Short Review of the 21mm Adapter for Ricoh GR

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by biglouis, Dec 22, 2013.

  1. biglouis

    biglouis SC Veteran

    Aug 4, 2013
    This is not a scientific review but I hope it will give you some idea about the construction and use of the Ricoh GW-3 Wide Conversion Lens for the Ricoh GR.


    As you can see the kit comprises two separate components. You must purchase the Hood and Adapter GH-3 in order to mount the GW-2 lens. This seems to me to be a bit shoddy on the part of Ricoh - you can purchase a combined kit but I could not find it in stock. In the end I actually ordered the GH-3 from one company and the GW-3 from another in order to try and keep the costs down. RRP for both items is in the order of GBP 250 but by splitting the components I managed to get it down to GBP 200 including delivery.


    The mount is a solid plastic tube which clicks satisfyingly into place onto the GR body. You need to remove the mount cover, which is the bevelled ring surrounding the fixed lens in order to fit the mount. Once fitted the GW-3 lens screws into the mounting tube. At first I was pretty unimpressed with this method of mounting. However, the mounting tube also allows filters to be used with the fixed lens. As I already have an investment in the superb Lee 75 filter system this could open up creative possibilities. My one main concern though is that the tube is plastic and therefore so is the filter thread. I suspect I will have to be very careful and precise if I swap the GW-3 for my Lee filter holder to avoid cross threading when mounting. In fact, for the moment I have left the lens assembled with the GH-3 and anticipate I will swap it out very rarely. Incidentally, the whole assembly fits very nicely in the supplied soft lens bag and there is even a front and rear lens cap.

    Note that in the photograph I have not unwrapped the lens hood for the GH-3, nor do I plan to do so. It is large and incongruous. You can also see the supplied lens hood for the GW-3 which is made of soft flexible rubber, more on that later.


    This is the whole kit assembled and tricked out with the GV-1 external viewfinder - which conveniently comes with both 28mm and 21mm framelines built in. I also recently purchased a DPSTCH wrist strap which is one of the best straps I've obtained recently. I had to order it from the USA but it arrived quickly and is very high quality.

    The most important thing for me with any kit is not how it looks but how it works. Here are two unprocessed RAW files (converted to JPEGS in LR5) to demonstrate the basic field of view and performance of the GW-3.


    I did not precisely adjust the horizon on the above shot - because I was using the external viewfinder to frame and not the LCD screen. I am sure the 'Cycle Hire' post is not curved(!) so I can only conclude that the GW-3 exhibits a certain amount of barrel distortion. However, I could not see any evidence of this on another unprocessed frame, taken inside one of the new District Line rolling stock on the London Underground (below).


    All the lines look perfectly straight to me here. The bright yellow poles on either side of the carriage are in fact curved so if there is barrel distortion perhaps it is being masked?

    In any case - and this may be a heretical statement - I have come to worry less and less about lens performance with each passing release of Adobe Lightroom. The fact that the software can correct so many forms of distortion at the move of a mouse means that very little is beyond adjustment and I have printed processed files up to 30x20 with no visible imperfection.

    So, the real test is what the lens can deliver creatively over the fixed 28mm lens and here the results (I hope) speak for themselves. Unfortunately, this unit has arrived in the middle of winter with dark mornings and early evenings so nearly all my captures so far are at very high iso (at least iso3200 and sometimes iso6400). Nevertheless I think the unit has performed very well. Of course, my preference for recording urban grunge may not be to everyone's taste but there is a reason for using the GR in such circumstances - the discrete size of the unit.

    I also unhesitatingly do not apologise for the various forms of post processing used in these captures. To me a digital camera is a blank canvas - the post processing software is my studio for creating the vision in my minds eye (if you will pardon the somewhat pretentious sound of that statement).

    The famous Beigel Bakery in Brick Lane, before dawn

    Near Pedley Street arch, Spitalfields

    Whitechapel dawn, arrival of the Air Ambulance at the Royal London Hospital

    Shoreditch High Street

    Corner of Brick Lane and Cheshire Street

    Sclater Street Spitalfields

    New builds, Sclater Street, Spitalfields

    Some final conclusions.

    The main pros of this unit is that it extends the use of the basic GR. On some occasions 28mm is just not wide enough. Picture quality using the GW-3 is perfectly fine for probably 99% of uses. I would argue that even if you are a fine art professional photographer earning a living from your work then with the judicious use of correction software in post processing you will get perfectly acceptable results with this attachment.

    If cosmetics are important to you then all items are nicely packaged and the form factors are good. Although the mount is plastic it is quite sturdy, I would just be aware of the use of a plastic filter thread which may (will?) degrade over time with regular use. That said, for many users once mated with the GH-3 it is unlikely you will ever detach the GW-3.

    There is one obvious disadvantage which I am not going to hold against Ricoh and that is the size and weight of the unit which means that once mounted the GR is no longer the pocketable camera that it is without the GW-3. Of course, you would have to be blind not to notice that in any consideration of the purchase of the GW-3.

