After the successful release of Fujifilm's EXR sensor, Ricoh have matched it with a dynamic range feature of their own.
Ricoh CX1: Specifications
- Zoom: 7.1x optical
- Resolution: 9.29Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.3in
- Sensor type: CMOS
- Max. image size: 3456x2592
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO80-1600
- Storage: SD,SDHC
- Focus types: Multi AF, Spot AF, Multi-target AF, manual, fixed (Snap), infinity
- Normal focusing: 30cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 1cm-infinity
- Metering types: Multi, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 8sec-1/2000sec
- Flash: Built-in (20cm-3.0m wide, 25cm-2.0m tele)
- Monitor: 3in transparent LCD (920,000dot)
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 101.5x58.3x27.9mm
- Weight: 180g
The most comparable model at the moment is the Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR
which also has a DR mode and is at the same price point of £300. It has 12Mp but only a 5x optical zoom.
Alternatively, the Canon Powershot SX200 IS at £296 has the same size sensor, albeit CCD, but sports a 12x optical zoom and has 12Mp.
Ricoh CX1: Features
I really like the design of the CX1 with it's minimal styling reminiscent of a prototype. The large lens bezel is only large in circumference as it doesn't protrude too much from the body despite housing a 7x optical zoom. A small flash cuts into the grip moulding and the CX1 badge contrasts nicely against the matt black finish while the rest of the writing is stylishly ghosted out.
But is style good enough? Feedback received from the Disabled Photographers Society when they visited ePHOTOzine, was that contrasting lettering is better for partially sighted users.
The design is square and sharp and seems to be a cross between vintage and Swedish furniture. Buttons and dials are small with the command dial sat next to the shutter release on top and the adjustment menu placed on the back next to the thumb pad for quicker operation. All the other buttons are simplified but closer inspection indicates that I'm just scratching the surface.
As well as a scene option and two custom options on the top command dial, the Adjustment menu gives quick access to exposure compensation, white balance, sensitivity, quality and the target tracker for selective focus and metering. There's also a main menu button for entering into more core features which could be a bit too much for some users. At first glance and certainly for anyone that's used other digital compacts, the function (fn) button appears to be another menu button but it actually works more like a DSLR where you can attribute a certain task to it.
It's not often you see a CMOS sensor in a compact digital camera these days as they tend to prefer the higher detail that CCD can deliver. However there does appear to be some coming out these days such as Sony with the HX1.
Ricoh have used a CMOS sensor because they say that it works better with the processor to get images working through it faster. They also claim it helps with noise reduction but won't compromise on detail or colour.
Similar to the Fujifilm FinePix F200 EXR, the Ricoh CX1 has a DR function for optimal dynamic range performance. The Fujifilm works by taking two images at 6Mp and merging the best parts of both shots together to make one expanded DR image at 6Mp. The Ricoh does the same process with two images at different exposures to capture highlights and shadow and then merges them together.
With Dynamic Range off blacks are blacker which I prefer but there may be some detail in between the wheels that I can't see.
Switching Dynamic Range on balances out the image slightly bringing a little detail out but not as much as I'd expect. The picture looks less punchy.
In camera editing boundaries have been pushed and now levels and white balance compensation options have been added for in camera editing. In levels you can boost shadow areas to bring out more detail although I don't see why you'd want to do this if you have a DR function and a computer. It works very well and the 920,000dot screen means you get a better indication of what's being adjusted.
Another new feature is the Pixel output interpolation algorithm which is a process used to prevent whiteout in high contrast images such as skies. It works by collecting information from surrounding pixels and using interpolation to work out the colour of the pixel.
A small mode dial is on the top plate and sports the new DR mode.
A 7x optical zoom is hunched in the boxy exterior.
Ricoh CX1: Build and handling
A metal top plate looks promising but the front and rear casing appear to be made from plastic which is a little disappointing. I like the screen on the back, it's nice and large at 3in with 920,000dots giving it a bright and sharp result.
The 7.1x optical zoom starts from a wide 28mm to a healthy 200mm meaning you can get in close to the majority of your subjects.
