It's a real shame the Ricoh Caplio R7 isn't more widely available -- although you can track it down on a few different Web sites -- because it's simply a great camera.
The R7 boasts 8-megapixel resolution and isn't cheap at around £200, but there are some seriously impressive features in this understated compact.
The R7 comes in black, silver or orange flavours. The metal frame is solid and sturdy, which does mean that it is quite heavy. There are a number of neat touches that demonstrate the attention to detail on this camera, like a rubber thumb rest, a satisfyingly dinky door for the USB slot and fan-shaped lens cover elements.
Unusually, some of the R7's functions are controlled by a mini joystick as well as the standard clickpad. This makes altering settings like exposure compensation or white balance much more intuitive, and we'd love to see it unleashed on a full manual mode.
The R7 is pocketable if not exactly slender, but when you consider there is CCD-shift image stabilisation and, impressively, a 7x zoom in there, it starts to look very compact indeed. As well as the humungous zoom, the lens is a satisfyingly wide 28mm so you can fit more into your pictures.
The stunning macro mode lets you get as close as 10mm from your subject. The increasingly ubiquitous face detection is also present and correct. There are two zoom speed options and incremental exposure compensation. Timelapse recording is a fun feature, for up to three hour intervals between images. Sadly, there is no aperture or shutter priority, though.
Video is available in VGA or 320x240-pixel resolution at 15 or 30 frames per second.
Start-up is very quick considering that the large lens has to spin out, although it makes an alarming spidery creaking noise. The choice of fast zoom or slower, more precise zooming is a nice touch.