My Photographic Life in a Single Post (or How I Came to Be a Compact Camera User)

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Paul Giguere, May 6, 2011.

  1. Paul Giguere

    Paul Giguere

    May 4, 2011
    Wayland, MA USA
    Thank you to Amin and everyone at SC for the warm welcome. I'm truly looking forward to engaging with this vibrant community of photographers. I thought I would start off with a post with some additional background about me so that you have a better sense of where I'm coming from in my approach to the camera reviews that I will post in the future.

    As Amin said in his introduction, much of my focus as a photographer over the past couple of years has been in the area of social documentary photography. My formal photographic background goes back to my college days (about 26 years ago) when I made photos for the student newspaper (mostly so I could get free film and processing). When I graduated, my access to the free film and processing stopped and so my interest in photography waned as a result. I still made photos of course but not with any serious devotion, direction, or frequency.

    It wasn't until I was studying for my doctorate and taking a course in visual literacy (around the late 1990's) that I realized digital cameras had advanced to the point where the quality was good enough to make the jump from film (at least for me anyway). This reignited my passion for photography again and I went out and bought a Canon D30 in 2000 (the first of several digital SLRs which culminated with the Canon 5D . . . more on this later). Within a fews years I was exhibiting in fine-art photography shows all over the United States.

    I too have had GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome . . . what a great acronym) and was always lusting for the latest DSLR camera, lens, etc. but a couple of years ago I realized that my interest in fine-art photography was on the decline and I found myself more interested in making photographs of a documentary nature. Essentially, I was discovering a new purpose for photography in my life. I also realized that a large DSLR didn't fit my need to always have a camera with me nor did it fit well with the kind of rapport I needed to establish with my subjects (holding a big camera with a big lens to your face while making a photo of someone doesn't exactly make people open up). So, I decided that I needed a serious compact camera that would meet my needs and I eventually settled on the Ricoh GRD3 (I'll cover this camera and why I use it in much greater detail in a future article).

    After using my Ricoh for just about every project I have worked on, I realized that I had made more than ten times the photos with the GRD3 in just two years than I had with my Canon 5D over five years. The reason was simple, the Canon was just too big to carry with me on a daily basis and it only ever left the house when I was specifically going to make photographs (and even then the Ricoh came out of my bag more often than the Canon did). Things really came to a head when I was working on a photo project in Mexico last year and had both my Canon 5D and my Ricoh with me. I started off using the Canon but every time I did, people would freeze or they would strike a more formal pose. Also, their conversation with me would stop. In short, it intimidated people. Also, the homes that I visited were small and so even my 35mm lens was too long so the Ricoh (with a 28mm equivalent lens) became my primary camera for the project. For my most recent return trip to Mexico, the Ricoh was the only camera I had with me.

    Today, the Ricoh GRD3 is the only camera I own because it does everything I need a camera to do and it becomes an extension of my eyes when I'm photographing. In other words, it disappears from my consciousness and I don't think about it at all while using it. This is what a good camera should do for you. You shouldn't spend time searching through menus or fumbling with buttons while the photographic moment is slipping by. Your attention should be on your subject, the composition, etc.

    I sold my Canon 5D last year along with all of the lens and accessories (partly to pay to have some huge trees removed from my yard that the arborist called "widow-makers") and don't really miss it. Yes, the shallow depth of field was wonderful and the dynamic range of the photos was terrific but I simply wasn't taking many photos with it and if I should need such features in a camera in the future, I can always borrow or rent one. Also, as anyone know who listens to my podcast (, I place a greater emphasis on the kinds of photographs that one makes as opposed to the gear used to make the photographs and that is what you can expect from my camera reviews for SC.

    It is important in a review to cover the basics of the camera itself (features, specs, photo quality, etc.) but for me it is equally important to cover how the camera performs in the field in actual use in a practical way. At SC, we all share an interest in compact cameras and I'm willing to bet your reasons for this interest mirror some of my own for eventually abandoning the DSLR world. In my reviews, I will cover how well each camera helps me achieve the kinds of photos I want to make and I'll reflect on how well each camera might work for other types of photography. By taking you through my photographic process with each camera I review, the details of the camera (the controls, menus, handling, performance, etc.), will become evident.

    Anyway, that's it. I'm looking forward to not only reviewing cameras for SC but also getting to know you all you in the various discussions going on in the various forums.

    • Like Like x 18
  2. MichaelChiara

    MichaelChiara SC Regular

    Jul 9, 2010
    Great start Paul, really looking forward to reading
  3. ZDP-189

    ZDP-189 Twitter: <a href="!/ZDP189">@Z

    Apr 18, 2011
    All hail Ricoh! Look for me on

    GX100, GX200, GRD, GRDII, GRDIII, GR1S, GR1V, R1, R1e, GR21

    Here's a timelapse I took using my GX200:


    (In case the link doesn't work, here is the Youtube video code: VSSHZCyG7gw )
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Pelao

    Pelao SC All-Pro

    Jul 11, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    Thanks for your post.

    I just sold my 5D. I loved it, but had a similar experience - as you put it, the 5D was only taken out when I specifically going to make photographs.

