The Caplio R1 is equipped with a 4 Megapixel image sensor and a 4.8x optical zoom lens. The images are stored in JPEG format, and a choice can be made between two compressions, Normal and Fine. It is advisable to invest in sufficient memory capacity and store the images in Fine. More so if the images are meant to be printed in the end, with or without editing, the low compression is preferred. The camera is ultra-fast, with starting up as well as taking a picture. This is a true relief. As I said, now and then we meet a camera at which speed is playing a lesser role, but Ricoh understood a long time ago that speed is very important and invested in it, so Ricoh can now reap the fruit rewards of it. Managing the images is also smoothly, all in all the Ricoh R1 is a pleasant camera to work with, it has simple operation and is easily approachable. The camera has full automatic operation available to offer. Ricoh has not given us the oportunity to choose Aperture or Shutter speed values wich I find regretting. Of course, Ricoh has targeted this model for a certain group of photographers but it wouldn't look bad on the R1 to move up on the ladder just one little step. The user can choose from full automatic operation or has the possibility to select a certain scene through the multi-control button on the back of the camera. Fortunately the amount of preset scenes stayed limited to the most common (and needed) scenes. Portrait scene puts emphasis on skin tones and a blurry background so the subject comes forward very clearly. The built-in programmes like sports, landscape, night scene, text and high sensivity (ISO) put emphasis on special features that have to be captured in the image. It is the user's choice to recognise them and relate them to one of the available scenes.
Automatic focus works excellent. At dim light conditions, the Caplio R1 doesn't give in and focussing is perfect again. The speed of the camera's focussing is ultra-fast, in fact one doesn't notice the difference anymore between a traditional camera and a digital one. This difference was more than obvious not even so long ago. Beside automatic focus it is also possible to focus manually. This is rather easy. Select MF through the menu and an extra bar will appear on the display. First you choose the composition using the zoom button, press ok to switch to manual focus and again use the zoom button to focus manually. A way of focussing that works easy in the first place, but secondly delivers fine results in practice. There are three different metering modes available to give the user every flexibility to realise an image, multi-segment, centre weighted metering and spot metering. Test images show that the multi-segment covers almost all images. The images have vivid colours, with rich contrast, with here and there a minor under-exposure. A small correction (exposure compensation), also possible afterwards, will bring the overall quality to perfection. The images can also be edited on forehand concerning the brightness. Personally I prefer to use an editing program afterwards, but in general the influence is not too large, just enough to detect the difference.
The ISO values can also be set manually. Adjustments from ISO 64 to ISO 800 are possible. The high ISO from 400 are less suitable to guarantee noise free images. This is in fact disputable. You can blow up an image many times and come to the conclusion that noise is an annoying part of the image. Something that is usually forgotten is the fact that noise contains information which will benefit the final print in the end! Ultimately it is a matter of finding the middle course.
The images have to look good and noise-free when shown on the monitor and the print has to be true-to-life. This is the way the target group of a camera like the Caplio R1 will look at an image, they won't analyse the image. Test images proved that ISO values up to 400 can be used without a problem. Values with higher ISO lead to the clearly visible presence of noise, the test images made with high ISO values leave a clear track of noise on the prints.
Beside automatic white balance, the camera has various settings of the white balance, Shadow, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Day light or manual setting. The automatic white balance in general does a good job. In a room when fluorescent light is dominating, like a sports hall or a school, the images suffer from colour cast, despite the special fluorescent white balance. Images taken in the same environment, but in this case using the manual white balance, look perfect. Sitting room images, with the white balance on Incandescent, tend to be somewhat warm, the image is less neutral. Again the manual setting offers the solution and is the best method to get an excellent image. One who selects the standard automatic white balance, probably the mayority of users, will be happy with the end result in general.
A strong trump card of the Caplio R1 is its macro function. Beside the very stable and fast way of focussing, the R1 is capable of taking images in wide-angle as close as 1cm. Some distortion appears in the corners, but the end result is outstanding. The images are sharp, only in the corners a little less, but all in all a great performance. Useful is the possibility of manually detecting the position of the focal point. When the correct position is decided, but the focal point is just a little out of reach of the ideal point, then moving the point without having to move the camera, is an ideal solution.
Beside capturing images, the Caplio R1 is also capable of recording moving images, in the form of video clips. Ricoh did not succeed in lifting this feature to a higher level. Nowadays it is possible to record video clips with a resolution of 800 x 600, which makes it disappointing to see the Caplio R1's resolution gets stuck on 320 x 240 pixels. This part of a camera seems to be more and more interesting to the consumer, who takes it into account when deciding on the purchase of a digital camera.
The possibilities the Caplio R1 offers, give the user every freedom to photograph in a carefree way. The results are fine, the images look the way that can be expected from a 4 Megapixel digital camera, in simple words: photo-realistic.