It's fast enough to zoom in and out but if you overcook it and need to adjust, the camera will force you to wait until it's focused before actioning anything else.
I'm surprised the flash isn't a higher performer as it can only reach a top end of 3.0m at wide angle which is lower than average. You can select between auto, red-eye, flash on, flash off and slow synchro. This is useful for night portraits as the flash will light the subject while the slow shutter will burn more light into the background.
Ricoh CX1: Performance
Start up time takes just under two seconds and the camera is ready to shoot in a further two which isn't too bad.
Continuous shooting has several modes and it's own dedicated option on the mode dial on top of the camera. Pressing menu will bring you into the continuous menu where you can choose from five options that range from normal continuous to medium and high speed shooting. To get the relative high speed performance of the sequential shooting, the camera will drop the resolution to an acceptable level for the processor to handle. Medium mode will drop to 2Mp and high speed will drop to 300,000 pixels (VGA). In the space of two seconds, the CX1 takes either 15 or 30 images in medium mode and 60 or 120 images in High mode.
In the portrait test, I used the portrait mode as well as face detection and program mode to see if there's any difference. I'm curious as to why the scene mode has a separate option for face detection and when it wasn't selected, the camera didn't focus on the face. Portrait mode has lightened the image slightly but program looks warmer which is unusual. I really like the image with flash as it hardly looks as it's been used but the catchlights and artificial flash on the wall give it away.
In portrait mode, the face detection won't work automatically.
Program mode looks warmer than with portrait mode which is different.
In fact, there's a face detection mode for that option.
Using flash has lightened the image nicely but doesn't seem like it's been used.
I got a really nice effect with the macro mode. It has a close focusing of 1cm which can get close enough in for most of your needs and in the shot I got of a Daffodil stamen, it's blurred the foreground nicely to create an abstract effect while focusing on the centre and capturing the bugs inside the folds of petals.
The Ricoh CX1 has produced a really nice landscape test shot with nice detail in the foreground and no fringing on the white bars. Granted it was an overcast day but there's usually still some kind of fringing visible. maybe Ricoh have got it right with the lens and/or correction software in camera.
The colour test chart is a mixed bag of results. Primary blue is boosted nicely and red isn't far behind but the skin tone tile looks more pale than I usually expect.
Earth brown looks rich but this normally goes hand in hand with the forest green which has come out more faded than usual. Orange looks a little gaunt and I can hardly make out the pastel colours down the left side of blue, orange and brown.
Ricoh CX1: Noise test
I really like the landscape shot as there's decent detail with little fringing on the white bars or the trees.
Unusual results from the colour test chart with some colours saturated and others that would be looking more tepid.
The good news is that the Ricoh CX1 doesn't produce noise at ISO80. The bad news is that the image is distorted with a lack of detail. This trend continues throughout and I'm upset to see blobs of discolouring entering the grey tile at ISO200.
However it's worth noting that it's only really noticeable at full magnification. Viewing at Fit to Screen which is about 27% and it looks ok. Noise gets progressively worse and it's obvious that Ricoh haven't got any closer to solving the problem despite an improved processor and switching to a CMOS sensor.
Ricoh CX1: Verdict
The ISO80 test.
The ISO1600 test.
I really like the Ricoh CX1 with its boxy design and matt black finish. The screen is lovely to use and the features are many.
It's a shame that the image performance still isn't up to scratch. I like to see smooth images when shooting up to ISO200 but I can't get a result I'm happy with from a Ricoh. Make sure you open up the colour test chart image to full size. It was taken at ISO200 and shows some of the pixellation from the noise control.
In fact noise performance is better on the GRD series of cameras and I think that Ricoh need to start using the technology from the professional range if they want to stay competitive. Either that or find a way to get a larger sensor in the camera.
If you like your cameras looking old school but with good features and you only shoot at ISO100 or lower, then this is for you.
Ricoh CX1: Plus points
Large zoom lens
Dynamic Range mode
Nice use of flash
Ricoh CX1: Minus points
Dubious build quality with plastic front
Bad noise results
Sensor is still too small
Lens has to focus at every zoom step
Low flash range
Prices online for the Ricoh CX1 start at around £300.