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Ricoh R10 - Ricoh R10
Since the R10 shares so many of the same features as the R8, it'll come as little surprise that its overall performance is also virtually identical, which is to say, very good indeed. It starts up in just under two seconds, although it is a little slower to shut down again. It still makes the characteristic mechanical whirring sound as the lens moves in and out, both on start-up, when zooming in and out, and when focusing. However this doesn't appear to slow it down at all, and focusing is quick and accurate, although low-light performance is rather disappointing despite the AF assist lamp. In good light however, in single shot mode it can take a picture approximately once every 1.7 seconds, which is fairly brisk. In continuous shooting mode it can maintain approximately 1.3 frames per second, apparently until the memory card is full, which is very quick by any standard.
The R10 has a slightly different battery to the R8, a smaller 940mAh Li-ion rechargeable, but the claimed battery life has been extended from 240 shots to 300. I took around a hundred shots while evaluating the camera, and the charge meter barely moved from its full position, so this would seem to be entirely possible.
Unfortunately the one thing that hasn't changed is the sensor. While many manufacturers use the larger 1/1.7 or 1/1.8-inch sensor format for their premium 10-megapixel models, Ricoh has afflicted the R10 with the same small and overcrowded 1/2.3-inch sensor as the R8. This is a great pity, because it has a negative impact on what should be very good image quality. Why Ricoh didn't switch to the excellent 1/1.75-inch sensor from the GR Digital II is a mystery.
The overall level of detail is excellent, and the lens and/or image processing produces almost no distortion even at the 28mm end of the zoom range, with good corner sharpness. There is some purple fringing around bright highlights, especially at the edges of the frame, but the main problem is noise. There is a granular texture to shots even at 80 ISO, and this gets rapidly worse as sensitivity is increased. Shots at 200 ISO show a lot of noise, and at 400 ISO there are serious problems with noise and colour distortion.
Unfortunately this isn't the R10's only problem. The auto white balance proved to be inconsistent and inaccurate, producing strong tints on a number of shots, including some very odd colour effects on both white backgrounds and shots with a lot of blue sky. There is a feature in playback mode to correct white balance manually, and even a brilliant little levels adjustment option, but it should be getting this sort of thing right automatically. This is very disappointing; I've always liked Ricoh cameras, and had high hopes for the R10, but sadly it fails to deliver.
The Ricoh R10 is a stylish, well-designed and well-made camera with an unusual specification and some innovative and useful features. It has a clever and easy-to-use interface, great handling and impressively fast performance, however it is let down badly by inferior image quality, especially at higher ISO settings, and also poor low-light focusing.