Ricoh has never been afraid to be different, but the Caplio R4 sees the company plunging firmly into the mainstream. With an asking price similar to that of the Canon Ixus, the R4 is in for a tough battle if it's to draw customers – a challenge hardly made easier by the flimsy battery and memory-card covers and its lacklustre finish.
If you can get past its feel, the R4 is a handsome camera; its rugged lines are only slightly spoiled by its eclectic controls. The placement of the flash is a flaw, though – it's positioned just above the main grip.
An impressive feat of engineering enables Ricoh to shoehorn a 7.1x optical zoom into such a compact model. It's a shame the aperture doesn't quite match the range, as the f3.3-4.8 range would benefit from being a touch faster. Shutter speeds, however, are accommodating, allowing exposures to range from a lengthy eight seconds to one 2,000th of a second. But the menu system is a rather clunky affair and the camera does tend to be quite noisy.
Image quality proved to be a mixed bag. While the results were generally pleasing, with good saturation and low fringing, we did experience excessive noise at higher ISOs. For cleanest results, keeping the ISO the right side of 100 is paramount. Some of our images were a little softer on detail than a 6Mp (megapixel) sensor should allow.