So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Ricoh Australia R10
A compact camera with a 7x zoom.
- Well built and designed, easy to use, good for macro shots, has a regular mini-USB port, smooth zoom function
- Body attracts a lot of dirt, noticeable purple fringing, no full manual mode
This is a point-and-shoot compact camera that's suitable for any type of photography. It also looks good, but its body does tend to get dirty. Its overall picture quality is good, but in some instances purple fringing will be noticeable in your shots.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
If there's one thing we love about Ricoh cameras, it's their design. The R10 has a sturdy, brushed-steel body with a small array of control buttons and dials, along with a huge LCD screen. However, it doesn't feel altogether comfortable, especially on hot days when your hands get sweaty, and its body and screen tend to accumulate fingerprints and a fair bit of dirt.
Nevertheless, it's the quality of the optics and sensor that make the camera, and the R10 has a 10-megapixel sensor and a 7.1x optical zoom lens. The lens gives the camera a wide angle of 28mm and a maximum zoom of 200mm, so it's a versatile camera that can be used for portraits, landscapes and even at sporting events. It's aimed at users who aren't looking to fiddle too much with manual controls, as it features an easy mode, a scene mode, an automatic mode, and two user-defined modes, but no manual mode.
Without a manual mode, you can't change the aperture and shutter speed, but there are plenty of other settings to tinker with. In particular, the R10 has comprehensive focus and exposure settings, which can be accessed quickly via the camera's Adj button. The function button on the camera can also be assigned a dedicated task — by default, it will bring up the focus target, which allows you to select a specific focus point within the frame. But, for example, you could set it to select an often-used scene mode, such as backlit mode (which attempts to brighten foreground subjects that have a bright background but which didn't work too well in our tests).
The camera has a built-in level indicator, which turns green once the camera is perfectly straight. This is a useful function when taking landscape or building shots, and it means you don't have to spend any time straightening your photos on the PC, but it's very sensitive and therefore difficult to get the level indicator green for more than a couple of seconds at a time.
Getting your photos onto a PC is easy as the camera has a standard mini-USB jack. That means it doesn't need a proprietary cable. Of course, you could always just take out its SD card and plug it into an SD card reader, but we like the fact that any off-the-shelf mini-USB cable will work with it.
Once you've got your photos off the camera, you'll find them to be relatively clear and not overly vibrant. Images shot in bright sunlight will look slightly washed out, but indoor images and images taken in the shade fare much better. You will notice plenty of purple fringing in high-contrast areas, especially around skin tones and white colours that meet dark coloured backgrounds. Images were a little noisy at ISO 100, but noise was relatively tame until ISO 400. At ISO 800, the noise started to damage the picture noticeably.
We like the camera's smooth zoom and also its ability take great macro shots. You can get in nice and close to your subject (around 1cm away) and capture fine details and textures. In low-light situations, and also when the zoom is extended all the way, the image stabiliser helps to keep shots relatively crisp. We were able to take clear handheld shots in low-light conditions with shutter speed operating at 1/24th of a second, but shots at 1/14th were not defined well at all, and at 1/6th the pictures were not usable.
Portraits and close-ups were rendered with a blurred background in which shapes were still recognisable. Wide angle shots suffered from slight lens distortion, but were not too bad. Overall, the R10's picture quality is acceptable for most photographic pursuits, but the lack of a full manual mode means that enthusiasts should probably look elsewhere. It's a good camera for anyone who wants an automatic point-and-shoot, and it excels in macro mode.
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