Review: Ricoh RDC-7
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, August 2, 2000
Last Updated: Sunday, August 13, 2000
you first see the Ricoh
RDC-7, you might say "wow, that's a weird looking (but
cool) camera!" Personally, it looks a lot like the old 110
film cameras that were once popular. But digital camera veterans
(including me) remember this design from Ricoh's first digital cameras
-- such as the RDC-2.
From that design, Ricoh moved towards the more traditional design
with the RDC-5000 and 6000 series. With the RDC-7, they've returned
to their roots, and then some.
$899 RDC-7 is a 3.3 Megapixel camera with features typical of other
cameras in its class, but it adds one feature rarely seen: a "Pro"
mode which produces 7 million pixel images. It can do this in one
of two ways: one is to just take a photo and interpolate up to 3072
x 2304; the other is to actually take two shots back-to-back, and
do something called "pixel shifting", which gives the
camera more data from which to create the interpolated image.
course, when the pixel shifting method is used, you must have the
camera on a tripod -- so action shots are out. After the shots are
taken, the camera must process the information, so it won't be useful
for a bit.
of the technical stuff -- so how does it work?
in the Box?
RDC-7 gets two thumbs up for its bundle. When you crack open the
box, you'll find
3.3 Mpixel Ricoh RDC-7 camera
cable with Mac adapter
including drivers, CameraUtility, PhotoStudio, PhotoPrinter, PhotoFantasy,
VideoImpression, PanoramaMaker, and PhotoMontage
page camera manual
might have noticed that I didn't say "SmartMedia" anywhere
in that list. Well, that's because they don't give you a card. The
RDC-7 does supports SmartMedia, and it also includes 8MB of onboard
RAM. When you're working with large images (especially TIFFs or
the 7 Mpixel images), the onboard RAM goes really quick -- so buy
a large SmartMedia card right away.
camera includes a nice lens cap and a strap to keep it from going
to Ricoh for including both an AC adapter and a Li-ion rechargeable
battery (shown above). This battery may look familiar -- it's the
same one used on many Toshiba and Fuji cameras. Ricoh says that
a fully charged battery will last for about 50 minutes.
software used for getting photos off the camera is disappointing,
at least on the Mac.
you get is the CameraUtility software, which was the interface you
see above. After choosing "Copy from Camera", you then
have to select photos one by one, or all of them. All of this without
seeing the thumbnails. Sure, you can look at the LCD on the camera,
but I much prefer the interfaces used by Canon, Olympus, and Nikon.
RDC-7's manual is well done - a rarity for digital cameras.
RDC-7 is one of those cameras that catches people's attention wherever
it goes. It's unique design makes it stand out from all the other
cameras. This is not necessarily good -- I found the RDC-7 to be
somewhat hard to hold and use. From a build quality standpoint,
the camera is very good, with metal body, and well-attached doors.
the camera is easy to hold when the LCD display is closed, it's
tough with it open. Your right hand has room, but your left hand
has nowhere to go. The zoom controls are oddly placed around the
mode wheel (see photos below), which can be hard to reach. The shutter
release has very poor tactile feedback, which makes it impossible
to tell how far down the button is pushed. I'll explain more as
we tour the camera.
the front of the camera (see top picture) is the Ricoh zoom lens,
which is equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. There's
also another shutter release button on the front, though I never
the back of the camera, where you can see the LCD, mode wheel, and
optical viewfinder. The LCD is good quality, and brightness is easily
adjustable thanks to a button you'll see below. Nose smudging is
(obviously) not an issue. The LCD can tilt and rotate in number
of directions, which comes in quite handy.
mode wheel has the power button in the middle, and the zoom controls
around it. The choices on the mode wheel are:
optical viewfinder is a bit small, though it does have diopter correction.
Just to the right of the optical viewfinder is the battery slot.
I accidentally opened the plastic door on more than one occasion.
moved our view up a bit so you can see the buttons just below the
LCD. There are several buttons for navigating the menus, as well
as buttons for macro mode, LCD brightness, display on/off, exposure
compensation, white balance, and macro mode.
a bit to the right, you can see the LCD info display, and a few
more buttons. The LCD info display shows all the usual stuff, like
photos remaining, size, quality, flash settings, etc. There are
two choices for where photos are stored -- internal RAM (IN) and
now explain Ricoh's photo size and quality system. It's a bit confusing,
especially in Pro mode.
are four sizes available:
- 640 x 480
- 1024 x 768
- 2048 x 1536
- 2048 x 1536 or 3072 x 2304
each of these modes you can choose from four quality settings:
- Economy (lots of JPEG compression)
- Fine (little JPEG compression)
- Uncompressed TIFF mode
now, here's the somewhat confusing language for the "Pro"
- 3072 x 2304 (This mode takes just one shot, and interpolates
up to this resolution)
- 2048 x 1536 (This mode takes two shots and does the pixel shifting
thing to improve photo quality)
- 3072 x 2304 (This mode also takes two shots and then interpolates)
talk more about Pro mode in the next section.
the side of the camera, complete with a port for the AC adapter,
as well as the plug for USB and serial cables. There's a rubber
cover which safely protects these when not in use.
finally, the bottom of the camera, where you can see the metal tripod
the Ricoh RDC-7
with our more detailed reviews, I'll talk about the following in
this second: Record mode, Text Mode, Movie Mode, and Playback Mode.
