Ricoh's been in the camera business a long time and is passing down its heritage in 35mm film cameras to the modern digital camera. Its latest model, the Caplio R4, features a great zoom, a wide angle lens and smart design.
This is a neat 6-megapixel camera, though it's not as slim as other competing models such as the Canon Digital IXUS 65 (20.2mm) and the Kodak EasyShare V603 (21.6mm). It measures 95mm by 53mm by 26mm and weighs approximately 165 grams when loaded with the rechargeable lithium ion battery and SD memory card. The extra five or so millimetres in thickness is quite noticeable at first, but the 7.1x optical zoom is well worth the extra pocket space. The R4 possess a sizeable 2.5-inch display screen displaying approximately 153,000 pixels.
The general layout of the camera is well organised with the battery and SD memory card slot located together at the bottom and the USB and AV-out ports on the right side. All functional buttons, including the zoom adjustment buttons, are on the right area of the screen which allows you to make any modifications you need with one hand. Initially it seems the flash is positioned too close to the shutter release button, but we found no obstructions during use.
To charge the battery, you need to remove it from the camera and charge it via the supplied docking station. This proved to be a good feature, as you can have more than one battery and shoot and charge simultaneously so you'll always be ready for that once in a lifetime shot.
The menu system is easy to use and pretty self-explanatory, though the size of the buttons can make them quite cumbersome at times. Those with dainty digits won't have any problems, but shooters with larger fingers may not agree.
The strongest feature this camera has is the zoom. It's great that this point and shoot camera gives more than twice the amount of zoom for its size. The question that comes to mind is "Do I really need 7.1x optical zoom?" To put it simply, you can never have too much zoom. It is most useful for travelling, for the many times that getting a close up shot is physically not possible. To find a camera with a similar zoom capacity you'd have to look at either a Canon PowerShot A700 with 6x optical zoom or the Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ1 with 10x optical zoom.
The R4 also possess a wide angle lens with focal length F4.6 to F33mm which is equivalent to 28-200mm in a 35mm film camera. This is another feature that is taken for granted when using the camera, but you'll notice it when you start looking at other cameras without the extra width.
There are eight basic scene modes, including a "Skew Correction" mode that enables you to straighten skewed images. In addition, it has a one-touch macro mode. This camera also allows you to adjust the ISO (light sensitivity), white balance and exposure compensation as well as the type of focus (autofocus, manual focus, fixed focus and infinite). Given that these various adjustable factors can all be set to auto, rookie photographers as well as those who want a bit more control should be satisfied with the feature set. Though the camera doesn't allow you to set the aperture and shutter speed, it does display this information when you depress the shutter button halfway. Its a useful indication of the depth of field and exposure of your impending shot.