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Ricoh Caplio R3 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 16/01/06
Rating: Above Average
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Introduction: Announced on the 7th of September, the Ricoh Caplio R3 is a new 5 megapixel digital camera with a 7.1x optical zoom lens - this is impressive considering that the camera is roughly the same size as other cameras with only a 3x optical zoom lens. The cameras wide-angle 7.1x optical zoom lens starts at 28mm - 200mm equivalent, has a built in lens-cover. The camera also features a "Vibration Correction" CCD sensor, much like Konica Minolta's Anti-shake technology - image stabilisation is becoming more and more common as an effective way to reduce camera shake and blur in low-light or with long zoom lenses. The Ricoh Caplio R3 is available from £230, this makes it good value for money as an compact digital camera with a big zoom. The camera is enclosed in a black, or silver metal body. The R3 records 320x240 movies with sound at 30fps. The camera is very compact and fits easily into pockets. The camera takes a rechargable lithium-ion battery and measures: 95 x 53 x 26 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 135g (without batteries and memory card).

Ricoh have this to say about the camera:

"With a smaller body, the new Caplio R3, has a 7.1x (28—200 mm) wide-angle, high-powered zoom lens - the biggest in its class. The lens was created by adopting the newly developed Double Retracting Lens System, an advance on the highly successful Retracting Lens System, the original lens storage system engineered by Ricoh for its innovative products. Moreover, to address blurred images caused by hand movement inherent to long focal ranges, the Caplio R3 avoids this problem in telephoto, macro, or indoor shots with the addition of a vibration correction function."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ30)

Front - Camera off.

Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, focus assist, microphone hole.

Back - 2.5" screen, mode switch, playback button, adjust button, delte / self-timer button, display button, zoom control, 4-way controller with Menu/OK button in centre.

Top: Power button, shutter release, image stabilisation button.

Bottom - battery / memory compartment, plastic tripod mount. The battery is a 3.7v 1150mAh Lithium-Ion battery.

Left Side. (lens at wide-angle position)

USB / Video out, DC in connection compartment, speaker. (lens at telephoto position)

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.

Size comparison.

Size comparison.

Size comparison, compared to the 7 megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z120.

Specifications / Features:

  • 5 Megapixel CCD
  • Vibration Correction (anti-shake CCD sensor)
  • 2.5" screen, 114,000 pixels
  • 7.1x Optical Zoom wide-angle lens (28 - 200mm equivelant)
  • 3.6x Digital Zoom
  • ISO AUTO, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800
  • Video mode: 320 x 240 pixels, 30 fps with sound
  • 1cm Macro mode
  • Pictbridge support
  • Scene modes including: TIFF Text mode, Skew correction etc

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera (with 26mb of memory built in)
  • Lithium-Ion Rechargable Battery
  • Battery charger
  • AV Cable
  • USB Cable
  • CD-ROM
  • Strap
  • 180 page manual

Average box contents - you will need to buy a larger memory card and a case (as with almost all digital cameras).

Battery usage: Up to 300 pictures with the supplied battery according to CIPA testing. Battery life seemed good, but not as good as the 500-shot Fuji F10 for example.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the back switch.

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 resolution with 114,000 pixels is average, and has a live histogram. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Photo menu options: Picture quality / size, Focus (multi, spot, manual, snap, infinite), Photometry (multi, centre, spot), Sharpness, Continuous mode, Colour depth (vivid, normal, neutral, black and white), Auto bracket (off, on, white-balance bracket), Time exposure, Interval, Image with sound, Date imprint, Exposure compensation, White balance, ISO setting, Slow shutter limit, Restore Defaults.

Photo adjust button menus Setup menu

Scenes: Normal shooting, Portrait, Sports, Lanscape, Nightscape, Skew correct mode, Text mode, Zoom macro, High sensitivity.
Photo adjust button gives you quick access to: Exposure compensation, White Balance, and ISO settings.

