Match a fast 7x optical zoom with a 28mm wide angle lens, throw in killer looks and you have the perfect recipe for a must-have compact.
- Sensor: CCD - 7.24 Million pixels
- Image Size: 3072 x 2304 pixels
- Lens: 28-200mm equiv. (7.1x zoom)
- Focus: Auto/Manual - 1cm Macro
- ISO range: 64-1600
- Exposure: Program AE, Scene modes
- Metering: Multi-segment, CW, Spot
- Shutter speed: 8-1/2000sec
- Monitor: 2.7" TFT LCD
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Flash range: 3m (wide), 2m (telephoto)
- Storage: SD Cards, 54Mb Internal
- Batteries: Li-ion Battery DB-70
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 99x23x55mm, 135g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
There's a burgeoning mini-market for cameras offering decent resolution - around 7Mp resolution - combined with a high power optical zoom. That throws the R6 into the fray with the Samsung NV7 OPS, the Kodak Easyshare Z710 and the Casio Exilim EX-V7.
Modes and features
Like all compacts, the R6 offers up a collection of scene modes which are available on a slider that moves between custom settings, scene and auto. What is surprising is that there are so few of them - portrait, face, sports, landscape, people at night, high sensitivity, zoom macro (uses the digital zoom), black and white, sepia, skew correction mode, text mode or movie. Most compacts have a lot more variety than this. The auto setting is simply a program mode, so all the settings bar aperture and shutter speed can be changed.
The other control option on the top of the camera is the zoom rocker and the fire button. The zoom is a 7x optical which is quite a nice reach to have on a compact, and the good news is that it's very quick as well. It makes a pleasing mechanical noise that gives the impression it's on a mission to zoom in.
Around the back of the camera, there are just four buttons next to the LCD and the joypad with a thumbstick in the middle. When in Scene mode, pressing up on the joypad activates the choice of selections, while left brings up flash, right is cancel and down switches between normal mode, macro and landscape. This is handy because it saves going into the scene modes to select what is one of the most common modes.
The buttons cover playback, delete/timer and display options - these toggle what information appears on screen, the most handy of which is to have a small live histogram. This is so useful to have running all the time because it doesn't get in the way of image composition, but it ensures that when using exposure compensation - press the ADJ button - the results can be accurately checked. Also available from the adjustment sub menu are manual white balance settings. It is rather a two-step process to adjust the compensation, whereas other compacts can just use the thumbstick to alter it, but it's no great handicap.
Pressing the thumbstick down, when not doing anything else, brings up the menu system, and this is a little grim looking and slightly awkward to navigate. It does mean that the very good ISO range can be set from a pleasing 64 at the quality end, up to 1600 at the dark and dirty end. Also in here are the different exposure modes - zone, centre-weighted and spot, though I suspect they won't get used much as it's easier to just tweak the exposure compensation rather than labour through the menus to change the metering mode.
Of course, along with the 7x optical zoom, the other attraction of the Caplio R6 is the wide angle lens, which offers an equivalent 28mm viewpoint. That really makes a difference on landscape shots and interior ones where you are trying to get everyone into a group shot.
Speaking of people, the R6 also features face detection and anti-shake technology to try to keep the picture sharp in low light. Inside it packs in 54Mb of internal memory for those moments when your memory card is full.
Build and handling
Considering that compact cameras are basically oblong lozenge shapes, Ricoh has managed to put quite a bit of stylish design into this camera. Not only does the central metal band, in the black metal body, run from corner to corner, it also widens and then protudes out of the end. It makes it look dramatic and quite a nice looker. The zoom is housed in the body, and pops out with concentric rings of shiny metal very quickly. It feels nice and solid, and the entire camera has a good quality feel to it... except for the battery compartment. Not only can this pop open when fixing the camera to a tripod - not that this is likely to happen that often I concede - but inside the battery is much smaller than the space it fits into. This means that the tiny restraining clip struggles to hold it in place everytime the compartment is opened, and it looks like it's going to break off at any point.
