Ricoh CX1 Review
Look and Feel
The Ricoh CX1 is a solid and stylish camera the straddles the line between compact and midsize. The camera feels very well built, as if it was cut from a solid block of metal. The exception, as is often the case, is the flimsy plastic door over the memory card/battery compartment (the adjacent plastic tripod mount also earns some groans from me).
The CX1 is easy to pick up and use with one hand. Ricoh's done a good job of keeping button clutter to a minimum, which makes it fairly easy to pick up the camera and start shooting right away.
Images courtesy of Ricoh
The CX1 will be available in three colors: red, silver, and "champagne rose".
Now, let's take a look at how the CX1 compares to other cameras in its class, in terms of size and weight:
Cameras with image stabilization and 5X or greater come in all shapes and sizes, as the table illustrates. The CX1 is one of the larger of the bunch, but I still found it small enough to carry around in a jeans pocket.
Okay, let's move on to our tour of the Ricoh CX1 now!
The CX1 has the same 7.1X optical zoom lens as the R8 and R10 that came before it. This isn't the fastest lens out there, with a maximum aperture range of F3.3 - F5.2, but that's not uncommon for cameras in this class. The focal range of the lens is 4.95 - 35.4 mm, which is equivalent to an impressive 28 - 200 mm. The lens is not threaded, so conversion lenses are not support.
The CX1 has the same CCD-shift image stabilization system as its predecessors. Sensors inside the camera detect the tiny movements of your hands that can blur your photos, especially in low light or at the telephoto end of the lens. The CX1 shifts the CCD sensor itself to compensation for this shake, resulting in a higher likelihood of a sharp photo. It can't work miracles, though: it can't freeze a moving subject, nor will it allow you to take multi-second exposure without a tripod. It's way better than nothing at all, of course. Want some examples of the IS system in action? Have a look at these:
Image stabilization off
Image stabilization on
I took both of the above photos at the telephoto end of the lens, with a shutter speed of just 1/4 second. As you can see, the image stabilization system did its job, producing a sharp photo that wasn't otherwise possible. Video fanatics take note: you cannot use the image stabilization system in movie mode on the Ricoh CX1.
At the upper-left of the photo is the CX1's built-in flash. This flash is on the weak side, with a working range of 0.2 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.25 - 2.0 m at wide-angle (both at Auto ISO). You cannot attach an external flash to the CX1.
Right next to the flash is the camera's AF-assist lamp, which is used as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.
The Ricoh CX1 has a spectacular LCD for a relatively inexpensive compact camera. This 3-inch screen has a whopping 920,000 pixels, which is the same as you'll find on some pretty expensive digital SLRs. Overall, everything looks very nice, though everything seems softer than I would've expected, perhaps due to the anti-glare coating on the screen. Visibility in both bright outdoor light and low light were fairly good.
As you can tell, there's no optical viewfinder on the CX1. This will bother some people, while others may not even notice.
At the top-right of the photo is the CX1's four-way controller, which Ricoh calls the Adjustment/OK button. You'll use this for navigating menus, reviewing photos you've taken, and also:
- Left - Macro (on/off)
- Right - Flash setting (Flash off, auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, slow sync)
- Center - Adjustment menu + OK
Customizable shortcut menu
Pressing the Adj/OK button inward opens up a shortcut menu. The first four items are customizable, and the last one lets you select the AE/AF target. The AE/AF target feature lets you set the spot in the frame on which to measure exposure, focus, or both.
Under the four-way controller is the button for entering playback mode. To the left of that are four more buttons:
- Self-timer (2 or 10 secs, custom) + Delete Photo
- Display - toggles what's on the LCD
The Function button is also customizable. By default, it turns on the "macro target" feature, which lets you select the AF point for close-up shooting (good for when the camera is on a tripod). I'll list the other available options later in the menu section of this review.
The custom self-timer lets you take anywhere from 1 - 10 photos at intervals of 5 - 10 seconds between each shot.
The last item of note on the back of the camera is the speaker, which is a the lower-right of the above photo.
The first thing to see on the top of the CX1 is the power button, which has the microphone above it.
