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Ricoh Caplio R10
10.0MP | 28-200mm (7.1X) ZOOM | $300 US / £190 UK

Ricoh was one of the earliest innovators in the digital camera market, but has rarely seen that innovation rewarded with much in the way of market share, and remains very much a niche player. This is a real pity, as Ricoh was offering compacts with wide lenses and long zooms before they were popularized by the likes of Panasonic, and has a history of producing distinctive, stylish cameras and for taking risks with products like the GR-Digital.

The R10 was announced in September as an upgrade to the R8, which was itself launched just over half a year earlier, and is the latest in a line of compact models sporting a 28-200mm zoom that goes back to the original R3 in 2005. The new model constitutes only a fairly minor upgrade. The most obvious change is the larger 3.0" screen (the resolution of 460,000 pixels remains the same) but there are also a few new features including an electronic level and a customizable Fn button. The specification highlights are:

  • 10.0 effective Megapixels
  • 28-200mm equiv lens with 7.1x optical zoom and up to 4.8 Digital Zoom
  • 3.0-inch LCD with 460,000 dots resolution
  • Dual Image Stabilizer
  • ISO sensitivity up to 1600
  • Face Recognition for up to 4 Faces
  • 6 shooting modes, 10 scene modes including Easy Shooting mode
  • Electronic level for camera leveling
  • Smooth Imaging Engine III processor
  • Color Bracketing for 3 different tones
  • In-Camera Editing
  • Available in Silver and Black
  • Optional accessories available

Click here to view the specification (opens in new window)

Overview

The R10's design is almost identical to its predecessor's and can confidently be described as minimalist. It is dominated by straight lines and a distinct lack of any ornamental features. The classy shapes and the distinguished finish of the metal surfaces give the R10 a 'premium' appearance. The build quality complements the looks, and the camera feels rock solid although the the brushed aluminum top plate appears to be a little prone to scratching. The R10 is available in black or silver.

Like its predecessor the R10 offers a very useful 28-200mm (35mm equiv.) zoom range and captures your images using a 10 megapixel sensor. In addition the Ricoh comes with a number of interesting features which are rarely seen on the big manufacturers' cameras, including an electronic level, 1:1 image ratio option, and levels / white balance adjustment in review mode, amongst others.

The R10 is a fairly compact camera and as such has a relatively limited amount of external controls and buttons. Nevertheless the Adjust menu allows for quick access to all important shooting parameters. The menu structure is clear and intuitive, new users will be up to speed in very little time. An added benefit of the interface is its customizability; you can tailor elements of the menu for your needs, you can save two sets of shooting parameters and access them via the control dial on the top plate, and there is even a customizable Fn button on the back of the camera.

Key Features

The R10 has quite a boxy, minimalist shape but one-handed operation of the shutter release and zoom rocker is not a problem. The rubberized grip that wraps itself around the camera's edge certainly helps.
The ADJ button (actually it's more like a joystick) is located underneath the review button. A press will take you to Adjust mode. It's also used to navigate menus and to change macro and flash settings. Right below the ADJ controller you'll find the menu button, the customizable Fn button, the combined delete/self timer button and the DISP button.
The main mode dial sits on the top plate, just to the right of the shutter release/zoom rocker combination. To the left of the shutter release is the main power (on/off) button.
The lens is identical to the R8's, and is complemented by CCD shift image stabilization. It uses a double retracting system to squeeze the very useful zoom range of 28-200mm (35mm equiv.) into a fairly compact camera. When zooming or focusing it can be a little noisy though.
In shooting mode a wide range of information is displayed on the LCD, including a live histogram and an 'electronic level' which indicates whether you're holding the camera straight.
The adjust menu gives you access to exposure compensation, WB, ISO, focus mode and AE/AF target shift. The menu is customizable, so you can swap these functions for others which might be more useful to you.

Image quality and performance

The Ricoh R10 is snappy and responsive in most situations. Like in the predecessor, the R8, the latest generation of the Smooth Imaging Engine is doing a decent job in the R10. The camera takes approximately two seconds to take its first shot after powering on. That's mostly down to the extending lens and well within acceptable limits, as is the shutter lag with just over 1/10th of a second. Shot-to-shot times are pretty good at 1.4 sec, and although things slow down considerably when using flash (2.7 sec between shots) the Ricoh is still one of the faster compact cameras in this area.

Focus speed is about average. It takes approximately 0.4 sec to focus at wide angle and 0.6 sec at the tele end of the lens to lock onto your subject. In low light however these figures can increase to about 1.1 sec and 2.0 sec respectively, which might make you miss a crucial shot. On the plus side the R10 usually still manages to lock focus even in very low light.

The R10 is a stylish, attractive camera that manages to squeeze an incredibly useful 28-200mm equivalent lens into a very compact body. We really, really wanted it to produce decent results too - it was looking like the ultimate carry-anywhere camera. It was, therefore a disappointment, to say the least, when we took our first peep at the R10's output. At a pixel level it is, with the exception of the budget Kodak, probably the worst here. We've rarely seen such strong noise reduction at base ISO, which gives the output a slightly watercolor appearance and smears fine, low contrast detail into a blur. Even in broad daylight you can see noise in the shadows and there simply isn't any fine texture recorded at all. Looking closely you can also see purple fringing around high contrast edges, though this is a fairly minor complaint.

Now let's not lose sight of what we're looking at here; this is a ten megapixel camera and you're going to need to produce big prints before the loss of texture will become a problem (though even at 5x7 inches you only need to put the prints next to those from a better camera to see that the output is noisy and over processed). To be honest, if you're not looking for big enlargements we can just about forgive Ricoh for the problems with the sensor and processing - the R10 has, after all, an awful lot going for it. What we find harder to forgive is the awful white balance (some of our daylight shots ended up with almost purple skies - which really should have been blue), the unreliable low light focus, the poor flash exposures or the painfully noisy high ISO output.

It's not hard to find fault with the R10's output: even in a modest print the smearing of detail and unpleasant over-sharpened artifacts are visible, the white balance is often wrong and there's visible noise. For small - and we mean small - prints it's fine, but for anything more demanding, or for low light work, it just doesn't cut the mustard.

Summary

As you might have guessed the R10 - which is on paper one of the most appealing cameras in this group - is let down by mediocre image quality that simply doesn't stand up to anything approaching close scrutiny. We know there's a price to be paid for having such a small camera with such a wide (and useful) zoom range, but in our opinion the R10 is a compromise too far. It's a great little camera with much to recommend it, but the sensor - and processing - let it down badly, and make it hard to recommend to anyone who cares about image quality.

  • We like: Design and build, feature set, lens range, user interface

  • We don't like: Image quality, flash performance
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