A shock-resistant, waterproof camera with high resolution and a 5x optical zoom lens.Ricoh’s G600 is the latest in a line of compact, point-and-shoot digicams that have been designed for the Japanese public works sector. Featuring a shock-proof, waterproof and dust-resisting body it is the most versatile models to date. With a 10-megapixel imager and 5x optical zoom lens equivalent to 28-140mm in 35mm format, it should appeal to adventurous photographers. . . [more]
Ricoh’s G600 is the latest in a line of compact, point-and-shoot digicams that have been designed for the Japanese public works sector. Featuring a shock-proof, waterproof and dust-resisting body it is the most versatile models to date. With a 10-megapixel imager and 5x optical zoom lens equivalent to 28-140mm in 35mm format, it should appeal to adventurous photographers.
Water resistance is rated at JIS protection grade 7, with underwater shooting up to a depth of one meter suiting snorkelers and boating enthusiasts. Dust resistance, at JIS protection grade 6, is ideal for shooting in dusty and sandy environments while the G600 is usable down to a temperature of -10 °C. In drop testing performed in accordance with US Department of Defense standards, the G600 passed the 1.5 meter shock resistance test.
The G600’s body is covered with a solid rubber coating for impact resistance and it has a ridged hand-grip on the right hand side that is secure and comfortable to hold. A 2.7-inch LCD screen dominates the rear panel, which also carries a standard arrow pad with a central Menu/OK button. Three of the ‘arrows’ provide quick access to the macro, flash and mode settings, the latter when Scene mode is selected. Other buttons on this panel include Playback and ADJ/MEMO buttons, along with buttons for switching on the display and self-timer/delete functions.
An orange zoom rocker lies on a thumb pad just below the top right hand corner of the rear panel. All zooming takes place within the camera body. The lens, which is small and relatively slow, is encased in the body behind a solid-looking transparent shield. Users can fit a wide conversion lens (DW-5), which provides a magnification of 0.8 times, extending the wide focal length to the equivalent of 22mm in 35mm format.
The battery and memory card slot share a compartment in the base of the camera. It’s opened by twisting an orange-coloured lock and appears to have good sealing. The G600 is supplied with a rechargeable battery, which is rated for approximately 360 shots. However, it will also accept two AAA cells, which provide enough power for approximately 60 shots when alkaline batteries are used. The camera is compatible with SD and SDHC cards and will accept up to 8GB cards.
An accessory shoe on the top panel allows external flash units to be attached. However they can only be used as slaves as no ‘hot’ contact is provided for TTL operation. The G600’s built-in flash is a narrow tube embedded in the left hand side of the front panel. Also on the top panel are the on/off switch, shutter button and mode dial.
Five settings are provided on the mode dial. The first mode, tagged ‘CALS’, is designed to allow photographers to take pictures for submission as official public works pictures. The default setting is N1280(1m), which records images with a resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels and normal compression. However, you can re-set the resolution to as high as 8M or as low as VGA, although the compression remains fixed on normal – except at 1280 x 960 pixels, where a Fine setting is also provided.
The second mode is denoted by a green camera icon and supports Program AE shooting. In this mode, users can access the full range of image size and quality settings up to 10-megapixels. Other camera controls are the same in both the CALS and camera modes and include manual adjustments for ISO, white balance and exposure compensation, which are quickly accessed via a dedicated ADJ/MEMO button on the rear panel.
The two My’ modes are memory banks in which groups of camera settings can be ‘registered’ for later use. The Scene mode has some interesting settings that relate directly to the target market for this camera. They include High Sensitivity, Firefighting, Skew Correction, Text, Zoom Macro and Movie. No settings are provided for the standard portrait, landscape, sports and night modes – a significant departure from normal practice for point-and-shoot digicams.
The Scene menu on the G600 has modes designed for the camera’s target market – but not for general snapshooters.
We were surprised to find the Movie mode hidden away at the tail end of the Scene mode selections. Ricoh doesn’t appear to think it’s very important for users as it provides very little information about the G600’s video recording capabilities. Two resolutions are supported for video clip recording but only one frame rate. However, we were unable to find details of the frame rate, either in the camera’s manual or online. It may be fairly high as you can only fit just over 6.5 minutes of video on a 1GB card at VGA resolution or variable as you can record 20.5 minutes on a 1GB card at QVGA resolution.
