Square Format Digital in your Pocket
27 May 2008
As much as I loved traditional photography, I'm not nostalgic about film. High-quality digital cameras and computer-based imaging tools are the most empowering things that have happened to me, and I haven't looked back since 5 megapixel cameras arrived. But there is one option film offered that I've always missed in the digital world: The square format.
Like many in my generation, I started seeing the world as images through the square viewfinder of a Kodak Instamatic. Even when I graduated to 35mm. SLRs, I kept that flame alive with one of my favorite cameras ever - a Polaroid SX 70 (followed, when I'd finally run that one into the ground, by a 680 SE) and a foray into the 120 format with a Seagull TLR. That thing made transparencies you could project wall size and feel like you were right there.
But until recently there were no digital square format cameras available - unless you were prepared to shell out several thousand dollars for a pro-level system.
Enter My Precious, a Ricoh GR Digital II. I should say right off the bat it's not a square format camera, it's a 10 megapixel rectangular format camera that also offers a 7 megapixel square format setting, with full RAW support. Given the outstanding quality of the f 2.4 28 mm. lens - sharp corner-to-corner, and virtually no fringing - those 7 MP provide completely satisfactory image quality, so ever since I set the camera to the square format option I've never wanted to use it any other way. As if that wasn't enough to kindle love it's small, thin, has great battery life and the full range of controls you'd expect for serious photography, including an optional optical viewfinder. Another very important advantage: It'll let you take several RAW shots in quick succession before asking you to wait while it writes the data. Last but not least it's built like its momma was a Swiss chronometer and its papa was an Abrams tank.
I wouldn't recommend the GR Digital II to casual point-and-shooters, mostly because it doesn't have a zoom lens. But if you're a serious image maker and you've been waiting for a reasonably affordable way to make square format digital images without having to re-frame on the computer I think you'll find this baby is a real joy.