Construction and Design
The Ricoh Caplio GX has a very simple and uncluttered control layout. Good points include a control wheel on the grip, a large and clearly labelled mode dial on the top plate and a sensibly positioned power switch.
Fit and finish was generally good, though the roughened surface, which does make the camera look more rugged, tended to attract dust. Buttons were rather spongey and there was some minor creaking of the plastic mouldings, but nothing too serious.
(Front of camera, above) A: Shutter release, B: Flash unit, C: Autofocus sensor, D: Flash hot shoe, E: Eye-level viewfinder.
(Rear of camera above) A: Warning and status lights, B: Optical eye-level viewfinder, C: Power button, D: Mode dial, E: Zoom rocker switch, F, Shortcut button to exposure, white balance and ISO settings, G: Menu button, H: Options select button, I: Navigation keys (4) including flash, close focus and quick review functions, J Image delete and self timer button, K: Display mode selection button, L: Colour LCD monitor.
Apart from some small holes for the audio speaker, all you will find on the base plate is a tripod socket, which is good news if you use a tripod a lot.
The top plate view shows a neat and simple layout, plus the generous grip for such a compact design and that hot shoe, which is most unusual at this level. The top of the grip incorporates an adjustment dial.
The USB and AV ports are unprotected, but I doubt that most of the flimsy flaps many other compact digital cameras rely on are very effective.
Once extended at power-on, there is very little extra extension of the lens barrel throughout the zoom range.
A novel Ricoh design aspect that has been used in previous models is a dual-function battery and memory card bay door. To access the card bay you slide the door forward.
To access the batteries, once the door has been moved forward to expose the card slot, the door can swing open to provide access space for a pair of AA batteries.
An immediate tip if you have or intend to get a Caplio GX – don't use a memory card from another camera without formatting it in your GX first. We innocently swapped a card that had previously been in a Nikon E2200 and it made the Caplio go haywire. In fact, we thought the camera was faulty and asked for a replacement. But the same weirdness happened again and the source of the memory card was eventually diagnosed. Formatting the card in the camera fixed everything.
Menu screens are helpful and easy to navigate. Note the small histogram on the lower right screen, which is available both in real time when composing and when reviewing previous shots. The top right screen shows the limited number of scene modes, which include simple textual and pictorial explanations.
It wasn't difficult to get used to the external controls and understand the menus. The 1.8 inch screen is readable in bright light, too. The GX is a comfortable compact camera to hold, partly because of its good-sized grip.
One of Ricoh's main claims concerning the GX is its minimal shutter delay. Can we confirm this? Well, yes and no. Yes – when the shutter fires, there is very little delay indeed and the AF system works swiftly in good light too.
However, occasionally, for no apparent reason, even after focus has locked, we found that the camera refused to actual fire at all. A re-focus is then required to seemingly wake the camera up. It's not very confidence-inspiring.
Other factors can interfere with the responsiveness of the camera, too. When using the flash, recharging after a flash shot or when switching it on, will lock you out of the camera for 7 or 8 seconds. If you choose to shoot in TIFF mode, the camera takes almost a whole minute to save the image. JPEG images are saved in a leisurely manner as well.
But when the flash was previously switched off, power on and off times were good – under two and three seconds, respectively.
The camera is quiet in operation, with very refined motorised lens extension and retraction and zooming. With 16 steps, the zoom is easier than many to aid precise framing.
Battery was impressive for a camera of this specification and just two AA batteries to power it. However, the Caplio GX doesn't reward thoughtful pondering of the scene as it shuts down after a relatively short inactivity period – even with power-saving mode switched off.
The Caplio GX is a very purposeful looking camera. But what was it like to use? Move on to the next page to find out!