There are a lot of interesting features to pick out with the Ricoh GX200.

The first is the wide-angle zoom, which has a focal range equivalent to 24-72mm – perfect for photographers fed up with the rather weak 35mm equivalent 'wide-angles' of many compact cameras.

Image correction

The GX200 goes wider than the kit lens on a DSLR, and the addition of the optional 0.79x wide-angle converter allows an equivalent of 19mm.

There's negligible impact on the optical quality. It has some pretty strong barrel distortion, but the Ricoh corrects this internally as the image is processed. It works really well, and when this feature is enabled the Ricoh produces straighter lines than any other remotely affordable wide-angle zoom, even with the wide-angle adaptor attached.

Images are composed using the LCD display on the rear, which isn't especially large (2.7 inches) but has twice the resolution of most, at 460,000 pixels. The difference is clear – literally.

Even so, the display can get swamped in bright light. You might consider paying £50 more to get the GX200 kit with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) included, which clips on to the accessory shoe. The Ricoh GR does accept an optical viewfinder, which is better, but it's not feasible with a zoom lens.

Shoot RAW

As EVFs go, this one isn't bad, and it will work better in bright conditions. It has an extra trick, though – you can rotate it for waist-level or ground-level shooting.

The GX200 also has an optional 'electronic level' function, which displays a levelling bar on the LCD and gives audible alert when the camera's straight. Vibration correction is built-in, you get a 1cm macro mode and you can even shoot RAW files.

In addition, the Ricoh uses a handy generic DNG format to store images.

Hands-on control

The control layout makes it clear that this is a camera designed for enthusiasts. The main mode dial offers separate Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and manual settings, plus three user-defined custom configurations.

The 'Adj.' controller on the rear opens an abbreviated menu system for common settings and it's used with a control wheel on top of the camera to spin quickly through the options. There are two confi gurable Function buttons elsewhere on the body, too.

This camera's size limits the space available for controls, but Ricoh has developed an exceptionally efficient control system for more hands-on photographers. All this would be wasted, of course, if the picture quality wasn't up to scratch… but actually, it is.

Comprehensive compact camera

The Ricoh GX200 is never going to be a match for a 12-megapixel DSLR, but the definition is good, and the lens proves to be a sharp and consistent performer. The image quality does deteriorate pretty fast as the ISO goes up, but you'd expect that from any compact.

Many DSLR owners will be looking for a smaller compact that they can slide into a pocket, but still gives them enough photographic control. If this is what you're after, the Ricoh GX200 fits the bill perfectly.

Via PhotoRadar