Ricoh released a firmware update recently, and it includes a new setting that is described as producing an exposure that mimics the original look of GR film cameras.
I couldn’t find any more details on how this was implemented, but it is only available if you set the camera to “original” while capturing images. After capture, in camera RAW editing allows for selection of either “original” or the “normal” setting, the later of which is presumably the standard GR V exposure. The item that was added to the menu is called Ambient Brightness.
I was quite interested to try it out. The following short series of pictures takes these exposure settings through their paces with a few of the signature GR image processing looks.
First off, here’s a pair finished with the most classic Ricoh treatment, a reasonably convincing simulation of a high-contrast grainy black and white film print. The first in the pair is the new original film exposure setting, and the second is the normal digital setting.
The picture was taken in heavy fog along Ocean Beach above the Sutro Bath ruins. These conditions accentuate the most obvious difference in the two exposure modes – heavier vignetting in the original setting. The normal setting seems to produce a more even exposure across the frame.
An alternative explanation is that the luminance curve is subtly changed to increase contrast, which could also accentuate pre-existing vignetting. One thing to watch out for is that the cumulative effect of the original exposure combined with even the weakest vignetting setting during RAW processing tends to be very noticeable.
This next pair of photos utilizes the surprisingly flexible cross-processed film filter. This one used the yellow tinted setting with 4 for “vivid” and 6 for “contrast”. I generally find that a setting of 7 for sharpening works well in most cases, unless a soft look is needed or high ISO noise and NR causes problems. The standard setting of 5 just doesn’t seem to take advantage of all the resolution this camera is capable of.
The last pair below utilized a standard treatment that highlights the great natural color you can get out of the GR. In this well lit shot taken before the fog set in, the original Ambient Light setting has a less noticeable impact than in the previous shots taken in relatively poor light.
After this brief test, I suspect I will leave the camera in original setting and switch back to normal exposure during processing if more even brightness or less contrast is called for. I’ll need to evaluate a little more, but my best guess is that the slight peripheral darkening in the original mode may represent actual lens induced vignetting that would not have been fixed automatically when using film.
So, this new feature could have been implemented as simply as switching off lens correction de-vignetting that may be the default for normal digital processing. If you find yourself adding some subtle vignetting to enhance many of your digital images in post, then this setting is probably just the ticket to save time. Plus, your preview image will look more like what you intend to achieve.
I noticed that beyond subtle darkening around the edge of the images, it also seems to increase contrast and saturation a bit although it could be an effect on perception. If you prefer perfectly corrected lenses and ideal image IQ, you won’t like the original film setting at all.