Ricoh R10 Review – Part 1

If you are looking to buy a compact point and shoot camera you probably have more choice than you would like and can easily be overwhelmed with all the models by the different manufacturers. Most of these camera models differ only in the colors available or will mostly offer you more or less completely obscure scene modes. In the midst of all these cameras you will find only a few really interesting and unique cameras and one of them is the Ricoh R10.
It is a small point and shoot camera with a very versatile 7.1x 28-200mm zoom lens, great build quality and very good controls. Be warned though that it is not a simple point and shoot where you just press the button and get great pictures. Ricoh has this to say about the R10: “A camera to realize the photographer’s intent.” So while the R10 might have an ‘Easy’ mode on the dial, to get the most out of it you need to have a basic understanding of how a camera works or at least be prepared to make some adjustments. If you do however take the time to learn how to make some basic adjustments, it will reward you and your pictures will look much better. I had the camera for a while now and really enjoy using it, it has some limitations but which camera doesn’t.

If you’re looking for resolution charts or pictures that compare the image quality at 200% then you have to look elsewhere. I will also not go through each setting in the menu since you can find this elsewhere or by simply reading the manual. This review will be focused on using the camera and features I find interesting or unique, basically what makes this camera stand out between the myriads of other point and shoot models.

Build & Controls

Now let’s start part 1 of the review by looking at the build, controls and some of the more interesting features.

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the camera is that it does not look like a fashion accessory but like a real camera. It does not come in pink, orange or lime green either, instead it comes in black, silver or (the fantastic looking) brown/bronze color. The brown/bronze color one looks so good indeed that I would buy one just for the looks of it alone. The design is quite different from the previous R series cameras and (since the R8 ) is more in line with the GX and GRD series. You can easily recognize the Ricoh camera line now and all have a uniform look and professional appearance. No wonder Ricoh won Japan’s design prize for their camera designs as I reported a while back.

Pick the camera up and you notice how solid it is, the metal plate on the top feels and looks great and has a nice engraving with ‘7.1x Optical Wide Zoom Lens’. The rest of the camera, although made out of plastic, feels no less solid. If you have seen some of the older R series cameras with their plasticky build and flimsy buttons or the slim but slippery design of the R6 and R7, you will be frankly amazed by the solid feel of the R10. If nothing else, this should be enough reason to upgrade. It has a hand grip that is slightly larger than on the R8 and is again a big improvement over the previous R series cameras. Although the hand grip is smaller than on the GR or GX cameras, it is again very well designed and works much better than Panasonic’s attempt with the hand grip on the LX3. Everything on this camera looks and feels like it has been built with some thought and it feels just right. All buttons and controls are placed where you expect them to be and you can easily control everything with only one hand and after some practice without even looking at the screen to adjust some of the main settings.

Speaking of the screen, this is fantastic, very bright and high resolution with a wide viewing angle. It has a resolution of 460,000 pixels and measures 3.0″. You can easily use this in bright sunshine and also to check accurate focus and colors on it. The refresh rate is very good and you never have a lag even in low light. The only downside with the screen is that Ricoh did not put anything in front of the screen to protect it, like they did on the GRD II.

There are also a few other small problems with the build, the tripod mount is plastic and if you ever do try to use a tripod you will find that it might end up opening the battery door when you screw it on.
Another thing to note is that as nice the hand grip is, you can easily block the flash with your fingers, depending on how you hold the camera. Not a major issue if you’re careful and there is no space anywhere else on the camera for the flash.

The power button is recessed so you will never accidentally turn the camera on in your pocket. If you do however, there is no need to worry. The lens won’t break the mechanism when trying to extend but will just stop after a few tries. This is very good and after reading about problems on the R5 I am glad Ricoh improved this. One point for improvement though, the lens should retract if it can not extend fully and not just stop or the glass might get scratched by other items in the pocket. The lens is otherwise very solid and makes the most solid impression of all the Ricoh cameras, it is much better than the slightly wobbly lens on the GX series. There is only little distortion at wide angle and fringing is not too bad considering the zoom range.

