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Ricoh Caplio R1v - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 07/02/05
Buy Now: £186
(in Black or Silver)
Rating: Recommended!


Introduction: Available in shops now from £186 including VAT - the Ricoh Caplio R1v is a compact 5 megapixel digital camera, with a 4.8x wide optical zoom lens (equivalent to 28-135mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.8" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a thin 25mm aluminium body available in silver or black. It records unlimited 320x240 / 30fps videos with sound. The camera is compact with the following size: 100.2 x 25.0 x 55.0mm (without protruding parts), and only weighs 150g (without the battery and SD card).

Ricoh have this to say about the camera:

"Ricoh is extremely proud to announce the launch of the Caplio R1V 5.0 megapixel digital camera, the successor to the award winning Caplio R1. The Caplio R1V features the innovative lens retracting system that enables an amazing 4.8x optical zoom lens with 28mm wide-angle shooting capacity housed in a 25mm ultra slim, aluminum body. The lens generates the finest quality images capable of being offered by this class of compact digital cameras. Moreover, with extremely fast shutter response and Ricoh’s exceptional 1cm wide macro technology, the Caplio R1V incorporates all the latest high-end features to satisfy even the most discerning professional. At the same time, it offers user-friendly functionality that everyone who enjoys taking pictures will love. All the more incredible is that the Caplio R1V’s powerful features are encased in a sleek body weighing just 150 grams."

More information can be found on their site or in the press release.

The Camera: It's compact and made out of aluminium.
(Photos of the camera were taken with the Canon IXUS 500)


Front - Camera off, On/off switch, flash, auto-focus window, optical viewfinder, under the word 'wide' is the microphone, built in lens cover.


Front - Camera on, lens extended.


Back - the 1.8" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, 4-way controller with OK in the center, zoom control, Adjust button, Menu, Delete/Self-timer, Display.


Top - shutter release (lens at wide-angle)


Bottom, under the camera there is a tripod mount, and speaker (lens at telephoto)


Left Side (from back) Lens extended (telephoto).


On this side is the wrist strap loop, DC in, AV out, USB port and battery / memory compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic, this camera is smaller.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.

Size compared to the popular Canon Digital IXUS 500:
(these photos taken by an Olympus Camedia C-310)


The Ricoh is thinner in width: 25mm (Ricoh) vs 27.8mm (Canon), and not as high as the Canon. 55mm (Ricoh) vs 57mm (Canon).


However the Ricoh is longer than the Canon, 100.2mm for the Ricoh vs 87mm for the Canon.

Specifications / Features:

  • 5.0 million pixels CCD
  • 4.8x wide optical zoom 4.6 to 22.2mm (equiv. to 28 - 135mm on a 35mm camera) f3.3-4.8
  • 3.6x digital zoom
  • 1.8 inch LCD
  • 6 scene programmes
  • 0.05 second shutter response, 0.003 seconds or less from the time the focus is locked
  • 1cm “wide” macro mode
  • 30fps, 320x240 movie recording function with sound
  • ISO: 64 – 800
  • TV out

Full Specifications can be found on their site.

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • 12mb memory built into camera
  • USB cable
  • Audio/video cable
  • Software CD
  • Hand strap
  • AA Alkaline Batteries (2)
  • 150 page manual

Average box contents - 12mb memory is fairly poor but will keep you going until you buy a larger card.

Battery usage: The camera can use AA batteries (rechargable or alkaline), and can use CRV3 batteries. There's also a rechargable Lithium-Ion battery available. Battery life seems good - I managed about 150+ photos using 2 NiMh batteries, and over 200 another time.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the 3-way dial / play button, next to the optical viewfinder on the back.

Photo mode/menu: The ADJ (Adjust) button brings up the menu screen as shown below:

Shown above is one of the options on the ADJ screen, this quickly gives you access to Exposure compensation, White balance, ISO, and area focus (in macro mode).

Photo menu options are: Picture quality/size, Focus (AF, MF, SNAP, Infinity), Photometry, Sharpness (Sharp, Normal, Soft), Continuous mode (off, continuous, s-continous, m-continous - s, and m-continous take 16 shots very quickly in sequence), auto-bracket (off, on, WB), time-exposure (1,2,4,8 second), interval (automatically shoots at the timed interval), image with sound (off, on), date-imprint (off, date, time - time records both the time and date), exposure compensation, white balance, ISO setting, slow shutter limit (off, on), and restore defaults.

