The all-metal frame boasts satisfyingly sturdy build quality. The R10 comes in silver, brown or black -- and when we say black we mean all black. Even the partly-hidden lens barrel is black.
It's such a chunky camera that it's very easy to hold. The right-hand side sports a rubberised grip with a small ridge for your thumb. This is not the slimmest camera in the world, but we feel that's a plus -- stylistically the R10 has a retro feel, lending it a serious photographic air.
The back sports a large 76mm (3-inch) LCD screen. Buttons line the right-hand side, giving access to playback, menus, Fn, delete and display. The Fn button can be set to access features like an exposure or focus lock, or activating bracketing functions. You can also assign functions such as white balance and exposure compensation to the mini-joystick that navigates menus. We like the joystick, but it's the sort of feature we recommend trying before you buy.
As well as ten scene modes, there are two customisable user modes on the mode wheel, which happily spins 360 degrees in both directions.
The larger-than-most size is balanced by a longer-than-average 7.1x optical zoom. A 28mm wide-angle lens, equivalent to a 35mm film camera, makes the R10 extremely versatile. The wide-angle lens adds to your panoramic landscapes, while the long zoom gives you freedom when shooting portraits or far-away action.
The long zoom is complemented with CCD sensor-shifting image stabilisation. Other features include a 1cm macro function, face detection and backlight compensation. Face detection is a selectable scene mode rather than being on all the time, so it isn't as useful as on other cameras. We had fun with the onscreen spirit level, which is useful and addictive to play with between shots.
All of the shooting functions can be adjusted, including the flash -- very useful for cutting down on bleached-out party shots. One thing that is missing is exposure control, so you have to rely on exposure compensation. As always, Ricoh's menus are simple to navigate and give quick access to the wide range of features. You can skip through menus quickly using tabs at the side, to cut down on interminable scrolling.
Video is not much to write home about, but fine for Web-sharing -- 640x480- or 320x240-pixel resolution, at 30 or 15 frames per second.
With looks and usability in the bag, the R10 is less of a success in the image quality department, unfortunately. Colours are natural and accurate, although portraits could be warmer.
The R10's tweakability gives you a headstart in low light. The option to dial down the flash and limit the ISO speed means you can conjure up cosy pictures in social settings such as parties and pubs. Sadly, with the flash off, noise rears its ugly head as low as ISO 200, an issue that hasn't been solved over previous Ricoh models.
With the boost in resolution over the R8, the R10 actually has more trouble with noise. Noise reduction is evident, but in some of the scene modes this leads to smearing of fine detail. Purple fringing appears in high-contrast areas, but isn't too obtrusive.
Speed is fine if not spectacular, with the autofocus taking its time. Actual start-up and snapping times are perfectly respectable, however.
We like the Ricoh R10 a great deal, just as we liked its predecessors. Sadly, it hasn't made enough headway with the same issues -- namely noise. On the bright side, the camera is so versatile and adjustable that diving into the menus will give you a decent chance to minimise image-quality problems. You could trade up to the 10x zooming Panasonic Lumix DMC- TZ5, or down to the equally feature-packed and more stylish Samsung NV100HD. In terms of usability and features, though, the R10 is head and shoulders above most.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis