The Ricoh Caplio RR120 offers a low-cost introduction to digital photography. Although predominantly plastic it still appears aesthetically pleasing thanks to subtle silver finishing details. The camera's main features are:
- 2.2 Megapixel CCD
- 1792x1200 pixel images
- 1.5in TFT
- 3x (38-114mm) optical zoom
- Macro mode
- 8Mb SmartMedia Card
- USB Connection
- MGI PhotoSuite III SE
- Carry case
These features are slightly above average for a compact camera costing 249.99. If you do decide to buy it, there are cheaper prices available from on-line retailers.
This is a chunky camera, feeling reassuringly solid in your hands. Build quality is good and thanks to the supplied soft velvet case, it should keep its appearance well. All the controls are sensibly placed, a factor which is often sadly neglected on cheaper cameras. Overall the handling is good with no areas of concern.
This isn't a trouser pocket camera though, that is unless you tend to wear excessively baggy trousers. It's small and light enough to easily fit in a bag or in some jacket pockets.
Thanks to the rapid advancing of technology, most digital cameras produced now have fast menus. The RR120 is not an exception, with switches between the various camera modes being satisfyingly quick to operate.
The menu content is reasonably comprehensive with some slightly unusual options being provided for such a cheap camera. For example, you can select ISO100-400 operation, a one or two second bulb mode for longer exposures or change the delay the self-timer uses between two or ten seconds. If you are new to photography you might be wondering what an ISO setting is, unfortunately the manual is no help. Luckily you have found us, so visit our glossary to check for any words you don't know.
On top of the camera is another LCD which is handy for checking remaining battery power, image quality, flash settings and shots remaining.
A dedicated setup menu allows selection of such things as Language, sound, time, auto-off (power saving) and TV output.
Besides the standard automatic mode, which leaves almost everything to the camera's rather basic intelligence, there is a manual mode which allows you to set exposure compensation values or white balance. We'd have liked to have seen some shutter and aperture control as well but there is at least provision for one or two second exposures.
As well as the standard single shot mode you can create a multi photograph. This is a group of small photos all placed onto the same image file. The size of these photos allows the camera to shoot more frames a second meaning action shots can be easier to catch, though you have to sacrifice quality considerably.
Other Ricoh cameras we've tested have had good macro performance and the RR120 manages to follow suit. Allowing some zoom control whilst in the close-up mode good results can be achieved, whereas most other compacts struggle in this area. You can get as close as around 8cm to your subject.
Although strong in some areas, the Ricoh is not without its share of weaknesses. The focusing could be better and is not helped by having to use a difficult to see TFT screen to check it. Similarly the automatic metering occasionally let us down, though this can be got around with the exposure compensation if you are in the manual mode.
Getting back to the modes, the playback mode is fast enough at playing back photos and has a good zoom mode. Also in the playback mode you can re-size photos or adjust their image quality which are rare features to see.
If you buy this camera, don't be suprised if the batteries don't last long when you use it out of the box. The reason for the poor performance is the included batteries are alkalines, which are notoriously inefficient with digital cameras. Instead if you buy some NiMh rechargeable batteries you'll find the time you can use the camera increase around fivefold. Unfortunately most cameras at this price level don't have high-performance lithium batteries as the more expensive models do, so it's an extra expense you have to factor in.
If you're wondering what NiMh or lithium batteries are have a look at our battery buyers' guide here which should help.
LCD Screen and Viewfinder
Both of these are basic, with the LCD being better indoors, and the viewfinder better outdoors. The LCD should be more usable outside, as on a sunny day it was difficult to check if accurate focus was being achieved. In normal dull English weather the situation gets better and some useful status information is displayed, such as a hand icon if there is a danger handshake could blur the photo.
First impressions of photos taken were pleasant surprise. Looking closer and taking more demanding photos the pleasant surprise faded a little. Generally images showed good colour and detail and would make decent average-sized prints. Thanks to a conservative compression ratio images showed few JPG compression artifacts and file sizes averaged 1-1.25Mb. It was also good that we saw almost no purple fringing characteristic of chromatic abberations.
Using the ISO control showed the higher ISO's to be usable when a higher shutter speed or wider aperture is absolutely needed. Leaving the menu set on the lowest ISO value did not cause the noise to vanish, but in the majority of shots there isn't enough to be distracting.
The trick with any camera is learning its weaknesses and working around them. On the RR120 the metering system occasionally slips up so you'll need to be ready to compensate. The focussing is generally accurate but it's worth checking for correct focus in the fast playback mode. Lastly the automatic white-balance setting doesn't always do a great job in artificial light, but there are manual presets so experiment with these and you'll have few problems.
(Above image reduced in size to fit, below image a 100% crop of the above leaf's left section)
Looking at the close up shows low noise levels and a good amount of detail. Metering in this case has been performed well.
This shot shows the 3x zoom range, which has a lot more uses than zooming in on pub signs of course!
Another well metered shot, showing good levels of colour saturation.
Possibly the best feature of this camera is the macro mode! Colour on this photo only needs minor adjustment thanks to the white balance presets
The Caplio RR120 has a few weaknesses but none that should be of major concern to those looking to buy their first digital camera. Providing you can live without having the manual aperture and shutter controls some more expensive cameras offer, you should be happy.
Image quality in this price range continues to improve rapidly and the RR120 helps demonstrate this. Should you have the money fore more expensive cameras you'll find higher resolutions and more options. If you're aiming to spend around 250 though, the RR120 is definetly worth looking at.
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