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Digital cameras have got so sophisticated in the past couple of years that it is getting increasingly difficult for a new model to make any sort of impact, especially if it comes from a company outside of the “big five”. Take this Ricoh Caplio R3 for example. It’s a pocket-sized compact with a 2.5in LCD monitor, 7.1x optical zoom, image stabilization and a 5 megapixel CCD. In most respects it has an extremely impressive specification for just £219, but it seems that most people have completely ignored it. I’ve not seen any other reviews of it, and only a brief press release to announce its launch.
Ricoh is one of the longest-established names in the digital camera market, and at one time was producing the most powerful and technically advanced cameras you could get. It has since lost some ground to arch-rival Canon, but is still capable of producing some outstanding hardware.
The initial impression of the R3 is overwhelmingly favourable. It feels very solidly made and looks stylish and contemporary. It is available in either a black or a silver finish. We’ve got the black version in for review and it does look very nice. At 26mm it is not quite super-slim, thanks to the extra space needed for the big zoom lens, but it is by no means a bulky camera. It looks very square at first, but a closer look reveals that it is subtly sculpted, and feels good in the hand.
The control layout is nice and simple. The main power switch is on the top plate, and the camera starts up in just over a second, an impressive performance especially considering the big lens that has to be rolled out. Also on the top plate is the button that activates the anti-vibration mechanism, an essential feature in a camera with a long lens like the R3. It works in a similar way to the system used by Konica Minolta in some of its high-end cameras. Motion sensors inside the camera detect any shake or vibration and instantly move the CCD to counteract it, reducing the blurring effect of camera shake at low shutter speeds and long focal lengths. This is my first encounter with Ricoh’s system, and it seems to work very well. I was able to take good sharp hand-held shots at 1/16th of a second at medium zoom, and 1/50th at full zoom, which is a pretty impressive result.