Setup menu options: Format card, Format internal memory, LCD brightness, Adjust button setting 1, setting 2, Auto power off, Beep sound, Volume, LCD confirm, Sequential number, Date settings, Language, Video out mode, Step zoom, Shooting Settings Change Warning, USB connection, Enlarge Photo icon.

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 fairly quick, although initial display can seem a bit sluggish. The zoom is quick, and allows you to zoom up to 8x.

Playback menu options: Slide show, Protect, DPOF, Resize, Copy to Card (from internal memory).

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

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
5mp 2592 x 1728
5mp 2592 x 1944
3mp 2048 x 1536
1mp 1280 x 960
0.3mp 640 x 480

As shown in the table above, you can fit a small number of images on the 26mb memory - a large 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 and aspect ratios, and a good choice regarding image compression.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 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 R3:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 128mb: £9.99, 256mb: £11.74, 512mb: £19.19, 1gb (1000mb): £36.03.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just over one second. Focusing seemed fairly quick even in low-light, however it wasn't always successful, and was much slower in macro mode (tested with Firmware version 1.27). The playback mode is also quick. The camera shutter response seemed quick (taking the photo in 0.1 - 0.2 seconds) when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was fairly average, with a delay of 2 - 3 seconds between shot with or without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick. The cameras menu's seemed quick. Continuous shooting is very quick, at roughly 3fps (without flash).

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, especially in AUTO mode, or one of the scene modes, even though the camera has a lot of options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straight forward - the menus are very responsive and easy to read and navigate. 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, mainly thanks to the right number of dials and buttons on the camera (the adjust button making it especially easy to get to regularly used options). Most functions can be worked out without having to refer to the manual.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seem to be the right amount of buttons allowing easy access to the most commonly used functions and features. The buttons feel okay, although some may find them small - the power button is a bit difficult to press, as is the vibration correction button. The shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, although there is very little in the way of a hand grip. The vertical zoom control is a bit unorthodox, but functional. The camera feels fairly solid with a curvy metal body, however the plastic battery cover felt quite fragile with only one clip / hook holding it in place when closed.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, 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 R3 Sample Photo Gallery!


Heather and Flower (ISO64) Group photo (ISO400)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo, although there is quite a lot of red-eye in the group photo. It has a fairly decent flash (despite its small size), and copes well with group photos, although on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting is often increased, which in turn increases noise to quite a high level and due to noise reduction detail is often lost - as visible in the group photo. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light.

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 (ISO: 64, 100, 200, 400 and 800) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.

ISO Noise Test Photo - Flash on ISO64 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels

Noise is lowest at ISO64, but still visible in dark areas, at ISO200 noise is just about acceptable (depending on your personal preferances), but at ISO400 noise is high, and at ISO800 noise is very high, and detail is lacking. It may be best to try and stick with ISO64 or ISO100, and avoid AUTO ISO and the higher ISO settings for best results.

Anti-shake / Optical Image Stabilisation effectiveness: Here are some test photos taken with Vibration Correction on and off - these photos were taken without flash in low light.

Vibration Correction On Vibration Correction Off
1/8 second, f4.8, ISO800, 200mm 1/8 second, f4.8, ISO800, 200mm

As you can see - image stabilisation is effective for low-light / high zoom, slow shutter speed photography helping acheive blur free photos. Anti-shake is also effective when used with zoom.


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Outside, the camera had good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail although images did seem soft. There seemed to be good dynamic range. Noise seemed fairly low, especially on sunny days. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: The camera has a 7.1x optical zoom lens, and a 3.6x digital zoom - I've included examples below to show what the zoom range of the camera is. Using the digital zoom degrades image quality and is best avoided - digital zoom will also make any slight camera shake more obvious.

