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Ricoh Caplio GX8 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 22/08/05
Rating: Recommended!


Introduction: The Ricoh Caplio GX8 features a wide angle 3x optical zoom lens, an 8 megapixel sensor, and a 1.8" screen. The GX8 is available from around £240, making the GX8 extremely good value for money. The camera offers full manual controls and is quite compact - the 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 28-85mm on a 35mm camera. The camera is enclosed in a black aluminium die-cast body. It records unlimited 320 x 240 / 30fps videos with sound. The camera's quite compact (it will fit in trouser pockets), takes AA batteries and measures: 113.6 x 29.0 x 58.0mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 205g (without the battery and memory card)

Ricoh have this to say about the camera:

"Ricoh announces the Caplio GX8, an 8-megapixel successor to the popular Caplio GX. The GX8 Combines a 28mm wide-angle zoom digital camera with outstanding performance and expandability, all in a sleek and compact aluminium die-cast body featuring the signature rubber handgrip. In addition to offering lightning fast operation and astounding macro mode capabilities that have long distinguished Ricoh digital cameras, the Caplio GX8 boasts superb flexibility, connecting to a wide array of accessories and instruments, such as wide conversion lens, external shutter release, and even a telescope. With such a plethora of tools on board, the photographic possibilities are endless."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's quite compact and made out of black metal.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, infra-red focusing, optical viewfinder, microphone.


Back - the 1.8" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, power button, adjust, menu, delete/selftime, display button, 4-way controller, OK button, zoom control.


Top - mode dial, shutter release, flash mount, control dial.


Bottom, under the camera there is a metal tripod mount, and the speaker.


Left Side (from back) AV/USB out, DC in - lens extended.


Memory card holder, battery compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Lomo LC-A 35mm film camera - a fairly compact 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 8.2 megapixel
  • 3x optical zoom lens (28mm - 85mm equivelant)
  • Store images on Secure Digital (SD) memory cards
  • 1.8" LCD
  • Movie mode: Record 320 x 240 at 30fps with sound
  • ISO: Auto ISO, Manual ISO 64 - 1600
  • TV Out
  • 26mb built in memory
  • Aperture Priority and Manual Exposure
  • 1cm Macro

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • 2 x AA battery
  • AV cable
  • USB connection cable
  • Strap
  • CD-ROM software

Average box contents.

Battery usage: Up to 80 images with supplied Alkaline batteries, and up to 400 pictures with Ricoh's rechargable battery according to Ricoh. I would recommend you buy high power rechargable batteries and a charger, ie. 2300+mah ni-mh batteries or alternatively Ricoh's rechargable battery. Battery life seemed good, and the figure for the rechargable battery is very good.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a fairly decent resolution, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available and the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: The optical viewfinder is quite small.

Menu options are: Picture quality / size, Focus (Auto, Manual, Snap, Infinite), Photometry (Normal, Center, Spot), Sharpness, Continuous mode, Auto bracket, Manual exposure, Interval, Image with sound, Date Imprint, Exposure compensation, White balance, ISO setting, Aperture setting, Colour depth (Vivid, Normal, Neutral)

The adjust button brings up quick access to: White balance, ISO, Exposure compensation, Macro focus area (in Macro mode).

Scene modes Setup Menu

Scene modes: (shown on the left, above) Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Nightscape, Text, High sensitivity.

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Card format, Internal memory format, LCD brightness, Adjust button set (can be set to include image size/quality, AF/MF, Sharpness setting, Metering mode), Beep sound, LCD confirm, Auto power off, Sequential number, Power save, Date settings, Language, Video out mode, Step zoom (on, off), USB connection.

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

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is quick up to 8x. Playback mode displays photo size, settings, exposure, as well as a histogram.

