Ricoh Caplio 400G Wide
Review Date: 22nd June 2004
Ease of Use
The Ricoh Caplio 400G Wide is essentially a water-proofed version of the Ricoh Caplio G4 that I reviewed last year, so all of the comments that I made about that camera apply to the 400G Wide as well. It 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 Caplio 400G Wide 's interface, both software and the camera body, employs options and concepts that are an accepted part of the photographic industry. The main thing that you will literally have to get to grips with is the waterproof, rubberised external controls, which have been designed to be easily used underwater.
The Caplio 400G Wide 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 400G Wide 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. Due to its waterproof design, the camera really need to be operated with two hands. The memory card, battery and the USB connections are all housed behind very secure covers that are closed by using large plastic switches. The lens itself is protected by a clear glass screen. The Ricoh Caplio 400G Wide is very well-built and looks as if it will withstand the kind of abuse that Ricoh claims it can withstand.
Ricoh's claims about the speed of the Caplio 400G Wide in terms of starting up the camera and shutter-lag do seem to be accurate. With a lot of 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 400G Wide seems to have solved both these issues, an example that will hopefully be followed by other manufacturers.
A lot of the Caplio 400G Wide'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 400G Wide in the semi-automatic category of digicams.