May 27th, 2024



Kelly's Olympian  (Ricoh GRIII X)
Kelly's Olympian (Ricoh GRIII X)

The just jpegs experiment continues. 

Last night Al and I went up into the Alphabet District for dinner, reserving a seat for some live jazz. The first act had a hard time pulling it together, the second was tight. Then we walked from the Alphabet District down to the waterfront and back. 

I took along the Ricoh GRIII X using a preset I've backed into: 

  • Positive Film
  • Saturation: +3
  • High-key/Low-key: -1
  • Contrast: +3
  • Contrast (Highlight): -1
  • Contrast (Shadow): +2
  • Sharpness: +2
  • Shading: +1
  • White Balance: Auto
  • ISO: Auto, 6400 max ISO, 40 minimum shutter

The mission for the evening was "just use this recipe and take pictures. See what happens if you just let the camera do its thing, and figure out what kind of tones come out of it." 

I did let myself use exposure compensation because I haven't spent a lot of time figuring out the Ricoh's AE system to my satisfaction and the settings there are all over the place. 

Downtown Portland  (Ricoh GRIII X)
Downtown Portland (Ricoh GRIII X)

"SOOC" is an acronym for "straight-out-of-camera," and it's a way for people showing sample output to let each other know the samples are untouched by some sort of editor like Photoshop or Lightroom.

In a camera review that's useful information to have to help judge what the camera does on its own. Sometimes, on enthusiast forums, you get the impression there's a little anti-post fetishism behind the acronym.

In this case, I really just wanted to see what the camera would do given some settings that reflect my usual taste in post-production.

One thing affecting the experiment a little: I kept my Tiffen 1/4 Black Mist filter on the camera, which does some stuff to the light and softens the images.

Remodel  (Ricoh GRIII X)
Remodel (Ricoh GRIII X)

It's still very strange to me to go out with the intent of just shooting jpegs. I've decided to leave raw out of it completely for now, at least, while I work out whether I want to make a workflow that might put raws somewhere out of the way as actual "digital negatives."

Still very strange, but helpful to the process of reshaping my thinking a little.

"I am out and about. I have my camera.  I'm taking pictures.  They reflect what I like right now. What my tastes are right now. The potential image I see right now."

Kit Kat and Voodooo  (Ricoh GRIII X)
Kit Kat and Voodooo (Ricoh GRIII X)

So, "SOOC" isn't meant to be a declaration of image purity, because I do want to infuse as much of my particular taste into the pictures I'm taking. The camera is pointedly not, to my way of thinking, "capturing reality," because "reality" is not this saturated, the lights not as halated, the shadows quite as deep.

Kit Kat Alley  (Ricoh GRIII X)
Kit Kat Alley (Ricoh GRIII X)

So all the pictures in this post are mostly untouched. I cropped one of them, but didn't touch the colors or tones in any of them. They're just what the camera made (with me adjusting the exposure compensation a little here and there).

They're still not entirely to my taste. I could push the settings harder on the camera to get closer to what I do when I'm editing in Lightroom, mostly around shadow tone, but I want to leave myself a little room to work if I ever capture something I want to do more with.

For instance, the one below is a little more to my taste in the end. I wanted a little more overall contrast but didn't need to do anything with the color. I added a little vignette, too. And I knew I was going to crop it more as I took it. "Zooming with my feet" would have put me in traffic. It's sort of funny, looking at the SOOC image and the edited one, because I see more and more to like about the untouched capture. There are still a few things I would do to it, but not much. And I didn't really do much to it to get it to where it landed (though I did mask the white marquee to the left to tone it down). 

Kelly's Olympian  (Ricoh GRIII X)
Kelly's Olympian (Ricoh GRIII X)

I guess the other dimension of last night's outing was  choice of equipment. I am still trying to talk myself into taking the Ricoh along for my upcoming San Francisco trip. Last night, getting ready to go out the door, I felt the internal struggle. The X100V was sitting on the coffee table, ready to go. 

It was sort of hard to leave the X100 behind because I'm comfortable with it, understand all its settings very well, and have had "success" with it on other outings. Ergonomically, it is generally  more to my liking because I like shooting through a viewfinder more than I like shooting from a screen.

But as I get better at using it, I really like the Ricoh's Snap Focus feature. You can do zone focusing with an X100, same as most any camera, but it's subject to accidental adjustments. Snap Focus "just works." Which means you spend less time with the camera near your face. You just see and shoot. It becomes even more useful at night, when autofocus is going to struggle anyhow. It might be the feature that makes a GRIII a better "street camera" compared to my X100V. 

So last night's experiment in living with the SOOC output was also a small confidence builder that I could get the Ricoh to produce the kinds of tones and colors I prefer. 

But that X100VI is somewhere in the future. At which point I get IBIS to go with the X100V's flip screen and generally faster autofocus plus a good 10 years of familiarity with how Fujifilm cameras work. The Ricoh is still a little odd to me, and a little ergonomically uncomfortable given its little buttons and chorded UI. 

Anyhow, can't hurt to get good at more than one camera.