Camera Test: Ricoh Caplio GX100

A 10MP compact with the heart of a rangefinder.

Camera-Test-Ricoh-Caplio-GX100
Camera-Test-Ricoh-Caplio-GX100

Ricoh, that merry maverick of the camera world, has taken another step in the "luxe compact" category with the Caplio GX100 ($599, exclusively at Adorama), essentially a zoom-lensed version of the Ricoh GR Digital we tested in May 2006, with the added benefit of sensor-based image stabilization.

The new camera also jumps to 10MP, from the 8MP of the GR, and it shows in our resolution tests. From ISO 80 to ISO 200, resolution averages 2075 lines for a clearly Excellent rating. It declines through ISO 1600, where, at about 1700 lines, it still qualifies as Excellent.

Color accuracy is also Excellent, and noise fairly well controlled through ISO 400. But noise increases to Unacceptable at ISO 800 and becomes still worse at ISO 1600 -- typical of small-sensor, high-megapixel compacts. (The Ricoh does better in noise control than the equivalent Canon and Nikon.)

Image stabilization helps offset this shortcoming, as it provides up to 2 extra stops without needing a tripod in our tests using DxO Analyzer 2.0.

Besides sharp shots, there is a lot to like in the GX100. The 3X zoom lens is equivalent to 24-72mm, a wide-angle range we'll take any day over the 35-105mm typical on compacts. Want wider? The DW-6 converter lens ($140, at Adorama) gives you a 19mm equivalent.

If you're wondering how you see that field of view through an optical viewfinder, the answer is you don't -- the GX100 body has no viewfinder. But you can add an accessory finder, the VF-1 ($170, at Adorama; $100 when purchased in a kit with the camera), which gives you a 100 percent accurate view with any focal length -- because it's an electronic, not optical, viewfinder.

The finder image is on the grainy side, and the edges of the frame are a challenge for eyeglass wearers, but it shows you full information, can be tilted up to 90 degrees for low-angle or close-up shooting, and is much easier to see in bright light than the LCD. And the 19mm converter requires no additional setup in the menus, as the lens automatically signals the camera's electronics when it's screwed into place.

The GX100's magnesium-alloy body looks as if it could be run over by a truck with no ill effects. The thickened end of the camera provides a secure, comfortable grip.

The controls could serve -- or should serve -- as a model for other manufacturers. There is both a command dial on the front and a command toggle switch on the back. In manual mode, the front dial controls aperture, while the rear toggle sets shutter speeds. An on-screen (or in-finder) linear scale guides you to the correct exposure. Press the rear toggle, and you can quickly access controls such as exposure comp and white balance.

You can custom-program up to four controls of your choice, as well as an additional setting on a function button atop the camera. If that's not enough customization for you, you can save your preferred camera setup to one of two "My Modes" that are quickly accessible on the program dial. While the control buttons on the back of the camera are small and closely spaced, their action is stiff enough that we almost never made an inadvertent setting.

The GX100 uses an unusual, hybrid autofocus that combines TTL focusing on the CCD with an external passive AF sensor. It focuses quickly and accurately, so much so that we never needed the AF assist lamp, even in very dim lighting. The camera also has very short shutter lag. Bursts? It can capture highest-quality JPEGs at 2.5 frames a second -- no slouch there -- but it punks out at five frames.

The GX100 can capture JPEGs, as well as (three cheers!) simultaneous JPEG and RAW files. Its RAW format is Adobe's DNG, so if you have Photoshop, you can open and adjust the pictures with no further ado. Be warned, though, that RAW + JPEG capture is slow: The first frame will take about 4 seconds to process, and subsequent frames only get slower. Not the setting for action shots!

The GX100 is a highly competent camera that's easy and fun for both the casual shooter and the serious enthusiast to use. We like it. But we'd like it more if it cost a little less and had less noise at high ISOs.

