Ricoh Caplio G4
Review Date: 28th January 2004
Ease of Use
The Ricoh Caplio G4 is an exceptionally easy to use digital camera that will not be too intimidating to new users, whilst being very intuitive to use for anyone who has picked up any digital camera before. Its secret lies in not being too different from other brands on the market. The G4's interface, both software and the camera body, employs options and concepts that are an accepted part of the photographic industry.
Having said that, the G4 does have a couple of neat touches of its own. The Adj. button on the rear of the camera is a particularly nice feature that allows you to quickly adjust 3 different settings that are commonly used. Press it once and you can alter exposure compensation; press it again and you can change the White Balance setting; press it once more and you can adjust the ISO speed.
The other thing that I liked was the Power button. Unlike many digicams, the Caplio G4 has its very own button which lets you turn the camera on and off, regardless of which setting (Play, Camera, Movie) the camera is currently set to. Not the most radical feature in the world but a nice addition nevertheless.
Both the camera body and its menu system are logically laid out. The rear LCD screen is a little on the small side, but the optical viewfinder is perfectly usable. The camera just about fits into the hand, although it might be too big if you decide to purchase a camera case. The most fiddly aspect of the camera's design is the Card/Battery cover. The memory card and the battery are both housed within one large cover on the right of the camera, and it doesn't strike me as the most hard-wearing of components. It is also very fiddly to fully open and then close again.
Ricoh's claims about the speed of the Caplio G4 in terms of starting up the camera and shutter-lag do seem to be accurate. With other digicams you can often wait 4 or 5 seconds for the camera to turn itself on, extend the lens and get ready to take a shot. And you often miss the shot anyway because the of the slow shutter lag. The Caplio G4 seems to have solved both these issues, an example that will hopefully be followed by other manufacturers.
A lot of the Caplio's accessibility stems from the camera's inherent simplicity, in that it is largely automatic. Whilst you can alter settings like White Balance, ISO speed and exposure compensation, you can't actually set the aperture or shutter speed yourself - this is all handled by the camera. I would place the Caplio G4 in the semi-automatic category of digicams. For me, the inability to control the most important aspects of photography would put me off buying the Capilo G4, but for many people it will allow them to get on with composing and taking photos. Just don't expect to be able to control depth of field and blurring/freezing motion.