Setup menu options: Format (card), Format (internal memory), LCD brightness, ADJ Button set (off, quality, AF/MF, Sharpness, Metering), Beep sound (off, on, shutter), LCD confirm, Auto power off, Sequential number (off, on), Power save (off, on), Date settings, Language, Video out mode, Step zoom (off, on sets this to step zoom to the following focal lengths: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm), and SHTG STGS Warning (off, on - displays a setting change warning).

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown below:

Playback menu options: Slide show, Protect, DPOF, Resize, Copy to Card.

Modes / Scenes accessed by pressing the Mode button: Normal shot, Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Nightscape, Text mode, High sensitivity (LCD monitor becomes brighter).

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 12mb memory built into the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
  Fine Normal
5mp (2560x) 6 11
3mp (2048x1536) 9 17
1.3mp (1280x) 17 34
VGA (640x480) N/A 128
Video 320x240 30fps 18 seconds

You can fit a poor number of images on the provided 12mb memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is an okay choice of image sizes (there is no 4mp, or 2mp setting), and there is an okay choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Ricoh Caplio R1v:

128mb SD memory card - £11.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £19.00 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £33.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £59.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed, Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, very quick to switch on (it takes around 1second to switch on and become ready to take a photo), and very quick to take photos - the camera has an amazing 0.05 second shutter response, and an even more impressive 0.003 second response when pre-focused! The controls on the back of the camera are easy to use - the menus are responsive. The screen updates are quick and smooth. The camera is compact and fits very easily into pockets. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are very easy to access, quick and simple, as there are only 4 main modes: Video, Photo, Dictaphone and Play. The playback mode is also quick, it allows you to zoom as close as 8x. The camera has a quick continuous shooting mode, although the flash is not available in this mode, and the S, and M-continuous modes are VERY quick!

Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, all apart from the zoom control which does not give good feedback, and is very smooth. The buttons are are labelled fairly well. The sliding on/off switch is very good in that it is not directly connected to the lens cover so there is no way to damage the lens when using it.

LCD Display (Photo mode / Playback mode):

LCD display in photo mode: The screen is a fairly decent resolution, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is also a live histogram available as well as a grid display (not shown above).

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom is quick from 2x - 8x, and easy to use. More information can be displayed by pressing the display button. Playback menu options are discussed above.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower Group Photo

Inside: The camera has very good colour. It has a decent flash, and copes quite well with group photos - in darker conditions noise is quite visible, for example in the group photo above. The camera did a very good job at focusing the majority of the time. Red-eye was very low, I had a difficult time trying to find it in any of the photos I took!

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (with a range between 64 and 800), and manual settings (64,100,200,400,800).

Noise Test Photo / Macro ISO64 - 100%
ISO100 - 100% ISO200 - 100%
ISO400 - 100% ISO800 - 100%

If left on Auto this camera will choose the higher settings, especially when lighting is poor - so I would recommend you manually set the ISO level to 64 or 100 so as to avoid the higher ISO settings (and therefore have less noisy images). Also - when using ISO800 - the images tend to have less colour, so it would be worth avoiding this setting unless absolutely necessary.

Outside:

Unisys Building Liver Building

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail, and noise seemed quite low. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: This camera has a 4.8x wide optical zoom lens and a built in 3.6x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below simply to show what these features do.

Wide-angle 4.8x Optical zoom 3.6x Digital Zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens isn't too noisy, but sounds a bit strange when in motion. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - and there are about 10 steps between wide and telephoto.

Other Image Quality issues: There was vignetting (dark corners) in some of the wide-angle photos taken, although not all of them. I noticed some Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing in a couple of the photos I took, namely the clock tower photos, but not a huge amount.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you press the macro button and the camera zooms in slightly. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be as close as 1cm away from the subject!

Macro Watch Actual Pixels (100%)
Macro Cheesecake Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is excellent - the only problem you might face is getting enough light to the subject. The cheesecake photo looks so good, that you could almost eat the photo!

Movie: 320x240 / 30fps with sound - you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording a video but you can use the digital zoom whilst recording and the optical and digital zoom before recording - the movie mode is selected from the mode dial. The movie is recorded as an .AVI file. Length is limited only by the size of the memory card.


