DCRP Review: Ricoh Caplio RR30
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, October 7, 2002
Last Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2002

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Our review of the Ricoh Caplio RR30 is a bit of a departure from our typical review. If I'm not mistaken, the RR30 is the only camera I've reviewed that is not available in the U.S. You can buy it everywhere else, though, and since we get readers from all over the world, I decided to go ahead with this review.

The RR30 (€400, about the same in US dollars) is a fairly small 3.2 Megapixel camera with a 3X optical zoom. One of Ricoh's claims is that it's one of the fastest shooting cameras out there. Is it? Well, find out now.

What's in the Box?

The Caplio RR30 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.24 effective Megapixel Caplio RR30 camera
  • Two AA non-rechargeable batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Ricoh RR30 software
  • 56 page quick start manual (printed) + FULL manual (on CD)

You're probably wondering "what? no memory card?". Like other manufacturers (notably Kodak), Ricoh is putting 8MB of internal memory into the camera in lieu of a memory card. But don't worry, you can use those too, as the RR30 supports Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard formats. And since you don't get a lot of internal memory on the RR30, I recommend picking up a decent-sized card right away.

Purchasing batteries will be up to you as well, since Ricoh includes two non-rechargeable AA's. You'll get just 50 pictures from those batteries, according to Ricoh -- so NiMH rechargeables is a must. Another option is to buy Ricoh's proprietary DB-43 Li-ion battery. Ricoh estimates that you'll get about 350 pictures using that one.

The last issue I have with the bundle is with the manual. While there's a "getting started" guide in the box, if you want to get into the dirty details, you'll need to view or print the one included on CD.

The RR30 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens cap worries. It's not a tiny camera, but still small, as you can see.

There isn't much to talk about the accessories department. Your only choices (beside the DB-43 battery and charger) include an AC adapter and a PC Card Adapter. No lens and flash accessories here!

Ricoh's included software is very limited. Mac (including OS X) and Windows users get software for taking photos off the camera, and Windows users get a basic photo viewing program. But anything more than that, and you're out of luck. One of the best editing programs out there is Adobe Photoshop Elements (2.0), for Mac and Windows.

Out of the box, my computer running Mac OS X 10.2.1 was not able to connect to the camera. However, Ricoh does have a newer version of the software, available here, which corrected the problem.

Despite the issue of having the manual only on CD, the manuals themselves are very well written, much better than average.

Look and Feel

The RR30 is a smaller, somewhat plastic-feeling camera. I'd rate it about average in terms of build quality. The RR30 is easy to hold, with one hand or two, and easily fits in your pockets.

The official dimensions of the camera are 4.5 x 2.1 x 1.3 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs just 160 grams empty.

Let's take our usual tour now, starting with the front of the camera.

The RR30 has an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens. THe focal range is 5.5 - 16.5 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. THe lens is not threaded. If you so desire, you can turn on a 3.4X digital zoom, which will further enlarge your pictures at the expense of photo quality.

The only other items of note on the front of the camera is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.2 - 4.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.16 - 2.5 m at telephoto. An external flash is not supported.

The RR30 has a passive autofocus system, in addition to its traditional contrast-detection AF system. This passive AF system works differently than the AF illuminator lamps found on some other cameras. Where an AF illuminator just puts more light on the subject for the contract-detection system to work with, the passive AF system uses infrared light to find the proper focus distance. I should add that the Fuji FinePix S602 uses this same system.

Here now is the back of the camera. The RR30 has a 1.6" LCD display which is bright and fluid, and easy to see -- except in bright outdoor light, which is almost always the case. One thing I did notice occasionally with the LCD is that pictures look dithered (grainy) in playback mode.

Above the LCD is a average-sized optional viewfinder. It locks both crosshairs/gridlines and a diopter correction knob.

To the right of the LCD is the four-way switch (and some buttons). The four-way switch is used for menu navigation, plus changing a few settings:

  • Up: Flash (Off, auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced, slow synchro)
  • Left: Quick Review - for quickly viewing photos you've taken
  • Down: Macro mode

One minor quibble about the four-way switch is that the buttons are flush with the body, making them hard to find in the dark.

Below the four way switch are the OK (for menu) and display (LCD & info on/off) buttons. Above the four-way switch is the menu button.

Continuing up a bit, there's one last button, for self-timer and deleting a photo.

