The new retro styling of the Ricoh R8 has a feeling of traditional mixed with contemporary. A bit like finding a Starbucks in a church.
Ricoh R8: Specification
- Optical zoom: 7.1x
- Resolution: 10Mp
- Image size: 3648x2736
- Sensor type: CCD
- Sensor size: 1/ 2.3
- Colour: Silver/Black
- Focal length: 28-200mm
- Aperture: f/3.3-5.2
- Viewfinder type: LCD only
- Movie mode: 640×480 30fps
- Screen size: 2.7in
- Card format: SD/SDHC/Internal 24Mb
- Battery: Li-Ion DB-70
- Weight: 168g
- Size: 102x58.3x26.1mm
- Minimum focus distance: 30cm/1cm macro
- Exposure modes: Program AE
- Screen: LCD 460,000
- File formats: JPEG
- Connectivity: USB 2.0
- Flash modes: auto, red-eye, flash on, slow sync, soft flash, flash off
- Shutter speed: 8sec-1/2000sec
- Image stabiliser: Yes- Sensor shift
- Sensitivity: ISO64-1600
- Face detection: No
The Ricoh R8 costs around £230 and offers 10Mp resolution, 7.1x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle focal length and 1cm macro capability.
For the same money, you can also buy the Canon IXUS 970IS with 10Mp, 5x optical zoom, 37mm wide-angle and 3cm macro facility. Alternatively, the Panasonic TZ5 at £245 offers 9Mp, 10x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle and 5cm macro.
Ricoh R8: Modes and features
I love cameras that have a feeling of vintage about them, so from a personal point of view, I really like the design of the R8.
The basic rectangular shape has a zoom lens on the front that's not only huge in performance, but also in physical appearance. I know that 7x optical isn't the largest zoom in the world, I reviewed the Olympus SP-570 a few days ago and that has a 20x optical, but for the size of the body, a zoom this big is pretty good.
The flash slices into the brown rubber grip which wraps around the right side of the camera where the USB/AV ports and strap holes are found, to the rear where the microphone holes puncture the rubber in the rough location that the thumb will rest.
The rear of the R8 is minimal to say the least with only four buttons and a navigation joystick to aid your work and make any changes. The rest of the camera is taken up by the 2.7in screen so the power button and mode dial have to be placed on the top plate with the shutter release.
Minimalism is a word that will keep springing up with this camera as it's been applied to the mode dial too. Only five options are available on the dial for shooting, video, scene modes and two favourites modes where you can dedicate a particular function to the dial. Then it's a case of simply twisting it round instead of going into the menu and taking time to set up your mode.
The menu system needs a mention here because it's a delight to use. Two tabs are all that's available to you keeping in line with the minimalist feel of the camera. The shooting tab has three pages and lets you indulge in features such as resolution, metering, colour depth, exposure compensation, slow shutter limit and the ability to fix the minimum aperture.
The set-up menu has four tabs that allows you to change more in-depth options of the camera such as formatting the card, auto power off, date & time and language.
One of the buttons on the back of the camera is for the display options available on the screen. Tapping the button will scroll through the options of basic shooting info, the same info with a histogram, no info, but with a rule of thirds grid, nothing at all on the screen and screen off. The Ricoh R8, which has no other viewfinder, has the option of turning off the 2.7in LCD screen. How are you supposed to compose? Looks like you'll have to guess or make a frame out of card and Sellotape it to the top of the camera.
The joystick is a bit hit and miss with its operation. Turning macro on is a simple case of pushing it to the left and it's on with the focal length adjusting automatically and the flash options can be switched on by flicking the stick to the right.
Pressing it in the centre gives quick access to the ISO which is a relief or it means hunting through the menu system. It also gives quick access to the bracketing, exposure compensation, metering and AF target area.
The bracketing menu has three options which are on, white balance bracket and colour balance bracket. The white balance bracket takes a shot on the setting you've chosen and stores two extra shots at different settings that the camera thinks will be suitable. The colour balance bracketing does the same except it saves a black & white and sepia image with the colour shot.
The AF target has a moveable crosshair and the camera will focus on that spot instead of the default centre spot. This makes recomposing unnecessary, though you may find that it's quicker to do just that.
Metering from the side of the building gave the shaded area more detail and the late evening shot meant that the sky wasn't over exposed.
Metering from the water towards the middle of the frame has under exposed the rest of the scene. The preview screen will show the image darkening as you move the crosshair around which is a nice touch.
The mode also offers the chance to target the exposure like a variable spot metering feature. This is a nice touch and will move independently of the focus area chosen. You can choose to have them both align together if you wish. In metering you have a choice of centre-weighted, multi and spot metering to make your photos more fun.
Focus adjusted to the front.
Focus adjusted to the rear of the car.
As the replacement to the Ricoh R7, I think it's worth looking at the upgrades and modifications that have taken place.
The resolution is higher and the design of the camera has been changed from the modern style of the R7 to a more retro design. I mentioned in the review of the R7 that I didn't like the noisy motors or the banding on the screen and these issues seem to have been resolved. I also didn't like the soft image on the screen and while the image is a lot sharper on screen when previewing there was no problem on reviewing images taken.
I noticed that while using macro, the camera will focus but leave the shot out of focus until a split second after the beep has emitted where it will suddenly plop into focus. It's a bit unusual, but it's not like it doesn't work.
