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The R3’s most appealing feature is of course its big 7.1x optical zoom lens. This is equivalent to 28-200mm on a film camera, and is a very useful zoom range, combining a good wide-angle and a decent telephoto in one package. Most digital compacts have a wide angle setting of no more than 38mm, so this is an unusual feature. Of course if it was easy to make a compact zoom lens that can do everything then all cameras would have one. Lens design is a compromise between size, weight and optical quality, and in the R3 size and weight have won out. That’s not to say it’s a bad lens, but at the widest angle setting it does suffer from significant barrel distortion, and that’s not all. The anti-shake system is not purely mechanical, and does steal a little bit of the image at the edges of the frame. You don’t notice because the image is re-sized to 2592x1944. However if you shoot on maximum wide angle without the image stabiliser switched on, you get to see the full frame, including some quite nasty vignetting in the top corners of the frame.
Apart from that little problem though, image quality is quite acceptable, with good exposure and colour rendition, although noise levels at higher ISO settings are higher than they might be.
The Ricoh Caplio R3 is an attractively designed and well made camera with a highly unusual list of features, outstanding performance and a very reasonable price tag. The 28-200mm equivalent optical zoom and anti-shake system make it unique, and the exceptionally good macro performance is an added bonus. Picture quality could be better, but on the whole not bad.