The movie menu provides a limited suite of adjustments.
Like most point-and-shoot digicams, the G600 provides little in the way of exposure adjustments. Pressing the ADJ/MEMO button accesses three frequently-used functions: exposure compensation, white balance and ISO. The arrow pad is used to select the parameter to adjust and also toggle through the available settings and select the relevant one.
Using the ADJ/MEMO menu for exposure compensation adjustments.
White balance adjustments.
The main menu has four pages of shooting settings, each with five entries, although the last one has only one entry: restore defaults. The set-up menu is similarly structured with five pages and only two entries on the final page. Menu legibility is above average and the overall structure is logical, with minimal toggling required for the more frequently-used settings.
Like many digicams, the G600 includes multi-pattern, centre-weighted average and spot metering. It also includes Ricoh’s standard focusing mode settings, which include multi- and spot AF, manual focusing and ‘snap’ and infinity settings. Three levels of sharpness adjustment are provided, along with four ‘colour depth’ settings: strong, normal, neutral and B&W.
Auto bracketing is provided for exposures and white balance and the ‘time exposure’ setting supports one-, two-, four- and eight-second exposures. White balance options include Auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Fluorescent and two Incandescent presets plus manual measurement. ISO settings range from 64 to 3200 in one EV increments.
Manual focusing is rather clunky. Selecting MF displays a focusing bar on the left side of the LCD, along with an MF icon. You can enlarge this display by pressing the down button on the arrow pad. The zoom rocker is used for adjusting the focus and precise focusing is somewhat limited by the sensitivity of the zoom control. We presume Ricoh intended the large depth of field of the image sensor to provide flexibility to cover this lack of precision.
The G600 only records still pictures as JPEGs and seven continuous-tone image size settings are provided – including a 3:2 aspect ratio setting. Two compression levels are provided for some sizes. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
3648 x 2736
3648 x 2432
3264 x 2448
2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
1280 x 960
640 x 480
There are also two Text Mode options. The 3648 x 2736 setting produces text files that average 2.39MB in size, while the 2048 x 1536 setting produces 0.84MB files.
Playback & Software
Pressing the playback button on the rear panel – which is designated by a green arrow – displays the last shot taken. You can jump backwards or forwards 10 shots by pressing the up or down arrows on the arrow pad and toggle between shooting and playback by pressing the playback button. In playback mode, pressing the lower button on the zoom rocker calls up a 12-frame index display, while pressing the upper button enlarges the selected image by up to 16x (depending on shot resolution).
Two of the four available playback display options.
The usual rotation, resizing, copying and DPOF marking for automated printing are provided and you can play slideshows, delete individual shots or specify files for bulk deletion. You can also correct image contrast and use the skew correction function in playback mode and protect individual files.
The Playback menu.
Deleted files can also be restored with the Recover File function, although only if they haven’t been altered since the shot was taken. If you’ve re-sized or copied a file or applied contrast or skew correction, the file cannot be recovered.
The software disk contains Ricoh Gate La, which is designed to facilitate file downloading from the camera and allows users to set up folders for storing the contents of memory cards. In the absence of a user-determined folder naming system, each folder will be named by the date of the download.
Pictures taken with the test camera were bright and colourful with the elevated saturation we’ve come to expect from small-sensor digicams. Autofocusing was relatively fast, although not always accurate (see the comments on close-ups below). Imatest performance was not quite as good as the Ricoh R8, which appears to have the same image sensor as the G600. However, both cameras have similar dynamic range limitations.
Imatest showed the test camera’s resolution to be lower than expectations for a 10-megapixel camera. It also revealed a relatively high level of edge softening, particularly at mid-range focal length settings, which had the best resolution performance. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Resolution also declined as sensitivity was increased beyond ISO 200, with very low figures recorded at ISO 800 and above. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Colour accuracy was slightly lower than expectations in our Imatest assessments, which showed skin tones to be slightly off the mark and revealed shifts in reds, blues and olive green. Saturation was elevated by almost 20%, which is high for a current digicam. Lateral chromatic aberration was moderate in our Imatest assessments but we found only slight evidence of coloured fringing in outdoor shots.
