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DCRP Review: Ricoh R8  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 25, 2008
Last Updated: April 16, 2012

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The Ricoh R8 ($399) is a stylish, midsize camera offering a 10 Megapixel CCD, impressive 28 - 200 mm zoom lens, image stabilization, and a super high resolution 2.7" LCD display. Other features include face detection, "skew correction", a 1:1 aspect ratio, and a VGA movie mode. Like other recent Ricoh cameras, the R8 has very limited availability in the US, so you may have to work a little to find one.

How does this latest Ricoh model perform? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The R8 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.0 effective Megapixel R8 camera
  • DB-70 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Caplio software
  • 207 page camera manual (printed)

As is the case with most cameras these days, Ricoh has built memory into the R8, instead of bundling a memory card. The camera has 24MB of onboard memory, which holds just six photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, if you don't have one already. The R8 supports SD, SDHC, and MMC memory, and I'd suggest starting with a 2GB card. Buying a high speed card is never a bad idea, though you don't need to go overboard.

The R8 uses the DB-70 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, which holds 3.6 Wh of energy inside its plastic shell. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS * 320 shots
Fuji FinePix F100fd */** 230 shots
GE E1050 ** 200 shots
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS * 250 shots
Nikon Coolpix S550 200 shots
Olympus Stylus 1020 ** 260 shots
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 * 300 shots
Ricoh Caplio R7 */** 300 shots
Ricoh R8 */** 270 shots
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 */** 390 shots

* Has image stabilization
** Wide-angle lens

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The R8 is sort of in a class by itself -- there aren't any other cameras with a 28 - 200 mm lens. A few others come close to that range, though, including the Olympus Stylus 1020 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5. Getting back to battery life: the R8's numbers are almost spot on the group average. In addition, the R8's battery life is about 10% below that of its predecessor, and I'm guessing that its super high-res LCD has something to with it.
[Update 4/26/08: Replaced the Panasonic LZ10 with the TZ5, a more competitive model. This lowered the group average a bit.]

Like many of the cameras on the above list, the Ricoh R8 uses a proprietary battery. Those tend to be expensive (a spare is $40), and when they die, you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery to get you through the day.

When it's time to charge the battery, just snap it into the included charger. This is my favorite type of charger: it plugs directly into the wall. It takes 100 minutes for a typical charge of the DB-70.

Ricoh R8 in the hand

As with most compact cameras, the R8 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with.

There are just a couple of accessories available for the R8. They include:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
AC adapter AC-4f $36 Power the camera without using the battery
Neck strap ST-2 $39 When a wrist strap just isn't enough...
Leather case SC-80 $37 Protect your camera from the elements. Available in black and brown.
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Pretty basic accessories, as you can see. Let's talk software now.


Irodio Photo & Video Studio in Windows Vista

Ricoh includes Irodio's Photo & Video Studio with the R8, which is for Windows only. Photos are actually transferred off the camera by another piece of software known as Ricoh Gate La, but you'll use Irodio for everything after that. Mac users can use iPhoto as a substitute for both of those.

Irodio Photo & Video Studio is a pretty good application. The main screen has the same thumbnail view and file navigator as every other image browser. On this screen, you can print or e-mail photos, rotate them, or start a slideshow.


Editing JPEGs in Photo & Video Studio

Here's what the edit screen looks like when you're viewing a JPEG. There are plenty of tools available, and you can see them on the left side of the above screenshot. Highlights include a horizon tool (for straightening photos), auto image quality enhancement, and redeye removal. There are also several "artistic effects" available, if you're so inclined.

Also included is something called DeskTopBinder Lite, which Ricoh says is for "managing images associated with office documents". I did not try it out.

Ricoh includes a thick and complete manual with the R8. It's not the most user friendly manual out there, but it should answer any question that should come up about the camera.

Look and Feel

The Ricoh R8 is a stylish, midsize camera made almost entirely of metal. The camera feels quite solid, with even the battery/memory compartment door being sturdy. I did raise an eyebrow when I saw the plastic tripod mount, though. Operating the camera with one hand is easy, though more space for your thumb would've been nice. Ricoh has done a good job keeping buttons to a minimum, so the back of the camera is uncluttered.

Available Ricoh R8 colors
Images courtesy of Ricoh

Ricoh sells the R8 in three colors: silver, black, and a black/silver combo that I'm quite fond of.

