The Ricoh GR III has an ISO range from 100 to 102400. That very broad range is one of several upgrades from the GR II—the previous model, the GR II, had a shorter ISO range that maxed out at ISO 25600. It sure sounds like an impressive upgrade—102400 is the same upper limit that Sony’s flagship models have, for instance.
But while the ISO numbers give you a good sense of the light sensitivity of the sensor, it doesn’t tell you anything about the image quality that comes out on the other end. There can be large variations between cameras. And as you climb further up the ISO ladder, image degradation such as image noise, lower dynamic range, and shifting colors become more and more noticeable.
So, where is the practical limit where the image degrades too much to be useful? There’s no right answer to that—it’s going to vary by photographer preference, scene, and intended use. My threshold might be different if I’m shooting for a magazine editor than if I’m shooting for personal use, for instance. If it comes down to getting the shot or not, I’m willing to live with much more image noise. Ditto if I’m converting to black and white. But for everyday shooting with the GR III, ISO 20000 is probably my practical upper limit. Beyond that, the noise just becomes too intrusive for my tastes. But that’s going to come down to personal preference, and one of the great strengths of the GR III—and the entire GR range, for that matter—is that it’s so flexible to accommodate a wide range of tastes and preferences and shooting styles. For many street shooters to whom the GR III would appeal, for instance, technical image quality is much less a priority than catching an interesting moment or story. And, after all, I’d much rather have those high-end options available than not.
But that’s why I’m posting these examples here: in case anyone wants to get a sense of what images from the GR III look like at particular ISOs.
Unlike some cameras, the Ricoh GR III doesn’t make an explicit distinction between the sensor’s native ISO range and an extended ISO range, and it’s not immediately clear where the threshold is between the sensor hardware’s native sensitivity and where the camera’s built-in processing engine takes over to apply a software-powered boost. But if you shoot in the very high ISOs, you’ll quickly notice that the image quality drops off markedly at the top end, with much more image noise, much less dynamic range, and much less accurate colors.
Ricoh GR III ISO Range Performance Tests / Practical Examples
Here are some practical examples of the performance throughout the ISO range. I’ve previously posted some examples focusing specifically on the high-ISO performance (ISO 6400 and above). You can find that post here.
This is a scene I often use for its smooth tonal gradations, from highlights to shadows and colors that can really show up any ISO problems.
There are some things worth noting when looking at these. Like most cameras, the GR III applies noise reduction to its JPG images. By default, at least—it is possible to turn it off. That noise reduction setting also applies to the JPG thumbnail previews that are embedded within the DNG RAW files, but it doesn’t have any effect on the underlying RAW data.
In taking these shots, I used the RAW+JPG setting with the default noise reduction. I haven’t done any post-processing on these—they’re just as they came directly out of the camera. But the versions you see below were generated directly from the JPG files, so you’re seeing the effect from the camera’s built-in image processor. You can click on each image to open a full-size version for a closer look. You can also use the links in each caption to download the original, untouched JPG and DNG versions. The JPGs are around 1.5MB; the DNGs range from around 30MB to 45MB.
Where to Find Them
You can find the Ricoh GR III at B&H Photo. That’s where I bought mine.