Ok, now what about the controls? In one word superb for such a small camera. The zoom control is around the shutter and this is where it should be, works very well. One note though, you can set the zoom to be either continuous or to work as a step zoom. The step zoom feature is great and I really like it on the GX series but it does not work here. It has 7 positions and to get to each it requires a pull or push of the zoom lever, this is ok for a camera like the GX with a limited zoom but here it’s just to slow and it takes you too long to get from 28mm to 200mm. This could be easily solved with a firmware update however by just activating the high-speed zoom without having to go into the menu or press the ‘Fn’ button.
The dial on the top is easy to turn but clicks into place firmly and won’t turn accidentally. It has like all new Ricoh cameras the option to save 2 ‘My Settings’ which will make your life a lot easier. The camera will remember everything, including the zoom position, when using the ‘My Settings’. Together with the green Auto mode that also remembers all your last settings you can swap shooting modes very fast and without the need to ever go into the menu. The ‘Easy’ mode is practically useless, it limits what you can do and only displays a few items in the menu. It works ok for basic things but the only camera I’ve seen where the ‘all auto mode’ really works is the Panasonic G1.
I will not even go into the movie mode since this is something where Ricoh is seriously lagging behind. You get no HD capabilities or even the ability to use the optical zoom during recording, instead you get 640×480 resolution and digital zoom by deactivated image stabilizer. This might have been standard a few years ago but is simply not sufficient anymore. Ricoh either needs to bring this up to the standard of the other manufacturers or simply leave this mode out. If you want to record video this is not a camera you will be happy with so better look at alternatives from Panasonic or Samsung, here it’s more for emergency use only.

All of the main controls are handled by the ‘Adj./Ok’ joystick and this is exactly where this camera shines. The joystick is big and works very accurate, it is not flimsy or too small as on the LX3 or the R6/7 but can easily be adjusted with your thumb. It gives very good feedback and you know when you made a selection without the need to look at the screen. Press it and you get to the ‘Adjust’ menu where you can access your most used settings, this can be freely configured so you can select up to 4 options such as ISO, WB, EV and Focus, the last option is always AE/AF shift. Hold the joystick to the right and it will allow you to activate and cycle through the Flash modes, to the left and it activates the Macro mode. Could not be simpler.
All the other buttons are nice and can be accessed easy. The only problem is with the ‘Fn’ button which is difficult to press and would be much better suited in place of the play button.

Now, the R10 has like the GRD II and GX200 the electronic leveler, this is very useful and will make your life a lot easier. It works very well and helps to keep a straight horizon. The only other camera aside from the Ricoh’s to offer this feature is the Nikon D3 and this costs over 10x the price of an R10.

The menus are great, the font is easy to read, all options are in the same place every time (except in Easy mode) and allow for fast access. You have flash exposure compensation, interval shooting, time exposure of up to 8 sec., can fix the min aperture and even record dual size pictures (one full and one low resolution picture for web use) but the feature I find most interesting is the ‘Custom Self Timer’.
All of us know this problem, you want to take group pictures with yourself in it but have to choose between a 2 sec. or 10 sec. timer. None of these is really useful since you would have to run back to the camera in order to restart the timer after the picture has been taken. Now I have made use of the ‘Interval’ mode before to take continuous pictures and have enough time to actually be in the picture but the downside is you can’t always tell when it’s taking the picture and you need to go into the menu to set it up. All this is a thing of the past now since the ‘Custom Self Timer’ allows you to take up to 10 pictures in intervals of 1 to 10 seconds between each shot. This is a really useful feature since it acts as the normal self timer and flashes the AF assist lamp before taking the picture but can also be activated by pressing the Self Timer button, so you don’t need to go into the menu. Again in line with the other recent Ricoh cameras, the timer remains activated after taking the pictures till you either turn the camera off or stop the self timer, this is much better than having to re-activate the timer after each shot.

Going to the playback menu allows you to make small adjustments to your pictures and change levels, white balance, trim or resize your pictures. This works reasonably well thanks to the fantastic and high resolution screen and is a non destructive process as it creates a copy of your picture. If you want to quickly change the WB or levels and don’t have access to a computer or UMPC while you’re out shooting it’s ok but every freeware picture viewer, like FastStone, will allow you to do more with your pictures so I don’t really see a need to do this on the camera.

This was Part 1 of the review, continue to Part 2 in order to find out how the picture quality holds up and to see some samples.
Click here to continue…


5 responses to “Ricoh R10 Review – Part 1

  1. As long as the R10 is reliable (the R6 and R7 were very unreliable and often needed repair) then this is likely a good camera.

  2. The R10 is much more solid so should not have the problems with the lens assembly as previous R series cameras. So far it has been working without problems and I haven’t read about any problems with it.

  3. Great review Cristi! :) Do you think this would be a good street camera?

    • Thanks James!
      While the R10 is a great little camera, I would say for street photography it is limited. The lens is not very fast so you have to watch your shutterspeed or boost the ISO. It can complement your GRD nicely for times when you need zoom but I would not really use it for street photography.

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