Optical Illusion Dragon Video (more info) - Download movie. (right click, save target as, 9.5mb, 18seconds) (saved as Zip file)
There's another video so that you don't have to download such a large file. Download the smaller video. (3.4mb, 7seconds). (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is quite good, 320 x 240/30fps with sound is better than average. In poor lighting the videos will be quite dark, as the camera does not seem to automatically make the video much brighter.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good, the images have very good colour, saturation and contrast. They have good detail, although they could do with a slight sharpen. The camera did a very good job focusing as well. There were some problems however, in that when the ISO level was above 100, noise was quite visible, especially in darker areas of the image. There was also some vignetting in the corners when using wide-angle, although not in all photos. Purple fringing was occassionally noticable. There is an okay range of image sizes and compression options. The macro mode is excellent. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. There was hardly any red-eye. The movie mode is good, at 320x240/30fps with sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The design is good, apart from the poor zoom control. The camera is very small considering the zoom power it contains, and very pocketable thanks to the camera's slim 25mm body; the camera is quite stylish as well. The 1.8" screen updates smoothly and has accurate colour making it easier to view and compose your pictures. The camera is very easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there are is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a very good choice of features and options, such as 1cm macro, AF-target shift, manual white balance, live histogram, manual focus, time exposure, dictaphone, scene modes etc. The camera speed is very good, with a quick switch on time, quick focusing time, and very quick shutter response.

Alternative 5mp digital cameras: There's only one other digital camera with a similar (5x) optical zoom lens in a completely flat body, and that's the Pentax Optio SV. However, the Optio SV does not have a wide-angle zoom lens. The 5mp, 5x optical zoom lens, Pentax Optio SV is available for £270 from Amazon.co.uk.

If you're after a wide-angle digital camera, you might want to have a look at the 5mp, 4x wide optical zoom lens, Olympus C-5060W available for £315 from Amazon.co.uk, or the 5mp, 3.6x wide optical zoom lens, Canon Powershot S60 available for £290 from Amazon.co.uk.

Alternative compact 5mp digital cameras (the majority have a 3x optical zoom lens): Canon IXUS 500 (£239), HP Photosmart R707 (£149 - read my review), Sony Cybershot DSC-P120 (£245), Cybershot DSC-W12 (£245), Nikon Coolpix 5200 (£205), Kodak Easyshare CX7530 (£149), Olympus Mju 500 (£249), Pentax Optio S5i (£233), Optio S50 (£169), Casio Z-55 (£235). Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices.

Summary: The Ricoh Caplio R1v is a compact 5 megapixel digital camera with an impressive 4.8x wide optical zoom lens and a good 1.8" screen. The camera records unlimited length 30fps videos with sound. It is easy to use, and produces good images with very good colour and detail. It is very quick, with a quick switch on time, focus time and shutter response time. For around £186 (UK) this fast, compact and feature packed camera offers excellent value for money. It's quite stylish, fits very easily into pockets, produces very good images, and has an excellent macro mode. The only things that let this camera down are the zoom control, occassional corner darkness, and high noise.

I really like this camera and am seriously considering buying one to keep for myself, however I recommend you try one out for yourself to see what you think of the zoom control before buying. Also, make sure you have a look at the gallery, as there are more photos there.

Ricoh Caplio R1v Rating: Recommended!
Buy now from Pixmania: £186 - In Silver or Black.

Don't forget to buy an SD memory card to go with the camera: 128mb SD memory card - £11.99, 256mb SD memory card - £19.00, 512mb SD memory card - £33.99, 1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £59.99 from Amazon.co.uk. If you would like a 4 megapixel version of the above, then have a look at the Ricoh Caplio R1.

What I like:

  • Amazing macro mode
  • Excellent colour
  • Very good image quality
  • Very fast switch on time
  • Very fast at focusing
  • Very fast at taking photos (shutter response)
  • Quick Continuous mode, VERY quick S, M-Continuous mode.
  • Takes AA batteries
  • Wide-angle 4.8x optical zoom lens in a slim body
  • Manual White Balance
  • Lots of ISO levels to choose from
  • 'ADJ' button gives quick access to common settings
  • Can be used as a dictaphone
  • Good video mode (30fps)
  • Very low red-eye

What I don't like:

  • Easy to put finger in front of flash
  • Poor zoom control
  • Some Vignetting at wide-angle
  • Quite high noise in dark areas of pictures when ISO is above 100
  • Slightly soft pictures (however, sharpness can be changed in camera)
  • Area focus only available in macro mode
  • Small optical view-finder

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.