Now, let's take a look at how the R8 compares to other cameras in its class, in terms of both size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD890 IS 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 9.6 cu in. 155 g
Fujifilm FinePix F100fd 3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.9 cu in. 170 g
GE E1050 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.1 cu in. 145 g
Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.5 in. 13.1 cu in. 164 g
Nikon Coolpix S550 3.6 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 6.8 cu in. 120 g
Olympus Stylus 1020 3.9 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.6 cu in. 135 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 13.2 cu in. 214 g
Pentax Optio Z10 3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.5 cu in. 125 g
Ricoh Caplio R7 3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 135 g
Ricoh R8 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 9.2 cu in. 168 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 142 g

The Ricoh R8 is one of the larger and heavier cameras in the group. It's bigger than the R7 that came before it, and its more boxy design is likely the reason for that.

Alright, enough about that, let's start our tour of the camera, shall we?

Front of the Ricoh R8

One of the R8's stand-out features is its F3.3-5.2, 7.1X optical zoom lens. With a 28 - 200 mm focal range, this lens lets you have your cake and eat it too, if you pardon the cliché. The downside is that it's on the slow side, especially at the wide-end, where the maximum aperture is F3.3. The lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses are not available.

The R8 features a CCD-shift image stabilization system. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands that can blur your photos, especially in low light or when taking telephoto pictures. The R8 can actually shift the CCD sensor to compensation for this shake, resulting in sharper photos. It can't work miracles, though: you'll still need a tripod sometimes, and moving subjects may still be blurry. However, you will get away using shutter speeds that would be blurry on an unstabilized camera. Want some proof? Have a look at this:


Image stabilization off


Image stabilization on

Both of the above photos were taken at 1/12th of a second, which may not sound that slow, but this is at nearly 4X zoom. As you can see, the sensor-shift IS system did its job. For some unknown reason, the R8 does not let you use image stabilization in movie mode, so movie lovers, take note.

To the upper-left of the lens is the R8's AF-assist lamp, which also serves as a sort of visual countdown for the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp helps the camera's contrast-detect autofocus system lock onto a subject in low light situations.

Continuing to the left, we find the R8's built-in flash. The flash is on the weak side, with a working range of 0.2 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.25 - 2.0 m at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash to the R8.

Back of the Ricoh R8

The first thing to see on the back of the R8 is its large 2.7" LCD display. This isn't your typical screen, though: it has 460,000 pixels, twice as many as your typical LCD. As you might expect, everything on the screen is very sharp -- it's really quite impressive, and has to be seen to be appreciated. Outdoor visibility is very good... it looks like there's an anti-glare coating on the screen to help out in those situations. The same cannot be said for low light visibility -- it's quite poor, since the LCD barely "gains up" at all.

As you can tell, there's no optical viewfinder on the R8. That'll bother some folks, while others won't even notice.


Adjustment menu

At the upper-right corner of the LCD is the button for entering playback mode. Below that is the four-way controller, which Ricoh calls the adjustment button. You'll use this to navigate menus, adjust the macro and flash settings, and open the adjustment (quick) menu. The adjustment menu is totally customizable, able to store up to four of your favorite record menu items (I'll give you the specifics later). You'll also use this button to set the AE/AF target, which lets you select the area in the frame on which to meter or focus.

Continuing downward, we find three more buttons:

  • Menu - this is for the standard record or playback menu
  • Delete photo + Self-timer (2 or 10 secs)
  • Display - toggles info on LCD

The last thing to see on the back of the R8 is its speaker, located just to the right of the three buttons I just mentioned.

Top of the Ricoh R8

The first items of note on the top of the Ricoh R8 are the power button, microphone, and the shutter release button/zoom controller combo. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 0.8 seconds. I counted around thirty steps in the R8's 7.1X zoom range. A unique "step zoom" feature is also available, which moves the lens from one focal length to another, in this order: 28, 35, 50, 85, 105, 135, and 200 mm.

Right next to the shutter release/zoom controller is the mode dial, which has these options:

Option Function
Auto mode Point and shoot with some menu options locked up.
My Settings mode 1/2 Save your favorite camera settings to these two spots on the mode dial
Movie mode More on this later
Scene mode You pick the situation, and the R8 uses the appropriate settings. Select from portrait, face detection, sports, landscape, nightscape, high sensitivity, zoom macro, black & white, sepia, skew correction, and text mode

Not a whole lot of options on this point-and-shoot camera. If you're looking for manual controls, you won't find many -- I'll touch on the few that are available later.


