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Ricoh Caplio R5 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 24/09/06
Rating: Recommended*
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Introduction: Announced on the 24th of August 06, the Ricoh Caplio R5 is a new 7 megapixel update to the Ricoh Caplio R4 - it has 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 camera's wide-angle 7.1x optical zoom lens starts at 28mm and zooms to 200mm equivalent, and 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 R5 is available for £249, which is a bit more than the R4 costs (£180), although it is good value for money as an compact digital camera with a big zoom - I would expect prices to drop further when the camera is more widely available. The camera is enclosed in a black / silver or red two-tone metal body - the back is always black. The R5 records 640x480 videros / 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: 96 mm (W) x 55 mm (H) x 26 mm (D (without protruding parts), and weighs 140g (without batteries and memory card). Nb. As the Ricoh Caplio R5 is so similar to the Ricoh Caplio R4, this review is based on the Ricoh Caplio R4 review.

Ricoh have this to say about the camera:

"Ricoh Co., Ltd. has announced the release of the new Caplio R5 digital camera featuring a 7.1x optical wide zoom lens (28–200 mm in 35 mm camera format), the highest zoom in the compact class*. Combining the Caplio R5’s Ricoh-original CCD-shift vibration correction method and brand new image processing engine greatly expands the range of shooting in low light areas producing high quality images at even higher ISO settings with low noise."

You can find more information on their website.

The Ricoh Caplio R5 improves on the Caplio R4 in the following ways:

  • 7.0 megapixel sensor (6mp on R4)
  • Updated design (shape),
  • Updated layout (zoom control, mode button etc),
  • Updated colours (silver/red/black front, back always black),
  • High resolution screen (230,000 pixels compared to 154,000 on R4),
  • ISO settings (upto 1600 available compared to 800 on R4),
  • Removed the anti-shake button (put it in a menu),
  • Improved video mode (640x480 vs 320x240 on R4),
  • Better battery life (380 shots vs 330),
  • "New Smooth Imaging Engine II image processing engine"
  • New Auto Resize Zoom function

There are other more subtle improvements as well, full details are in the press release. The Ricoh Caplio R5 doesn't feature the audio recording mode that was a feature of the R4.

The Camera: a visual tour of the camera in silver / black: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon Powershot A700)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, lens extended (wide-angle), flash, focus assist, microphone hole.


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


Top: Power button, shutter release.


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, speaker, strap loop. (lens at telephoto position)

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


Size comparison.


Size comparison. Rollover to view R4.


Size comparison, compared to the 6x optical zoom, 6 megapixel Canon Powershot A700. (taken with the Sony P92)

Specifications / Features:

  • 7.0 Megapixel CCD Sensor
  • 7.1x Optical Zoom Lens f=4.6-33, 1:3.3-4.8 (28 - 200mm equiv.)
  • 2.5" TFT screen, 230,000 pixels
  • Vibration Correction (anti-shake CCD sensor)
  • 3.6x Digital Zoom / Auto resize*
  • ISO AUTO, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Video mode: 640 x 480 pixels, 30 fps with sound
  • 1cm Macro mode
  • Pictbridge support
  • 10 Scene modes including: TIFF Text mode, Skew correction etc
  • 2 Custom Scene modes
  • 380 shot battery life

* Auto Resize appears to be a new feature, and instead of enlarging the image, it simply switches you to a lower MP setting if you want to zoom beyond the 7.1x optical zoom, this should mean image quality is not lost, as it simply crops the center of the image.

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera (with 26mb of memory built in)
  • Lithium-Ion Rechargable Battery DB-60
  • Battery charger
  • AV Cable
  • USB Cable
  • CD-ROM
  • Strap
  • 192 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 380 pictures with the supplied battery according to CIPA testing - this is very good for a compact digital camera. Battery life seemed very good, but not as good as the 500-shot Fuji F10 / 580-shot Fuji F30 for example.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the back switch - this switches between Video, Scenes and Photo mode. There is a seperate Play button on the back.

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 230,000 pixels is good, 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, Camera shake correction (on/off), Restore Defaults.

Photo adjust button menus Setup menu

Photo adjust button gives you quick access to: Exposure compensation, White Balance, and ISO settings, by default. You can customise a 4th option, I chose Focus in this instance. In macro mode there is a 5th option that allows you to choose the area of focus for the macro photo.

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, Register my settings (Settings 1, 2), Digital zoom img (Normal, Auto Resize).

Scene modes 12 Thumbs Playback View

Scenes: Portrait, Sports, Lanscape, Nightscape, Skew correct mode, Text mode, Zoom macro, High sensitivity (LCD monitor becomes easier to see), My setting 1, My setting 2.

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), Skew correction.

