We reviewed the Caplio R4 just over 12 months ago, before it was superseded by the Caplio R5 in December. Considering the speed at which the digital camera market moves, it's not surprising to see the Caplio R6 released just four months later. We got our hands on the new model to find out what's changed.
In just over a year, the Ricoh R-series has gained 1.2 megapixels in resolution and lost a bit of weight, making it considerably slimmer at 99.6mm by 55mm by 23.3mm and lighter at 135 grams (without battery and memory installed). It's still fuelled by a removable rechargeable lithium-ion battery and accepts MultiMedia Card and Secure Digital memory cards as well as adding support for the newer Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) format to allow even more storage space. Despite the slim design, the R6 retains its impressive 7.1x optical wide angle zoom lens and manages to increase the size of its LCD display from 2.5- to 2.7-inches, as well as it being noticeably clearer due to the 230,000 pixel transparent amorphous silicone TFT LCD.
The button layout has changed a little -- to be expected as models are upgraded. The zoom button has been replaced by a rotating ring which sits around the shutter release button, on the topside of the camera. An improved feature from the previous models zoom rocker, especially for one-handed shooters, this allows you to keep your fingers clear of the flash which is positioned on the front of the camera, just below the zoom/shutter button. In addition, there is a finger grip on the back face that further improves the feel and comfort of holding the camera.
Four small and one multifunction buttons line the back of the unit, taking up the real estate to the right of the LCD. In the R4 review, we found the buttons to be quite cumbersome for those with larger fingers. Though the buttons have shrunk even further on the R6, there is little risk of accidentally pressing the wrong one. As with the R4, the R6 goes directly to shooting mode when you turn it on -- without the option to go to the review module at start-up. This is not a huge downside and we do not consider it a deterrent to purchasing the camera.
No doubt, this camera's strongest feature, as with its predecessors, is the wide-angle zoom lens. Add to that a good range of scene modes, but not so many that you spend too much time choosing the most appropriate one and miss your shooting opportunity altogether.
A new feature is the selection of two pre-programmed scene modes prior to turning on the camera. These scene modes can be edited and saved, which makes for a convenient feature when taking shots at random moments and not needing to adjust to the ideal camera mode.
The ever-practical, quick use exposure, white balance and ISO buttons seen in previous models continue in the R6. Ricoh has also incorporated an image stabilisation function called vibration correction, though it does not have its own dedicated button on the camera but is instead hidden within the camera menu. Also somewhat buried in the menu are the video recording and sound recording modes. However, you can add these as one of the pre-programmed scene modes if this is a feature you use often.
Also new in the R6, the "face recognition" mode automatically recognises faces in the shot and adjusts focus, brightness and colour for the best result. We found it works quite well -- the difference between images using the face recognition mode and the regular mode is definitely noticeable. The downside of using the face recognition is that it takes an extra couple of seconds for the camera to focus before taking the shot.
Another feature we haven't seen in the Caplio series before is the White Saturation Highlights Display. After taking a shot, this feature highlights where white areas have been overexposed so you can take another shot with a more balanced exposure. When we first encountered the flashing, blocked out areas upon reviewing an image, we thought it was a fault. We quickly realised the function and its purpose but we found it rather annoying -- less experienced shooters may not appreciate this feature which is more often seen on digital SLR offerings.
Also notable is Dual size recording, which saves images at two different sizes. This feature is handy as it saves you the inconvenience of having to resize images for e-mailing or uploading to the Web, while keeping a high resolution copy for printing.
The Caplio series start-up time has always been impressive and the R6 is in keeping with this, but to be specific, we clocked it at 0.1 second slower than the R4. The shutter release time is also 0.004 seconds slower than the R4 at 0.011 seconds. While this doesn't sound like much, it is noticeable if you're used to a camera with as fast a shutter speed. Furthermore, the R6 had a tendency to hesitate and seemed a bit sticky to depress the shutter release.
While using the automatic mode, we were impressed with the quality of images taken in different lighting conditions. For the more experienced photographer, there are many different settings adjustments that will allow you to further perfect your shots. These include a time exposure setting in addition to the commonly found exposure composition setting and a delayed flash option.
In very bright lighting conditions, picture quality wasn't compromised while using a lower ISO setting and reduced exposure with foreground subjects were well lit without using the flash. In low light, the strong flash compensated well. While attempting to shoot macro images, the image stabilisation feature also came in handy. Compared with the Caplio R4, we found the light meter on the R6 had improved considerably.
The R6 is slimmer, has a bigger display and a few new, useful features. When considering this camera, ask yourself -- is it worth an extra AU$100 for some extra pocket room and a few more features?