DCRP Review: Ricoh Caplio RR1
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Sunday, February 17, 2001
Last Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2002

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The Ricoh Caplio RR1 ($699) has an interesting history, and kind of a funny name too. It's a direct decendent of the RDC-7 camera, which I reviewed back in 2000 (and wasn't thrilled with). The RDC-7 had a "professional mode" which took two pictures in a row and combined them to make one ultra high resolution picture. That was great for still life, but if anything was moving, it wasn't so hot. Next came the i700, which offered nontraditional functions such as wireless web browsing. With the Caplio RR1, Ricoh has gone back to the basics (more or less), though keeping the space age design of its predecessors.

The 4 Megapixel digital camera field is a crowded one. Where does the RR1 fit in? Find out now...

What's in the Box?

The Caplio RR1 has a superb bundle, with everything you need right in the box. It includes:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Mpixel Ricoh Caplio RR1 camera
  • 64MB SmartMedia card
  • DB-20L rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • Soft case
  • CD-ROM featuring Ricoh Caplio Utility, MGI PhotoSuite, and drivers
  • 160 page manual (printed)

Ricoh gets two big thumbs up from me for their bundle. First and foremost, let's talk memory cards. The RR1 has 8MB of onboard memory (which can't be removed) plus a SmartMedia slot. Ricoh gives you a 64MB SmartMedia card for a grand total of 72MB right in the box. Bravo!


Charger and DB-20L battery

Ricoh includes a DB-20L Li-ion battery, which we've seen before on cameras from Kodak and Fuji. As you know I'm not a "fan" of proprietary batteries: they're expensive and you can't replace them when you're in a bind, like you can with AA-based batteries. The DB-20L isn't great when it comes to battery life, either. It will last you just 50 minutes before needing a recharge, according to Ricoh. Thankfully, Ricoh includes a charger with the camera.

Other useful things in the bundle include a lens cap with strap, soft case, and a wrist strap.


The Caplio Utility for Mac

The software used to transfer photos from the camera to your computer leaves much to be desired, at least on the Mac. You get a window that lets you choose between the memory card or onboard memory, and how many photos are on each. If you want to see what the photos look like, you've got to look on the camera's LCD display. In other words, it's clumsy. The camera dose not mount as a USB device like other digital cameras -- you must use the software or the accompanying TWAIN driver.

While the RR1 is compatible with modern Windows systems, it is not yet compatible with Mac OS X.

The accessory list for the Caplio RR1 is short: besides memory cards and their adapters, only a remote control and AC adapter is available.

I'd rank the included camera manual as being about average. Every piece of info you need is there, but some things need further explanation. The manual for the software is included on CD.

Look and Feel

The Ricoh Caplio RR1 is a bizarre looking camera. It's kind of like a modern version of the old 110 film cameras. The body is made of high quality metal and plastic, and it feels sturdy enough. When the LCD is folded down, the RR1 easily fits in a pocket. The camera is easy to hold with one hand or two.

The official dimensions of the camera are 5.3 x 2.9 x 1.0 (W x D x H) with the LCD folded down. The RR1 weighs in at a light 270 grams without the battery installed. Let's begin our usual tour of the camera now, beginning with the front.

The RR1 has an F2.6, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range is 7.3 - 21.9 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded, so I don't expect any accessory lenses. While I don't think I have to say this, the lens does not extend out of the body -- it's fully enclosed.

Just to the right of the lens is one of two shutter release buttons on the camera. The little dot to the right of that is the self-timer lamp.

Over on the left side, you can see the RR1's flash. The working range of the flash is about 0.6 - 2.5 m. External flashes are not supported on the RR1.

Just below the flash is a microphone.

Here's the back of the camera, with the LCD flipped up. The LCD is fairly large at 2", and the images are generally bright and fluid. The brightness is adjustable via a button that you'll see in a minute. The LCD can rotate around to face the subject, and can be tilted to various position. This comes in handy for shooting over people's heads, for example. One annoying thing about the LCD is Ricoh's use of the color pink for information shown on the LCD. It's hard to see in many cases.

Directly below the LCD is the SmartMedia slot (behind a plastic door). The slot is not spring-loaded, so you just pull the card right out.

Moving to the right, you can see the mode wheel, which has the power button inside it. The choices on the mode wheel include:

  • Setup
  • Movie Mode
  • Continuous Shooting Mode
  • Text Mode
  • Audio Recording Mode
  • Still Picture Mode
  • Playback Mode

So what are all these modes? Movie, Still and Playback mode will be discussed later in the review, but what about Text, Continuous, and Audio modes?

Text mode will record a picture in black and white. You can adjust the contrast to get a better shot. The images are recorded in TIFF format.

Continuous shooting records images at a rate of roughly 1 frame per second, with the maximum number of frames being determined by the resolution and quality settings. For example, at the highest resolution and quality, you can only take 3 shots in a row. At the highest resolution, lowest quality, you can get 15 shots. As continuous shooting goes, the RR1 is pretty slow.

