A little on the Ricoh GRIII X and light hiking carry

· 795 words · 4 minute read

I took my Ricoh GRIII X along for this past weekend’s camping trip. Usually I go with my Fujifilm X-T4 and a few lenses, depending on what I expect to see.

This camping season I went looking for a pack a little lighter than the Osprey hydration backpack I’ve been using for a while now: I like to be able to keep my GPS, spare batteries, and multi-tool where I can just grab them without having to take my pack off. Finding something that had accessible storage and a hydration pack took me into the realm of “operator cultural” tactical goop I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, but I must have been using bad keywords because I just happened to walk into an REI and see their hydration vest for much less than the overpriced tactical wannabe stuff, and with exactly the kind of storage I was hoping for.

The vest comes with a 1.5 liter bladder, some lightweight external tie-down points/cords good for keeping a sweatshirt or sweater handy, four stretchy mesh pockets big enough to hold a GPS or phone each, and one zipper pocket on the chest that can store a phone and wallet. There’s a small main storage area I used to hold light rain pants and a self-storing rain jacket early in the season, with enough room left over for a few power bars or a paper map or trail book. There are adjustable shoulder straps and two sternum straps that allow you to get it snugged down without feeling too tight.

For our 15.5 mile hike up and down Mt. Bailey, I stored my Garmin InReach Mini tracker, a Leatherman Signal, my iPhone (which has a symbiotic relationship with the InReach), and some batteries. I carried along my X-T4 on a shoulder strap. It was fine because I wanted the big glass of my X-T4’s 10-24mm lens for the scenery.

For this past weekend’s shorter, easier trip, I wanted to have a little less camera along, so I kept the same load as last time, but swapped in the GRIII X as my camera. I have it on a Peak Design Leash. It fit perfectly in the remaining mesh pocket.

The GRIII series is a little ergonomically weird for a Fujifilm person. Like a lot of small compacts, it doesn’t have a lot of single-purpose controls and for some functionality you have to “chord” by holding down one button while you turn a dial, or press something in then use a rocker to move around inside the resulting menu.

On the other hand, it has perfectly serviceable aperture and shutter priority modes, which put those respective controls right under your finger, and exposure comp is the primary function of another control.

The small-camera ergonomics take a little getting used to, but I feel somewhat fluent after several months. I’ve also come to love a few things about it:

  1. The Ricoh mobile app is so much better than Fujifilm’s I don’t even know where to start. I would never, ever attempt to download a raw photo from a Fuji camera. This weekend I was able to just sit at the picnic table and run a few raw photos through Lightroom on my iPhone.

  2. The Snap Focus feature is great for hiking. Just dial in a decent aperture and point-and-shoot. If you need to get in close or aren’t sure of the focus zone, just override with a tap on the screen to set the AF point.

  3. I bought the accessory optical viewfinder, which pairs well with Snap Focus in sunny conditions.

If I had to choose between the GRIII X and the Fujifilm X100V, it’d be a tough call. The X100 series aligns with deep-seated preferences, but it is not so “compact” that you can carry it differently from a full ILC. The GRIII is a little less easy to manually control, but Snap Focus and the optical viewfinder make it a great street camera. Also, it can literally fit in a front pocket (for most men’s clothing). If Fujifilm either made the focus ring on the X100 series easier to use for zone focusing or just added a snap focus feature, I’d probably forgive the extra bulk but would miss being able to stick an APS-C camera in my pants pocket or in my trail vest.

Also, if you’re a Fujifilm partisan and think you could get the bulk of the GRIII’s benefit with an XF-10, forget it. You can’t. That’s delusional. I don’t know what they were thinking making that thing, but the cameras don’t compare.

If I could fix one thing about the Ricoh, it’d be to add weather sealing. Once rain is back in the picture, the X100V will come back out, size tradeoffs and all.