Ricoh has been quietly beavering away building a range of neat, sophisticated digital cameras of which the R1v represents the latest incarnation at the top end of the company’s range. It updates its predecessor the R1 with an extra megapixel of resolution, but is pretty much otherwise unchanged.
The R1v offers a comprehensive specification in a small, tough, metal body with a 28-135mm (35mm equivalent) 4.8x zoom lens, a focal range able to get you close-in at 135mm and still fit everything in, in cramped conditions or for wide vista shots at the 28mm wide end of the zoom.
Handling is very nice with controls spaced neatly on the back plate, a large, ingot-like on/off switch slides across the face of the camera revealing or closing the lens cover as it does so; all very neat and tidy.
Comprehensive menus get you into the meat of the camera settings and being picky, there’s a few too many of these at the expense of external buttons which would have been nice for more regularly used controls such as white balance control and sensitivity, itself impressive running from ISO64 to ISO 800.
Exposure compensation, auto bracketing, a simply superb macro mode that can get to within 1cm of the subject, 256-zome multi-metering and a 1.8in colour screen (with composition framing grid and active histogram display) and SD/MMC storage all of which provides plenty of scope for creativity and getting the shot just right.
It was all going well and would have stayed that way, were it not for one thing. On close inspection of my shots, which at first glance look wonderfully crisp and colourful - if a tad too noisy - there is a major problem. Distinct stripes running across the bottom of each frame mar all my shots.
Either there’s a problem with the CCD or the built-in image processing produces these odd artifacts. Alternatively, it could just be my review sample but either way, these image problems have dropped the R1v a lot of points in this test.
On the face of it, the R1v provides plenty of resolution, enough for prints up to and over A3 and at a very competitive price indeed. There's control enough to satisfy the enthusiast snapper and point and shoot brigade alike and all put together in one attractive package with a great lens.
In fact, I was raving about this camera until I got to inspect the images closely, then I was just raving mad. The camera is heavily let down by odd image artifacts; stripes running across each frame. This is a real shame for a camera that would otherwise be a stunning bit of kit. If it wasn't for the image quality this would have been an 8/10.