Wide-angle 3x optical zoom 7.1x optical Zoom

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems good, with the dark areas of the photo not too dark, and the bright areas of the photo still visible. (Normal clock-tower photos viewable in the gallery)

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quite noisy, slightly louder than average - and doesn't sound like other camera lenses which has occassionally resulted in other people commenting on how strange the lens sounds. The shutter is very quiet. There are roughly 36(!!) steps between wide and telephoto giving you very good control on how you frame your subject. Step zoom can be switched on to make the camera lens usable at the following settings, which are displayed on screen, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm and 200mm.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing seemed quite high (slightly higher than average) - especially noticable when the clock tower photos were viewed at full size.

Macro: You can use the flash in macro mode, although this has a tendancy to wash out the picture when the subject is too close. The camera can be roughly as close as 1cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in wide setting, when set to macro mode.

Macro Timex Watch Actual Pixels (ISO64)

The macro mode is VERY good - colour and detail is very good, although noise is visible and removes detail when higher ISO settings are used. Images did seem a bit soft - and benefitted from sharpening. You'll need to be careful when / if using the flash, to ensure the picture is correctly exposed.

Movie: The movie mode on this camera is good with a 320x240 video mode with sound. The camera did well even in low light. Videos are recorded as .AVI files.


Image Quality: Image quality is average, the images have good colour with good saturation, contrast and detail - although with higher than average noise, higher than average purple fringing, and generally higher than average softness. The camera did a good job focusing even in low light, however it was slow in macro mode, and wasn't always successful. I did not notice vignetting in photos, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a good range of image sizes, and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is excellent, and provides good detail and colour. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good the majority of the time. Red-eye was a problem in some of the photos, and purple fringing was higher than average. The movie mode choices are average, providing 320x240 and 30 frames per second with sound. "Vibration Reduction " means more photos should be blur free even when taking photos with zoom or in low-light. The most noticable image quality problem was high noise in most photos, and generally quite soft images.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is extremely compact for an "ultra" zoom camera, with a 7.1x optical zoom lens, the camera is quite stylish with a good sized screen, and fits very easily into trouser pockets. The camera feels well built. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a very good layout of buttons and controls, with the majority on the outside of the camera (rather than hidden in menus). The camera speed is good - very good, with a good switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, good flash recharge time, quick playback mode, quick menus, and very quick continuous shooting.

Value for Money: The Ricoh Caplio R3 is good to very good value for money for an ultra compact 5 megapixel digital camera, with a 7.1x optical zoom lens. There are no other digital camera this small with such a big zoom range! The only alternatives that come close are the Ricoh Caplio R30 (same size but with 5.7x optical zoom lens), Panasonic Lumix LZ1 / LZ2 / LZ3 / LZ5 (6x optical zoom lens), Nikon Coolpix L1 (5x optical zoom), and the HP Photosmart R817/R818 (5x optical zoom). See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Ricoh Caplio R3 is a stylish digital camera with a 7.1x wide-angle optical zoom lens packed into a very compact metal body. The 5 megapixel camera features a 2.5" screen and built in vibration correction - this helps produce blur free photos in low light or at full zoom. The camera is very good feature wise, with quick access to options and speedy performance, however the camera is let down by average image quality - as the images produced have high noise, are generally soft, and have higher than average purple fringing. If having a lot of zoom power in a very compact camera is a priority then this is definitely worth considering, but if image quality is a top priority then this camera is best avoided. Ricoh are to be commended for innovation in providing such a large amount of zoom with image stabilsation in such a small and speedy camera, and for that reason I'm giving this camera an above average rating.

Ricoh Caplio R3 Rating: Above Average (6/10)
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What I like:

  • Very compact and stylish with a solid metal body (will easily fit in pockets)
  • Built in Vibration Reduction image stabilisation helps acheive blur free low-light / zoom photos.
  • 2.5" screen
  • 7.1x optical zoom lens
  • Fast continuous shooting mode
  • Excellent macro mode (1cm)
  • Full printed manual
  • Adjust button gives quick access to WB, ISO, Exposure compensation

What I don't like:

  • High noise (ISO400 and above very noisy)
  • Flash can over-expose images
  • Small memory card
  • Purple fringing slightly higher than average
  • Soft images

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Ricoh Caplio R3 Sample Photo Gallery.