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Ricoh Caplio R4 Digital Camera Review

Ricoh Caplio R4 Digital Camera Review - 

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Ricoh Caplio R4 in Compact Cameras

Cramming a monster 28-200mm lens into a camera no bigger than a packet of cigarettes can't have been easy for Ricoh. Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at whether this, their latest compact creation, has turned out to be a beauty or a beast.

Ricoh Caplio R4Specifications
  • 6.04 megapixels
  • 7.1x zoom lens equivalent to 28-200mm for 35mm cameras.
  • Step Zoom function with six fixed possible steps: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm, and 200mm
  • Maximum aperture f/3.3-4.8
  • CCD shift method vibration correction function
  • 1cm macro
  • ISO Sensitivity AUTO/64,100,200,400,800
  • SD memory card compatible
  • Internal Memory - 26MB
  • Dimensions (W x D x H) 95.0mm x 26.0mm x 53.0mm
  • Weight Approx. 135g
  • Price £249
Build and handling
There are smaller compacts than the Ricoh Caplio R4 available, but none which pack such a useful lens and impressive set of features into them. The camera is about the same size as a packet of cigarettes and fits my hand perfectly, with controls well enough laid out to operate with one hand. On the downside, my fingers did keep covering up the flash at first, although I could live with this. As soon as I realised the problem I adjusted my grip. The flash is positioned as far from the lens as possible to help prevent red-eye.

Ricoh Caplio R4 Display screen
2.5inch screens appear to be standard issue in many digital cameras at present, and the R4's screen is one of the better examples. An excellent anti-reflective coating on the screen's surface makes it a pleasure to use in even the brightest light. The displayed image is bright, clear, and sharp, especially when reviewing your photos.

Five different autofocus modes can be found in the menu including, multi-AF, spot AF, MF, snap and infinity focus. The default setting is multi-AF and this locks on quickly when the shutter button is lightly pressed. A slightly gritty noise is made when focusing, but this was something I soon got used to. For composing off-centre subjects, the spot AF mode is useful as you can focus and recompose. I would have preferred a way of manually selecting focusing points, as the spot AF mode isn't ideal for rapidly moving subjects. By the time you have recomposed, your subject will have vanished. The snap auto focus makes the camera behave like a fixed focus compact and is useful for shots where split-second timing is needed, as there is no delay waiting for the camera to focus.

Battery life
I managed to get just over 270 shots from a fully charged battery without using the flash, but with the vibration correction feature switched on and with plenty of playback use in between shots. There is no optical viewfinder provided so the screen cannot be turned off whilst shooting to save batteries.

Memory Card
The Caplio R4 takes SD cards which fit into a slot beside the battery. The following are write speeds for Jpeg quality settings when using a Sandisk Extreme III card.

Quality setting Time taken to write to card
6 megapixel Jpeg Fine 2.6secs
6 megapixel Jpeg Normal 2.0secs

I also timed the delay between shots with this camera in the single shot mode.

Quality setting Shot-to-shot delay
6 megapixel Jpeg Fine 1.78secs
6 megapixel Jpeg Normal 1.46secs

These are quite good response times for a compact digital camera. The short amount of time taken to clear images from the buffer means that the camera will not cease up every time you wish to take a few shots in quick succession.

Menu and controls
The controls are very simple on the R4, without being too basic. On the top is the shutter button and a switch for the CCD anti-shake system. Located on the back are the zoom control, the menu button and the adjust button. I especially like the adjust button feature, it puts all the most commonly used menu features a few button presses away. The ISO, sensitivity, exposure compensation, and white balance are all easily adjusted within this menu.

Zoom lens

Having such a long zoom range in a tiny camera like this is a revelation. I loved being able to choose from a very handy 28mm wide-angle and any other focal length up to 200mm, all packaged within the size of a pack of cards. The quality is good as well, images are sharp with little sign of purple fringing at either end of the zoom range. A brighter aperture than f/3.3 would have been useful, but then that would make the camera bigger, so I can't complain.

9 automatic scene modes including normal, portrait, sports, landscape, nightscape, zoom macro, high sensitivity, text and a skew correction mode cover most common photographic situations. The skew correction mode is unique to this camera and is designed to counter the effects of perspective when photographing buildings, or something square such as a monitor or a whiteboard.

Macro mode

The macro capability is very impressive, giving plenty of scope for framing your subject in different ways as it still allows you to focus closely up to about two-thirds of the way into the zoom range.
Ricoh Caplio R4 Ricoh Caplio R4
Above - A macro shot taken at the wide setting.
Below - A 100% crop of the above
Above - A macro shot taken at the tele setting
Below - A 100% crop of the above
Ricoh Caplio R4 Ricoh Caplio R4

Vibration reduction
This handheld one second exposure was made possible by a combination of careful handling and the vibration correction function. Although camera shake is still visible in the shot, it is greatly reduced and would still be acceptable in a small to medium sized print. Ricoh Caplio R4

Image quality
There are two different image quality levels on this camera - Fine and Normal. All images in this review were taken on Fine and at maximum resolution so that I could see what the camera is capable of producing using the typical settings.
Ricoh Caplio R4
The auto white-balance is very accurate, correcting all but the most difficult colour casts.
Ricoh Caplio R4
The R4 produces accurate colours.
Ricoh Caplio R4 Left - Having a 200mm equivalent lens in such a small package makes this camera great for street photography. Candid shots are a breeze, and the vibration correction function helps to make such a long focal length useful.
Ricoh Caplio R4 Ricoh Caplio R4
Ricoh Caplio R4
This difficult scene has been overexposed by the camera, burning out highlights and bleaching the midtones.
Ricoh Caplio R4
Adjusting the exposure compensation by -0.7EV has resulted in a more balanced exposure.

Ricoh Caplio R4 Ricoh Caplio R4
This busy scene was taken using a tripod to determine the level of detail this camera can produce. A 100% crop of the image shows the level of detail captured by the R4
The Caplio R4 records an impressive amount of detail, especially seeing as lenses with a long zoom range are often a compromise.

The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting.
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the green square is.

Ricoh Caplio R4
Ricoh Caplio R4
Ricoh Caplio R4
Ricoh Caplio R4
Ricoh Caplio R4
Ricoh Caplio R4
At ISO64 there is a pleasant lack of noise, and although there is a steady increase at ISO100 and ISO200 and even ISO400, the levels are still well-controlled plus the noise has an excellent film-like appearance, which isn't intrusive at all. By ISO800 things start to get messy, but then this setting will be for when you have no other option.

I really enjoyed using the Ricoh Caplio R4, having a long zoom range like this in such a tiny camera is a lot of fun, especially as it is equivalent to 28mm at the wide end. The price you pay is in the maximum aperture of the lens being only f/3.3-4.8, although in my opinion it is a price worth paying. Also the CCD shift vibration correction is very effective, with good technique long exposures are possible handheld.

I was impressed by the image quality this camera produces. Images are sharp, detailed, colourful and almost completely free of noise when the light levels are good enough to use the lowest ISO setting.

In summary the positive points of the Ricoh Caplio R4 are:
Ricoh Caplio R47.1x zoom range.
Ricoh Caplio R428mm wide angle.
Ricoh Caplio R4Excellent image quality.
Ricoh Caplio R4Vibration correction is very effective.
Ricoh Caplio R4High quality LCD screen with a good anti-reflective coating.
Ricoh Caplio R4Very responsive for a compact.

The negative points:
Ricoh Caplio R4Limited maximum aperture
Ricoh Caplio R4Noise at ISO800

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Photographs taken using the Ricoh Caplio R4

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