The G600’s overall performance is a bit hit-or-miss. It starts up in just over two seconds, and shuts down again even more quickly, but in single-shot mode its shot-to-shot time is over four seconds, which is pretty slow. In continuous mode it starts off well, shooting the first six frames at approximately one frame a second, but then it slows down a lot once the buffer fills up, dropping to about 0.5fps, but it doesn’t focus between shots in this mode.
The autofocus system is the same as used in the R8 and R10, a nice multi-zone system that is impressively fast in good light, although it does slow down a lot in lower light levels. In very low light it has some problems, but will usually focus on the second or third try. The camera has a bright AF assist lamp for very dark conditions, with a range of around four metres.
In terms of picture quality, the G600 is unfortunately slightly disappointing, and somewhat below average for a 10MP compact camera. The internal zoom lens produces quite pronounced barrel distortion at wide angle, and while centre sharpness is very good there is quite a lot of blurring and chromatic aberration in the corners of the frame. Colour reproduction is very good, but dynamic range is distinctly limited with blown highlights and murky shadows on high-contrast shots. The biggest problem is image noise, which is visible even at the lowest ISO setting, and get progressively worse as sensitivity is increased, although colour fidelity remains good up to 800 ISO.
The Ricoh G600 is very expensive compared to other rugged compacts, and lacks the social graces of its main competitors. It has a number of unique features that will be useful for specialist applications such as law enforcement, emergency response or the construction industry, but as an outdoor sports camera even with its robust armour-plated design it is outclassed by cheaper rivals. It is also let down by so-so image quality and slow performance.
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