In audio recording mode, you can use the RR1 as a personal voice recorder. You can record more than two hours of audio on the included 64MB SmartMedia card! Sounds are saved in WAV format.

Returning now to our tour: the on/off button is right in the middle of the mode wheel. Wrapped around the wheel is the zoom control. I'm not a big fan of the placement of the zoom control, though I'm not sure where else they could have put it. You have to reach for the switch, rather than having it near where you fingers are resting. The zoom mechanism itself is smooth and quiet, though a little slow for my taste.

Continuing to the right, you can see the optical viewfinder. Underneath it, there's a diopter correction wheel, for keeping things in focus for those with less than perfect vision. The viewfinder itself is of average size. One thing that someone else noticed with the RR1 was the fact that when you use the optical viewfinder (with your right eye, at least), your nose goes right into the mode wheel.

On the far right is the battery compartment. Under a plastic door is where you'll put that Li-ion battery.

Let's move on to the "top" of the camera now. On the left is the main "control panel", as I'll call it. One thing that bothered me right away with the arrow controls: rather than putting the up/down/left/right buttons in the usual "plus" formation, Ricoh put them apart, as you can see above. This bothered me for some reason. Anyhow, those buttons in blue are used for menu navigation. Other buttons include:

  • Delete photo
  • LCD light (brightness)
  • Display - toggles through info shown on main LCD
  • Exposure compensation (via left arrow; -2EV to +2EV in 1/4EV increments)
  • White balance (via right arrow; see below)
  • Macro
  • Menu
  • Cancel
  • Enter

What are the white balance choices on the RR1? You've got the usual suspects: auto, cloudy, tungsten, and fluorescent. Plus there's the very handy manual white balance function, which lets you use a white or gray card to get the perfect setting. If that's not enough, the RR1 will let you tweak the manual white balance even more: making the color more or less red or blue. Great!

Continuing to the right, there's four silver buttons plus the shutter release button. The four buttons control:

  • Self-timer
  • Pic - toggles through the resolution and quality choices
  • Card/In - toggles between the SmartMedia card and internal memory
  • Flash

Above those buttons is the LCD info display, which shows such things as flash setting, shots remaining, quality and resolution selection, and more.

On the left side of the camera is where you'll find the I/O ports. The two on the right are normally under a plastic cover. From left to right, the ports are: DC in (for optional AC adapter), A/V out, and Digital out (for USB).

On the other side of the camera, the only thing you'll find is the speaker. Those holes are for threading the strap through.

Finally, here's the bottom of the Caplio. The only thing to note here is the metal tripod mount. You can also see where you open the SmartMedia slot, towards the lower right of the photo. When you depress the shutter release button halfway, focusing can take as little as a second, but sometimes two depending on the subject.

Using the Ricoh Caplio RR1

Record Mode

The RR1 starts up in just over three seconds, due in part to the fully enclosed lens (there's nothing to extend). When you depress the shutter release button halfway, focusing can take as little as one second, but sometimes much longer, depending on the subject, Shutter lag seemed variable too -- sometimes it was barely noticeable, other times it was frustrating. I couldn't seem to figure out why it was inconsistent. Shot-to-shot speed was average -- you'll wait about 4 seconds between shots.

If you're recording a TIFF file (what Ricoh calls "non-compressed mode"), the RR1 will be locked up for over thirty seconds while the file is written to the card. A note to fans of TIFF images: I could not get Photoshop 6.0 to open the TIFF files saved by this camera. I had to use GraphicConverter (this is on the Mac).

Since we're talking about TIFFs, here's a chart which tells you about the different resolution and quality choices available on the RR1 (keep in mind there's 8MB of additional memory built in):

  # of images on included 64MB card
Image Size TIFF Fine Normal Economy
2272 x 1704 8 44 88 173
1120 x 840 33 133 266 499
640 x 480 99 399 665 1331

Again, bravo to Ricoh for taking the lead on the memory card front!

Now, let's take a look at the various menu choices on the Caplio RR1.

  • Image with sound (on/off) - add 10 sec audio clips to each picture
  • Focus mode (Auto, Manual, 2.5 m, Infinity) - more below
  • Flash strength (Strong, Normal, Soft)
  • Redeye reduction (on/off)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 200, 400, 800)
  • Date imprinting (Off, date/time, date)
  • Split screen (New, add) - this lets you combine two photos into one. It will split either vertically or horizontally. This only works at the two lower resolutions.
  • Sharpness (-1, 0, +1)
  • Monochrome mode (Off, black & white, sepia)
  • Negative mode (on/off) - using a lightbox, you can use the RR1 to photograph your film negatives and create digital images from them
  • Interval shooting (range of 30 seconds to 3 hours) - for time lapse photography. Camera will take a picture at the set interval. AC adapter a requirement!
  • Auto-bracketing (on/off) - takes three shots in a row, at -0.5EV, 0EV, and +0.5EV
  • No compression mode (on/off) - turns on TIFF mode
  • Exposure metering (multi, center-weighted, spot)
  • S mode (on/off) - speeds up the shutter speed
  • Time exposure (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8 sec) - force a slower shutter speed

The last two items are about it for manual control over the shutter speed on the RR1. You can choose the low end, and speed things up, but you can't do much else. That's a shame considering that the camera has nearly every other manual control.