The camera located three faces

I do want to mention a few of the scene modes before we continue. The "face" scene activates the R8's face detection system. The camera can detect up to four faces in the frame (a fairly low number these days), making sure they are properly focused and exposed. The R8 did an okay job with our test scene, typically locating two or three of the faces.

The high sensitivity mode does just as it sounds -- it boosts the ISO sensitivity, though I do not know the upper limit (presumably 1600). I'd pass on this one, though, as the resulting images can be quite noisy.

The zoom macro feature is simply macro mode plus digital zoom. The optical zoom gets locked at around the 3X position, and you can use the digital zoom to get closer. I'm not sure why you'd want to use this feature, but there you go.

Before skew correction After skew correction

The last scene mode of note is skew correction. This lets you take photos of business cards, documents, and white boards, and the camera will remove the resulting distortion automatically. The resulting image is on the fuzzy side, and the resolution must be 1280 x 960 or below, but this feature does work! Skew correction is also available on photos you've already taken in playback mode.

And that's all for the top of the camera!

Side of the Ricoh R8

Nothing to see here...

Side of the Ricoh R8

On the other side of the R8, you'll find its I/O ports, which are protected by a rubber cover. The ports are for A/V out and USB. As you'd expect these days, the R8 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to a Mac or PC.

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Ricoh R8

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo!) as well as the memory/battery compartment. The door covering this compartment is of decent quality. As you can probably tell, you won't be able to get to your memory card while the camera is on a tripod.

The DB-70 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the Ricoh R8

Record Mode

It takes exactly two seconds for the R8 to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's not record-breaking by any means, though the camera does have to move that big lens into position.


A live histogram is available in record mode

Focus speeds were good in most situations. At the wide end of the lens, you'll typically wait for 0.2 - 0.4 seconds for the camera to lock focus. You can double those numbers for the telephoto end of the lens, with focus times sometimes breaking the one second barrier. Low light focusing almost always took over a second, though the camera locked focus eventually.

I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.

Shot-to-shot delays are minimal. You'll wait a little over 1 second before you can take another shot. Adding the flash into the mix doesn't noticeably increase the delay.

There's no way to delete a photo right after it's taken. You must first enter playback mode.

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 24MB onboard memory # images on 2GB card (optional)
3648 x 2736 Fine 3.5 MB 6 503
Normal 2.0 MB 11 878
3648 x 2432
(3:2 ratio)
Fine 2.7 MB 7 563
2736 x 2736
(1:1 ratio)
Fine 2.5 MB 8 668
3264 x 2448 Normal 1.6 MB 13 1078
2592 x 1944 Normal 1.0 MB 21 1707
2048 x 1536 Normal 649 KB 32 2671
1280 x 960 Normal 340 KB 58 4726
640 x 480 Normal 89 KB 219 15359

See why you need to buy a memory card right away? The R8 doesn't support the RAW image format, nor would I really expect it to.

The R8 has a unique 1:1 aspect ratio option. For those of you looking to relive your medium format days, here's your chance.

Images are named RXXXYYYY.JPG, where X = 001 - 999 and Y = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Let's move onto the menu system now, shall we?

While it doesn't have the most attractive menu system ever, the R8's menus get the job done quickly. Keeping in mind that not all of these options are available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of record menu items:

  • Pic quality/size (see above chart)
  • Focus (Multi AF, spot AF, MF, snap, infinite) - see below
  • Exposure metering (Multi, center, spot)
  • Sharpness (Soft, normal, sharp)
  • Continuous mode (Off, continuous, S-Cont, M-Cont) - see below
  • Color depth (Neutral, normal, strong) - AKA saturation
  • Auto bracket (Off, on, WB-BKT, CL-BKT) - see below
  • Time exposure (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8 secs) - for taking long exposures
  • Interval (Off, 5 secs - 3 hours) - see below
  • Date imprint (Off, date, time)
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV)
  • White balance (Auto, outdoors, cloudy, incandescent 1/2, fluorescent, manual) - this last option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting
  • ISO setting (Auto, Auto-Hi, ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - the "hi" option simply uses a higher sensitivity [which you can set] than regular Auto
  • Slow shutter limit (Off, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 sec) - how slow a shutter speed the camera will use
  • Camera shake correction (on/off) - turns image stabilization on and off
  • Record dual size (on/off) - takes a smaller-sized image in addition to the full-sized one
  • Fix minimum aperture (on/off) - uses a smaller aperture, for more depth-of-field
  • Restore defaults

Lots to talk about before we move on to the next menu. First, manual controls. The two "true" manual controls are for white balance and focus. You can also select a slow shutter speed manually, though your options are quite limited.


