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The image stabilisation system is Ricoh’s own in-house moving-sensor mechanism. Ricoh is only the third manufacturer to develop such a system, and the R5 is one of the smallest cameras to feature such technology. I spent some time trying different exposures and focal lengths to get some idea of how effective the system is compared to others that are available. It seems to provide at least two stops of extra hand-held stability although pushing it to three stops produced some visible camera shake. This is on a par with the performance of the IS systems in use by Panasonic, Canon and Nikon, although it’s not as effective as the Konica-Minolta system now being developed by Sony.
It has to be said that apart from the optical zoom, IS and high ISO, the R5 is not exactly overburdened with features. It has no options for manual exposure control, no contrast or saturation adjustment, and has only eight scene modes. However the adjustments that it does offer are easy to access thanks to a partially programmable Adjustment button. One of the scene modes is the unusual skew correction mode, which allows you to photograph documents at an angle, and then automatically corrects them to appear flat.
The camera’s performance is also a bit of a mixed bag. It starts up in just under two seconds, slightly slower than the R3 but still a respectable time. Even more respectable is the continuous shooting mode, which can fire off an average of two frames a second until it runs out of room on the memory card. This is extremely fast by any standard.
As I mentioned, the zoom control is rather small and awkward, and makes accurate framing more difficult than it needs to be, especially considering that the lens has at least twenty steps between wide and telephoto. Because of the control it is very difficult to progress the zoom a single step at a time. The zoom mechanism is also incredibly noisy, making a loud mechanical whir as it grinds in and out, which is probably why it can’t be used with the 30fps VGA video mode.
The hybrid AF system also has its ups and downs. In good light and normal range it is accurate and very quick, taking just a fraction of a second to focus. However its low light performance is dismal, a real problem since the R5 has no AF illuminator. Focusing is also very slow at close range, but in macro mode it is capable of focusing down to just 1cm in front of the lens. Very close macro focus has always been something of a Ricoh speciality, but it’s still pretty impressive.