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Arthur’s Look At
Ricoh's New RDC i700 Flying Machine

In the film GoldenEye, James Bond shoots some pictures of suspicious characters from a balcony and by the time he reaches his car, an in-dash fax is churning them out with "IDs" attached; the images had been wirelessly transmitted from his camera to British Intelligence in London and sent back to him in just a few minutes.

"Aw, come on, give me a break," you're probably thinking. "You're not going to tell me that's possible, are you?" Actually, yes, I am. Though it might have been just a fantasy camera concocted in "Q's" lab when the movie was made in 1995, just six years later it's reality. Meet the Ricoh i700 Image Capturing Device– it's even better than 007's!

Smaller and lighter, it can shoot both high and low resolution images, surf the web, upload pictures to a site, and send emails with photo attachments annotated in handwriting, text or voice. And you can crop, rotate, and do some image editing before you send them– all without altering the original file. Want to send a fax? Just photograph a document in the i700's razor-sharp text mode and away she goes. Movies-with-sound? No problem.

Is the i700 a hand-held computer with a camera attached or the other way around? It makes no difference because whatever it is –I call it a camputer– it performs perfectly under whatever hat it's wearing at the time. Ricoh says it's a "communications tool" and supplies three, well-written and illustrated manuals totaling 468 pages. One's for camera operation, a second for communications and Internet usage, and a third for computer interfacing; there's also a quick-start guide for those who have an aversion to Tolstoy.

With up to 3.3MP of resolution, the i700 is housed in a sleek, brushed aluminum and charcoal case and weighs only about a pound with its 1700 mAh rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery in place. It also comes with a separate charger and an extra battery, a refreshing difference that sets it apart from most other digicams. And get this: it has two shutter release buttons so no matter what position you hold it in –or whether you're using its optical or LCD viewfinder– you can always squeeze off a shot without wrist-warp.

Another swell feature that photographers will appreciate is a built-in flash that isn't crammed next to the lens where it would tend to produce pasty-faced subjects. It's way off at one end of the body, giving it excellent separation. No, it's not as good as holding an off-camera flash up and away from the camera but it does make a difference. And you can choose three flash strengths to suit your subject matter. Other amenities include time lapse, exposure auto-bracketing, a sepia mode, and shutter speeds as long as 8 seconds for great creative night shots.

Is there anything lacking? Well, I'd have liked to see an external flash socket and an electronic cable release (though a wireless remote control is available as an option). And also some threads on the lens to take filters and add-on optics would have been nice. Finally, although IBM Microdrive cards fit, they won't work. Ricoh says 2GB Kingston spinners work fine, though they must first be formatted on a PC. My advice is stay away from any kind of mechanical drives; they'll quickly run the battery down and are not as physically robust as solid state CF cards. Aside from the above, all the bases seem to be covered­ including the same digits as Bond's code name.

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