The auto white balance control had the usual problems with incandescent lighting but produced neutral colours with fluorescent lighting. The pre-sets tended towards slight over-correction but the manual measurement was close to the mark. The built-in flash had insufficient power to illuminate an average-sized room, except at the ISO settings of 800 and above. No flash output adjustments are provided.
Close-up performance was very good – as long as the camera managed to focus on the subject. However, there were times when the AF system overlooked close subjects and focused on the background, particularly when we were taking shots of flowers on bushes. Digital zoom shots were slightly soft.
Video quality was pretty ordinary, particularly with the QVGA setting, which produced clips that were artifact-affected and relatively jerky. Even with the VGA setting, the sound track was frequently unclear and sounded rather flat on the whole.
It took just over a second to power up the test camera and only a little longer to shut it down. Shot-to-shot times with the test camera averaged 1.5 seconds without flash and just under three seconds with. The camera took just over half a second to display a high-resolution shot on the LCD screen but the ‘Recording’ message remained superimposed on the image for almost 10 seconds.
We measured an average capture lag of 0.9 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. The continuous shooting mode recorded six high-resolution shots at intervals of 0.9 seconds. It took 9.3 sec to process this burst.
With its impeccable water, dust and impact-resisting credentials, we thought the G600 would be a good camera to take on our recent trip into the Simpson Desert. Consequently, most of the test shots used for this review were taken on this trip.
Unfortunately, during the trip we found the absence of an optical viewfinder a real barrier to satisfying photography because the legibility of the LCD declines dramatically in bright outdoor lighting. This turns picture-taking into a point-and-guess exercise because you can’t easily frame the shot on the screen before taking it.
In dim lighting, the LCD is much more usable and you can frame shots with relative ease. However, the camera’s poor performance at high ISO settings means most shots won’t stand up to the degree of enlargement you would expect from a 10-megapixel camera, although they would generally be usable for snapshot-sized prints.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up of a Badge Huntsman spider about the size of a 50 cent piece.
The above shots show the extent of the G600’s zoom range, with the top picture taken on the Wide setting and the lower one at the Tele end of the optical zoom range.
Backlighting was handled relatively well, despite the test camera’s limited dynamic range.
However, traces of lens flare were seen in some backlit shots.
Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62mm CCD with 10.3 Million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
Lens: 5.0-25mm f/3.5-5.5 zoom lens (28-140mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 5x optical, up to 4x digital
Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.21); Movies ““ AVI Open DMLMotion JPEG with sound
Image Sizes: Stills – 3648×2736, 3264 x 2448, 2592×1944, 2048×1536, 1600×1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480; Movies – 640 x 480 at 15/30 fps, 320 x 240 at 15/30 fps
Shutter speed range: 8, 4, 2, 1 to 1/1500 seconds
Image Stabilisation: Digital only
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in 1/3 step increments (auto bracketing -0.5Ev to +0.5EV)
Focus system/range: CCD method Multi or Spot AF plus manual/snap/infinity focus; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm (wide-angle)
Exposure metering/control: TTL-CCD 256-segment multi, centre-weighted and/Spot metering; Program AE plus 5 scene mode settings
ISO range: Auto, ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance: Auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent (x2), Fluorescent, manual
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, red-eye reduction, on, off; range 0.2-10.0 metres (wide angle) or 0.4-6.2 metres (telephoto)
Sequence shooting: 1.0 fps (6.9 fps at 3MP in high-speed mode)
Storage Media: Approx. 52MB Internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
LCD monitor: 2.7-inch transparent amorphous silicon LCD Screen (230,000 pixels)
Power supply: DB-60 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (approx. 360 shots/charge) or 2x AAA alkaline, NiMH or Oxyride batteries (approx 60 shots)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 116.5 x 68.0 x 32.0 mm
Weight: 260 grams (without battery and card)
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