Originally Posted: June 9, 2009
Last Updated: June 10, 2009
The Ricoh CX1 ($369) is a compact metal camera featuring a 9.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor, a powerful 7.1X optical zoom lens, sensor-shift image stabilization, a super-sharp 3-inch LCD, 4 frame/second continuous shooting, and a VGA movie mode (bah). Some of the CX1's more unique features include multi-segment white balance, a dynamic range double-shot mode, multiple types of bracketing, a multi-target AF feature, skew correction, and an electronic level. The's autofocus performance has also been greatly improved compared to the CX1's predecessor, the R10.
As with other Ricoh cameras, U.S. availability is limited to a very small handful of retailers.
The last Ricoh camera that I tested was the R8. While I like the design and features of that camera, its image quality was unimpressive. Have things improved on the new CX1? Keep on reading to find out!
What's in the Box?
The CX1 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 9.3 effective Megapixel Ricoh CX1 digital camera
- DB-70 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Hand strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Caplio software
- 235 page camera manual (printed)
As is the case with most cameras these days, Ricoh has built memory into the CX1, instead of bundling a memory card. The camera has 88MB of built-in memory, which is quite a lot these days. Even so, you'll want to buy a decent-sized memory card right away, and I suggest a 2GB start with. The CX1 supports both SD and SDHC cards, and while a high speed card certainly won't hurt, you don't need to go overboard.
The CX1 uses the same DB-70 lithium-ion rechargeable battery as the R8 and R10. This compact battery holds 3.6 Wh of energy inside its plastic shell, which is on the low end of the spectrum. Here's how that translates into battery life:
All of the cameras in the table above are compact, and feature 5X or greater zoom lenses with image stabilization. As you can see, the CX1 tied with several other cameras for the top spot.
Like all of the cameras on the above list, the Ricoh CX1 uses a proprietary battery. Those tend to be expensive (a spare will set you back at least $40), and when they run out of juice, you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery to get you through the day.
When it's time to charge the battery, just snap it into the included charger. This is my favorite type of charger: it plugs directly into the wall. It takes 100 minutes for a typical charge of the DB-70.
As with most compact cameras, the CX1 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clumsy lens cap to deal with. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera, especially considering how big of a lens it has!
Ricoh produces just a couple of accessories for the CX1. They include:
About the only exciting thing on that list is the remote shutter release cable, which is always a nice option to have. Let's move on to software.
Irodio Photo & Video Studio in Windows Vista
While photos are actually transferred by a tiny program called DL-10 (which doesn't even let you select which photos to copy over), the main piece of software that comes with the CX1 is Irodio Photo & Video Studio. This software is for Windows only, though Mac users can get by just fine using iPhoto.
Irodio Photo & Video Studio is a pretty good application. The main screen has the same thumbnail view and file navigator as every other image browser. On this screen, you can print or e-mail photos, rotate and resize them, or start a slideshow.
Editing JPEGs in Photo & Video Studio
Double-click on an image and you'll end up here, on the edit screen. There are plenty of tools available, and you can see them on the left side of the above screenshot (if you squint). Highlights include a horizon tool (for straightening photos), auto image quality enhancement, and redeye removal. There are also several "artistic effects" available, if you're so inclined.
Ricoh includes a thick, detailed manual with the CX1. It's certainly not the most user-friendly manual I've seen, but it will certainly answer any question that you may have about the camera. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your PC.
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.
Using the Ricoh CX1
It takes the Ricoh CX1 about 1.6 seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's a fairly average number.
A live histogram and a handy electronic level are available in record mode
The CX1 is pretty snappy in the focusing department. At wide-angle, it took between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds to lock focus, while telephoto focus times ranged from 0.5 - 0.8 seconds. Low light focusing was good as well, staying at one second or less in most situations. I did find the focus motor to be on the noisy side, for what it's worth.
I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot delays are brief. When you're not using the flash, you'll wait for around a second before you can take another photo. With the flash, expect a 2-3 second wait.
If you want the ability to delete photos after they're taken, you'll need to set the "LCD confirmation time" option to hold. Otherwise, you can't do it.
Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the camera:
Nice to see a camera that actually hold a decent amount of photos on its built-in memory! Still, you'll want to buy a larger memory card right away.
While the CX1 can shoot in 3:2 and 1:1 aspect ratios, surprisingly there's no 16:9 option. The CX1 does not support the RAW image format.