Over at the far right, you'll find the zoom controller. It smoothly moves the zoom from wide to telephoto in about 2.5 seconds.

Here is the top of the RR30, where you'll find the mode wheel, power switch, and shutter release button. The choices on the mode wheel include:

  • Playback
  • Record
  • Scene Mode
  • Movie Mode
  • Setup


Scene mode

Scene mode is just like that found on other cameras. You choose a scene, and the camera uses the best settings for the job. Your scene choices are:

  • Portrait
  • Sports
  • Landscape
  • Nightscape
  • Text Mode
  • High Sensitivity - makes the LCD easier to see in low light

Not much else to report here, so let's move on.

Here, you can see the I/O ports, which are under a plastic cover. The ports are USB and Video Out.

On this side, under plastic doors, you'll find the battery compartment and SD/MMC card slot.

The battery compartment is somewhat unique in that it can hold AA's or a proprietary Li-ion battery. It also holds the optional AC adapter, which is more like a battery with a cord attached.

Last but not least, here is the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a metal (I think) tripod mount which is neither centered nor below the lens.

Using the Ricoh Caplio RR30

Record Mode

The RR30 takes under three seconds to extend the lens and warm up before you can start taking pictures. That's above average for a camera with a zoom lens.

As advertised, the RR30 focuses very quickly when you depress the shutter release button halfway. It takes well under a second under most circumstances. In lower light situations around the house, the RR30 did an excellent job focusing. Shutter lag is virtually nonexistent, as advertised. You can also just press the shutter release fully (without stopping halfway) and the camera will quickly take a properly focused picture.

Shot-to-shot speed is very good as well, with about a 2.5 second delay between shots.

Speaking of which, let's take a look at the image quality and resolution choices available on the RR30:

Quality Resolution Approx. File Size # of images on 8MB internal memory # of images on 32MB SD card (optional)
Fine 2048 x 1536 1.12 MB 4 19
1280 x 960 568 KB 8 37
Normal 2048 x 1536 614 KB 8 37
1280 x 960 307 KB 14 67
640 x 480 72 KB 41 189

There is no TIFF or RAW mode available on the RR30, not surprising considering that this is pretty much a point-and-shoot camera.

Okay, let's talk about the menu system on the RR30 now. While it's not as "pretty" as the menus on other cameras, the menus here do their job well. Navigating the menus is very easy, and they are responsive. Here's what you'll find in the menus:

  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, tungsten, fluorescent, one push) - yes, that last one is manual white balance!
  • Quality/size (see chart above)
  • Focus (AF, MF, snap, infinity) - more on this below
  • Continuous mode (Off, continuous, s-continuous, m-continuous) - more on this below as well
  • Photometry AKA metering (Multi, center, spot)
  • ISO setting (Auto, 200, 400, 800)
  • Sharpness (Sharp, normal, soft)
  • Auto bracketing (on/off) - more below
  • Time exposure (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8 sec) - yes, sort of a shutter priority mode!
  • Interval - more below
  • Date imprint (Off, date, date + time) - print date/time on photos

Time for more details on some of those menu choices.

First, the focus options. In manual focus mode, you use the left and right buttons on the four-way switch to focus the camera. You can press the "OK" button to blow up the subject so you can make sure it's in focus. Unfortunately, there's no indication of the focus distance other than seeing if your subject is in focus! The other two options are "snap" and "infinity". I'm not sure what distance "snap" is, though -- the manual doesn't seem to know either.

There are several continuous shooting options on the RR30 as well. The first is just a standard continuous burst mode, which will take up to 5 photos (at the normal quality setting, at least) at about 1 frame/second. The S-cont mode, which apparently stands for S Multi-Shot, takes 16 shots in a row at an interval of 1/7.5 sec, and puts them into one image (like a collage). M-cont, or M Multi-shot mode is the opposite of the S-cont mode. The camera records the last two seconds worth of shots that occur before you release the shutter button.

The auto bracketing feature will take three shots in a row, each at a different exposure compensation value (-0.5EV, 0EV, +0.5EV).

The time exposure feature lets you choose 2, 4, or 8 seconds, so you can take pictures in low light (with a tripod, of course). The interval feature will take a shot at a set interval, ranging from 30 seconds to 3 hours. The use of an AC adapter is basically a requirement.

There is also a setup menu, accessible via the mode wheel. Some of the options include formatting the memory card or internal memory, power saver settings, file numbering, LCD options, and language settings.