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:

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
 
Ratio
Fine
Normal
7mp 3072 x 2048
3:2
10
N/A
7mp 3072 x 2304
4:3
9
16
5mp 2592 x 1944
13
22
3mp 2048 x 1536
18
35
1mp 1280 x 960
32
62
0.3mp 640 x 480
N/A
276

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 fairly 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 R5:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £5.80, 512mb: £6.59, 1gb (1000mb): £12.95, 2gb (2000mb): £28.91
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 quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just just under 2 seconds - strangely the camera took longer than the R4 to take the first shot taking just under 3 seconds from off to on (compared to 1.6 seconds from off to on with the R4). Focusing seemed very quick even in low-light (when set to spot focusing), and was generally quite successful, although it was slower in macro mode. The camera shutter response seemed almost instant and felt VERY quick, (taking the photo in under 0.1 seconds) when pre-focused. Shot to shot time was very quick, with a delay of around 0.8 seconds between shot without flash or 1.8 seconds with flash. The flash recharge time was very quick. The cameras menu's seemed fairly quick. Continuous shooting is very quick, taking 0.3 - 0.4 seconds between shots, roughly 2.5 - 3 fps (without flash) - upto 19 photos an be taken at the highest resolution and quality. The playback mode is also fairly quick displaying a thumbnail version first, and then a sharper version half a second later.

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 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 - this can be customised so that you have access to the option you most frequently use). Most functions can be worked out without having to refer to the manual. The mode switch and play button make it very easy to switch between the different modes.

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 - particularly the new zoom control and the small on/off button. The shutter release is fairly decent although, personally I found the R4's shutter release easier to use. 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, and it's fairly easy to put your finger(s) in front of the flash. 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. The layout of the buttons mean they can be used with one hand. The camera is on the small size, but can still be held with two hands should you feel like supporting the camera with both hands.

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 R4 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO383) Group photo (ISO400)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo, although there is some red-eye in group photos. It has a fairly decent flash (despite its small size), and copes fairly well with group photos, although on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting is often increased, which in turn increases noise to quite a high level. The flash occassionally over exposed the subject meaning that I had to take a couple of shots before I was happy with the result. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time, however, it did take a few attempts to get the best results.

ISO Noise Test: 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, 800, ISO1600).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel Ricoh Caplio R4, and the 7 megapixel, Olympus SP-320 - chosen for it's ISO range of ISO64 - ISO800. The ISO1600 noise test was taken from the 7 megapixel Olympus Mju Stylus 720SW. Flash was off for these tests. Any colour difference is due to automatic white balance / lighting etc.

Ricoh Caplio R4 (6mp) Ricoh Caplio R5 (7mp) Olympus SP-320 (7mp)
Ricoh Caplio R4 (6mp) Ricoh Caplio R5 (7mp) Olympus SP-320 (7mp)
ISO64 - Actual Pixels (shown at 100%) ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO64 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
 
ISO1600 - N/A ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels (from 720SW)

The Ricoh Caplio R5 has low noise at ISO64 and ISO100. At ISO200, and 400 noise is quite high, and at ISO800 noise is very high. I would recommend using ISO200 or lower. Compared to the Olympus SP-320 - a 7 megapixel digital camera, noise at most ISO settings is quite similar, with only slightly more noise noticable on the R5. Detail from both cameras remains good regardless of the ISO setting, except at ISO800 and above. As long as you stick to the lowest ISO settings, good results should be achieved from both cameras, however, if the ISO setting is left on automatic then you may end up with a number of photos taken at the higher ISO settings resulting in higher noise - It may be best to try and manually set ISO to ISO64 or ISO100, and avoid AUTO ISO and the higher ISO settings for best results. There appears to be less noise on the R5, than on the R4, and there is no noticable banding in any of the photos, whereas there was some in some photos taken with the R4.

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. The Ricoh Caplio R5's anti-shake system moves the CCD sensor to counter any camera shake. These photos were taken at full optical zoom (with 2x extra digital zoom), set to macro.

Vibration Correction On Vibration Correction Off
1/10 second, f4.8, ISO200, 200mm 1/24 second, f4.8, ISO200, 200mm

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

Outside:

Shops (ISO64) Super Lamb Banana (ISO100)

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast, saturation and exposure. There was good detail although images did seem slightly soft. There seemed to be good dynamic range. Noise seemed fairly low, especially on sunny days when set to ISO64 or ISO100. 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. The camera adds a new zoom feature, it lets you zoom further than the 7.1x optical zoom lens when using a lower image size.

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 (although there is some over-exposure on the wide-angle shot). There is some purple fringing on the clock tower. The wide angle photo has impressive depth of field.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quite noisy, slightly louder than average. 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 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. You can also zoom in and use the macro mode.

