My Precious

Square Format Digital in your Pocket

GR Digital II by Ricoh
Adam and Eve
Valley of Fire - 8
Leafless Forest
Guest Laundry
Ice Water Galaxies
Valley of Fire, Nevada

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.

17 responses

  • Patrick Marella

    Patrick Marella gave props (28 Sep 2008):

    Very impressive !

  • Ralph Komives

    Ralph Komives (Deleted) gave props (2 Oct 2008):

    Just great.

  • Karen K Smith

    Karen K Smith gave props (4 Oct 2008):

    Well written, very informative, great photos..Yeah you, the story and your photos ROCK!

  • Melissa Hearle

    Melissa Hearle gave props (16 Oct 2008):

    Wow, great story ... I need (ok, want) one of these ...

  • Martin Hopkins

    Martin Hopkins said (24 Oct 2008):

    You helped me decide between this baby and some other cameras.

  • ! Mario Scattoloni ¡

    ! Mario Scattoloni ¡ gave props (2 Nov 2008):

    I gotta get me on e-bay & find me one of these Square types....

  • Joven DelaCruz

    Joven DelaCruz gave props (2 Nov 2008):

    i love the square format. this cam is cool, i want one too

  • Christopher Talbot

    Christopher Talbot gave props (6 Nov 2008):

    this article makes me want a ricoh so much!

  • Alexander Bussey

    Alexander Bussey said (2 Dec 2008):

    i love square format. i don't love digital. nice essay though, and great photos too.

  • Simon Kossoff

    Simon Kossoff (Deleted) gave props (4 Dec 2008):

    this is an exellent story! I don't know how I missed it.. Terrific images too.

  • Winston Baltasar

    Winston Baltasar said (24 Dec 2008):

    "Last but not least it's built like its momma was a Swiss chronometer and its papa was an Abrams tank." Wonderful simile/metaphors!
    Yes, there's something about square formats that shout "Pro!" But over and above that, it's simple geometry is eye-striking.
    Thanks for the article, Alexis. I missed issue #19; I'm glad I didn't miss this.

  • Laura Hartley

    Laura Hartley said (16 May 2009):

    Great words and pics. I prefer, when I do film, 120 film, medium format, square negatives. I ALSO see the world in squares! Thanks for noting those of us who do! You write beautifully, Alexis!

  • MaYa Sinji Jung 정신지

    MaYa Sinji Jung 정신지 gave props (17 Dec 2009):

    Bravo!!! You make my one and only GRII so proud of himself!! (I want to have another lovely camera also but, for now, as a poor student, I am just falling in love with this camera, and you know? NO ZOOM is the biggest reason I have to love him so much! Mmm..I have to be very honest...)

  • Alain Mijngheer

    Alain Mijngheer gave props (11 Jan 2010):

    I didn't switch to digital until 7.2MP but that is besides this story. That camera is one on my wishlist, but hey can't have it all. Liked to read your story :)

  • Jerome Skiscim

    Jerome Skiscim (Deleted) said (17 Feb 2010):

    I find limitations and boundaries freeing. We live in a world of more features and choices to 'make it easier' to produce quality results - but it can actually work against you by distracting and interrupting the creative process. Your story reinforces the idea of having a limited palette in which to mix and create to your heart's content! I purposefully bring only one lens with me when I head out for a shoot - usually a "normal" or "prime" lens - my favorites are 28mm, 50mm or 85mm. I call them manual zoom lenses!

    Thanks for submitting this Alexis!

  • Angki Purbandono

    Angki Purbandono gave props (13 Sep 2010):

    i used it great precious

  • Maura Wolfson-Foster

    Maura Wolfson-Foster gave props (17 Apr 2011):

    Alexis, thanks so much for this informative essay....deserved to be published ~ !

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