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Announced by Ricoh as a "revolutionary new model" that "eliminates the key banes of digital photography" in August 2002, the RR30 has now been placed under the close scrutiny of the ePHOTOzine team.
A key feature of this camera, heavily promoted in the press release, is the low shutter release lag of 0.22 seconds. This means, that in some circumstances the time between you pressing the shutter release and the photograph being taken is almost instant. This is most impressive when you consider that the RR30 is one of the cheapest three megapixel digital cameras money can currently buy at £280.
- 3.21 megapixel CCD
- Lens: f/2.5-4.8, 6 glass elements in 5 groups
- 3x optical zoom (35-105mm in 35mm camera format)
- ISO Range: Auto (ISO 160), selectable 200/400/800
- Shutter speeds from 8sec to 1/1500sec
- Macro focus distance of 1cm
- 1.5" TFT (approx. 113,000 pixels)
- Exposure modes: Centre weighted, spot and multi
- Internal 8MB memory
- Takes SD Memory cards
- USB and Video out
- Takes two AA batteries
- Weighs around 150g
Being placed in the budget category, it's not surprising the overall finish of the RR30 is only average. The two tone look of silver to the front and black for the rear gives it a certain sense of style and it's not a bad looking camera. In terms of build quality, it fairs slightly better. Although the controls do feel slightly cheap, the rest of the body feels tough and quite light.
The narrow shape of the RR30 lends itself well to slipping in a back pocket or a handbag and the automatic lens cover saves fiddling with lens caps. Overall the RR30 is built quite well and competes on the same level as other budget 3 megapixel cameras.
When using the camera, the interface is simple and intuitive enough for anyone new to digital cameras to have few problems. A minor niggle is the noise of lens extending and retracting, it's possibly the loudest of any camera we've ever tested.
As Ricoh quote in the product literature there really is very little lag time in taking shots. We even recorded times of less than 0.22 seconds, though when in macro mode the lag can extend to over a second. This 0.22 sec time even puts to shame some digital cameras costing twice as much as the Ricoh.
The menus are plain and functional, without any of the jazzy animation's or colours seen on some more expensive compact cameras. That's not necessarily a negative point and they actually contain a fair amount of useful options.
The basic information is provided around the sides of the display. Shutter speed and aperture information are displayed when you half press the shutter release.
Pressing the display button removes all this information and pressing it a second time shows two by two grid lines, handy as a composition aid.
|Capture mode view|
|The exposure compensation option allows you to see the result of each adjustment on the subject. The White balance includes a manual setting for lighting not covered by the presets. The focusing option includes a manual focus option, which when selected allows a zoom option so you can check whether fine details are sharp.|
|Auto mode menu|
|These settings are all self-explanatory.|
|The scene modes allow beginners to get better results in some common difficult shooting conditions. Something quite unique for a menu system, Ricoh have included images behind the menu to show the type of situations each mode is suited to.|
The mode dial allows you to choose between:
The playback mode is fast, with previously taken images springing up onto the LCD quickly. Changing between modes is also prompt, with almost instant switches in many cases. The biggest wait this camera is going to inflict on you is the startup time of around three seconds, which is not unreasonable.
Through the in-camera menu there is an option to enable a continuos mode. This lets you take 16 shots in one file, with a 0.13 second interval between each small frame. In M-Continuos mode the shots stored can be the last 16 taken before lifting your finger off the shutter release, useful if you're not sure when some action is going to finish.
There's also an interval mode, so if you want the camera to take a photo every hour, or every thirty seconds you don't have to be there to press the shutter release.
Viewfinder and LCD screen
The LCD screen can have an electronic grid overlay, useful for making sure your photo has a perfectly horizontal horizon. It's reasonably bright, though colours can look slightly under-saturated
The viewfinder is small and has no diopter adjustment, but is adequate for a camera priced at this level.
On the left-hand side of the camera are the USB and video-out connections. Ricoh provide the necessary cables for both of these with the camera.
They are both covered by a rubber flap. When connected to a WIA compatible windows PC (such as Windows XP) no driver software is needed to download your images.
The Ricoh RR30 uses two AA batteries and these are held adjacent to the SD/MMC memory card at the right of the camera.
Optionally, you can buy a Lithium-Ion Rechargeable battery which will give the best possible battery performance.
We used standard 2000mAh NiMH batteries during testing and the camera performed well with these. Should you find the battery performance insufficient for your needs, two extra rechargeable batteries cost next to nothing compared to the Lithium-Ion ones.
Bearing in mind the low cost of the RR30, image quality is average. The lens shows very little sign of distortion and is reasonably sharp. The minor let down in image quality is caused by the electronics in the camera, with higher than average noise levels at anything but the lowest ISO setting.
Colour accuracy in our test shots is also average, but the RR30 does have an advantage over some similarly cheap cameras in that it has a custom white-balance setting. This will help obtain a better level of colour accuracy than using the Auto white balance under difficult lighting conditions.
Something else we found quite impressive was the manual focus option. The macro mode was great, as we've found to be the case on several other Ricoh cameras, with it being possible to focus as close as 1cm from your subject. All these features are not usually found on a camera costing so little.
The in-camera metering and focussing systems worked reliably and we've already covered the speed of focussing earlier in the review. The metering system didn't throw up any nasty surprises and there's exposure compensation to rely on should things go wrong.
Although slightly over-saturating these tomatoes, the camera redeems itself through the metering system having coped well.
This crop of the above tomato image shows the reasonable sharpness of images at a 100% view.
Although the colour accuracy of the RR30 isn't completely bad, this image has room for improvement.
The crop below is a 100% copy of the sign about half way up the right-hand side of the above building.
Suffering from a blueish cast this shot does at least show the reasonable detail the RR30 is capable of capturing. See the crop below of the highlighted area for a 100% view.
Shot with the macro mode, the RR30 offers good potential for taking close-up shots.
This camera impressed us in a number of areas. It's fast to operate, has quite advanced features, such as manual white-balance, manual focusing and exposure compensation which are sadly lacking on many budget cameras. The macro mode is fantastic and very few cameras even costing twice as much can compete on the close-focusing ability of the RR30.
However, not everything is positive. Colour accuracy was occasionally questionable and this would not be very easy to correct in software by the beginner photographers this camera is aimed at. Although the camera has a high resolution CCD, the actual sharpness and detail of the shots taken were only average. Lastly, you'll need to budget for a memory card, as the included internal 8Mb of memory is insufficient.
Ultimately, if you're looking for a budget camera which is flexible and will provide reasonable quality images for average sized prints, you could do worse than the Ricoh RR30.
Discuss this review and other digital cameras here.