It's important to note that photos taken in M-Cont Plus, Speed Cont, and Multi-target AF modes are packaged into a single file, known as an MP file. While you won't notice this when you're viewing photos on the camera (aside from the fact that they're presented as a "stack" of photos), you will when you browse through your memory card. In order to get the photos split off into JPEGs, you must first use the "export" function in playback mode.
The CX1 has probably the least attractive menu system I've seen in years, reminding me of something from the early 80's. If you can get over the appearance, you'll find the menu fairly easy to navigate. Keeping in mind that not all of these options will be available in every shooting mode, here's the full list of options in the recording menu:
- Pic quality/size (see above chart)
- Movie size (640 x 480, 320 x 240)
- Frame rate (30, 15 fps)
- Density (Light, normal, deep) - change the shading of text while in that scene mode
- Size (9M, 3M) - image size for text mode
- Focus (Multi AF, spot AF, multi-target AF, MF, snap, infinity) - see below
- Exposure metering (Multi, center, spot)
- Image settings (Hard, normal, soft, custom, black & white, sepia) - see below
- Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- Auto bracket (Off, on, WB-BKT, CL-BKT, FOCUS-BK) - see below
- Dynamic range expansion (Very weak, weak, medium, strong) - only shown in dynamic range double-shot mode
- Plus normal shooting (on/off) - whether an untouched photo is saved along with the dynamic range double-shot image
- Time exposure (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8 secs) - for taking long exposures
- Custom self-timer
- Pictures (1 - 10)
- Interval (5 - 10 secs)
- Fix minimum aperture (on/off) - uses a smaller aperture, for more depth-of-field
- Interval (Off, 5 secs - 1 hour) - see below
- Camera shake correction (on/off) - turns image stabilization on and off
- Slow shutter limit (Off, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 sec) - how slow a shutter speed the camera will use
- Date imprint (Off, date, date & time)
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments)
- White balance (Auto, multi-point auto, outdoors, cloudy, incandescent 1/2, fluorescent, manual) - see below
- ISO setting (Auto, Auto-Hi, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - the "hi" option simply uses a higher sensitivity [which you can set] than regular Auto
- Restore defaults
The CX1 has quite a few focus options available. The multi (9-point), spot, and infinity settings should be self-explanatory. The multi-target option is somewhat unique: when you halfway-press the shutter release button, the camera will select several different objects on which to focus. It will then take seven photos in a row, one at each different focus distance. The example Ricoh gives involves taking photos of roses, and I can't think of anything better to illustrate when you might use this feature. The CX1 can also focus manually, allowing you to set the focus distance with the four-way controller. While a guide is shown on the LCD shows relative focus distance, the lack of actual numbers makes it borderline useless. The center of the frame is enlarged, so you can confirm that your subject is in focus.
The image settings option lets you quickly contrast, sharpness, and saturation, though Ricoh's choice of words isn't the best (soft, normal, or hard?). If you want to customize things to your liking, select the "custom" option (see screenshot above). The image settings option is also where you can activate black and white or sepia mode.
The CX1 can bracket for four different things: exposure, white balance, color, and focus. Exposure bracketing takes three photos in a row, each with a different exposure compensation value. The interval between each shot is ±0.5EV. White balance bracketing is similar: the camera takes a reddish image, a bluish image, and then an image at the current WB setting. Color bracketing takes black and white, color, and sepia images, all at the push of a button. As you might've guessed, focus bracketing takes several shots in a row (five, to be exact), each with a different focus distance.
The time exposure feature is the only way to take long exposures on the CX1. You're limited to just four shutter speed choices: 1, 2, 4, and 8 seconds. The interval (time-lapse) option lets you take photos at a set interval, ranging from 5 seconds to 1 hour. You'll want a fully charged battery or the optional AC adapter if you plan on using this feature successfully.
The last thing I want to mention here are the white balance options. The camera has two auto modes: regular, and multi-point. As its name implies, multi-point WB is supposed to sample the image in sections, for more accurate color in mixed lighting. I set up an experiment to see if it made any difference, and if it did, I sure didn't notice. You can set the white balance manually, as well, using a white or gray card -- we'll see how well that worked in a few moments, when I get to the photo tests.
Let's move onto the setup menu now, which has quite a few options. They include:
- Format [card]
- Format [internal memory that ]
- LCD brightness (-4 to +4)
- Register My Settings (Setting 1, 2) - store favorite settings to spots on mode dial
- Step zoom (on/off) - described earlier
- Set Function button (Off, macro target, step zoom, AE lock, AF/M-target AF, AF/MF, AF/snap, AE-BKT, WB-BKT, CL-BKT, FOCUS-BKT, minimum aperture) - what this buttons does
- Adj. button setting 1/2/3/4 (Off, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, quality, focus, image quality, metering, auto bracket, flash compensation, minimum aperture) - fill the four slows in the shortcut menu
- ISO Auto-High (ISO 400, 800, 1600) - how high the ISO will go in the "Auto High" mode
- AF auxiliary lamp (on/off)
- Operation sounds (All, level sound, shutter sounds)
- Volume settings (0-3)
- LCD confirmation time (Off, 0.5, 1, 2, 3 secs, hold) - post-shot review
- Auto power off (Off, 1, 5, 30 mins)
- LCD auto dim (on/off) - dims the screen when camera is idle
- Digital zoom image (Normal, auto resize)
- Level setting (Off, display, display+sound, sound) - see below
- Shooting info display frame (on/off)
- Minimum distance (Show, hide) - whether min. focus distance is shown on LCD
- Auto rotate (on/off)
- Card sequence number (on/off)
- Date settings
- Video out mode (NTSC, PAL)
I want to mention two things quickly before we hit the photo tests. First, the "digital zoom image" option. Normally, using digital zoom will degrade the quality of the image. However, if you use the "auto resize" option, the camera will reduce the resolution of the image as you increase the amount of digital zoom. For example, if you're using 1.7X digital zoom, the photo will be resized to 3 Megapixel.
The digital level (bottom center) is green, so I know I'm good
You caught a glimpse of it before, but I have to mention it again, since I like the electronic level so much. This feature shows a guide on the bottom of the LCD, turning green (or beeping) when the camera is level. Very handy for people like me who can't seem to get their horizons straight!
Enough about menus, let's move onto our photo tests now.
The Ricoh CX1 gets mixed reviews from me in the macro department. The good news is that the subject is sharp, and the colors accurate. The bad news is that you can easily spot noise and noise reduction here, and this is at ISO 80. That doesn't bode well for how things will look at higher sensitivities.
I should point out that as soon as you enter macro mode, the lens zooms in a little, to the 32 mm position. At that point, you can be as close to your subject as just 1 cm. At the telephoto end of the lens, that distance jumps to 25 cm - quite close considering that you're at 200 mm.
There are two ways to take night shots like the one you see above on the Ricoh CX1. You can use the nightscape scene mode, or you can select the "time exposure" option, which lets you pick one of four slow shutter speeds. Naturally, the shutter speed that would've worked best was right in-between what was available; 4 seconds (shown above) wasn't enough, while 8 seconds was too much. Thus, the photo above is on the dark side. While the buildings are sharp, you can easily pick out noise in the low contrast areas of the scene. The CX1 handled highlights fairly well, and purple fringing was not a problem.
Since I can't control the shutter speed and ISO at the same time, I'm unable to perform the low light ISO test. Look for the studio ISO test below.
There's very little barrel distortion at the wide end of the Ricoh CX1's 28 - 200 mm zoom lens, which is always nice to see. Vignetting (dark corners) wasn't a problem, and corner blurriness was generally mild.
Compact cameras almost all have redeye problems, and the CX1 is no exception. While most cameras these days have digital redeye removal systems -- some of which work as the photos is taken -- the CX1 sticks with the old preflash system that doesn't really work. Bottom line: plan on spending some time removing this annoyance on your Mac or PC.
Here now is the studio ISO test that I promised you. Since it's taken under consistent lighting, you can compare it with other cameras that I've reviewed over the years. While the crops below give you a quick idea as to the noise levels at each settings, viewing the full size images is always a good idea. And with that, here we go:
The ISO 80 image is fairly clean, though you'll spot some noise in the areas of solid color (especially the black part of the poster), and some jaggies on the bottle of hot sauce. Things get a little bit worse at ISO 100 and 200, but you probably won't notice unless you're inspecting things on your computer screen at 100%. Detail levels start to go south at ISO 400 due to noise reduction, so this is as high as I'd take the CX1 (and that's in good light). At ISO 800 and above, photos start to look pixelated, with plenty of lost detail. At ISO 1600 I spotted some strange color bleeding on the TiVo doll, as well.
