GR1s film camera: The reason why it is called the best snapshot camera

The GR1 series was introduced in the 1990s, when high-end compact film cameras were at their peak, and has remained highly popular even after the shift to digital cameras as the “best snap-shooting machine.

I have also used a film GR1s for over 10 years, and it is my favorite camera for snapshots because of its photographic rendition and rapid-fire performance, making it the best camera for snapshots.

The GR1 is equipped with the GR lens, which consists of 7 elements in 4 groups and does not degrade image quality even to the periphery of the screen. Magnesium die-casting is used for the exterior parts, making it both light and robust.

Because of its descriptive and fast shooting performance, Daido Moriyama uses it as his main camera, and Mika Ninagawa also uses it as a sub-camera, making it a favorite among photographers.

The GR1s is an improved version of the GR1, which was released in 1998 with a special lens hood, illumination in the viewfinder in dark conditions, and other improvements over the GR1 released in 1996.


gr1s film camera

Release dateApril 1998
Film Systems35mm film (135) with patrone
screen size24×36mm
LensGR Lens 28mm F2.8 with 7 elements in 4 groups
FocusPassive autofocus / Subject auto selective multi-focus
FinderLight-harvesting frame finder
camera shutterElectronic shutter time mode ・ 2 – 1/500 with self-timer
Exposure ControlProgrammed exposure or aperture priority AE ISO 25 – 3200 compatible
BatteryUses 1 lithium battery CR-2
FeatureLighter and smaller than a 28mm SLR interchangeable lens, but with equal or better imaging performance and manual aperture priority exposure
SizeWidth 117mm Height 61mm Depth 26.5mm (Grip part 34mm)
WeightWithout date: 178g With date: 180g (excluding batteries)
PriceWithout date: 95,000 yen With date: 105,000 yen Both with hood and leather case

GR1s Features

There are three main reasons why I chose the GR1s out of the many compact cameras available.

Depiction of GR Lens

GR lens

GR lenses are said to outperform single-lens reflex cameras. It is characterized by its high resolution, thin lines, and sharpness.

Compact cameras of the same era include the Minolta TC-1 and the Contax T2, which have thicker lines, the TC-1 is plump and chunky, and the T2 is highly saturated and dramatic.

All cameras have their own advantages, but while the TC-1 and CONTAX T2 produce too much over-expression in photos taken on sunny days, the GR produces natural-looking images only on sunny days. On the other hand, the TC-1 and CONTAX T2 are good at taking pictures in shadows or in slightly darker locations.

I wanted to prioritize the depiction of a sunny day, and I preferred the natural GR lens without too much production.

Also, compared to high-end compact film cameras released after 2000, such as the Contax T3 and Fuji Krasse S/W, the GR lens is slightly inferior in terms of resolution. However, I believe that the natural rendering of a sunny day can only be achieved with the GR lens.

Great size

My use for the GR1s is for snapshots. I never know when a shutter chance will come up, so when I go out, I walk around with a set of my wallet, phone, and GR1s in each pocket.

The GR1s is 26.5 mm thick (34 mm at the grip). This means that unless you are wearing tight pants, you can smoothly take it out of your back pocket.

Other cameras are small enough to fit in a pocket, but they are thick enough to be difficult to remove, the titanium ones are slippery, and box cameras are hard to grip, so they are easy to drop.

This rapid-firing capability and the ease with which it can be taken out of the camera are the main features of the GR1s.

Unrecognizable camera

In taking snapshots, it is very important that people not find out that you are pointing a camera at them.

For example, if you are in a quick-fire case, you will first be recognized as the person holding the camera. Then, when it comes time to release the shutter, there will be more moving objects such as the case and strap, making it easier for them to find you.

Ideally, it should be so that others cannot know what you are doing. In this respect, the GR1s does not have a strong presence of the camera itself, and the process from taking it out of the pocket to taking a picture is smooth.

Detailed recommendations


As a thing, it is cheaper than other high-end compact cameras, although it does not satisfy the desire for ownership compared to cameras made of titanium, for example.

However, Prices is between 45,000 yen and 70,000 yen, so GR1 is not inexpensive.

Snap mode is available.

There is a snap mode that fixes the focal length at 2 m and the aperture at f/8.

Other cameras also allow you to fix the focal length manually, but these are dialed in and move on their own, making them difficult to use as a snapper.

This manual dial is intended to be used when it is difficult to focus with autofocus, so its use is a bit different. It is not suitable for snapping, at least.

GR1s sample images

Snapshots taken in Thailand. The film is PORTRA 400.

The natural, crisp rendering of the GR lens and the transparent saturation of the PORTA are impressive.

Ricoh GR1 Example of work

Ricoh GR1 Example of work

Ricoh GR1 Example of work

Ricoh GR1 Example of work

Films and settings I use

I like Kodak’s PORTA, so I choose one type of film. After that, I use different ISO depending on the situation.

Basically I use ISO 160 (PORTRA160).I use this sensitivity film because I mainly shoot on sunny days and to take advantage of the descriptive characteristics of the GR lens.
(The examples are at ISO 400.)

First of all, the GR1s has a manual aperture setting, but I shoot in P mode (auto). The reason is that if I keep changing the aperture, I will not be able to take the snapshot in time. The most important thing is to shoot quickly and smoothly.

