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Ricoh Caplio 500SE
- Digital Camera Review
The Ricoh Caplio 500SE comes in two flavours: the standard version 500SE-B features built in Bluetooth support, while the 500SE-W version features built in Wifi support. Both have support for external GPS devices. The camera has built in GPS software, along with memo support, allowing you to enter details into the EXIF image data. For more information about how the GPS / "Geo-Imaging" Solution work, see Ricoh's 500SE-GPS website here: http://www.ricohsolutions.com/geo/
Ricoh have this to
say about the camera:
"Connect Caplio 500SE
wirelessly with a Bluetooth® compatible GPS device to add location
information to your photo data. This feature is especially useful in disaster
situations and when managing building construction data. No complicated
settings are required: just wirelessly connect the GPS device. Caplio
500SE automatically recognizes it the next time their power is turned
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents. There is a small amount of internal memory provided with the camera - you should invest in a much larger memory card. The camera comes with a rugged, waterproof, dustproof, drop-proof protective case built into the camera, so a case isn't really necessary!
Battery usage: Battery life is above average I managed around 200+ shots and the camera still was showing as having one third of it's battery life left. This is quite good but not as good as the excellent 580 shot battery life of the the Fujifilm FinePix F30.
Camera Operation and Options: The top dial selects the camera mode. This allows the choice of the following modes: Photo, CALS Mode, Video, Audio. There is also a playback button on that back that will let you switch between playback and photo mode. CALS mode fixes picture quality and size to normal 1280 x 960 when shooting construction images - these are "suitable to be submitted as official public works pictures (based on Japanese standards)".
Photo mode/menus: The adjust button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen has an average resolution of 153,000 pixels, but updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There isn't a live histogram available but the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: The optical viewfinder is quite small and is blocked by the lens surround unless zoomed in to full telephoto.
Photo adjust menu: this gives quick access to the most commonly used features / options, such as exposure compensation, white balance (including manual), anti-blur, ISO, and macro focus area (when in macro mode). The last two options can be customised with a choice of ISO, Quality, Focus, Sharpness, Metering, Continuous mode, and Anti-blur.
Menu options: Picture quality / size, Antiblur, Focus (Multi AF, Spot AF, Manual Focus, Snap, Infinite), Photometry (Multi, Center, Spot), Sharpness, Continuous mode, Colour depth (Vivid, Normal, Neutral, Black and White), Time Exposure (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8 seconds), Interval, Image with sound, Date Imprint, Exposure compensation, White Balance (including manual), ISO (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600), Restore defaults.
Scene modes: (shown on the right, above) Normal, High sensitivity, Firefighting, Skew correction mode, Text mode, Zoom macro.
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick, although the camera shows a thumbnail quality image initially then a second later it shows a sharper image. The zoom is quick up to 8x.
Playback menu: Slide show, Protect, DPOF, Resize, Copy to Card, Print, File Send (allows you to setup a Bluetooth device to send photos to).
Setup menu: (shown on the right, above) Format, Format (internal memory), LCD Brightness, ADJ Button 1 Set, ADJ Button 2 Set, Auto Power off, Beep sound, Volume settings, LCD confirm, Sequential Number, Date settings, Language, Step zoom (28, 35, 50, 85mm steps), Shooting Settings Warning, USB Connection (Original, Mass Storage), Enlarge Photo Icons, Register my settings, Start settings.
Bluetooth Transfer and GPS Menus: Sending images via Bluetooth is as easy as it is with most new mobile phones, you simply select the photo you want to send, search for bluetooth devices, and then click OK to send. Unfotunately I wasn't able to test the GPS functions as I didn't have a GPS device to pair with the camera. The menu options are: GPS Datum, GPS Display mode (Lat / Lon, UTM, MGRS, ALL), GPS Lock, Pass Key, Search Count, BT Auto Conn, BT Serial, Master/Slave, Image File Size, Auto Del, Quick send mode.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number will fit in the memory provided:
As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. You can fit a very limited number of 8mp Fine images on the built in memory, and you will definitely need to buy a larger memory card.
A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 512mb memory card, and preferably a 1gb memory card, 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 be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Ricoh Caplio 500SE:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 512mb: £1,
1gb (1000mb): £3
Speed: The camera's switch on time is very quick and takes around 1.7 - 2.5 seconds to switch on and take a photo. Focusing is quick at around 0.3 seconds - shutter response is quick at less than 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time is around 2 seconds (with review on), with flash on this stays the same at 2 seconds between shots for the first 2 shots, then slows to around 4 seconds between shots. Playback mode is quick, and its easy to zoom in on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is quick but you can also get an overview of 3 or 12 shots at a time if you zoom out further. Moving around the different menu options is rapid. Continuous shooting is very quick at 8fps for 16 shots - this creates 800 x 600 thumbnail sized photos in one frame, flash is not available and the screen is blank while shooting.
Ease of use: Using the camera is fairly straightforward, simply switch it on and start taking photos, and the camera's controls and menus are logically layed out so that using the more advanced features is relatively straight-forward (even the manual focus option seemed easy to use following the on screen display). Switching between the modes is easy thanks to the mode dial on the top of the camera and once you find all the options the camera becomes easy to use, and it is very easy to use the more basic functions of the camera - the adjust button gives quick access to the most regularly used features without needing to go into the menus. There is a limited number of scene modes, which could put off beginners.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The camera feels very solid, with a robust and chunky rubber covered body. The camera has been designed to withstand the elements, and as such, has overly large button compared to other digital cameras meaning the camera can be used when you're wearing gloves. There is a very good sized grip on the front, and a texted thumb grip on the back making it easy to hold the camera, even if it's wet. The zoom control is very easy to use. The shutter release button feels good, although it was sometimes difficult to pre-focus. The size means it's unlikely to fit in pockets. The camera labels are clear. The buttons and controls are all positioned so that the camera can be operated with one hand. I found the mode switch easy to use with my thumb.
