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It seems like a very long time ago now that I bought this camera, and it has not only provided me with a record of fondly remembered times, but also fond memories of using the camera itself. That sentence may have been unwieldy, but this camera certainly was not - it is lightweight and has effective auto features meaning that I was able to take good photos even at arms length without sight of the screen. Additionally, the response time from off to photo ready is quick, as well as the 'shutter' action (though of course this is a compact camera with no shutter to speak of).
While the camera is effective on automatic, it does offer a few manual settings that come in very useful as well, such as a manual focus (means the camera can still be used in low light settings or to predictively focus for moving objects) and an exposure step adjuster (to make the picture a little darker to avoid burnt out highlights).
Certainly the best feature is the close up macro focus, effective up to about 3 cms from the lens, though at times you can all but press the camera against an object and it will focus. I was able to take many effective pictures using this. I would also have to say that the camera just seems to have its focal length set up at a sort of a sweet spot compositionally that makes the backgrounds to macro shots work quite dramatically - hard to describe but definitely something different to other cameras I have used.
There are some negatives, the biggest one being that the camera won't act as a mass storage device when plugged into the computer, meaning that you have to either use the provided software of have a port for the memory card (and so you can't just take this round to a friend's and view the pictures on a big screen). It does also feel a bit cheap, with buttons that offer little tactile response, and quite a small screen.
Now, things have moved on in the realm of digital compacts, so that these features that seemed amazing at the time are now fairly standard, and I couldn't really recommend this for main use (mainly because of the low resolution), however, if ever you see one lying around to pick it up and have a go, because it is simply a pleasure to take pictures with.
I decided to take the Nikon 3200 that I reviewed yesterday back to Jessops, and exchange it for the Ricoh Caplio G3, which is an equivalent digital camera by a manufacturer that I trust, even if they don't have as good a reputation ias Nixon.
I have used the Ricoh RDC-2 for a long time, and it is a great camera. I will probably continue to use the RDC-2 alongside this G3 because they're both good for different things. The G3 is higher resolution, but the RDC-2 is more forgiving.
Anyway, enough waffle - the Ricoh Caplio G3 is a much better camera than the Nikon 3200 in almost all respects in my opinion.
This is a 3.2 megapixel camera, with 8MB internal memory, 3X optical zoom (3.4x digital) and a 1cm macro capability.
It supports photos, sound, video and timer functions and takes SD cards for memory expansion.
It's got a 0.14second shutter response time, and exposure times of 8 seconds to 1/2000 second.
I've stressed the shutter speed and response time because they're things that I have found lacking in other digital cameras.
This is one of the cheaper 3.2 megapixel cameras at only 119 pounds.
======SIZE / SHAPE / LOOK=====
Again, comparing it to the Nixon it's not the best looking camera - it is larger, so not quite as easy to carry around, but it is easy to hold in the hand and quite lightweight.
It looks pretty mundane, almost cheap, but the looks lie in this case. If you want a camera that looks stylish or like you paid a lot for it, get a Canon or a Nikon - this camera is just pure functionality.
The viewfinder is poisitioned to the left of the camera, so when you look through it your nose is to the side of the camera itself - believe it or not this is a nice feature - with the Ricoh RDC 5500 the viewfinder was in the centre and you got nose prints all over the screen if you ever used the normal viewfinder!
Theres a lot of buttons on the back of the camera, and a small LCD display. The display is bright and crisp though, and the buttons are clearly labelled.
======EASE OF USE======
This camera isn't quite as intuitive to use as the Nikon 3200 - the error messages and general reporting on screen is less verbose, but I was still up and running with this camera very quickly - a couple of minor mistakes got made - I would certainly recommend getting used to this cameras foibles before taking it to use at an important event where you really don't want to miss any pictures, but that's true for any digital camera.
Once you're familiar with the interface though (which only takes a little bit of messing around with) you'll find that there aren't really that many options to change on this and that most of the time just picking up and shooting will work. For special circumstances you can change the shutter speed, flash, white balance, sharpness and a few other options, but this isn't something you'll get bogged down on changing all the time.
There are pre-set modes for things like sports, night photography, text photography and portraits, and these do help, although some of them such as night photography you really need a tripod to use. Without a tripod I'd probably recommend manually altering some settings until you find a balance between shutter time and your own hand shake.