Ricoh R8: Build and handling
The Ricoh R8 has an excellent build quality and feels solid in your hands suggesting a good skeleton beneath the metal casing. The zoom is solid enough and has a nice smooth operation unless you choose it to move in steps in the menu system. It's also quieter than the R7 which is something that both myself and Gadget Granny noticed when testing.
In stark contrast, the battery door is a little flimsy and I think it would have been really nice to see a metal tripod bush on this camera as a testament to the design and overall quality.
I like little touches such as the shiny R8 badge in the bottom corner and the stamped lettering on the top plate.
Ricoh R8: Flash options
The Ricoh R8 has a built-in flash with a range of 0.2-3.0m at wide-angle and 0.25-2.0m at telephoto which is the same as the R7. As the camera is an upgrade, I expected a better performance from the new version.
You can choose from flash off, auto, red-eye reduction, slow sync and soft flash.
Ricoh R8: Performance
The shutter lag test gave a consistent response of 0.08seconds which is about standard for a compact today.
Start up time from pressing the power button to the image being on screen ready to shoot was 1.5 seconds which is a reasonable result, but not if you're needing it for candid work. Although the battery life is pretty good affording you the leisure of leaving the camera switched on, doing that will kick in the auto power off mode which is defaulted to one minute. It can be changed to five minutes, or half an hour if you wish, by accessing the set-up menu.
The Ricoh R8 has three continuous shooting modes which are continuous, stream and memory-reversal. Continuous mode does what it says on the tin and will keep shooting while the shutter release is held down. The other two are more interesting with the stream function taking 16 images in around two seconds. Unfortunately, it then saves all these images on one full size image meaning that the image you want will be very small.
The memory-reversal mode has a short two second memory that records as you point at your subject with the shutter held down. When you release the button it saves the 16 frames in the memory in the same way that the stream function does. It's a good idea, but simply not up to scratch especially with the release of the Casio F1.
Metering for the thigh has darkened the background nicely as the shot was taken mid-afternoon in bright sunlight. The in-camera sharpening has distorted the image as it moves out of focus towards the top of the frame.
The Ricoh R8 has a sharpening feature in the menu so the processor will boost the sharpening even more than usual. It's pretty much a given that all digital camera shots need a bit of sharpening when put into editing and looking at the results of some of the sharpened images, it might be best to leave it that way.
As I continued to test the off centre metering, I also boosted the sharpness on this shot of a statue and while the legs are in focus and look good, the face and shoulders have an almost painted look to them.
Close examination of the macro shot shows a noise problem with the lines of the car and wheel breaking down. This means that the noise test shots will be interesting to look at.
The colour chart image has boosted the blue, green and yellow, but the red is a little lame in comparison to some other compacts. The skin tone looks balanced and the portrait shots will prove how good it is. I like the richness of the earthy colours and the mono tones are clean.
From the landscape shot, it looks like Ricoh have been hard at work trying to suppress chromatic aberration (fringing). Only a smudged green line down the contrasting line at the end of the lever for the lock door shows any trace and that's marginal.
The overall image is pleasant with good colour and detail in the grass at the foreground. the sky is a realistic colour to the day.
A good result from the Ricoh on the colours and I liked the results of the coloured buildings on location.
The Ricoh R8 has a maximum macro facility of 1cm which blocks out light on certain shots forcing you to move back.
Fringing is present to the right of the frame, but a good overall result.
The sun was high and strong for the portrait shots and has caused a high degree of contrast with strong shadows. The Ricoh R8 has managed to track the off centre subject using the face detection and has given a decent skin tone.
Using the flash has bleached out the nose and parts of the cheeks but has restored detail in the shadow areas caused by the sun. Catchlights can be seen but they're only small. This could be a consequence of bright sunlight making the subject squint.
The face detection of the R8 works ok but strong sunlight can cloud its judgement.
While bringing detail out from the shadows, the nose and parts of the cheeks are burnt.
Ricoh R8: Noise test
Disappointingly, noise is visible in tiny amounts on the lowest ISO64. This is only at full magnification and looks like minor sharpening. It's unlikely that in a realistic environment you'll see it at all.
Detail in the petals starts to drop off at ISO200 and by ISO400, the image starts to degrade quite drastically. ISO800 looks like a child has come along and rubbed the image out with an eraser while I'm loathe to even look at the ISO1600 image. It has blasts of noise all over and no detail in the petals at all.
This is a terrible result for Ricoh and I'm surprised they let a camera of this quality be released in this day and age of dedicated processors and noise removal systems. I can only thank small mercies that they capped it at ISO1600.
The ISO64 test.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Ricoh R8: Verdict
I took great pleasure using the Ricoh R8 with it's ease of use and decent features. It also looks good on the arm with the vintage styling.
It's just a shame that the performance isn't up to scratch. I reported that the images have a look like they're over sharpened giving a painted look. I think this may now be down to the noise that the sensor generates.
If you're going to use this camera in low light then you'll want to consider staying away as it won't perform for you. However, if you like your cameras vintage with some lovely features, then take a look at it.
Ricoh R8: Plus points
AF & AE spot control
Ricoh R8: Minus points
Continuous shooting records all images as one image
The Ricoh R8 costs around £229 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.