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

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 26mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
  Fine NC Normal
8mp (3264x) 8 1 14
5mp (2592x)   23
3mp (2048x)   36
1.3mp (1280x960) 64
VGA (640x480) 280
Video 320x240 30fps 39 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the built in 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 a good choice of image sizes, although there is a limited 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 GX8:

128mb SD memory card - £9.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £15.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £25.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £49.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos - however the camera can occassionally 'hunt' for the focus in darker indoor conditions. The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 8x. The camera shutter response seemed quick when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was also noticably quick. The flash recharge time was noticably slow when using nearly flat Ni-Mh batteries, taking about 5-6 seconds before it was ready to take another flash photo, however using fully charged batteries, the delay was much less noticable.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use - the menus are responsive and easy to read. The camera is compact and fits in (baggy) trouser pockets. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a basic mode for simple point and shoot operation, as well as scene modes to help beginners. Friends found the camera easy to use, even though they weren't used to digital cameras.

Ergonomics and 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, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt very good ergonomically, and was the correct weight. The hand grip seemed very good, without making the camera too big or bulky. The zoom control seemed a little strange / soft, and was very easy to accidentally press.

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 good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo. It has a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing the majority of the time, although occassionally struggled in low-light. Red-eye didn't seem to be huge a problem.

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, and manual ISO settings (ISO64/80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.


Noise test photo - flash on

ISO64 ISO100
ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600

Noise levels appear low at ISO64 and ISO100, although some is still visible. At ISO200 noise becomes more noticable but is still acceptable, at ISO400 and above noise seems very high and detail is being lost.

Outside:

Shops Heather

Outside, again the camera had good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail. Noise seemed fairly well controlled. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images. In some situations, best results were acheived by taking white balance off auto and setting it manually.

Zoom: This camera has a 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 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 3x Optical zoom + 4x digital zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 19 steps between wide and telephoto! This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: I did notice purple fringing in some photos, i.e. the clock tower photos, however it is still quite low. I also noticed some vignetting.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 1cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.

Macro Watch Actual Pixels

The macro mode is very good - colour and detail is VERY good, and the camera allows you to get VERY close to the subject.

Movie: 320x240 at 30fps with sound. The movie is recorded as an .AVI file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is good.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good to very good, the images have good colour, saturation, contrast and good detail - however there is some purple fringing. Images tend to come out of the camera looking quite good, however noise could be a problem, and images may need tweaking to your own personal tastes. The camera did a good job focusing the majority of the time, only slightly struggling in low light. Noise was on the high side, noticable at the lowest ISO setting of 64, and was especially noticable at ISO 200 / 400 and above. I did notice vignetting in the corners in some of the photos. There is a good range of image sizes and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is excellent, allowing you to be as close as 1cm away from the subject, this provides excellent detail. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be good, however manually setting the white balance can often help acheive better results. Red-eye was controlled fairly well. The movie mode is slightly better than average, at 320x240 / 30fps with sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and is designed well - the camera feels very comfortable in my hands. The camera is compact considering the amount of manual controls and expansion posibilities. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a good choice of features and options, for example manual focus, manual shutter / aperture settings, manual white balance, ISO64 - 1600, etc. The camera speed is good, with an okay switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, althought an occasionally slow flash recharge time depending on batteries. The camera seems like a very complete package including scene modes for beginners, audio recording, and full manual controls for people looking for complete control.

Alternative digital cameras: See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The 8 megapixel Ricoh Caplio GX8 is a very good digital camera. The easy to use camera is capable of very good results, however you may have to work with the image(s) to get the best out of them - for example to remove noise, etc. The camera gives you a lot of control through manual settings, manual focus, ISO range, flash expansion, lens expansion, battery type etc. The macro mode is excellent, producing photos with good colour, excellent detail and extreme close-ups! This camera would make a very good camera for someone looking to produce detailed wide angle photos - the camera is also excellent value for money.

Ricoh Caplio GX8 Rating: Recommended!
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What I like:

  • Excellent macro mode
  • Wide angle zoom lens
  • Easy to use
  • Very good detail
  • Good to Very good colour
  • Decent movie mode (unlimited 320 x 240 / 30fps with sound)
  • Excellent ISO range (64 - 1600)
  • Audio recording
  • Full manual controls

What I don't like:

  • Slow flash recharge time (depending on batteries used and their condition)
  • High noise at ISO400, very high noise at ISO800 and ISO1600, noise visible at ISO64
  • Some purple fringing, vignetting
  • Manually setting white balance may be required at times

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