RDC-7 is about average in startup time, taking about 5 seconds before
it's ready to go. Composing a picture is easy, using either the
LCD or the optical viewfinder. The zoom controls, though awkwardly
placed, are smooth and precise.
area where the RDC-7 is well below average is auto focus and shutter
lag. It can take one or two seconds before the camera locks focus,
and a little less than that for the shutter to actually open. This
is not a camera for action shots, folks. To make matters worse,
the shutter release button is very touchy - just when you think
you're pressing it halfway (for the focus to lock), it takes the
there are choices for longer shutter speeds available (see below),
there's no real shutter or aperture priority mode on this camera.
I'd often get the "slow shutter" message, even with indoor
shots were noisier than other 3Mpixel cameras. While the city itself
is well lit, it's not very sharp. But If you blow up the picture
above, you'll see multicolored dots in the sky. Those aren't there
in real life -- that's CCD noise. I found this in the Golden Gate
Bridge night shot in the gallery as well.
usual macro test shot didn't come out, though the yellow flower
in the gallery did. The macro range,
according to the manual, is 0.4 to 9.4 inches.
onto what everyone wants to know -- how does Pro mode work? The
only other camera that I know of that does this pixel shifting interpolation
is sold by JVC. I can't help but wonder if they're the same camera.
Below you'll see the same photo taken in four different modes, 2048/Normal,
Pro/Normal, Pro-L/Normal, and Pro-H/Normal.
2048 x 1536, Normal Compression (524k)
2048 x 1536 Pro-L, Normal Compression (512k)
[Pixel shifting, no interpolation]
3072 x 2304, Pro, Normal Compression (1MB)
3072 x 2304, Pro-H, Normal Compression (1MB)
[Pixel shifting and interpolation]
photos above aren't the best test of the Pro mode, but you can get
some idea of what you'll get. The main point of Pro mode is for
still-life shots taken in a studio on a tripod. If you look closely
at the large Pro mode photos you can see why -- anything that moves
becomes garbage in the final picture. While you can get 7 million
pixel images, it will be of fruit in a bowl, rather than the kids
running down the soccer field. [Updated 8/8/00]
big issue with the Pro modes is the long wait while the camera processes
and records the photos. You can expect to wait for anywhere from
35 seconds to two minutes for a single photo to be recorded in Pro
mode, depending on the settings!
about all that stuff - just one more item before I move on to Text
Mode. While the options changed the most often are available as
buttons on the camera, occasionally you'll have to use the menu
system. I found the menus to be hard to navigate. If you want to
change a setting, you have to press up or down to get there, and
then left or right to move through the choices. When you're done
you can't forget to hit Enter or else it won't remember it.
menu choices are :
with sound (up to 10 secs per photo)
- Auto or manual
strength - soft, normal, strong
reduction - on/off
sensitivity - 100, 200, 400
mode (kind of a sharpness adjustment)
shooting - take a photo every 30 seconds to 3 hours, or somewhere
- takes three photos at -0.5EV, 0EV, and +0.5EV
Compression Mode (TIFF)
Mode (Pro, Pro-L, Pro-H)
Exposure - sort of a shutter priority mode (0, 1, 2, 4, 8 secs)
a quick mention of this one. Text Mode takes a photo in black and
white, and saves it as a TIFF file. What better than a newspaper
article mentioning the DCRP for a test shot!
you blow it up, you can see that it did a pretty good job with the
text, and not with the images.
another quick mention. The movie mode records AVI video as well
as sound - up to 41 seconds of it on the 8MB of internal RAM that
it comes with. If you get a 64MB SmartMedia card, you can get almost
6 minutes of video. All movies are recorded at 320 x 240.
RDC-7 is one of those cameras where you cannot use zoom at all in
movie mode -- I just don't understand why.
must confess that I need more interesting things to video tape,
as you'll see in the sample below.
format - 1.5MB
mode isn't very exciting, and not very feature-packed either. You've
got thumbnail mode (via the menu system) and zoom mode too, but
it's really hard to use. You can do slideshows, rotate, protect,
and copy photos, and DPOF support is there too.
between photos is just OK. The camera displays a thumbnail before
the full photo replaces it. There is no way to view the settings
the camera used to take the picture.
is all the info you get to see in playback mode
don't like the choice of colors Ricoh uses for information on the
LCD - it's hard to read in many situations.
Does it Compare? (updated 8/8/00)
Ricoh RDC-7 finds itself in the most competitive field in digital
photography right now - 3 Megapixel cameras. It is indeed loaded
with many of the useful features for both enthusiasts as well as
consumers, but these features just aren't implemented well. I honestly
feel that your $900 could be much better spent on another camera.
mode useful for still-life shots
mode limited to situations without movement; Slow processing speeds
when saving or viewing Pro photos.
lag longer than average
zoom (optical or digital) in movie mode
tactile feedback from shutter release button
real shutter/aperture priority modes
the RDC-7 is a good camera, I cannot recommend it as your best choice
in this price range. Some other cameras to consider (and there are
lots of them) are the Olympus C-3000Z
Coolpix 990, Fuji
FinePix 4700, Canon
PowerShot S20, and Sony
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try these
cameras yourself before you make any purchases.
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
out Megapixel.net's review
of the RDC-7, and Steve's Digicams First
Look at it.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.