Macro Timex Watch Actual Pixels (ISO200)

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 may benefit from sharpening. You'll need to be careful when / if using the flash, to ensure the picture is correctly exposed. Custom white balance helps acheive better colour accuracy under artificial (and natural) lighting.

Movie: The movie mode on this camera is improved when compared to the previous R4 and R3, and features a 640 x 480 video mode at 30 fps with sound. The camera did well even in low light. Videos are recorded as .AVI files.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality seems improved over the Ricoh Caplio R4 and is capable of excellent results outside in good lighting. I was impressed by the accurate and rich colours - the images have good colour with rich saturation, contrast and detail - although with slightly higher than average noise (especially on indoor photos or when ISO is left on AUTO), and slightly higher than average purple fringing. Images are slightly soft and could benefit from sharpening - there are options in the camera to alter sharpness. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time even in low light. I didn't noticed any vignetting in any of the photos - an improvement over the R4. I didn't notice barrel or pincushion distortion - the lens appears to be very good. 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, metering and exposure seemed to be very good the majority of the time (exposure in particular was noticably improved when compared to the R4). Red-eye was a problem in some of the photos. The movie mode choices are good, providing 640x480 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 noise in photos where the ISO setting was 200 or above, however if you can set this camera to ISO64 or ISO100 then the majority of results should be noise free. If you need to use the higher ISO settings then noise is noticable and could be a problem for you, unless you are willing to use an additional program. (7.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is extremely compact for an "ultra" zoom digital 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, fast focusing time, very fast shutter response, fast flash recharge time, quick playback mode, quick menus, quick shot to shot time (even with flash) and a very quick continuous shooting mode. The camera has a lot of options and controls, such as manual focusing, customisable buttons, auto bracket, time exposure, custom white balance, scene modes etc. The video mode is good at 640x480 and 30fps with sound. The camera offer a lot, especially compared to the competition, there is nothing that offers the same wide-angle zoom lens in such a small body. (8.5/10)

Value for Money: The Ricoh Caplio R5 is good to very good value for money for an ultra compact 7 megapixel digital camera, with a wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens. There are very few other digital camera this small with such a big zoom range! The only alternatives that come close are the Canon Powershot A700 and A710 IS, Kodak Easyshare V570 (wide angle 5x), V610 (10x), Ricoh Caplio R4, Ricoh Caplio R3, Ricoh Caplio R30 (same size but with 5.7x optical zoom lens), Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 / LZ5 (6x optical zoom lens), Nikon Coolpix L1 (5x optical zoom), and the HP Photosmart R817/R818 (5x optical zoom) and the somewhat large in comparison Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 (10x). (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Ricoh Caplio R5 has improved on the Ricoh Caplio R4 in a number of ways, most noticable is the camera's improved image quality, improved shot to shot time, and improved battery life. Noise levels are slightly better than the R4 with less noise at the lower ISO settings. Image quality is very good, especially outdoors and the camera has rich colours and good exposure. The Ricoh Caplio R5 is the smallest digital camera to feature a wide-angle 7.1x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation. * I would definitely recommend this camera, with some reservations, as the camera can struggle indoors with noise and occassionally focusing. The camera occassionally has some flash problems (overexposure), so this camera would be best suited, and definitely recommended for mainly outdoor use and for those people happy to take a number of shots to get the best results. There are some design aspects that I'm not keen on such as the shutter release, and plastic battery cover, but if you are willing to overlook these shortcomings, then you will find an extremely capable pocket camera that can produce excellent results.

Ricoh Caplio R5 Rating: Recommended* (8/10)
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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, with 230,000 pixels
  • 7.1x optical zoom lens
  • Very fast focusing (Spot AF) and shutter response,
  • Fast continuous shooting mode (2.5fps)
  • Rich, accurate colours
  • Low-ish noise at ISO64 - ISO100
  • Full printed manual
  • Adjust button gives quick access to WB, ISO, Exposure compensation, Focus etc
  • Very good macro mode
  • Very good battery life (380 shots)

What I don't like:

  • Flash position, easy to put finger in front of it
  • Flash overexposes images if the subject is too close, the camera requires you to set the camera to Macro mode if you don't want the flash to overexpose the image
  • Flimsy battery cover
  • Shutter button - easy to half-press, not so easy to press fully due to the metal surround.
  • Has crashed (on switch on, may be resolved with updated firmware?)
  • Occassionally poor low-light focusing / focusing occassionally slightly off the mark despite the camera saying it's correctly focused.

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Ricoh Caplio R5 Sample Photo Gallery.
Tested with Firmware version 1.22 - Read the Ricoh Caplio R5 Blog for additional images, updates and discussion.

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