If you like point-and-shoot simplicity but also feel the need for speed, check out Ricoh's 3-megapixel Caplio RR30. It combines what Ricoh says is the shortest shutter delay in its class with a standard 3X zoom lens and a somewhat quirky, mostly automatic feature set. In our tests, the camera did indeed shoot quickly, but its image-quality problems may render that benefit moot for many photographers.
The Caplio RR30's two-tone, dark-gray-and-silver-plastic body is reasonably compact, weighing a modest 7.5 ounces with batteries and media installed. It will fit easily in most pockets. We found the camera's styling uninspired but not ugly, and its fit and finish are of good quality if not especially impressive.
The camera fits securely in your right hand, with well-placed ridges for your right thumb and forefinger to grab, and the placement and labeling of buttons and dials are adequately convenient. The location of both the lens and the LCD screen on the camera's far left side tends to crowd your hand, but with a little practice, you can find a secure grip.
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The straightforward mode dial near the shutter release gives you access to programmed auto mode, scene modes, video capture, playback, and camera setup menus.
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Basic functions such as the macro mode, the flash settings, the quick review, and the self-timer are accessible via buttons on the camera back. They also permit menu navigation.
A top-mounted dial, which surrounds the power button, makes for easy selection of the Caplio RR30's operating modes. You change flash and macro settings, as well as operate the menu system, with a four-way controller on the camera's back. We were mildly frustrated, however, by the menu system's control logic. Unlike most other digicams, the Caplio RR30 uses the left and right buttons of the four-way controller to switch menu pages rather than to access or activate the feature you have currently highlighted.
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The RR30 has an internal 8MB of memory, but you'll need to pick up separate SD/MMC media to expand the camera's storage capacity.
Though its feature set is primarily aimed at snapshooters, the Caplio RR30 has a few unusual capabilities for its class. These include a top sensitivity of ISO 800, autoexposure bracketing, and an interval-shooting mode. There's also a step-free manual focus function that can display a magnified view of your scene for easier judging of sharpness. Another unexpected twist is the variety of continuous-shooting modes, which include a setting that will save several shots captured right before you take your finger off the shutter release, as well as a multishot function that will take 16 500x375-pixel images in two seconds and save them in one 2,048x1,536-pixel file that resembles a film proof sheet.
The rest of the camera's more pedestrian feature list starts with its exposure options, which are limited to programmed autoexposure mode, five scene modes, and exposure compensation to plus or minus 2EV. You can set discrete CCD sensitivities of ISO 200, 400, and 800. For sensitivities less than ISO 200, however, you're limited to the Auto setting, which varies the ISO between 125 and 161, according to its whim. You do get a choice of three light meters: multisegment, center-weighted, and spot. You can capture still images as JPEGs only, unless you're using the special Text mode, which saves high-contrast 1,280x960 TIFFs. There are three JPEG resolutions (2,048x1,536; 1,280x960; and 640x480) and two compression levels available. The camera can also capture silent 320x240 motion JPEG video clips up to 30 seconds in length.
The 3X zoom lens is a fairly standard offering that opens to a maximum aperture of f/2.6 to f/4.7 and covers a range of 35mm to 105mm in 35mm-camera-equivalent terms. You cannot mount supplemental lenses or external flashes.
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We got a rather meager 80 shots with frequent LCD use out of an optional set of two rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride AA batteries.
Ricoh claims that the Caplio RR30's shutter delay, including autofocus time, is a very short 0.22 seconds. We couldn't quite duplicate that time under our test conditions, but we came very close. Almost all the credit goes to the camera's exceptionally quick AF system, which is excellent in good light and only moderately less effective in low light.
The speeds of the Caplio RR30's other functions are not as impressive. Start-up time is almost 3 seconds, and shot-to-shot time is about 4 seconds. In the standard continuous-shooting mode, you can take three highest-resolution shots in about 3.5 seconds before the camera must pause for about 8 seconds.