Manual focus

There are a number of focus options on the R8, and I want to tell you about the manual and snap choices. Manual focus lets you use the adjustment button and the zoom controller to set the focus distance. While the center of the frame can be enlarged, the guide showing the focus distance is of little use (as it uses no units). The "snap" AF mode fixes the focus distance to 2.5 meters, which allows for faster shooting (as long as your subject is at the right distance, of course).

There are three continuous shooting modes available on the Ricoh R8. The one with the name that actually makes sense is regular continuous mode. Here, you can keep taking pictures at 1.5 frames/second until your memory card fills up. Not bad at all. The stream-continuous mode takes sixteen shots in a row at 7.5 frames/second, and compiles them into a single 10 Megapixel collage. Memory-reversal-cont is similar: the camera buffers photos at 7.5 fps as you hold down the shutter release button, and when you let go, the last sixteen photos are combined into a collage.

The R8's exposure bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure (the interval between shots is 0.5EV). White balance bracketing is similar, with the camera producing three photos (from one exposure): one at normal white balance, one with a reddish cast, and another with a bluish cast. The color bracketing option isn't named very well: it simply records a color, black and white, and sepia image at the same time.

The interval feature is for time-lapse photography. You can select an interval ranging from 5 seconds to 3 hours (in 5 second increments). Use of the optional AC adapter is highly recommended.

Let's move onto the setup menu now, which has quite a few options. They include:

  • Format [card]
  • Format [internal]
  • LCD brightness (-4 to +4)
  • Register My Settings (Setting 1, 2) - store favorite settings to spots on mode dial
  • Step zoom (on/off) - described earlier
  • ISO Auto-High (ISO 400, 800, 1600) - how high the ISO will go in this mode
  • Sub file size (1280, 640, 480, 320) - for the "record dual size" feature
  • Auto power off (Off, 1, 5, 30 mins)
  • Operation sounds (All, shutter)
  • Volume settings (Off, small, medium, large)
  • LCD confirm (Off, 0.5, 1, 2, 3 secs, hold) - post-shot review
  • Digital zoom image (Normal, auto resize) - see below
  • Adj. button set 1/2/3/4 (Off, exposure comp., white balance, ISO, quality, focus, sharp, metering, continuous, auto bracket) - define what goes into the four adj. menu slots
  • AF aux. light (on/off) - AF-assist lamp
  • Enlarge photo icon (on/off) - I have no idea
  • Sequential file numbering (on/off)
  • Date settings
  • Language
  • Video out mode (NTSC, PAL)

One quick thing to mention before we move on to photo tests, and that's the "digital zoom image" option. Normally, using digital zoom will degrade the quality of the image. However, if you use the "auto resize" option, the camera will reduce the resolution of the image as you increase the amount of digital zoom. For example, if you're using 1.8X digital zoom, the photo will be resized to 3 Megapixel.

Enough about menus, let's move onto our photo tests now.

The macro test turned out fairly well, though the R8's white balance system had a heck of a time with my studio lamps. Photos were either too red or, in this case, too blue. That gives the figurine a bit of a washed-out look. The subject is nice and sharp, though I couldn't help but notice jagged edges, which could be due to either sharpening or JPEG compression.

You can get as close to your subject as 1.5 cm in macro mode on the GRD.

The night shot also has room for improvement. There's a whole lot of noise reduction artifacting here, and this is at ISO 64. As a result, there's a lot of detail lost, and many of the buildings appear "fuzzy". You can take long exposures with the R8, though you're limited to 1, 2, 4, or 8 seconds (in-between would be nice). On a more positive note, there's no purple fringing to be found.

I was not able to perform my usual night ISO test, due to the lack of full shutter speed controls. Look for the studio ISO test in a moment.

There's not much in the way of barrel distortion on the R8's 28 - 200 mm lens, which is quite a feat. While the test chart shows some vignetting (dark corners), this didn't seem to be a problem in my real world photos. Something that you may encounter, however, is blurriness around the corners of the frame.

Compact cameras usually include the undesirable feature of redeye, and the Ricoh R8 is no exception. It's pretty bad, and since there's no removal tool, there's not much you can do about it (on the camera, at least).

