. . . continued from Part 1 . . .
It’s all well and good owning what many regard (or regarded) as the ultimate Street Photography camera (Leica M), but if you don’t use it for what it was intended, it becomes nothing more than an expensive piece of jewellery, or bling, or even an extravagance. More worryingly, outside of the relatively ‘clean’ environment of the street, the Leica M could be quickly ruined through dust and water contamination, or damaged from the slightest knock, etc.
What I needed in reality was a camera that would do everything. A camera I could ‘throw’ into the cavernous pocket of my motorcycle jacket and not have to worry about it getting cold or dusty. A camera I could clip to the ‘day pack’ on the front of my Kayak and not worry about it getting wet (or god forbid submerged if I capsized), or a camera I could simply stow in the glovebox of the car. All of this whilst still being able to turn it’s hand to the occassional bout of street photography.
Hence I narrowed my choice down to the Ricoh WG-5 GPS, an all weather, rugged, waterproof (to 14m), dustproof, shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof, 16 megapixel compact point and shoot camera, or as Ricoh prefer to simply describe it, ‘Adventure Proof’.
The WG-5 despite being what many would describe as a simple and cheap camera, comes with a surprisingly sophisticated lens configuration.
A 35mm equivalent 25 – 100mm, f/2 – f/4.9, 4x Optical Zoom lens, with both Optical and Sensor Stabilisation. The WG does also offer Digital Zoom, though obviously you’d want to deselect this option as-soon-as.
The miniscule 16MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor (6.2mm x 4.6mm), is in fact not that much smaller than the CCD sensor fitted to that perennial Ricoh street-photographer’s favourite, the GRD IV (7.44 x 5.58 mm) of some 5 years ago. Of course a large part of good image quality is down to the lens, with which of course the GRD IV has the WG-5 beaten hands down, but so what?
The WG-5 is small and after what seemed like a lifetime shooting heavy Leica M’s, somewhat liberating. The camera offers several key options in it’s setup, which once (quickly) configured, can simply be forgotten, allowing the user to concentrate on taking pictures.
Of course having no viewfinder means all of the picture taking experience is via the 3 inch, wide-angle LCD display. The displayed image quality whilst not as sharp as a razor, is more than adequate for picture taking purposes, or (please forgive me) chimping. Naturally, the screen can be customized to show as much or as little information as desired.
With regards the actual shooting experience, there is an option for manual focusing. However in practice, this would be utterly impractical to implement in a Street Photography environment, so I’m happy to rely on the Autofocusing of the camera as . . .
. . . in practice, I was flabbergasted to discover that from pressing the shutter button all the way down, to taking the picture, there was no perceptable lag whatsoever. There is no mention anywhere of the WG-5 offering the ‘Snap Focus’ feature of the Ricoh GR series, though this is exactly what it feels and operates like, except in the case of the WG-5, the camera also appears to focus in the time as well – The GRD’s Snap Focus only allows the user to set focus to a predetermined distance.
Of course it’s not all a bed of roses with the Ricoh WG-5. There’s the much maligned battery life of ‘only’ 250 shots. Fear not however as there’s an ingenious and simple fix for this problem. Carry an extra battery.
The only other issue I found with the camera is one which many Street Shooter’s may struggle to overcome, this being the fact that wherever you practice your art, other photographers and your subjects will no doubt disregard your presence, believing instead that you are nothing more than a ‘bloody tourist’.
This is in fact a huge plus point, enabling you to stand right in the middle of the ‘action’, something that’s impossible to do with a full-on street photographers weapon of choice, such as a Leica M ?
P.S. I thought it would be cool to post an alternative picture taken with the WG-5 showing the ‘other’ type of photography that I also purchased this camera for.
If you are looking to buy a Ricoh WG Adventure Camera, eBay UK always has a good selection of new and used models here.