As with the last couple of Ricoh cameras that I've reviewed, the CX1's image quality is disappointing, for one reason: too much noise reduction. Before I get into that, I can tell you that exposure was generally solid, though you will see some highlight clipping occasionally, as you will on nearly all compact cameras. Colors were saturated and accurate most of the time, though I did notice a color cast in the last three photos in the gallery. At first glance, photos look pretty sharp, but if you inspect fine details such as grass, leaves, and other areas of low contrast, you'll see noise reduction at work, smudging away details (example). Most compact cameras aren't great at the pixel level, but the CX1 is definitely worse than average. If you're keeping the ISO low and making small prints, then this may not bother you. But if you're printing 8 x 10's, viewing images on your computer screen, or shooting at high ISOs, then you're definitely going to want to find a camera with less aggressive noise reduction.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, and see for yourself. Printing a few of the photos isn't a bad idea, either.
Despite its CMOS sensor, the Ricoh CX1 has a rather uninspired movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound, until you hit the 4GB file size limit. That takes about 38 minutes at the highest quality setting.
For longer movies, you can cut the resolution (to 320 x 240), the frame rate (to 15 fps), or both.
As is usually the case, you cannot use the optical zoom while you're recording a movie. And, disappointingly, you cannot use the image stabilizer, either (which isn't uncommon on cameras with sensor-shift IS).
Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
Here's a sample movie for you, taken at the VGA/30 fps setting. I wasn't overly impressed with the CX1's video quality, either.
Click to play movie (22.9 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Ricoh CX1 has some unique features in its playback mode. First, though, the basics, which include: slideshows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and "zoom and scroll". This last feature lets you enlarge an image by as much as 16X, and then move around in the enlarged area. You can zoom in slowly with the zoom controller, or jump right to 8X or 16X by pressing the Adj/OK button.
Photos can be rotated, resized, and cropped right on the camera. Here you can also extract photos out of an MP file, which was created if you used the fast continuous shooting or Multi-target AF modes. Photos can be "flagged" in playback mode, for easy retrieval later. To see the photos you've flagged, just press the Function button while in playback mode.
|Level compensation||White balance compensation|
The CX1 has some unique in-camera photo retouching options, as well. I already mentioned skew correction back when I talked about scene modes. There's also level and white balance compensation. Level compensation works just like it does in Photoshop. You get a histogram, and you can adjust the brightness of the shadows, midtones, and highlights using the four-way controller. If you want better contrast and brightness without having to play with histograms, the camera can fix things automatically, too.
White balance compensation lets you adjust the "tint" of a photo in the blue-amber and/or green-magenta directions. While this feature is handy, it would've been a heck of a lot nicer (not to mention, more effective) if it was available in record mode instead.
The CX1 has one last neat trick up its sleeve: the ability to restore a photo or photos that you just deleted. There's a window of opportunity in which you can use this feature (turning off the camera or switching to record mode closes it), but it does work if you follow the rules. Speaking of deleting photos, you can do so one at a time, in a group, or all at once.
By default, you'll see some basic information about your photo on the LCD. Press the Display button and you'll see a bit more, plus a histogram. An additional press will show areas of the photo that were overexposed.
The camera moves from photo to photo without delay.
How Does it Compare?
The Ricoh CX1 takes the fundamental features from their R10 digital camera, and throws in a new CMOS sensor and a larger, ultra-high resolution LCD. The CMOS sensor allows for some neat tricks (such as the dynamic range double-shot feature) and faster continuous shooting, though I was surprised to see that there wasn't an HD movie mode (other CMOS-based cameras do it). As with the R8 and R10 before it, the Ricoh CX1 is a well-designed camera that packs a lot of zoom power in a small package, but ultimately disappoints in the image quality department. The CX1 is a capable camera with some really unique (and useful) features, but it's hard to recommend given its mediocre image quality.
From most angles, you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference between the CX1 and the R8 and R10 that came before it. The CX1 is a compact camera made almost entirely of metal, save for the plastic tripod mount and memory card/battery compartment door. It feels solid in your hands, and it's easy to pick up and use without reading the manual first. Ricoh didn't go overboard with buttons, and they made a real effort to provide customizable buttons, dials, and menus, so you don't have to visit the (rather unattractive) menu system constantly. The CX1 fits a F3.2 - F5.2 (yes, that's a little slow), 7.1X optical zoom into its small frame, giving you a wide zoom range of 28 - 200 mm. The camera has a sensor-shift image stabilization system (which is for still shooting only) that seems to do an effective job of reducing the risk of blurry photos. The back of the CX1 is where you'll see the main difference between it and items predecessors. There you'll find a large, super high resolution 3-inch LCD display. This screen has over 920,000 pixels -- same as on some pricey D-SLRs -- so everything looks pretty sharp (though I was expecting better, frankly). The screen offers good outdoor and low light visibility. The CX1 lacks an optical viewfinder, as do nearly all cameras in its class. It's very light in the accessory department, as well, though the optional remote shutter release cable is a nice touch.