Lens: 24-72mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.5-4.4 zoom.
Imaging: 10.3MP (effective) CCD captures 10MP images (3648x2736).
Storage: 26MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC/MMC card slot. Stores JPEGs or Adobe DNG RAW + JPEG.
Burst rate: Up to 5 highest-quality JPEGs at 2.5 fps (tested).
Video: 640x480 at 30 fps with mono sound.
AF system: Hybrid TTL phase detection plus external passive system reads 17 autoselect zones or single central spot; selected zone is highlighted on LCD monitor. AF zone can be placed anywhere on the screen in macro mode. Single-shot AF. Cancelable AF-assist lamp.
Shutter speeds: 1/2000 sec to 3 min.
Metering: TTL 256-segment evaluative, centerweighted, and central spotmetering. EV -2 to 18 (at ISO 100).
ISO range: 80, 100 to 1600 in 1-EV increments.
Flash: Built-in with TTL autoflash, GN 21 (ISO 100, feet), hot-shoe.
LCD: 2.5-in. TFT with 230,000-pixel resolution.
Viewfinder: Optional shoe-mounted VF-1 electronic viewfinder ($170, if bought separately; $100 in kit) with 201,000-pixel 0.2-inch LCD.
Output: Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and video.
Battery: Proprietary Li-ion rechargeable; 380 shots per charge (CIPA rating, 50% with flash).
Size/weight: 4.4x2.3x1.0 in.; 8.7 oz with card and battery.
Price: $599; $699 with VF-1 viewfinder.
For info: www.ricoh.com.
Distributed exclusively by Adorama (www.adorama.com).

COMPETITIVE SET

• Canon PowerShot G7 ($500, street): 10MP, lens-based image stabilization. Has a greater range zoom (6X, 35-210mm) than the Ricoh, can use Canon EX-series Speedlites. Optical viewfinder is compact and sharper but less accurate than the Ricoh's accessory EVF. The Ricoh scores higher on image quality -- in both noise and resolution -- and offers RAW capture, absent on the Canon.

• Nikon Coolpix P5000 ($340, street): 10MP, lens-based image stabilization. The bargain of the trio, it has slightly greater-range zoom than the Ricoh (3.5X, 36-126mm), but we like the Ricoh's wider optic. Has an optical viewfinder for less bulk -- but less accuracy. Can use current Nikon Speedlights. Ricoh edges it in resolution and control of noise, has a tougher body, and allows RAW capture.

Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-This-photo-of-Rockefeller-Cent
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-This-photo-of-Rockefeller-Cent
This photo of Rockefeller Center shows off the Ricoh's wide-angle lens.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Use-the-Ricoh-s-zoom-to-get-in
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Use-the-Ricoh-s-zoom-to-get-in
Use the Ricoh's zoom to get in closer to your subjects.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-Ricoh-got-nice-contrast-an
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-Ricoh-got-nice-contrast-an
The Ricoh got nice contrast and color saturation of these Rockefeller Center flags.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-Ricoh-did-a-good-job-of-ge
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-Ricoh-did-a-good-job-of-ge
The Ricoh did a good job of getting details in the highlights of this sunny lunchtime picture.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Shot-at-a-focal-length-of-15.3
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Shot-at-a-focal-length-of-15.3
Shot at a focal length of 15.3 mm, the Ricoh's wide-angle lens lets you get a broader picture.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Crossing-Fifth-Avenue-shot-at
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Crossing-Fifth-Avenue-shot-at
Crossing Fifth Avenue shot at 1/800 at f/5.7 with a focal length of 5.1mm.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Use-the-movable-viewfinder-to
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Use-the-movable-viewfinder-to
Use the movable viewfinder to tilt the camera up for sky-high shots.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-steps-of-St.-Patrick-s-Cat
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-steps-of-St.-Patrick-s-Cat
The steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral shot with the Ricoh's regular lens at focal length 5.1mm.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-same-shot-of-St.-Patrick-s
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-The-same-shot-of-St.-Patrick-s
The same shot of St. Patrick's Cathedral shot using the wide angle lens attachment at focal length 4mm.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Shot-at-the-maximum-focal-leng
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Shot-at-the-maximum-focal-leng
Shot at the maximum focal length of 15.3 mm.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Fashion-photo-shoot-on-Fifth-A
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Fashion-photo-shoot-on-Fifth-A
Fashion photo shoot on Fifth Avenue.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Model-behavior-shot-at-1-200-a
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Model-behavior-shot-at-1-200-a
Model behavior shot at 1/200 at f/7.1.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-A-shot-of-Fifth-Avenue-at-the
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-A-shot-of-Fifth-Avenue-at-the
A shot of Fifth Avenue at the widest focal length of 5.1 mm.Photo By Linzee Karasik
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Hailing-a-cab-isn-t-an-easy-jo
Ricoh-Caplio-GX100-Hailing-a-cab-isn-t-an-easy-jo
Hailing a cab isn't an easy job.Photo By Linzee Karasik
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