    Much of what you have written here resonates, but for me, this bit especially so:

    • Like Like x 1
  5. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    Paul, thanks for this. Great to have this background and welcome to SC.
  6. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Real Name:
    Paul, thank you for taking the time to tell us so much about yourself and your story. You certainly hit home with me, and I know many others here, with that comment that Peloa has quoted. We've had some discussions about this very thing here recently, so I feel as though I was ready in the "amen corner" when I read that part. Looking forward to hearing more from you, Paul and reading about how your Ricoh works so well for you.
  7. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Real Name:
    Paul lovely precis of your photo-life. GRD's are wonderful visual notebooks. I miss using my GRD first gen (dreaded adj wheel lock syndrome) it made the best in-camera B&W.
    I have gone through bridge cameras and DSLR's as well, but it is the camera one has with that matters most.
    These days I use my Nokia N8 as you use your GRD III; the draw of the sensor lens combo is very similar.
    Look forward to reading your review.
  8. Duane Pandorf

    Duane Pandorf SC Top Veteran

    Apr 25, 2011
    Western NC
    Holy cow, thanks for the great introduction. As a new convert to the Ricoh GR III, my Nikon DSLR must be feeling really really lonely right now.

    My wife will probably yell at me but I see it going up on eBay very soon.

    Look forward to your reviews and maybe a few GRD tidbits thrown this way!
  9. Wouter Brandsma

    Wouter Brandsma &nbsp;

    Jul 7, 2010
    Great to see you team up with Amin and others here at seriouscompacts. And it is a reminder that I should have contacted you the previous month. I will sent you a PM very soon!

    When it comes to the little Ricoh fella. I love that camera too!
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Welcome Paul, and thank you for that excellent introduction! I really like your work and I'm very much looking forward to your perspectives on photography and cameras in use. I'm pleased that you will be contributing. Though this is a "camera" forum we're pretty good about discussing actual pictures and the philosophy of photography (but you probably already know that!).

    Similar to you, the Ricoh GRD2 changed my photographic arc and relationship with cameras. Today, I have the GRD3 and it remains my most favorite camera, and if ever I had the will power to own only one camera it would be that Ricoh. I've been using it exclusively over the past couple of weeks due to circumstances and it's always a please.
  11. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    Paul, thanks so much for the introduction. I think your personal experience represents well the reason for this site's existence, and I have a very good feeling about the direction Serious Compacts is going. Really great to have you on board.
  12. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Real Name:
    Thanks for all your words, Paul, but particularly these ones. They make more sense to me than perhaps many I have read (and certainly *anY* that I have told myself in order to justify buying yet more cameras/lenses/etc.) I think its time I took a leaf from your book. Not sure which camera I'll settle on but the GRD is a great temptation (damn that GAS)
  13. andrewh973

    andrewh973 SC Regular

    Mar 13, 2011
    NYC metro are
    Hi Paul, and welcome! Thanks for your gracious introduction. I'm still fairly new to the forum, but am finding a diverse group of members who really care about what they're doing -- with a camera and without.


  14. vincechu

    vincechu SC Veteran

    Sep 14, 2010
    A very warm welcome to the forums!

    I can associate with your experience too. last year I had a Panasonic G1, sold it for an LX5, then GAS took over and I got d7000, then sold that for a K5... a few months back I picked up my LX5 which had been gathering dust and I felt so liberated! free from all that weight and bulk! Tried out my girlfriends GXR and its very light (and although not that small), and i've decided to get one one with both primes (should arrive next week). Its seeming more and more likely my k5 will be left for backup or put up on the 'bay... I just like being able to carry a camera around with me all the time with no worries about weight/size etc, and serious compacts enable me to do that.

    People are often critical about small sensor compacts and/or their fixed lenses but, personally, I like the challange of pushing your photography technique to get the best IQ from them, anyway thats a discussion for another day! ;-)

    Can't wait to get to know you better and to see more of your photography!
  15. rondo

    rondo New to SC

    Jul 25, 2010

    these are very nice the consistency and your measured and thoughtful approach to your subjects. the series works as a whole, and they are very carefully put together. i cannot point to a single image, but the narrative quality is very strong. i really enjoyed your work and will follow your website from now on.
    may i ask you how you process these images? excellent tonality (you have the consistency there as well and wonderful dynamic range: you really make most of the grd3)
    thank you
  16. bilzmale

    bilzmale Super Moderator Emeritus

    Jul 17, 2010
    Perth, Western Australia
    Real Name:
    Bill Shinnick
    Nice to get the inside story. Last night I 'shot' my granddaughter's 18th birthday with just the EX1 and it felt good and the photos stand up well.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. Toonman

    Toonman SC Regular

    Nice to hear from you Paul. look forward to reading further posts.
  18. JRS11

    JRS11 SC Rookie

    Apr 22, 2011
    I think this may be my first post, like many hear I find my GRD cameras (I have a lll and recently found an almost new GRD) to be wonderful in every way. I also have the GXR which is a really fine camera, and after using ricoh cameras it is hard to use others, is it the feel, it is not always the IQ but the IQ is fine if you play a bit and shoot in raw (except for the original GRD which is a wonderful JPG camera).

    Thanks for your post
  19. Paul Giguere

    Paul Giguere

    May 4, 2011
    Wayland, MA USA
    Hey Wouter,

    Good to see you hear on SeriousCompacts. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

  20. Paul Giguere

    Paul Giguere

    May 4, 2011
    Wayland, MA USA
    Hi Rondo - I shoot in RAW format (DMG actually on the GRD3) and then make minor fixes to the images in Lightroom. I then convert the images to B&W using Silver Efex Pro (version 1 actually, can't standup the pokiness of version 2). I use all of the tools in Silver Efex Pro to get the image the way I want (including using the zone preview). That's pretty much it. The key is to have a well exposed image in the first place from the camera and to not bang too hard on the file with radical editing (very minor tweaks go a long way). Hope this helps.