It's been five months since I saw the last R series model from Ricoh and I'll be interested to see if the notorious noise problems have been addressed.
Ricoh R10: Specification
- Zoom: 7.1x (28-200mm)
- Resolution: 10Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.3in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Image size: 3648x2736 (4:3)
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO80-1600
- Storage: Internal, SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Multi, spot, manual, snap, infinity
- Normal focusing: 30cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 1cm-infinity
- Metering types: Multi, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 8sec-1/2000sec
- Flash: Built-in 20cm-3.0m (wide), 25cm-2.0m (tele)
- Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion
- Size: 102x58.3x26.1mm
- Weight: 191g
Prices online suggest paying around the £200 mark and for that you can get 10Mp, a 7.1x optical zoom, 28mm lens and 1cm macro.
£5 more can get you the Olympus Mju 1060 which offers the same resolution and zoom but doesn't go as wide and has a 7cm close focus.
Alternatively, for £192 the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 also offers 10Mp but with a slightly smaller 5x optical zoom and 5cm macro but goes to a slightly wider 25mm lens.
The brown rubber grip has been split into two parts with no visible explanation why.
The lens is 7.1x optical and has a wide angle view of 28mm.
A larger screen and fn button are the new features on the back.
While the mode dial has a new easy mode which shuts everything but resolution down.
Ricoh R10: Features
As an upgrade, it's always interesting to see what has changed from the previous model and there are some design upgrades immediately noticeable. The front looks the same as the R8 with its minimal vintage design and brown rubber grip although the grip has been split into two pieces down the front edge in line with the flash.
The lens is still as big as the previous model and still houses a large 7.1x optical zoom. Readers of the new Canon Powershot G10 will have seen the safety zoom function where dropping the resolution extends the zoom of the camera allowing higher magnification at the expense of overall resolution. This is different to the digital zoom which crops into a similar sized area then interpolates extra pixels giving a margin of error that gets worse the closer in you zoom. Ricoh say that you can get a maximum of 40.7x zoom (1,140mm) if you drop it down to the lowest VGA (307,000pixels) setting.
An addition of the easy mode to the command dial looks like Ricoh have decided that auto means program as it's designed to limit your access of even some basic functions. When selecting this option, the menu closes down absolutely everything except resolution. that includes the fn button and the adjust menu.
On the back, the screen is bigger and a function button has been added to the four previous buttons which makes the back look busier than previous models but isn't excessive.
All the menu systems are the same as the previous model with the adjustment button (the joystick type on the back) still allowing access to white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, quality and AF/AE area selection. This latter option is default dedicated to the fn button which means you can use it faster.
The menu is still as vast as ever with the two tabs consisting of at least four pages each. This can mean a lot of trawling through looking for features which is why the adjustment menu is such a godsend.
The fn button can be dedicated to other tasks and you can choose from the options in the menu system. Hitting display will bring up the various options you have for what information the camera will show you on screen. You have the choice of rule of thirds grid, no information, screen off even though the camera has no optical finder and information on. You will also notice that when on the information option, it says that if you hold down display, you can choose level setting. This is a device similar to the virtual horizon found on the Nikon D3 professional DSLR and works by telling you if the camera is level. That means any landscape images with a flat horizon are less likely to slant.
The addition of the fn button concurs with a lot of other compacts that have added a quick access button to make your life "easier". Models such as the recently announced Panasonic G1 or the Nikon Coolpix P6000 have an additional function button for dedicating certain features to it.
Ricoh R10: Build and handling
The retro styling consists of a metal casing and rubbery grip to prevent slipping out of buttery fingers. Issues from earlier Ricoh models included a loud lens and zoom operation and this has been addressed on the more recent models.
The R10 doesn't have an optical viewfinder which means the screen is where you do all your work. It's bright enough but does suffer from some motion blur. Purple banding shown when the camera is facing a window from the inside is minor and doesn't cause too much of a distraction.
The playback feature has always been a funny one and at first I thought it was my eyes playing tricks. Now I'm reviewing my sixth Ricoh camera, I can say for a fact that the review image looks ten times sharper than when it's displayed either on the playback screen or when on a computer. I have absolutely no idea why this happens so I contacted Ricoh who confirmed that the review image is of higher contrast then the actual image in preview mode. The technical services department confirmed "The image which appears as a brief flash just after the picture is a preview in a much lower resolution N640. At this low resolution the image appears in a very high contrast due to the high resolution of the LCD display. Using the low resolution N640 it is possible to have a quick preview with little processing power."
They confirmed that setting the camera to the same N640 resolution setting will give similar results to the preview. I see this as causing a potential problem if you're using the in camera sharpening tool as you may think it has sufficient sharpening when it doesn't.
The R series is the budget range of Ricoh compacts and this is still noticeable in the plastic tripod bush and flimsy battery door.
Ricoh R10: Performance
Shutter lag performance gives constant results of 0.08sec which is consistent with the R8 and other compact models in this class.
Switching the camera on to focusing and taking a picture was managed in three seconds. It's not a bad result but could be faster if the focusing didn't have to scroll through its full range before settling.
The R10 has three drive modes which are standard, S-continuous and M-continuous. The only one you'll get any use out of is the standard mode as the other two will record all the pictures as thumbnails on one frame. However, the standard setting managed to take five photographs before the buffer was full and it took a further ten seconds to download taking it out of the ten second test. This means in my test, the R10 managed an average of 0.5fps. The actual speed is nearer 1fps up to five seconds before it starts to download. Ricoh say that the camera will keep taking photographs until the card is full but when I tested it, I waited the ten seconds for it to download then I had to let go of the shutter release and restart. Not the continuous they seem to be suggesting.
