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The design of the RDC-i700 is based roughly on that of the Ricoh RDC-7, but there are some important differences: most notably, the RDC-i700's large, 3.5-inch touch-screen display and the addition of a PCMCIA slot for PC Card modems and adapters. The display is about twice the size of those found on other digital cameras, and it is responsive to the included stylus, produces a great LCD image, and swivels up both from the camera's body and from right to left. When you turn the display around or upside down, the image on the screen automatically flips 180 degrees, so you don't have to.
The RDC-i700 includes many of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from full-featured digital cameras, including auto bracket, motion-picture recording, continuous shooting, and sound recording. You can also attach a voice or text memo to an image file and use the touch screen to record and send handwritten memos.
Though the RDC-i700 faired well in CNET Labs' image quality tests, it didn't perform as well as other comparable digital cameras. Some of the shots showed slight chromatic aberrations along the borders separating contrasting colors, and at times, it was a challenge getting the correct white balance. The image quality was acceptable for a high-end camera, but we were more impressed with the RDC-i700's ability to capture sharp close-ups in Macro mode.
Beyond quality images, the well-placed controls on the outside of the camera allow you to make most of the adjustments you need without turning on the display. The monochrome LCD panel on the top of the camera lets you work with the screen turned off to preserve the battery, but the viewfinder is small and supplies little information to help you fine-tune and double-check your shots. The color display, on the other hand, includes detailed information on shot settings, and the RDC-i700's graphic user interface is well designed and easy to use.
You can convert the RDC-i700 into a wireless device with the PC Card slot on the bottom of the camera. CNET Labs tested the RDC-i700 with a Ricochet GS modem and a PC Card adapter (the camera currently doesn't support the Ricochet PC Card modems). Though the RDC-i700 maintained a stable connection, we noticed that its page-load speeds were slow, considering the 128kbps throughput of the Ricochet service. You can set the camera to disable image file downloads while surfing, which theoretically should make pages load faster, but even then we found Web browsing to be an exercise in patience.
With the mobile professional in mind
Still, the RDC-i700 will certainly be of interest to real estate agents, property managers, law enforcement officers, insurance companies, and anyone else who wants to send images remotely. Spies will especially appreciate the camera's binary-text capture mode, allowing them to take shots of paper documents in black and white, which occupy minimal storage space and are faster to transmit. Both the documents and the pictures can be sent as e-mail attachments or forwarded directly to a fax machine via the network connection.
In order to use this camera wirelessly, you will need to subscribe to a wireless service. We recommend Ricochet if you live within its limited coverage area, both because of its high bandwidth and its straightforward, all-you-can-eat pricing plan. Currently, there is no support for 802.11b or Bluetooth cards, but Ricoh is about to release an OS upgrade for its RDC-i700 with support for Sprint's CDMA modem, the AirCard 510. Ricoh is also teaming up with ActivePhoto, a Web-based service that stores, backs up, and helps you manage your image archive.
Polaroid gave us the instant picture. With the RDC-i700, Ricoh brings the same notion of instantaneous imaging into the digital age. Snap a shot and place it instantly in your desktop archive. The camera's high price tag ($1,299) and the added cost of mobile services will place the RDC-i700 out of the reach of most consumers, but for many field workers, it will be worth considering.
|Jury results: image quality|
Results based on a poll of CNET staff, who rate image quality on a scale of 1 to 10; longer bars equal better performance.
|The Ricoh RDC-i700 produced colorful, sharp images both indoors and out. However, the shots we took outdoors showed consistently better white-balance compensation and outshined by far our indoor results.|