[Updated: February 21, 2008 @ 5:28 am] I'm a big fan of extra-wide point-and-shoot cameras so I'm looking forward to getting a closer look at the new Ricoh R8, announced yesterday. Like its predecessor the R7 (which wasn't released in the U.S.), the R8 sports a fairly wide f/3.3-5.2 28mm-200mm-equivalent
7.5x 7.1x zoom lens. Ricoh only recently re-entered the U.S. camera market with last year's launch of the GR Digital II and won't be shipping the R50 (another wide compact announced yesterday, with a 5x zoom) in the U.S.
The R8 utilizes a 10-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD with a CCD Shift Vibration Correction function (read CCD-shift image stabilization). A big, relatively high resolution (460,000-pixel) 2.7-inch LCD allows for 20 thumbnail images (but doesn't leave room for an optical viewfinder).
Though it's the wide and long zoom squeezed into a slim form-factor (4.0 x 2.3 x 1.0 inches) that I find most appealing, the R8 has some interesting features that set it apart from the crowd as well. For example, you can step the zoom to specific focal lengths (i.e., 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, and 200mm). You can also set the camera's aspect ratio to 1:1, which gives you a square medium-format-like shot which was popular in the GR Digital II. Other nice features include a fixed snap focus, as well as the ability to shift the target for both auto focus and auto exposure, without moving the camera. The sleek R8 comes in black or silver and is expected to ship in March 2008 for about $399.