Now it's time for our studio ISO test. As with the macro test, the camera's difficulty getting the white balance right is illustrated by the reddish cast you can see above. Each of the images below were taken at a different ISO sensitivity, ranging from 64 to 1600. While looking at the crops is a quick way to compare the noise level at each setting, viewing the full size image is always a good idea. And with that, here we go:


ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

There's not much of the line of noise or noise reduction artifacting at ISO 64 or 100, though you can see the "edge artifacts" that I mentioned earlier. Noise and NR artifacting become visible at ISO 200, and I'd swear that there's some kind of vertical banding, too. Noise levels (and the banding) get worse at ISO 400, and interestingly enough, there's a color shift that makes everything more saturated and accurate than they were before. Weird. Things go keep going downhill at ISO 800, though I think you can still squeeze out a small print, if you run the photo through noise reduction software first. The same cannot be said for ISO 1600 -- there's too much detail loss for the photo to be of much use.

Overall, the R8's photo quality was good, but not great. Exposure was generally accurate, though the camera really blew out the highlights in our purple fringing torture tunnel shot. Colors were vivid, and photos were tack sharp (perhaps a bit too sharp for some). Purple fringing levels were low. Now, the bad news. The R8's photos have a fair amount of noise and noise reduction artifacting, even at ISO 64 -- and that's on top of the sharpening artifacts that I've already mentioned. The noise is mostly in shadow areas, and you'll see the artifacting on things like grass, trees, and hair. These two photos are great examples of both of those issues. Now, this won't matter if you're printing 4 x 6's, but if you're making larger prints, or viewing them on your computer screen, then you'll almost certainly notice.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, perhaps making a few prints if possible, and then decide if the R8's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The R8 has a standard-issue VGA movie mode. You can record videos at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound until you hit the 4GB file size limit (or your memory card fills up). It takes around 50 minutes to hit the limit at the highest quality setting, which is plenty of time. Using a high speed memory card is recommended for best performance.

For longer movies, you can cut the resolution (to 320 x 240), the frame rate (to 15 fps), or both.

As is usually the case, you cannot use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie. And, disappointingly, you cannot use the image stabilizer, either.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

This sample movie is called "whoa, where did that train come from?", because I didn't hear it coming until it was right next to me. Enjoy:


Click to play movie (14 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The Ricoh R8 has some unique features in its playback mode. First, though, the basics, which include slideshows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and "zoom and scroll". This last feature lets you enlarge an image by as much as 16X, and then move around in the enlarged area. This is a good way to verify focus, smiles, and opened eyes.

Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. There are no movie editing functions available.

Level compensation White balance compensation

Now, some of the interesting features. I already mentioned skew correction back when I talked about scene modes. There's also level and white balance compensation. Level compensation works just like it does in Photoshop. You get a histogram, and you can adjust the brightness of the shadows, midtones, and highlights using the four-way controller. If you want better contrast and brightness without having to play with histograms, an auto-correct function is also available.

White balance compensation lets you adjust the "tint" of a photo in the blue-red and/or green-magenta directions. While this feature is handy, it would've been a heck of a lot nicer (not to mention, more effective) if it was available in record mode instead.

The R8 has one last neat trick up its sleeve: the ability to restore a photo or photos that you just deleted. There's a window of opportunity in which you can use this feature (turning off the camera or switching to record mode closes it), but it does work if you follow the rules.

The R8 can show you a decent amount of information regarding your photos. You can see exposure information, a histogram, and blown highlights, all on that beautiful 2.7" LCD display.

The camera moves from photo to photo with minimal delays.

How Does it Compare?

The Ricoh R8 is an intriguing camera, offering a 28 - 200 mm lens, image stabilization, and an absolutely amazing 2.7" LCD display. Unfortunately, it also has mediocre photo quality, a weak flash, and no image stabilization in movie mode. Neither particularly good nor bad, the R8 scores somewhere in the middle. If you want a camera with a very useful 28-200 focal range, then the R8 is worth a look. If you're willing to give up a little of that range (in one direction or the other), then there are better cameras out there.