There are quite a few nice options on the flash side as the camera can do the usual red-eye reduction and normal flash, but throws soft flash and flash synchro into the mix. This latter option is on one of the scene modes and enables people shots to be taken at night, combining flash with a long exposure to capture the background, ambient light. The power rating though, places the flash range at just 3m in wide angle mode, which is about as bad as it can be.
Auto focus is reasonably quick and works well with the face detection system to find and lock onto features, even if they are not centred. The anti-shake reduction system isn't that great, and will only make a difference to a few shots. What is impressive is the wide angle view and the super quick zoom. That really does rattle through the focal range up to the maximum telephoto setting. The macro mode offers a splendid 1cm mode, which can be tricky to get to focus because the lens is so close to the subject, but it does the job and enables very good macro shots to be captured.
The metering is generally good, though the multi-segment zone system is susceptible to being fooled by sunny conditions where it tends to meter for the ground, not the sky. However, with the live histogram set up and exposure compensation in action, adjustments are easy to make.
Sharpness is pretty good at the wide angle end of the zoom, and while it softens somewhat at the telephoto end, it's perfectly acceptable. The colours are interesting because red and greens are generally accurate - more vivid versions can be set in the menu - but blues are considerably brighter, which means that skies will certainly be brighter and feature nicer tones than they might have had.
The primary red and green colours are very good here, avoiding the usual over-cooking of the reds, but blues are much brighter. The combinations of colours are good, except when it then comes to those with blues, which dominate.
The portrait mode uses an auto-ISO setting, so in low light it's bumped it to ISO200. However, at this setting the picture quality is poor, with lots of noise and despite locking on with the face detection system, it's very soft as well.
Despite the dismal conditions, this is a good result, showing the wide angle setting. There is good sharpness in landscape mode and no colour fringing evident.
The 7x optical zoom is very fast and, while slightly soft, retains plenty of detail at the telephoto end of the range. The colour in this shot is also nice and vibrant.
This is the wide angle view of the church and shows how useful a 28mm field of view can be in capturing an entire scene. It also used -0.7EV exposure compensation to capture the bright stonework.
The subject was backlit by the evening sun, the face detection system locked on but the AWB has messed up, removing the pleasing yellow glow, and giving the girl a cyan colour cast. The portrait mode made the features too soft again.
The macro mode features a very impressive 1cm range allowing you to get very close in to small details like flowers.
Unusually this compact features an ISO64 mode, but equally unusually you can see noise in the grey card areas even at this setting. It's more noticeable at ISO200 and becomes pronounced at ISO400. This is the critical setting as other compacts handle noise at ISO400 much better. However, while it becomes more pronounced at ISO800 it isn't unusable, and though the ISO1600 mode is obviously very noisy and shifts the colour and loses texture, it's no worse than other compacts at this setting.
There are some great features on the Caplio R6, starting off with the design which is stylish and modern. The zoom is great, really one of the fastest we've seen on a compact, and tied in to a 28mm wide angle setting, really gets the camera off to a flying start. The face recognition focus system works well, finding faces where ever they are on the screen, but the portrait mode, with its desire to make everything seem nice and fluffy, rather hammers the detail. I suspect this is okay if the pictures are then printed at no larger than 7x5in., which is pretty much the target audience requirement, but they wouldn't look good any bigger.
There is a lack of scene modes overall, and the flash system, while offering some good options, is fairly weak. Detail on landscape shots tends to be good but there are certainly real issues with noise being evident right from the off in ISO100 mode and any low-light shot will have have noise regardless of the ISO setting. It's the noise really, and the over-aggressive portrait mode that keep this camera from scoring top marks because the performance otherwise has much to offer and it's a genuinely nice camera to hold and use.
7.1x optical zoom
That zoom is very fast
28mm wide angle
Simple to use
Face recognition focus
Images are noisy
Portrait mode too soft
Menu system a little clunky
Flash fairly weak
The Ricoh Caplio R6 has a street price of around £229 and can be purchased from the ePHOTOzine shop here.