I was an engineering student in college and I have engineer’s blood in me. Like many guys, I like to collect and play with tools. I especially like tools that can do just one thing but does it extremely well. Between an old fashion screwdriver and a multi too, I would go with the old fashion screwdriver.
To prepare for our trip to Disney next month, Yang-Ching and I thought about buying a digital camera. We have a Nikon DSLR but it is big and heavy. Recently, like many others, we have been using our cell phones to take all the pictures. However, we wanted to bring a better camera than our cell phones to Disney, so I started doing research a few weeks ago.
What I learned quickly was that middle ground point and shoot (P&S) cameras have become a relic. Digital cameras are either very expensive or very cheap with nothing in the middle. I have no interest of buying a $100 P&S because its image quality probably won’t be much better than our cell phones. A high-end P&S can cost above $1,000 and sometimes more than $4,000 for a Leica. That’s more expensive than a high-end DSLR.
I thought of buying a smaller DSLR, but it was still too big to be easily portable. I also looked into some middle to high-end P&S’s such as Panasonic LX100, Sony RX100 III, Canon G1X Mark II, Canon G7X, Fujifilm X30, Fujifilm X-A2. Each has its own merits, but none of them meets my criteria, which are easy to carry and high quality images.
Finally, I came across a unique category of P&S camera called fixed focal length compact camera. Unlike other popular P&S cameras, these cameras’ lens cannot be extended, so you are stuck with one focal length, which is usually a wide-angle lens. You can count cameras in this category with one hand: Fujifilm X100s, Leica X2, Nikon Coolpix A, Ricoh GR II, Sigma DP3. They are all very portable with large image sensors, which usually but not always translate into high quality images. They cost between $700 and $2000.
For most consumers, spending that kind of money to buy a camera that has no zoom lens would make no sense. However, searching online and you will see photographers love this category of camera. These fixed focal length compact camera have great images and you can carry them everywhere. Unlike most consumers, photographers generally don’t care about zoom lens and pixel counts. So, after much research, I decided to buy the cheapest camera of the bunch, Ricoh GR II. (Although Nikon Coolpix A is currently sold at a lower price than Ricoh GR II, Coolpix A is 3 years old and it will probably be the only and last Nikon fixed focal length compact camera.) I especially like the unassuming look of Ricoh GP II. When my wife first saw the camera, her first response, like most non-photographer, was “the camera looks neither cute nor professional.” She then asked me what brand this camera was. Of course she has never heard of Ricoh. I, on the other hand, love the unsuspicious look of GR II. Like many other photographers have said, when you take out a DSLR on the street, people look suspiciously at you. When you take out a GR on the street, people just walk by without even looking at you.
I have my GR II for 2 days now and I love it. Here are some pictures (JPEG direct output, no post process):