Changing basic things like zoom and flash mode is done easily with clearly labelled buttons on the back. Deleting pictures in playback mode is quick and easy too, although there is enough confirmation done to prevent you deleting pictures accidentally.
=======PUT TO THE TEST=======
I tried this camera out as it comes by default - the 8MB memory does not hold very many pictures at all if you use the highest detail mode, and video is almost out of the question. If you record even a few seconds of sound then the memory will quickly fill up.
I fitted a 512MB memory card pretty much instantly because I got sick of having to delete photographs. This memory card is the one that was previously used in the Nikon 3200. The camera wouldn't even switch on after that because there were still pictures on from the Nixon and it didn't like the format.
An error message there would have been helpful, but unfortunately none was given, so I wasted a little time checking the batteries before thinking 'eureka!' and putting the SD card into my card reader to wipe it.
Once it was up and running with the memory card I set about testing the camera. I am very impressed. It takes good photos under most lighting conditions (from shop strip lighting to normal bulbs, energy saving bulbs, and even daylight). It also takes photographs of monitors (flatscreen and crt) without much difficulty - although you have to tweak the flash settings to avoid glare from the CRT.
Unfortunately I haven't been able to test this one at a concert yet, but I have tried it under other conditions that made the Nixon 3200 start to struggle, and everything came out great then, so I feel safe in predicting that it would perform better under those conditions. If I do go to one soon I'll update this opinion.
Sound recording on this is decent - a bit hissy, but you can hear what is said which is all I would expect, and the video recording is good too - smooth and clear.
Colours are crisp and clean, and text even on a computer screen comes out readable when you zoom in.
In terms of battery life, I gave this camera a thorough testing and haven't had to change the batteries yet - it seems once again Ricoh have made a camera that doesn't burn through batteries at a stupidly fast rate.
This camera comes with some Kodak image sharing software and drivers, and upload is performed by a USB cable.
Upload is quick and easy and the software is easy to get working, if nothing special.
Most image software installed on my machine identified the camera as an image source without me needing to do anything special, which is a bonus.
As I said at the start of this review, the build quality looks a bit cheap - in reality though it's fairly sturdy - much more so than it looks.
The battery compartment on Ricoh cameras has always been a weak point from my experience, and in this case it looks like the twin battery / memory card cover is a touch flimsy if abused, but it is a lot more sturdy than it has been on previous versions, and makes a satisfying 'KER-CLICK' when you've closed it correctly.
The cover for the USB/AV-OUT connectors is secure, and the area where you attach the wrist strap is sturdy.
The buttons are all responsive and feel well made, and the camera responds better to the wheel selector not being in the right place than the Nixon did.
All in all I'd say that if you actually pick it up and test it out the camera is well constructed. The design is supposed to be the result of careful study and ergonomic testing, and I can't deny that the camera feels nice to use - its balanced so that the weight is mostly central, it's fairly light, and it feels good to hold, although if the screen had been central it would have been a bit easier.
The biggest problem is that it LOOKS cheap and ugly, even though it isn't.
I think this is a great camera. I have highlighted some of it's flaws in this opinion just to let you know what you are getting. It costs about 120 pounds, for that you will never get the best camera on the planet, but I don't think you could find anything better very easily at that price point.
Image quality is superb, the options for different conditions are great, and easy to set up. This camera responds well to most conditions, and the batteries last longer than they would in most other cameras. If battery life is a huge concern, you can use LI-ION batteries in this camera, although that's an optional extra.
The video and sound options are decent if you want that kind of thing, and it is a fairly easy to use camera too. Not as intuitive as some, but you do get used to its quirks.
When I was in Jessops they talked me out of buying this the first time round - I tried it and liked the look of it, but they said that Ricoh aren't that great a make. I shouldn't have listened since a) the camera was great when I tried it out and b)I know from experience that Ricoh have great tech support and honour their warrenties.
So, if you're looking for a good camera at a low price, ignore anyone who tells you not to stray from the major makes - this is a great camera. The only people who I would suggest stay away from it are those who are worried about style - if you like all your gadgets tiny and sleek, this isn't for you.
Everyone else - try it out!