Okay, that's enough about menus, let's talk about photo quality.

Since one of the big features on the RR30 is its macro mode, I took two test shots. The first is the "money shot" (if you pardon my expression) which was taken just a few centimeters away. The RR30 can shoot as close as 1cm (at full telephoto; 16cm at wide-angle)! Since I was so close, the camera actually caused a shadow, which is why the lower right of the sample image is darker. Nevertheless, the quality is most impressive -- you can easily make out the colored threads in the dollar bill, and the scotch tape at the top left.

The standard macro shot did not fare as well. After finally getting it properly exposed and white balanced, I noticed that the resulting image is quite noisy! And it wasn't just this one, all the shots of The Mouse turned out this way. Looking at the RGB channels, it seems that most of the noise is in the blue channel. It's weird, because I never noticed any noise in other photos I took with the RR30.

On a very balmy October night, I headed back up to Twin Peaks, home of many night test shots. While it looks pretty good in the downsized image above, the full size image is disappointing. The shot was taken with a 2 second exposure at ISO 200, and is quite noisy. the 4 second version, not shown here, is much worse. Another weird thing was that all the white lights in the picture turned out blue (hmm, blue noise, blue lights?). If those problems weren't there, the image would be pretty darn good... it certainly took in enough light.

The RR30 did a decent job at the redeye test. You can see just a bit of it in the left eye, along with some flash reflection in the right. This image was enlarged a bit so you can see the details.

Image quality on the RR30 was average, in my opinion. There was one thing that appeared in nearly every picture I took: a bluish cast! It's more pronounced in some pictures, but it's almost always noticeable. For a good comparison, look at this picture, taken at the same time, same place: Ricoh RR30 | Kodak LS443. I believe the Kodak is much closer to reality.

Noise was also higher than average, most notable in the sky and shadows. Aside from those two issues, I have no other complaints. I didn't see any purple fringing to speak of either. Don't just take my word for it -- take a gander at the photo gallery and judge for yourself!

Movie Mode

The RR30 has a pretty basic movie mode. You can record clips for up to 30 seconds, without sound, at a resolution of 320 x 240. At the 160 x 120 resolution, you can record for up to 120 seconds.

Despite not having a microphone, you can't use the optical zoom during filming. You can use the digital zoom, though.

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

Here's a short sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (3.1MB, AVI format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

Like the movie mode, the RR30's playback mode is very basic. Some of the features include slide shows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.

Using the zoom controller, you can zoom into your photo as much as 3.4X, and then move around in the zoomed in area.

Another feature is the ability to transfer photos from the internal memory to a memory card.

The RR30 doesn't give you much information about your photo -- at least it tells you the shutter speed and aperture used.

The camera moves through photos on the LCD very quickly -- it takes less than a second to go from one to the next.

How Does it Compare?

Using the Ricoh Caplio RR30 was kind of like riding a roller coaster: it had its ups and downs. I really liked the responsiveness and excellent autofocus system on the RR30. But the blue cast and high noise levels in the photos were a disappointment. The camera is easy to use and is a good value for the money (remember, it's not available in the U.S.). I also like the choice of using AA or a proprietary batteries! At the same time, I don't think it's the best 3.2 Megapixel camera out there, either. My advice: take what you've learned from this review and make your own decision about whether the RR30 is right for you or not.

What I liked:

  • Very responsive in terms of shutter lag, startup time, shot-to-shot speed
  • Most impressive dual AF system
  • Small, easy to hold body
  • Decent amount of controls (e.g. long exposure, interval, continuous shooting) for a lower cost camera
  • Great macro ability (get as close as 1 cm!)
  • Multiple battery options

What I didn't care for:

  • Bluish cast in almost all sample images
  • High noise levels, especially in low light shots
  • Basic movie, playback modes
  • Mediocre bundle included with camera

Some additional 3MP cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S230 and S30, Fuji FinePix A303 and 3800 (6X zoom), Kyocera Finecam S3X, Minolta DiMAGE Xi, Nikon Coolpix 3500, Olympus D-550Z, Pentax Optio 330RS and 330GS, Sony DSC-P7 and DSC-P71, and the Toshiba PDR-3300 and PDR-3310. A long list, I know, but it's a crowded field!

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Ricoh Caplio RR30 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 second opinion? How about a third?

None yet!

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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