Let me say right off that I like Ricoh products. A lot. It is a quirky manufacturer off on its own direction in a sea of identical hardware with features copied from each other now providing almost no differentiation between makers’ offerings. I own a brace of old Ricoh 35mm cameras that go back a fair way, and I like them for the same reasons – for example, my old 500G has a back door that covers the whole of the rear of the camera, having a cut-out for the viewfinder, a very individual (and functional) approach to solving this problem instead of the me too! approach taken by everyone else in Japan in the 1970s for film doors. Ricoh seems to be a quiet achiever, and with little fanfare it has produced about 50 successful compact digital cameras in the past decade with almost no outlets through which to sell them, at least in my city, the capital of Australia.
A while ago I got my hands on a GRD II to try it out and see what all the fuss was about with the evolution to digital of the classic GR film cousin. Sadly, I never really got on well with it. It was a case of being (for me) too slow and not having a great deal of utility in poor light situations. I got rid of it, but then I regretted this move almost immediately. I was increasingly haunted by the wonderful user interface, its sheer usability, its tiny size, and above all its incredible build.
Suddenly, along came a Ricoh R10, just about the bottom of the species from Ricoh, with no pretensions to greatness, but my Ricoh hunger came flooding back and I thought I would give it a go and see if it had anything to offer to me. What a surprise it has turned out to be! It’s actually great!
It is tiny.
It is extremely well built.
It has a wide lens, starting at 28mm.
It has a long zoom – more than 7x range.
It has anti shake built in via sensor agility.
It starts up quickly.
It is fast in operation.
It has brilliant ergonomics.
It seems to be invisible as it is black and tiny and therefore probably not a threat as a street camera.
It is exceptionally cheap (brand new in Australia they cost just $149, or about US144…, a long way down from the original $450).
Best of all, it produces quality images pretty darn quickly. Here’s a snapshot from it taken at a local burger van, shot with absolutely no care:
Gritty realism (above)
And its just, oh I don’t know, just so cool.
It has a 3 inch screen, and seems to be able to shoot from shot to shot pretty quickly. JPEGs only though, unfortunately. Rich has provided good support for firmware updates over its three year market lifespan. It reeks of good design – the 7x zoom collapses almost entirely back into the surprisingly thin body. It has (laser engraved?) lettering describing it embossed into the top metal cover instead of gaudy metal foil stickers all over it. The body seems to be predominantly metal. The list goes on – and remember this is a mass-market utilitarian model camera.
Although I am not a big fan of P&S cameras, I have been hankering for a cheapie to keep in a pocket and not worry over much about. It seems that the R10 ticks all of the obvious boxes for me, and it best of all as it seems to be on an end-of-life run out making it now cost about a third of what it was 2 years ago. It’s so inexpensive that it won’t cause me any grief it it eventually gets damaged by being taken everywhere. And this is the real point I am making, I guess – it is a perfect camera to have to get those shots we all miss by not having a camera with us. I am prepared to put aside my loathing of small sensors and their endemic infinite depth of field on the basis of my chance meeting with the R10.
It is also a lot of fun. I wonder what a GRD III might have been like? Here’s a lifted promo banner from the Ricoh web site to further whet your appetite, accompanied by some tasty specifications:
Breaking News (8 November 2012) – The price on new R10s has dropped yet again – now A$128 at Officeworks. Incredible.