The quality of Ricoh's offerings has been variable of late. However, it seems to have turned a corner with the Caplio R1. Of all the cameras tested here, this is the best built; the R1's metal body feels robust and capable of withstanding a bit of punishment.

To the front of this slim rectangular camera is a sliding switch that pulls to the right and activates a lens cover, revealing a very large 4.8x zoom lens. The start-up time is very quick indeed. Even better, the R1's zoom lens covers a range of 28-135mm, which is the widest on offer in this group test. Not only is its range good but the sharpness is superb, showing up plenty of detail, right down to the amazing 1cm macro setting.

Image quality is excellent and exposure worked very well in our test shots - apart from the occasional blown-out highlight. There's no trace of shutter lag and you can turn the shutter noise off on this model and work with a camera that is total silent.

The R1's screen quality is very good and certainly detailed enough for checking sharpness and shadow details. The controls that are next to the screen are a bit disconcerting. They have little in the way of tactile feedback, so it can be a little difficult to know if you've successfully pressed a button.

Like most of the other cameras on test here, the R1 uses just two AA batteries for its power. Ricoh doesn't supply rechargeables so you would be well advised to invest in a set of NiMH batteries. However, the power consumption is good.

Images can be stored on the internal memory, which hold around seven full-res images, or else you can invest in an optional SD card. We'd suggest you buy yourself a 256MB card along with that set of rechargeable batteries. Mark Sparrow