While it has a few manual controls, the Ricoh CX1 is mostly a point-and-shoot experience. For those who don't want to even think about changing camera settings, there's an "easy" mode that is as basic as you can get. Most users will probably use the regular auto mode, though. The CX1 is a bit strange in that you have to switch modes to access certain features, such as face detection and continuous shooting. The camera's face detection system seemed a bit behind the times, capable of finding only 4 faces in a photo (and it struggled to accomplish that). As far as manual controls go, you've got them for focus, white balance, and slow shutter speeds. The manual focus feature is hampered by a nearly useless guide showing the focus distance, and the slow shutter speed only gives you four options. The CX1 has a ton of bracketing options, plus the ability to take 7 images, each with a different focus point. Some other cool features include an electronic level (and boy do I need that), and in-camera white balance and (exposure) level adjustment. There's also a dynamic range double-shot feature, which combines two exposures into one for better contrast, and it does work occasionally, though images seem to get noticeably softer. The CX1's movie mode is dated, providing VGA recording (at 30 fps) without access to the optical zoom or the image stabilizer.
The CX1 is definitely a pretty responsive camera to use. While its 1.6 second startup time is average, the camera focuses quickly at both wide-angle and telephoto, as well as in low light situations. Shutter lag wasn't a problem, and shot-to-shot delays ranged from 1 second without the flash, to 2-3 seconds with it. The CX1 definitely shines in the continuous shooting department, thanks to its CMOS sensor. You can take up to 18 shots in a row at 4 frames/second, which is far better than most compact cameras. There are two faster options available, though they 1) are low resolution and 2) put the images into a proprietary file format, from which you'll need to extract the actual JPEGs. The CX1 is tied with a few other cameras for the best battery life in its class.
Without a doubt, photo quality is the Ricoh CX1's weak point. While exposure was generally good, and colors pleasing, the CX1 suffers from too much noise reduction. This smudges away fine details, even at the base sensitivity (ISO 80). There's no way to adjust the amount of noise reduction being applied (nor is there a RAW mode), so you're sort of stuck with what the camera produces. The 4 x 6 print crowd probably won't notice, but if you're making large prints or viewing the images on your computer screen, you'll certainly see what I'm talking about. While many of its peers have the same problem, the CX1 seemed a bit worse than average in this area. While the camera doesn't have a problem with purple fringing, it does have issues with redeye, and there's no tool on the camera that you can use to remove it.
There are a couple of other issues to mention before I wrap things up. For one, the CX1's flash is pretty weak, and raising the ISO to compensate for this can make your photos awfully noisy (just look at the earlier test photo). You won't be able to get at the memory card slot when the camera is on a tripod, which is a frequent complaint of mine. And finally, there's no bundled Mac software included, though (as always) the camera works fine with iPhoto.
Ricoh has done a good job creating a camera that has the tools that photographers want (well, except for manual controls). Unfortunately, they aren't spending enough time on the most important feature a camera can have: good photo quality. If the CX1 had a decent noise reduction system, then it would be a really compelling product. Unfortunately, that's not the case, so we'll have to hope they do better next time. The bottom line here is that you're better off spending your hard-earned cash on something else.
What I liked:
- Good exposure and color; minimal purple fringing
- 7.1X, 28 - 200 mm lens in a compact, well-built body
- Sensor-shift image stabilization
- Super high resolution 3-inch LCD display
- Quick to focus, no shutter lag, brief shot-to-shot delays
- Very nice continuous shooting mode
- Some manual controls, plus numerous bracketing modes
- Customizable adjustment menu, spots on mode dial, and Function button
- Handy level feature means no more crooked horizons
- Unique exposure level and white balance compensation features in playback mode
- Time-lapse photo mode
- Plenty of built-in memory
- Optional remote shutter release cable
What I didn't care for:
- Heavy noise reduction smudges fine details, even at base ISO
- Redeye a problem, no removal tool available
- Weak flash
- Focus distance guide in manual focus mode nearly useless
- Dated face detection and movie features
- Image stabilizer not available in movie mode
- Unappealing menu system
- No optical viewfinder
- Plastic tripod mount; can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
- No Mac software included
Some other compact cameras with above average zoom power include the Canon PowerShot SD970 IS, Casio Exilim EX-FC100, Fuji FinePix F200EXR, GE 1276W, Nikon Coolpix S630, Olympus Stylus 7000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, Samsung SL820, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290.