In addition to this menu, there's a setup menu which allows you to change things such as date and time, power and beep settings, and how long a photo is shown on the LCD after it is taken, among other things.

I've got an expanded photo test section for this review. Starting off with not one but two macro tests!

I always knew that my electric shaver would come in handy (well, for besides the obvious)! Here you can see that the Caplio RR1 is a macro machine. It's right up there with the Nikon Coolpix cameras when it comes to macro ability. You can get as close as 1 cm from your subject in macro mode!

For the sake of comparison, here's the usual test shot.

As you can see, the camera did a good job here as well. Another thing to note about macro mode on the RR1 is that the focal length is locked right in the middle (between tele and wide) in macro mode.

Though the sky is noisy, the RR1 still did a pretty good job at the night shot test. Remember from the menu-talk above that there are four ISO settings: Auto, 200, 400, 800. Since Auto mode will boost the ISO when it needs to, I chose the lowest fixed setting for this shot: 200. I've also got samples taken at ISO 400 and 800 too. Things really start to get noisy at those levels, though.


Ricoh Caplio RR1
View original image

Olympus D-40Z
View original image

Noise was my major gripe with the RR1's image quality. Outdoors, the camera does a pretty good job, but if the light levels get low, or if there are shadows, it's not so impressive. Rather than just talk about, I've shown you above. Both of these cameras are midrange 4 Megapixel cameras and the photos were taken within seconds of each other. Both were at the highest quality JPEG setting, in auto mode. As you can see, the noise on the RR1 causes the details of the bridge tower to be lost, compared with the D-40Z (though you can also see that the D-40 exhibits some "purple fringing"). Take a look at the cat photo in the gallery for another example.

Aside from the noise issue, the photo quality was pretty good. Images were well-exposed, the color was accurate, and I didn't see any "purple fringing" problems that often plague digital cameras. Please take a look at the photo gallery for some samples, and judge the quality for yourself.

Movie Mode

The Caplio has an impressive movie mode. Movies are recorded with sound, and can be as long as you have memory for. That means you can record a five minute movie with the included 64MB card!

The movie resolution is lower than on other cameras, at 288 x 212. The frame rate is 15 frames per second.

You cannot use the optical zoom during filming, which is a trait of most digital cameras who record sound with movies.

If you like passing cars, this movie is for you!


Click to play movie (AVI, 1.1MB)

Can't view it? Download Quicktime.

Playback Mode

The Caplio's playback mode is pretty good. All the usual features are here, such as slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, and "zoom and scroll". You can also copy photos between the internal memory and the SmartMedia card.


Cropping a photo

A nice extra feature is the ability to rotate and crop photos on the camera. When you crop a photo, you pick the orientation of the crop (portrait or landscape) and the size of the resulting image (1120 x 840 or 640 x 480) You then select the area you want and after a short wait, your new image is ready!


Zoomed in

The zoom and scroll feature is pretty standard. You can zoom in as much as 3.6X (1.4X and 1.8X are the other choices-- nothing in between) and then move around in your photo. A graphic in the corner shows you where in the image you're looking.

The RR1 is fairly slow moving between photos. When you first switch, a miniature version of the photo is shown, and about three seconds later, the full-sized image shows up. Unfortunately, the RR1 doesn't show any exposure information about your photos.

My only other gripe about the playback mode is that you've got to go to the menu to move into thumbnail mode. I prefer the "zoom out" method myself.

How Does it Compare?

The Ricoh Caplio RR1 is sort of a mixed bag in my opinion. It's a real multipurpose camera (doing stills, video, and audio), takes good pictures in most situations, has a superb macro mode, and has a decent amount of manual controls. The included bundle is superb, as well. On the other hand, the noise levels seemed higher than on other 4 Megapixel cameras I've tested. Also missing are the manual controls over shutter speed and aperture, and the shutter lag was often longer than the competition. I'm also not a huge fan of the design of the camera. The RR1 is a camera that will fit the needs of many people, but if I was in the market for a 4 Megapixel cameras, it probably wouldn't be the one I'd buy. Go try it and the competition, and decide which camera is right for you.

What I liked:

  • Excellent bundle
  • Great macro feature
  • Decent amount of manual controls
  • Very good photo quality outdoors
  • Impressive movie mode
  • Doubles as a personal voice recorder

What I didn't care for:

  • Shadows are noisy in sample images
  • Shutter lag can be long
  • No real aperture and shutter speed controls, despite other manual controls
  • Lackluster battery life
  • Image transfer software leaves much to be desired
  • Not a fan of the layout of controls and "how it feels in my hands"

Other 4 Megapixel cameras you'll want to check out include the Canon PowerShot G2 and S40, Casio QV-4000, Olympus C-4040Z and D-40Z, Sony DSC-S85, and the Toshiba PDR-M81.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Caplio RR1 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a few more opinions?

Check out the Steves Digicams and Imaging Resource reviews of the Caplio RR1!

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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