    I have two more serious issues with the unit. The first is cost. Altogether, if you don't shop around you are likely to pay nearly half the price of the GR itself to own this extension. I think that is excessive but you will have to make up your own mind if you agree. Secondly, beware of the floppy rubber lens hood. Unlike rigid hoods which normally lock into place, this slides on to the barrel from the rear end. There is a small raised point on the hood to show how it aligns with the barrel but I missed this. It is imperative that it is aligned correctly or it will occlude the frame and show up in photographs. Personally, after using it for two days I've decided it is a waste of time and will probably not bother with it any more.

    So, in fact - no real serious issues as long as you are willing to pay the price.

    If you need the extension to 21mm it is a truism to say you have no other possibility but in any case it does extend the creative possibilities of the GR albeit at a cost both in terms of the price and the impact on portability. I plan to carry the GR in one pocket and the GH-3/GW-3 in another so I am not obliged to carry both in a camera bag and therefore remain 'travelling light' while photographing.
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  2. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Thanks for the review.

    Nice shots, but I particularly like the "Brick Lane Coffee" shot -- very moody!

    Cheers, Jock
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  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    nice review and examples. I love the look of that strap, too.
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  4. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Good review Louis. I love the Brick Lane Coffee Shop shot too.

    I find that I leave the tube on a lot - it improves handling, for me at least.
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  5. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    This is a given but something any potential buyer should check out for themselves before they commit to one. I had a GRD3 and tried the 21mm adapter for that model once. It looks like about the same size as this version and the camera was only very slightly smaller than the GR. But the conversion lens so totally changed the feel and shooting experience with the camera that I sent it back within a few days. Just didn't work for me at all. That said, if you can get past that, this is a great way to get a borderline ultra-wide lens without adding a lot of size or weight to your kit, particularly relative to any APS or DSLR lens at an equivalent field of view. Nonetheless, it's something to keep in mind and don't underestimate how much it changes the whole experience of handling and shooting with the GR...

  6. biglouis

    biglouis SC Veteran

    Aug 4, 2013
    Reading the article again I would have to add that the GR as a camera has one of the most malleable sensors I've yet used in a digital camera. It is possible to obtain good detail from shadows and pull back detail in highlights. The 21mm compliments this ability by giving you a wider field of view.

    Thanks again for the positive comments.

    I would pick up on what Ray has mentioned. Clearly, this attachment completely changes the balance of the camera. However, in my opinion not as badly as you might think. I am still using the camera with the wrist strap and overall the weight remains low compared to other cameras. I found I could still easily shoot with one hand if necessary.

    It is just the 'pocketability' which is compromised with the GW-3 attached, imho.

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  7. mcentral

    mcentral SC Regular

    Oct 27, 2013
    cambridge, massachusetts
    Thanks for the post and the really fine photos. I also own the GR plus 21mm lens, and I like them a lot. A couple of things: I tried leaving the tube attached to the camera for protection. Not bad in theory, but it just seemed a little weird so I stopped. RE: the rubber hood - I'm a fan because of the protection, so I say don't give up on it. Once you remember that the long "petals" go at 12 and 6 then you won't have any problems with it getting in frame.
    As for value, I got my set from Japan for a pretty good price. I was totally happy with it until I went for the Black Friday special on the Samyang fisheye for my small M43 kit - and now I don't know. I've never been particularly fond of the distorted look of a fisheye lens (or of any other aspect of photography where the technique or equipment is foregrounded). But I'm having a blast with the Samyang, and it makes me wonder if I really need the 21 for the GR (if I didn't have such a limited budget at the moment I'd happily keep both.)
    Re: the size. I'm not that bothered. It does completely change the feel, but it's a good feel, compact and hefty, and still small enough to go in a coat pocket. For M43 people, think a Pen like the EPL5 with a the 20 f1.7 with a hood. Pretty close.

    One strength of the GR plus 21mm that I discovered first hand - interiors. That and a small, cheap tripod and you can do anything, with a tiny kit. Here's a section of a website I made for a friend with some photos I made with this setup:
    I'm not a pro at any of that business, as is likely evident. Not even really an experienced amateur. But I felt that the equipment was more than good enough, and any improvements would come with learning the craft.
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  8. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Thanks for the review. Any effect of the 21mm adapter on the GR's auto focusing abilities?
  9. biglouis

    biglouis SC Veteran

    Aug 4, 2013
    Mcentral: thanks for some very good additional points. And don't do yourself a disservice - great pictures worthy of being used to promote your friend's interior design business.

    Armanius: I certainly wasn't aware of any issues with AF - seemed to work as per normal.

  10. MiguelATF

    MiguelATF SC All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Aug 27, 2013
    Talent, Oregon (far from the madding crowd)
    Miguel Tejada-Flores
    Nice review, Louis. Totally agree with you about the DSPTCH strap btw.
    How is your GW-3 holding up? Are you still happy with it?
  11. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Bump! ;)
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