The R8 is a midsize camera made almost entirely of metal. It's well put together, though I always give a "thumbs down" to plastic tripod mounts. The R8 is available in silver, black, or a nice silver/black combo, which is quite eye-catching. Controls are well-placed, and buttons are kept to a minimum. The four-way controller opens up the customizable adjustment menu, which lets you quickly access your favorite settings. Probably the nicest feature on the R8 is its F3.3-5.2, 28 - 200 mm lens. This lens gives you the best of both worlds, while still being quite portable. The only downside is that the lens is on the slow side, especially at full wide-angle. Inside the camera is a sensor-shift image stabilizer, which works as promised when shooting still images. It is not available in movie mode, however. On the back of the camera you'll find an absolutely stunning 2.7", 460,000 pixel LCD display. As you might imagine, everything on the screen is super-sharp, and it makes other LCDs look flat-out awful by comparison. The screen has very good outdoor visibility, but I found it very difficult to see in low light conditions. There's no optical viewfinder on the R8.

While the R8 is mostly a point-and-shoot camera, Ricoh threw in a few manual controls to appease grouchy camera reviewers like yours truly. The R8 doesn't have a million scene modes like many cameras these days, but the ones they offer are (mostly) useful. One interesting scene mode (skew correction) lets you take a photo of a business card or white board, and the distortion is automatically removed. Ricoh has buried their face detection system in the scene menu -- perhaps because it's not as impressive as what others are offering. It works fairly well, though it can only find a maximum of four faces at any time. As far as manual controls go, there's manual focus (though it doesn't show the current focus distance), white balance (though it sure didn't like my studio lamps), as well as a couple of slow shutter speeds to choose from. Playback mode has some unusual (but welcome) features, including the ability adjust levels and white balance. The R8's movie mode is fairly standard, with the ability to take up to 50 minutes of continuous VGA-quality video. As I mentioned above, the image stabilizer is not available in movie mode, and the same goes for the optical zoom (it locks when recording starts).

The R8 was generally a good performer. It starts up in about two seconds, which is on the slow side, though the camera has a good-sized zoom to extend. Focusing speeds were about average, ranging from 0.2 - 0.4 seconds at wide-angle, to around twice that at full telephoto. Low light focusing wasn't as impressive, with focus times exceeding one second on most occasions. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. The R8 has several continuous shooting modes, with the "regular one" shooting at 1.5 frames/second until your memory card is full. Battery life was about average compared to similar cameras. The R8 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your computer.

Photo quality is where the Ricoh R8 needs the most improvement. On the positive side, the R8 generally took well-exposed photos, with accurate color. Photos are very sharp -- perhaps a bit too much -- and purple fringing is kept to a minimum. The R8's photos have above average noise, noise reduction, and what appears to be sharpening artifacts. Noise tends to stay in shadow areas at low ISOs, though I noticed some vertical banding appearing at higher sensitivities. Noise reduction starts eating away at details at ISO 64, with fine details looking quite smudged. Combine that with the sharpening artifacts (jagged/fuzzy edges), and the R8's photos look overprocessed. These issues won't appear in 4 x 6 prints, but for large prints and on-screen viewing, they'll be hard to miss. The camera also had trouble with white balance under unusual lighting (or at least my studio lamps), and redeye was considerable.

There are a few final issues that I want to mention before closing things up. First, the R8's flash is on the weak side. Next, you won't be able to get at the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod. The 24MB of built-in memory isn't much for a 10 Megapixel camera, holding just six photos at the highest quality setting. And finally, there's absolutely no Mac software included.

Want a 28 - 200 mm zoom lens and don't take a lot of photos with the flash, or in unusual lighting? Then the Ricoh R8 is worth a look. If you're willing to give up that lens and the super LCD, I think there are better options out there.

What I liked:

  • Good photo quality for smaller-sized prints
  • Great 28 - 200 mm zoom range; minimum barrel distortion
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Stylish, well built metal body
  • Stunning, ultra high resolution LCD display
  • Some manual controls
  • Decent continuous shooting mode (for a 10MP camera)
  • Customizable adjustment menu, spots on mode dial
  • Unique level and white balance compensation features in playback mode
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Overprocessed images with noise, noise reduction / sharpening artifacts; banding at higher ISOs
  • Redeye a problem
  • White balance struggles under unusual lighting conditions
  • Low light focusing could be better
  • Lens is slow at the wide-angle end
  • Weak flash
  • LCD nearly impossible to see in low light
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Image stabilizer not available in movie mode
  • Plastic tripod mount; can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
  • Not much built-in memory
  • No Mac software included

While no camera matches the R8's zoom range, some cameras that come close are the Canon PowerShot SD890 IS, Fuji FinePix F100fd, GE E1050, Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS, Nikon Coolpix S550, Olympus Stylus 1020, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the R8 (which isn't easy) and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want another opinion?

You'll find another review of the R8 at Digital Photography Review.