exterior but added built-in Wi-Fi and other internal improvements. The latest revision, the Ricoh GR III, shrinks down the already-compact body to an even smaller footprint while also bumping up the resolution of its APS-C sensor from 16MP to 24MP. It also gains hybrid AF for the first time with on-sensor phase-detect pixels, as well as sensor-shift IS  and AA filter simulation.


Although I've not yet had a chance to shoot with the new GR III, I did manage to have some brief hands-on time with the camera on the show floor here at CP+. Right off the bat, the camera is impressively small. It feels like, and basically is, a pocketcam, yet one that has a big APS-C sensor nestled inside. It's a very small camera, yet one that feels incredibly sturdy and solid in the hand, much like its GR II predecessor. It has the same overall design styling, with an understated matte black color that also has a nice textured finish to the magnesium body to give it some grip and friction as you hold it. There's also some rubberized coating around the grip and rear thumb area.

In the process of making the body even smaller, the GR III loses its pop-up flash in the top-left corner. (The hot-shoe is still there, however.) The grip and the lens are also ever-so-closer together compared to the GR II. On the GR II, my fingertips bump up against the side of the lens, and they, of course, do the same on the smaller GR III. It's not uncomfortable by any means, nor does it hinder operability at all, but it's something I noticed right away when picking up the GR III.


The rear of the camera also gains not only a touchscreen but also a new rear dial control that surrounds the 4-way control. The touchscreen is very responsive, making it very quick to tap-to-focus. And speaking of focus, the new hybrid AF system felt equally as fast and responsive in my limited hands-on experience. Focus felt very quick -- I can't wait to get to try this camera out in the field.

As a fan of compact, lightweight cameras, the new Ricoh GR III, with its higher-res sensor, IBIS, phase-detect AF and touchscreen display is looking very, very intriguing indeed!

Hands-On: Theta Z1

Ricoh continues to push the development of 360-degree media creation in a big way with its latest Theta camera, the Ricoh Theta Z1. The engineers managed to squeeze in back-illuminated 1-inch-type CMOS sensors into this tiny 360-degree pocket camera that's somehow only about 60g heavier than the earlier, smaller-sensored Theta V.



Kompletely Kustom: check out these "KP Custom" limited edition DSLRs

Ricoh's no stranger to customizable styling on their DSLRs, in the past offering numerous customizable color combinations for their DSLRs, such as with K-50 and K-r cameras. Yet with the Pentax KP, they are going a step further, exploring a number of personalizations beyond just color combos. Starting with the handgrip, Pentax is going beyond your typical rubberized handgrip material and instead offering various sculpted hardwood hand grip options for your DSLR. Pentax has partnered with Miroky Techno Wood Co. LTD, the same manufacturer that produces the wood steering wheels for Lexus and has designed a variety of wood-grain handgrip options for the KP.

Diving deeper into the finer details, Pentax has also devised a partnership with Japanese watchmaker Citizen to produce a custom lens mount flange made out of their Duratect DLC material, a titanium-based material coated in DLC (diamond-like carbon) that offers excellent hardness, scratch-resistance and smoothness (presumably for pleasing lens mounting and unmounting).

Pentax KP with Citizen-derived DLC "black" lens mount material (right).

Furthermore, there are additional customizable color top covers that fit over the pop-up flash should the owner decide to add a splash of color or a different look to their camera.

Ready to place an order? Well, not just yet... Pentax has so far not announced availability for these custom DSLRs. Perhaps they are just a concept product for the time being...

A portrait prime for full-frame Pentaxians

In addition to the new KP Custom products, Pentax also revealed another "reference" product, a full-frame 85mm f/1.4 lens. Like the Custom KP cameras, the HD PENTAX-D FA★ 85mm f/1.4, which appears to offer a new top-end lens design with future camera performance improvements in mind, according to the Pentax press release.

Beyond two dimensions: Ricoh's 2.5D texture photo printing concept

Lastly, seemingly tucked away in a corner of the Ricoh booth was a rather interesting photo printing concept project, 2.5D photo printing. Utilizing a Ricoh-designed multi-layer inkjet printing technology originally designed for realistically-textured reproductions of paintings, Ricoh is thinking beyond just the standard, flat photo print. The 2.5D photo printing process uses specialized software to analyze and detect depth in a 2D photograph as well as UV-cured ink that is layered in multiple passes to create a unique, textured photographic print that follows the contours and edges of a normally flat image. This 2.5D photographic printing technology is definitely in its infancy, as fine-tuning is still necessary to determine how "textures" are derived from a 2D photograph, how best to accurately reproduce colors and much more. There's no set date as to when, if ever, this photo printing technology will come to market -- however, the artistic/painting reproduction technology is already a commercial product, according to a Ricoh engineer we spoke with.


Nevertheless, it's an interesting idea and a new concept for enjoying photographs outside of the digital realm. Perhaps we'll see this technology get put to use with enthusiast photographers looking for a way to add unique photo prints in their home, or with professional photographers as a way to offer texturalized photos for sale, or perhaps it can be used as a way for people with visual impairments to experience photographs and scenes of the world around them for the first time, the possibilities are just now beginning to be explored.


Read more from the CP+ Trade Show