Next up is the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in under 0.8 seconds. The zoom controller was a little jumpy, making it hard to make precise movements, but there seemed to be at least 20-25 steps in the 7.1X zoom range. The CX1 also has a unique "step zoom" feature, which moves the lens from one focal length to another, in this order: 28, 35, 50, 85, 105, 135, and 200 mm.
At the far right of the photo is the camera's mode dial, which has these options:
Scene mode menu
Although there are a few manual controls, overall the CX1 is pretty much a point-and-shoot camera. You've got plenty of automatic modes to choose from, plus plenty of scene modes. Some of the notable scene modes include face detection, high sensitivity, zoom macro, and skew correction.
The camera located two faces
I do want to mention a few of the scene modes before we continue. The "face" scene activates the CX1's face detection system. The camera can detect up to four faces in the frame (a fairly low number these days), making sure they are properly focused and exposed. The camera struggled to locate just two of the six faces in our test scene, making it one of the least impressive implementations of face detection out there.
The high sensitivity mode does just as it sounds -- it boosts the ISO sensitivity, though I do not know the upper limit (presumably 1600). I'd pass on this one, though, as the resulting images can be quite soft and noisy.
The zoom macro feature is simply macro mode plus digital zoom. The optical zoom gets locked at around the 2X position, and you can use the digital zoom to get closer. I'm not sure why you'd want to use this feature, but there you go.
|Before skew correction||After skew correction|
The last scene mode of note is skew correction. This lets you take photos of business cards, documents, and white boards, and the camera will remove the resulting distortion automatically. The resulting image is on the fuzzy side, and the resolution must be 1280 x 960 or below, but this feature does work! Skew correction can also be used in playback mode, on photos you've already taken.
The CX1's CMOS sensor allows you for some impressive continuous shooting performance, and to get to it, you'll need to switch to the appropriate spot on the mode dial. Once there you'll find three different continuous modes: normal, M-Cont Plus, and Speed Cont. The CX1 turned in an impressive performance in normal continuous mode, taking 18 shots in a row at a snappy 4.0 frames/second. The LCD keeps up with the action, so tracking a moving subject should not be a problem.
In M-Cont Plus mode, the camera starts snapping away when you halfway-press the shutter release button, at either 15 or 30 frames/second. When you fully press the shutter release, the last 1 or 2 seconds of photos are saved (depending on what speed you chose), for a total of thirty images. Photos are recorded at the 2 Megapixel resolution.
If you want to shoot even faster, then there's the Speed Continuous mode. Here, the camera takes 120 photos in a row at either 60 or 120 frames/second. As you might imagine, the resolution is low -- 640 x 480, to be exact.
The last item on the mode dial I want to mention is the CX1's unique dynamic range double-shot mode. In this mode, the camera takes two exposures -- one overexposed, the other underexposed -- and combines them into a single photo. The result should be better dynamic range, meaning: fewer blown highlights and more shadow detail. You can adjust the "strength" of this feature, which choices of very weak, weak (default), medium, and strong. Does it actually work?
|Regular shot||Dynamic range double-shot, medium strength|
The answer is: sometimes. I took quite a few shots on a partly cloudy day, and sometimes I saw little-to-no difference, while other times it was more significant (like above). I did notice that images taken with the double-shot mode were a lot softer than regular photos (which are already short on fine detail), so keep that in mind if you plan on using this feature. There's an option in the record menu that lets you take a regular photo along with the DR double-shot, which I'd recommend using.
And that just about does it for the top of the CX1!
Nothing to see here...
On the other side of the CX1, you'll find its I/O ports, which are protected by a rubber cover. The ports are for A/V out and USB. As you'd expect these days, the CX1 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to a Mac or PC.
If you buy the AC adapter, you insert a DC coupler into the battery compartment, and feed the power cord through the little door that's right below the lower wrist strap anchor.
The lens is at the full telephoto position here.
On the bottom of the camera you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo!) as well as the memory/battery compartment. The plastic door that covers this compartment is reinforced, but it still feels a little flimsy. As you can probably tell, you cannot access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod.
The included DB-70 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.