DCRP Camera Review: Ricoh RDC-4300
by Delane Barrus, DCRP Co-Editor-at-Large ;-) [10/30/98]

The Arrival...
The RDC-4300 came in a huge box with a catalog size manual, all the cords you would ever need, recharger, case, straps, batteries (NiMH and alkaline), earphone, 4 meg SmartMedia card, instructional video, and a plethora of CD's with assorted apps, some of which have little to do with digital photography (but who's complaining?).

The Inspection...
The camera actually seems pretty well built compared to others in this price range. I prefer a camera that feels like it won't blow away (substantial enough to validate the cost) yet not a brick either. The next thing I noticed was the lack of an optical viewfinder. Personally, I would never purchase a camera without one, but I thought I should at least evaluate the effectiveness of the LCD viewfinder in this model. Controls seem well placed and intuitive enough. Ricoh may have outdone Olympus with an even flimsier cover over the jacks. I would give this cover about 2 months if treated with care.

The Test...
I decided to compare this models output to my Olympus D-600L. There are many other areas that differentiate these models (ie., price-the Oly is approx $200 more) however the Oly has been well reviewed and somewhat of a standard in the consumer/pro-sumer market for the past year (Nikon CP900 is gaining quickly). This might not seem fair since there are closer competitors in form/factor within this price range but my main objective was comparing output and ease of use irrespective of the other differences.

I did not read the manual for either model, so I tried to make sense of things as needed. The cameras were equally easy to figure out. The downloading software on the Oly (both acquire and independent utilities) was much better. I set up a tripod in the bathroom to take some shots of my children playing in the tub. I figured this would present the worst of
all possibilities, low light, artificial light, reflection, and lots of action. The results can be viewed for your evaluation. The Olympus clearly did better, but $200 better? You will have to decide, but in my opinion, it is $200 well spent.

The Ricoh showed more artifacts than the Oly (even with larger/less compressed files) but still very acceptable when printed. Photos taken without a flash (see sample) were unacceptable, but the photos with were surprisingly good. The Ricoh shots were marginally softer than the Oly and the color balance with flash was acceptable in both models, but the Ricoh had a problem with red eye and produced slightly dark results in comparison (factory defaults were used). It seems the Ricoh without a flash tried to compensate for the low/artificial light by oversaturating
and warming up the shots to the point that they were unusable.

The time between pressing the button and acquiring the image was pretty good by digital camera standards. The problem with the viewfinder (besides the fact it is an LCD only model) is the poor image quality. The camera I reviewed was possibly defective, but there was a lot of
horizontal noise whenever light levels were a little low. The other problem like all LCD viewfinders, is with direct sun light on the viewfinder. Viewing is next to impossible unless you shade the display. Oh, and before I forget, the RDC-4300 offers a neat voice annotation feature which I was not interested in. As long as you acquire the images into the Ricoh stand-alone utility you can play back any audio you care to save with each image.

The Conclusion...
My overall recommendation for someone looking for a camera with this form/factor is to also consider the Nikon CP900 (my #1 recommendation), then the Epson Photo PC 700, Fuji MX-700, or the Oly D-340L. Some of these models offer digital zoom, which is virtually useless IMO. If you need zoom go with a camera with an optical/lens-based zoom. The Ricoh does offer high quality optics and an optical zoom. I will also re-emphasize that the Ricoh is a very well built/designed camera. Add an optical viewfinder and Ricoh would be a real competitor in this price range.

Sample Photos

Ricoh RDC-4300 w/flash

Ricoh RDC-4300 w/o flash
(note good placement of toilet seat cover--this is a family site!)

Olympus D-600L w/flash

Olympus D-600L w/o flash

More information on this camera can be found on our RDC-4300 page in our Reviews section, including other users' opinions, pricing information, and more.

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