Is that a PDA or a point-and-shoot?
The flat and deep RR1 looks a bit like a standard point-and-shoot camera that got run over by a truck, but its silver finish and good build quality give it a classy feel. The camera weighs a moderate 10.7 ounces with the battery and media installed. Its unusual shape and control layout are reasonably functional once you get used to them, although operating the keypad-style button array sometimes feels more like using a PDA than a point-and-shoot camera. The 2-inch tilt/swivel LCD and the two shutter-release buttons let you compose and shoot pictures from many different angles.
Multifarious media skills
The RR1's generous list of features is skewed toward multifunction data gathering rather than the needs of a photo enthusiast. The length of audio and video clips that the RR1 can capture, for instance, is limited by only the size of the SmartMedia card you use, which is an uncommon feature (though Sony's Cyber Shot cameras also offer unlimited video capture). This possibility means that you could potentially record many minutes of video or several hours of audio. This is a mixed blessing, though, because the RR1, like all still cameras, captures very rudimentary video, and its sound quality is nearly as rough. The camera also has a special capture mode for photographing written or printed text, and that feature works extremely well. The RR1's macro mode is exceptional, able to focus as close as half an inch from your subject.
Among the other unusual features that will appeal mainly to gadget lovers and business users are the Interval mode, which can be set to release the shutter at intervals of up to three hours; the Split-Screen mode, which lets you shoot two images in one frame; and the ability to play back images recorded on SmartMedia cards by other digital cameras. On the other hand, photographers who want creative control will be stymied by the lack of any manual or semiautomatic exposure modes; the run-of-the-mill 3X zoom lens that doesn't take attachments; and the limited control of picture qualities, such as color saturation and contrast. There's no hot shoe for an external flash, either.
On the performance side, the RR1's speed of operation and focus is about average for a digital camera, which is to say not very fast but adequate if you're not trying to capture a lot of action shots or fleeting moments. We found downloading pictures from the camera to a computer annoyingly slow, despite the USB connection. In the field, however, our irritation was assuaged by the unusual stamina of the included rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Photos from this versatile machine are good but not good enough to let it compete with those from many of its compact 4-megapixel peers. The detail in our test photos was reasonably sharp, and the color was acceptably accurate. We did, however, note a compressed tonal range in our test pictures, meaning the RR1 couldn't render detail in the bright and dark areas of moderately contrasty scenes. In some pictures, especially backlit shots, we encountered a pronounced problem with chromatic aberration and colors bleeding into bright areas.
Good deal for a gizmo
Ricoh supplements the RR1's internal 8MB of memory by packaging the camera with a 64MB SmartMedia card. Considering the RR1's $699 price tag, that's a pretty good deal--as long as a multitalented gizmo that's also a good, but not great, digital camera meets your needs. For an increase in image quality and photographic flexibility, look to this camera's compact 4-megapixel competitors: the , the , and the .