Also, the GR’s P mode tries to use f/4, which is considered to be the lens’s most photogenic; if you use ISO 400 film on a sunny day, the GR’s maximum shutter speed is 1/500th of a second, so it tries to shoot at the widest aperture value.

In other words, it is often taken at an aperture that is not my favorite descriptive aperture. For this reason, I use ISO 160 on sunny days.

Incidentally, GR lenses lose resolution after f/8, resulting in a slightly sleepy rendering.

In fall and winter, use ISO 400. The reason is that the sunny days are shorter, so there are more situations that cannot be shot at ISO 160.

PORTA also has ISO 800, but I don’t use it very often because of its high price. The only time I use it is for night shooting scenes such as festivals or when I use the snap mode outside of summer when the light level is high.

How to choose a GR1 model

The GR1 is available in four different models.

There are three types of GR with 28mm lens. These are “GR1 -> GR1s -> GR1v” with different names for each version of the GR1. The one I use is GR1s, and there is a reason for this.

The original GR1 had a problem with film transfer when it was first released. The problem was that the film was out of frame and the photos overlapped.

The problem has since been resolved, but if I buy a used one, I cannot determine if it is an improved unit. Also, there is not much difference in price between GR1 and GR1s, so I try to choose GR1s which is newer manufactured.

So what about the GR1v? If the price difference is small, I would choose the GR1v, which is newly manufactured and has a few additional features. the price of the GR1v is about 70,000 yen in normal condition, which is about 20,000 yen more than the GR1s, and you may or may not accept this.

I would choose GR1v if it can be maintained in case of breakdown, but there is no basic store that can fix it if it breaks. Also, there is no warranty at the time of purchase, so if it breaks, you are done.

Then I think it would be less risky to choose a GR1s in relatively good condition, so I am looking for a good used GR1s as a base.

Finally, the one remaining GR1 model is the GR21. This one comes with a 21mm lens, so if you like ultra-wide angle, this is the one to choose.

How to choose GR1 Condition

Choosing a clean exterior is a prerequisite, but there are a few key points and areas where breakage is unavoidable.

Frankly speaking, it is almost impossible to use a GR1 with parts that have consumable goods and remain in perfect working order.

LCD display

GR1 LCD failure
When I turn on the power, nothing is displayed.

The LCD panel is the one that malfunctions the most on the GR1. This is where you see how many films are left, settings, etc.

It is of course inconvenient to have the display without it, but after a while of use, this display will break. This is a kind of a pre-existing condition of GR1, and it is a symptom that always appears because the LCD will be broken due to its life span.

For this reason, I think it is possible to discount the LCD as something that does not have one from the start. The price will be slightly lower for those without LCDs, and the settings can be determined by the behavior of the camera and the information in the viewfinder.

The two GR1s I bought and the GR10 (same LCD), the LCD stopped showing while I was using them.

Display in viewfinder

These are the focus range, shutter speed, and camera setting modes that are visible when looking through the viewfinder. This display is also quite fragile and obscures some of the focus range and shutter speed displays.

The focus range only changes slightly depending on the focal distance to the object being photographed, so, well, this is a good thing even if it is broken. I think the shutter speed is also in the practical range if only the 1/30 second shake alert is displayed.

Mode setting. This can also be managed if broken, since the camera’s behavior will tell you which mode it is in.

Failure of shutter mechanism or film transfer

This is quite troublesome. These days, you often buy cameras on auction sites, but resellers and other camera amateurs cannot confirm this malfunction.

If the reseller has put in the film and taken an actual picture of all one film, there is no problem, but resellers do not often do this.

In fact I have two broken GR1s with me, one has a broken shutter mechanism and one has a broken film transfer that makes it unusable, not to mention the LCD.

A malfunction of the shutter mechanism means that the shutter can be released in operation, but no picture is taken.

A film transfer failure occurs when the film is inserted and the camera can take up to 5 shots, but after that the film stops transferring and the shutter will not release.

Both cameras have no film in them and the shutter clicks, so you would not notice this unless you were shooting live.

Malt deterioration

GR1 Malt degradation

The malt (like the sponge in the photo) deteriorates and peels off or dissolves and becomes sticky.

If the malt is peeled off, light will enter and cause photosensitivity, so it is necessary to seal this area. This can be cured by putting up a few hundred yen malt sold on amazon, etc., so do not worry about the deterioration of the malt.

Originally, it is necessary to put a molt along the window so that you can see what kind of film is in the film from the outside, but I put the molt all the way along the window because it is too much trouble for me. I put malt all along the window because it is not necessary for me because the film does not change the way I take pictures.


I was going to write an article raving about the GR1s, but as I was writing it, I ended up explaining a rather tricky camera.

I have been using this camera for more than 10 years, so I am used to many situations, but for first-time buyers, it was to be a very say-so camera.

The GR1 has been out of production for almost 20 years, and repairs and other support have long since ceased.

Film cameras can hardly be repaired unless they are old mechanical cameras, so as long as you are using an electronic camera with auto-focus, malfunctions are a matter of fate.

Still, I will continue to use this camera as long as I can.

I’m not saying there is no alternative. It’s just a weakness that I fell in love with after being with them for over 10 years (but I’m not sure I want to end up with one more).

Even under these circumstances, we are selling a lot of these cameras, so I will continue to use this camera, hoping that a store will be able to repair it.