Colours are a little mute with the exclusion of blue and yellow which are still saturated.
It all seems very slow for this day and age and it's a recurring problem I keep seeing in the Ricoh compacts. I think if they want to keep in the game they're going to have to improve on continuous shooting including one that people can use effectively.
Colour rendition could be better, I think with prominence being given to blue and yellow. Other colours look a little muted such as the skin tone, green and earthy colours. Mono tones look ok but I'd prefer the black to be blacker.
The portrait image is slightly muted which supports the colourchart result but is unfortunate that it's too pale. Zooming in to full size and the image is suffering from what looks like sharpening. What looks like a smooth image on the page is actually broken up quite badly. I originally noted this on the review of the Ricoh R8 so it's a shame that it's not been resolved for the new camera.
I thought this may be down to the portrait mode choosing a higher ISO and noise control trying to do it's stuff but EXIF data confirms ISO100 was used. This effect has lost detail in the hair and ruined an otherwise perfectly decent image.
Portraits aren't as warm as I'd expect but tie in with the skin tone on the colour chart. The paint effect found on the image is reducing detail in the hair.
The flash has illuminated nicely but has been let down by the problems reported in the other images. cathclights bring the eyes to life nicely though.
The flash has done a nice enough job with shadows being filled in and good catchlights appearing in the eyes.
One other problem with the portraits was that when I tried the face detection portrait mode, it found a stair well but not a face.
The 1cm macro facility throws the background nicely out of focus and allows good detail of the chess piece.
I'm disappointed in Ricoh's programming of the scene modes. They have the smudgy painted look about them and it does nothing for image quality. The only reason I can think they're doing this is to completely eliminate noise.
I like the macro image with the R10 managing to crop in to 1cm it really allows detail to come out in an image. The chess piece is suffering from purple fringing in areas of high contrast but the distortion seen on the portrait shots appears to be at a minimum suggesting that it's incorrect programming in the portrait mode.
I got the landscape shot at around 8.30am before the sun was high. It was a bit dull as well which means contrast is at an all time low in this shot.
The Ricoh isn't showing any signs of fringing in contrast areas which I'm really pleased with. At 25% view in Photoshop CS4, the image appears to be well detailed and handling colour quite realistically.
Closing into 100% full size and the image is shown for what it is. It has the same smudged effect that the previous images have. It appears to happen the most in scene mode so I think it's wise to stay away from these if you can. I'm really disappointed that Ricoh think they can mess with a picture in this way and hope no-one notices.
Ricoh R10: Focus and metering
Focusing works on a standard contrast detect type and is pretty accurate. What lets it down is the speed it takes to get it done. The speed could be much faster if it didn't scroll through the whole range of AF before finding the focus point.
Annoyingly, you can see the camera come into focus on the screen then go back out again before it settles.
Focusing is manually adjustable by going into the adjustment menu and choosing the AF/AE selection option. The focus point can then be moved around the screen and the camera will focus on that point until it's moved again.
Exposure can also be altered in the same way by selecting AE instead of AF. Alternatively, you can choose AF/AE and alter both to have them reading off the same point or individual ones.
In the main menu, you can choose further focus options of Multi AF which will use a selection of AF points or spot AF using just the centre spot. You can also choose manual focusing and when you're in this mode there's a few things to do that aren't easily noticeable. To focus, you have to press left on the D-pad and the focus plane will appear where the zoom slider was. You then use the zoom switch to focus with and if you wish to zoom, press left again. To give Ricoh credit, these instructions are on the screen but they're not easy to read.
Sat just below the focusing options in the main menu, you can choose from multi, spot or centre-weighted metering. Multi works by analsying the metering zones and deciding on the best exposure from the data while centre-weighted uses the whole of the total image with more priority (weight) being pushed to the centre. Spot metering works like spot AF by using only a small area of the screen (approx. 2% of the centre of the image) to meter from. This can be a great tool but also cause loads of problems if you forget to turn it off.
The ISO80 test shows the best possible quality available from the R10.
Ricoh R10: Noise test
No colour noise is visible on the low ISO settings but the grey card of ISO80 has black flecks littering it which doesn't appear to affect the white card. It is noticeable on the black card but not overly. By ISO200 the black flecks are being joined by white ones and detail seems to be leaving the petals but not too badly.
At ISO400 the images take a definite turn for the worse and it's like a proverbial war zone. purple strands web their way over the grey card with noise covering the whole image and detail in the petals nearly at zero.
By ISO1600, detail has fled the petals and the purple blobs are taking over the orange of the flower. Ricoh have done the decent thing and thrown in the towel at ISO1600 by capping the sensitivity there.
It's a shame that noise still hasn't been addressed on the Ricoh compacts as it's something that a lot of people don't like about them.
The ISO400 test is where the noise started to change considerably.
Ricoh are sensible and have capped the sensitivity at ISO1600.
Ricoh R10: Verdict
There's not a great deal different about this camera from the previous model. The camera is well built, stylishly designed and easy to use with some nice features.
If you remember the film with Robin Williams called "What Dreams May Come" then the heaven scenes from it are the closest I can come to describing the effect of the images. It's because of this I think Ricoh need to direct some much needed attention to upgrading the sensor. You could have the best processor in the world but if the sensor isn't upto scratch it's useless.
So come on Ricoh, lets see a camera with a better or nicer still, a bigger sensor able to cope with noise easier and stop smudging images in the scene modes.
As a consumer, I'd be happy to own this camera from a looks point of view, but as a photographer, I can't accept that level of image quality.
Ricoh R10: Plus points
Adjustable AF and metering points
Ricoh R10: Minus points
Over sharpening on all images
Colours are muted
The Ricoh R10 has prices online at around the £179 mark. It is available from Warehouse Express: