Ricoh Caplio RR1 Digital Camera
Four megapixels in a "vest pocket" camera design from Ricoh!
||4.1 megapixel CCD delivering images as large as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels|
||3x optical zoom lens, plus up to 3.6x digital zoom|
||Slim, "business style" case design|
||Generous memory (72MB total) and battery/charger included|
Though Ricoh's past contributions to digital imaging are not widely touted, this primarily business-based communications company has done a lot over the years to expand the boundaries of digital capture. Consistently delivering ground breaking new technology and innovative digital features with its imaging products, Ricoh has significantly influenced the course of consumer-based digicam design and functionality. In 1996, Ricoh introduced the RDC-1, the first "multimedia" camera to combine still image digital capture with video and audio recording. Since then, subsequent models have incorporated updated "QVGA" QuickTime movies with sound, memo recording, time-lapse photography, and Web-cam broadcast capabilities. Ricoh's objective? To bridge the gap between the corporate business environment and digital imaging communications.
Ricoh's latest digicam product actually takes them back to a device with more purely "camera" functions, with none of the exotic communication or PDA capabilities of some of their recent devices. Rather, the Caplio RR1 is a straightforward (if unusually shaped) four megapixel camera with a solid feature set and decent image quality characteristics. In this review, I take a (very) quick look at the RR1, its capabilities, and image quality.
- 4.13-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels.
- 3x, 7.3-21.9mm lens, equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera.
- Up to 3.6x digital zoom (640 x 480-pixel resolution size only).
- Auto and manual focus options, as well as two fixed focus settings.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- Two-inch, TFT color LCD monitor with swivel design.
- Automatic exposure control.
- Maximum aperture of f/2.6 - f/3.4, depending on zoom setting.
- Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 1 second.
- Multi, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
- Adjustable white balance with six settings.
- Adjustable ISO with equivalents of 150 (Auto setting), 200, 400, and 800.
- Built-in flash with four modes, plus an intensity adjustment.
- Movie, Audio, Text, Continuous Shooting, and Self-Timer recording modes.
- JPEG, uncompressed TIFF, and Motion JPEG file formats.
- Images saved to 72MB internal memory or SmartMedia card.
- NTSC and PAL video formats, AV cable included.
- USB cable for high-speed connection to a computer.
- Interface software CD included.
- Power from one rechargeable lithium ion battery pack (included).
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
With a body design familiar to previous Ricoh digicam devices, the RR1 is the latest in the line, only this model is strictly a digicamnot a combination MP3 player / digicam or PDA / digicam. (Unlike the recent Dick Tracy/Buck Rogers-inspired i700, which I've also reviewed.) The RR1 features a 4.13-megapixel CCD, which offers higher resolution and larger image sizes (as large as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels)but does once again use the slim case design with swiveling LCD design and secondary Shutter button for vertical & horizontal double-duty shooting positions. Though the RR1 has a slightly longer body size than many compact digicams, the slim width keeps the camera very portable. It should slip into a large coat pocket with ease, and comes with a wrist strap and soft carrying case as well.
The RR1 features a 3x, 7.3-21.9mm zoom lens, the equivalent of a 35-105mm lens on a traditional 35mm camera. Apertures are automatically controlled, and the RR1 doesn't report the aperture setting on the LCD monitor or status display panel. Ricoh does indicate in the specifications guide that the maximum aperture available is f/2.6 - f/3.2, depending on the lens zoom setting. Digital zoom is only available with the 640 x 480-pixel resolution size, with a maximum enlargement of 3.6x. (Remember that digital zoom means lower image quality.) Focus can be automatically or manually controlled, with a range from 9.4 inches (24 centimeters) to infinity. The macro range extends from 0.4 (!) to 9.4 inches (1 to 24 centimeters). Two fixed focus settings are also available, with distances of 2.5 meters and infinity.
For composing images, the RR1 has a real-image optical viewfinder with a diopter adjustment for eyeglass wearers. The two-inch, TFT color LCD monitor's swivel design allows it to open upward and then swivel a full 270 degrees, facing just about any direction. An information readout reports the date and time, flash mode, memory in use, available images, and a central autofocus target, which can be disabled. An alignment grid is also available, via the Display button. The LCD monitor also allows you to enlarge captured images and view index displays in Playback mode.
Exposure is automatically controlled on the RR1, and the camera does not report the exposure settings in the LCD monitor or on the small status display. The camera does warn if a slow shutter speed is in use, however. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 1 second in Still record mode, and from 1/2,000 to 1/30-second in Movie mode. An "S-Mode" allows you to capture night exposures without using a slower shutter speed, meaning you can handhold the camera. (An auto-boosted ISO speed, perhaps?) Though Ricoh rates the longest shutter time available as one second, the camera offers a Time Exposure mode, with options of two, four, or eight second exposures.
Three metering modes are available on the RR1, including Multi, Center-Weighted, and Spot. Exposure compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV), in 0.25-step increments. In tricky lighting conditions, an Auto Exposure Bracketing function can help insure that you get the best exposure, by snapping three shots at different EV settings. You can also change the camera's light sensitivity, with equivalents of ISO 200, 400, and 800 available. (The Auto ISO setting defaults the ISO to150, and allows it to vary in response to lighting conditions.) White Balance is user-adjustable as well, with options of Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Manual. The Manual setting allows you to add or subtract blue from the color balance. (This is different from what we're accustomed to seeing in manual white balance options, which generally let you set white balance based on a white or gray reference card.) The camera also features a sharpness adjustment, as well as Monochrome and Negative shooting modes. An unusual Split Screen shooting mode divides the image area in half, capturing one half at a time.
A Text exposure mode sets up the camera for recording black and white text, with a contrast boost for optimum results. A 10-second Self-Timer mode provides a delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the actual exposure, good for self-portraits. The RR1 can mimic time-lapse photography with its Interval Shooting mode, which takes a series of images at intervals anywhere from 30 seconds to three hours. There's also a Continuous Shooting mode, which captures a rapid burst of images at very fast frame rates. The actual frame interval and number of images will vary depending on the amount of memory space available.
The RR1 also features an Audio recording mode, which allows you to record sound using the built-in microphone for as long as the memory card or internal memory has available space. Available recording time is displayed in the LCD monitor. You can also record short sound clips to accompany still images, via an option in the Record menu. In Movie mode, the RR1 captures moving images and sound, for as long as the memory card or internal memory has recording space. As with Audio mode, the available recording time is displayed in the LCD monitor.
The built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Suppressed modes, and covers a range from 2 to 8.2 feet (0.6 to 2.5 meters) according to Ricoh. Flash intensity is adjustable as well, with options of Strong, Normal, and Weak.
Still images can be recorded in JPEG or uncompressed TIFF file formats, and movie files are recorded as Motion JPEGs. The RR1 comes with very generous memory capacity: 8 MB of internal memory, and a nice big 64 MB SmartMedia card packed in the box with the camera.. A USB cable and software CD accompany the camera, allowing you to connect it to a computer and download images. Also included is an NTSC AV cable (European models come with the appropriate PAL cable) for viewing images on a television set.
The RR1 utilizes a rechargeable, DB-20L lithium-ion battery pack for power, which is included with the camera. (Most digicam users will be familiar with this battery as an NP-80, the designation used for it in Fuji cameras.) A battery charger is also included, but the AC adapter (allowing direct operation of the camera from AC power) is sold as a separate accessory.
The RR1's larger CCD and well-rounded features give this camera a considerable advantage over its predecessors. Image quality and color performance are much better on this model than I've seen on Ricoh digicams in the past, and though aperture and shutter speed are automatically controlled, the RR1 provides enough adjustments and shooting modes to allow more exposure flexibility.
Slim and trim, Ricoh's Caplio RR1 digital camera has a flat, rectangular design reminiscent of previous Ricoh digicams. The RR1 operates solely as a digicam, not as a combination PDA or MP3 player, as Ricoh has produced at times in the past. The big surprise with the RR1 is its 4.13-megapixel CCD, which produces resolutions as high as 2,272 x 1,704 pixels. Another design element I liked is the swiveling LCD monitor, which I'll describe a little further on.
Lengthwise, the RR1 is more than likely too large to fit comfortably into a shirt pocket, but the camera is still very compact at 5.3 x 2.9 x 1 inches (135.4 x 74 x 26.6 millimeters). The RR1 is also very light weight at 9.5 ounces (270 grams) without the battery. The wide, flat design fits well into your hand, and a small strap anchors the camera securely to your wrist. The RR1 is also accompanied by a soft, neoprene carrying case, so you can throw the camera into a purse or briefcase and not worry too much about scratching the body.
The front of the RR1 has a tight design, fitting the lens, flash, microphone, and secondary Shutter button into a very small space. Just to the right of the secondary Shutter button is a sculpted plastic ridge, which provides a comfortable hand grip when holding the camera vertically. A tiny plastic lens cap is spring-loaded to fit inside the rectangular lens opening, and has a strap which tethers it to the camera.
On the right side of the camera, when looking from the back, is the strap attachment eyelets and speaker.
The opposite side of the RR1 holds the DC In connector jack, as well as the AV Out and Digital jacks, both protected by a flexible, rubbery flap that snaps in and out of place. The flap is attached to the camera body, so that you just slide it out of the way to connect cables.
The RR1's slim back panel features the SmartMedia slot, Mode dial, Power button, optical viewfinder window, and battery compartment. The SmartMedia compartment is covered by a hinged plastic door, easiest to open when the LCD monitor is open. The Mode dial controls the camera's operating mode, and encircles the small, red Power button. Visible from this side also is the zoom control, a gray, plastic sliding switch on top of the Mode dial. The optical viewfinder eyepiece is fairly small, but does feature a diopter adjustment dial just beneath it. The viewfinder has a high eyepoint, as I was able to see the full frame at a good distance from the camera body, meaning that eyeglass wearers should have no trouble here. I was also pleased to see that both the battery and SmartMedia compartments are accessible from the back panel, meaning that you can change batteries and memory cards without dismounting from a tripod.
The remaining camera controls are on the RR1's top panel, as well as the swiveling LCD monitor and a tiny status display panel. The two-inch LCD monitor lifts up from the camera body and tilts back just a little over 90 degrees. Once in its upright position, the LCD monitor swivels a full 270 degrees, allowing it to face the front of the camera and practically any other angle. Lifting the LCD monitor upward uncovers a control panel, with 11 buttons for controlling camera functions. In this grouping is a set of arrow keys, for navigating the menu system, as well as the Menu, Cancel, Enter, Macro, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Erase, LCD Light, and Display buttons. To the left of the LCD monitor and this control panel are more control buttons, including the Self-Timer, PIC (image quality), Card, and Flash buttons. The primary Shutter button is also on the top panel, as well as the optical zoom control. The small status display panel reports many camera settings, allowing you to shoot without activating the LCD monitor, thus saving precious battery power.
The camera's bottom panel is smooth and flat, with the tripod mount off to the side, off-center from the lens. The plastic tripod mount is surrounded by a soft, rubbery area, which grips the tripod head securely. Also visible from this view is the bottom of the SmartMedia compartment door, which features a raised series of bumps that help your fingers stick to its surface.
Operation and User Interface
We found the RR1's user interface fairly straightforward. A good selection of external controls allows you to access the basic camera functions without resorting to the LCD menu, and the status display panel on top of the camera means you can operate the camera without the LCD enabled, and thus save battery power. The LCD menu system is easy to navigate, though you might have to scroll through a few pages to find the option you need. Still, the arrow keys simplify navigation, and most options can be changed without calling up another menu screen. The Mode dial changes the shooting mode quickly, and without much hassle. Overall, I don't think you'll spend too much time flipping through the manual, as the camera's interface is fairly intuitive. (One knock against the RR1 though, is that its slim design, hidden keypad, and flip-up monitor means that it's very much a two handed, stop-what-you're-doing process to make any menu setting changes.)
Camera Modes and Menus
Playback Mode: The first stop on the Mode dial, this mode allows you to review captured images on the SmartMedia card or the camera's internal memory. Images can be enlarged, write-protected, set up for printing, deleted, cropped, or rotated. The Playback menu offers the following options:
- Multi Image: Displays as many as nine thumbnail images on the screen.
- Auto Playback: Plays back images automatically in a slide show, with intervals from one to 30 seconds.
- Cropping: Crops images to smaller resolution sizes.
- Copy: Copies image files to the SmartMedia card or to the internal memory.
- Select Folder: Selects the image folder to be played back.
- Rotation: Rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise, or 180 degrees.
- Protect: Marks individual images for write-protection.
- DPOF: Marks individual images, or all images, for printing on a DPOF device. Also sets up index prints.
Still Shooting Mode: Marked on the Mode dial with a tiny green camera symbol, this mode lets you record still images. Most settings are displayed in the Record menu, however, the Exposure Compensation and White Balance buttons display on-screen menus as well. The following options are available by pressing the Menu button:
- Image with Sound: Turns the sound clip recording function on and off.
- Focus: Sets focus to AF, MF, 2.5 meters, or infinity.
- Flash Strength: Adjusts the flash intensity to Normal, Strong, or Soft.
- Red-Eye Reduction: Turns the Red-Eye Reduction flash on or off.
- ISO Sensitivity: Changes the camera's light sensitivity to Auto (default ISO of150), or ISO equivalents of 200, 400, or 800.
- Date Imprint: Prints the Date or Date and Time over the image, or turns this function off.
- Split-Screen: Activates Split Screen mode.
- Sharpness: Adjusts the overall image sharpness, options include Off, +1, and -1.
- Monochrome Mode: Records images in Sepia or Black and White monotones.
- Negative Mode: Turns the Negative shooting mode on or off.
- Interval Mode: Activates Interval Shooting, with intervals available from 30 seconds to three hours.
- Auto Bracket: Turns Auto Exposure Bracketing on or off.
- No Compression: Enables and disables the uncompressed TIFF mode.
- Photometry: Sets the metering mode to Multi, Center-Weighted, or Spot.
- S Mode: Turns S Mode on or off.
- Time Exposure: Enables longer exposure times, choices include one, two, four, or eight seconds, or Off.
Audio Recording Mode: A microphone icon indicates Audio mode on the Mode dial. This mode records audio for as long as the memory card or internal memory has space. No menu options are available.
Text Shooting Mode: Marked on the Mode dial with a leaflet icon, this mode sets up the camera for recording black and white text. The left and right arrow keys control contrast. Limited Record menu options are available.
Continuous Shooting Mode: A multiple-image icon indicates this mode on the Mode dial, which records a short burst of images in rapid succession. Actual frame rates and the number of images recorded will vary depending on the image resolution size and available memory space. Most Record menu options are available.
Movie Mode: Noted on the Mode dial with a movie camera, this mode records moving images with sound, for as long as there is available memory space. A limited selection of Record menu options is available.
Set Mode: Activates the Setup menu, which allows you to change basic camera settings. Options are as follows:
- Format: Formats the SmartMedia card, erasing all images, even protected ones.
- Keep Settings: Offers a selection of camera settings to save when the camera is shut down. For example, you can set the camera to remember the flash mode, ISO setting, etc.
- LCD Confirmation: Specifies how long the image review is displayed on the LCD monitor after capture, from zero to five seconds.
- Auto Power Off: Sets the camera to turn itself off after one, three, or five minutes of inactivity. This can also be turned off.
- Beep Sound: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off,
- Power Save Mode: Activates the camera's power save mode, which shuts off the LCD monitor after a few seconds of inactivity.
- Sequential Numbering: Turns on sequential file numbering or disables it.
- Date Setting: Adjusts the camera's internal calendar and clock.
- Video Out Mode: Establishes the video timing as NTSC or PAL.
- Language: Changes the menu language to English, French, German, or Japanese.
- Initialize Settings: Resets all the camera settings to their factory defaults.
In the Box
Included with the Caplio RR1 are the following items:
- Wrist strap
- Lens cap with strap
- Soft case
- Operation manual and registration card
- Rechargeable battery pack
- Battery charger
- AV cable
- USB cable
- Software CD
I haven't done a full test on this camera yet, but wanted to have something up on the site before it was introduced to the US at Comdex in a few days. We have shot a fair range of our normal test images though, a selection of which you'll find in the table below. For a complete index to the images I've shot to date, see the thumbnail index page for the RR-1.
Overall, I felt that the images from the RR-1 looked pretty good. Color was good, tonal range a little contrasty but still decent. Resolution wasn't quite at the highest level I've seen in a four megapixel camera to date, but by the same token wasn't at all bad. Overall, in terms of image quality, this is easily one of the best cameras Ricoh has produced to date.
Well, I really need to do a bit more testing to have the full story on the RR-1, which will hopefully happen after I get back from Comdex. The little bit that I played with it though, left me impressed with its good image quality. It has bright, well-saturated colors and excellent detail, definitely one of the better cameras Ricoh's made to date. With its aggressive introductory price of only $699, the whopping 72 MB of memory it comes with (8 MB internal, plus a 64MB card), and LiIon battery with charger, it really represents one of the best bargains in the four megapixel camera market.