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, 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 Ricoh Caplio 500SE Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo with natural colour - there is no red-eye in the photo, and some redeye in the group photos. The colour is very natural looking and detail is good. It has a strong flash, that works well in dark situations, and should cope well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light thanks to the focus assist lamp, and focusing was generally quick.
ISO Noise Test: 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 (ranging from ISO 64 - ISO1600), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 7 megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 and 8 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F40fd.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Ricoh Caplio 500SE in the middle, Panasonic Lumix FX30 on the left, Fujifilm FinePix F40fd on the right. The Panasonic was chosen as a comparison as a recent digital camera, and the Fujifilm was chosen due to the camera's low noise, and same number of megapixels. Any tonal difference is due to automatic white balance or metering differences.
Slight noise is visible in photos taken at ISO64 and ISO100, especially in darker areas. Noise increases, and becomes more coarse, as the ISO setting increases, and the noise levels of this camera are high when compared to other cameras - however the camera does seem to maintain detail / edge sharpness fairly well even at the higher ISO settings, whereas a lot of other cameras have much less detail at the higher ISO settings due to high noise reduction. The best results are acheived by sticking with the lowest ISO settings, such as ISO64 and ISO100. Compared to the other cameras, the Ricoh has much higher noise. The Fujifilm FinePix F40fd and it's impressive SuperCCD sensor are able to produce low noise images that retain detail much better than other cameras as the ISO setting is increased, while the Panasonic Lumix FZ8 tends to loose detail as the ISO setting is increased due to "heavy handed" noise reduction.
Image Stabilisation: The Ricoh 500SE features a digital anti-shake mode, this boosts the ISO level automatically so that a higher shutter speed can be used to avoid image blur. This is a fairly effective method however, images do suffer from high levels of noise.
Outside: The camera has good colour - accurate and natural lookin with good contrast and good detail, with no noticeable corner softness. Some noise was noticeable even in ISO100 photos when viewed at full size. I turned up the quality to maximum to avoid jpeg artefacts. Exposure seemed very good, although there did seem to be a slight blue-ish tint to some of the photos.
Zoom: This camera has a wide angle 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x 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 to show what the optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower seem to be very well exposed, with good detail in the dark areas, and good detail in the clouds, however this could be improved by altering the exposure compensation.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes very little noise in operation. There are around 19 steps between wide and telephoto zoom, this gives you very good control over how you frame your subject.
Other Image Quality
issues: Purple fringing was very low and difficult to detect in any
normal photos, and shouldn't cause any problems in the majority of photos.
The macro mode lets you take photos with the camera roughly 1cm away from the subject - this means macro photos can be very good - with good detail and colour. I used this camera for a number of photos of other cameras, and using custom white balance, the camera produced great results. There is a macro zoom scene mode that zooms in slightly to get even closer macro photos. The only problem with such a close focus distance is the available light - this can end up being blocked by the lens itself.
Video mode: The camera features an average video mode - it records 320 x 240 videos at 30fps with sound as AVI files. Compared to other digital cameras the Ricoh can't fit very long videos on the memory card, as it doesn't use very high compression, such as MPEG4. The video mode doesn't let you use the optical zoom whilst recording. The resolution is low compared to nearly all other current digital cameras, as they now tend to provide 640x480 videos.
Summary: The Ricoh Caplio 500SE is unique in that it's the only rugged waterproof digital camera that I'm aware of with a wide angle lens and Bluetooth or wireless support. There are a very small number of rugged waterproof digital cameras, the Olympus Mju Stylus 770SW being one, and the recently announced Fujifilm FinePix Big Job HD-3W being the other, and only the Fuji has a wide angle lens. Image quality is good with good colour and detail although noise causes some concern even at the lower ISO settings. The lens produces sharp, crisp, image with no noticeable corner softness and little to no purple fringing. The camera is easy to use and the adjust button makes it easy to change settings, although there are few scene modes.
The camera is very solidly built, as you would expect from such a rugged camera, and will survive water, dust, sand, -10C temperatures, and being dropped. It should be usable even when wearing gloves thanks to the large buttons and good hand grip. If you need something capable of working in poor conditions, and support Bluetooth, wireless and GPS then there is very little else to choose from. Ricoh are one of a few digital camera manufacturers that produce unique digital cameras and they are once again to be commended for this. They are obviously making money by producing unique digital cameras, so it's surprisingly and disappointing that other companies don't follow suit, although it's a shame the price is so high. For the consumer who wants an easy to use point and shoot that will survive a dip in the pool or the sea then the Olympus Mju Stylus 770SW makes much more sense financially, but if you're requirements are more unique, then the 500SE is a good choice simply because it provides a number of features that no other camera does. If the camera fits your requirements, and the price doesn't put you off, then the Ricoh Caplio 500SE is recommended.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Images are viewable in the Ricoh
Caplio 500SE Sample Photo Gallery.