The Ricoh CX4 is Ricoh’s latest compact camera in a long line of compact cameras, which started with the Ricoh CX1 (9mp CMOS sensor, 7.1x optical zoom lens), Ricoh CX2 (10.7x optical zoom lens), Ricoh CX3 (10mp update), and now the Ricoh CX4, which adds improved image stabilisation, new creative modes, a new night shot mode, subject tracking AF, and improved battery life. The Ricoh CX4 is available from around £226
The Ricoh CX1 introduced a high speed 9mp CMOS sensor to Ricoh’s line of cameras, which was itself, and update to the Ricoh R10 (I wont bore you with the details, but as you can probably guess by now, dates all the way back to the Ricoh Caplio R1v), and offered 4fps shooting as well as high speed video recording. The Ricoh CX2 updated to 5fps shooting, and a 10.7x optical zoom lens covering a useful 28-300mm range in 35mm terms. The Ricoh CX3 added HD video recording, as well as a 10 megapixel sensor and numerous options such as noise control. The Ricoh CX4 now adds …
- Improved/ Enhanced image stabilisation system
- Subject tracking AF
- three new shooting scene modes: Soft Focus / Cross Process / Toy Camera
- Night Landscape Multi-shot
- JPEG (Exif ver.2.3)
- Improved battery life 330 shots vs 310
- Re-designed buttons at the back, slightly larger
- Slightly shorter body 58.3 mm high vs 58.6mm high
- Weighs 1g less – 184g vs 185g body only
Ricoh CX4 – Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 13/11/2010
Author: Joshua Waller
The Ricoh CX4 also loses:
- ISO80, but keeps ISO options 100 – 3200 available.
Lets look at the camera in more detail.
The front of the camera – the design has changed slightly and there is now a raised vertical bar that can be used as a front grip. I’ll let Ricoh explain some of the new features:
Enhanced image stabilisation:
“The CX4’s completely reworked image-sensor-shift image stabilization reduces blur on average by the equivalent of about 3.7 shutter-speed stops, about three times faster than the CX3. This ensures crisp, sharp results in close-ups, telephoto shots, and other situations in which blur is likely to occur.” – Source: Ricoh
New Night landscape multi-shot mode:
“The CX4 creates clear, beautiful photos of night scenes by automatically and precisely combining a series of exposures shot at high sensitivities to reduce the blur and noise normally associated with pictures taken under low light, allowing photographers to taste the joys of hand-held, tripod-free night photography.” – Source: Ricoh
Specifications / Features:
– 10 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor (1/2.3″)
– 10.7x wide angle optical zoom lens (f3.5-5.6, 28-300mm equiv)
– 3.0″ screen with 920k dots
– 1cm macro
– 5fps shooting
– 720p HD video with sound (digital zoom only, AVI)
– AF: Multi, Spot, Face priority, Subject Tracking, Multi-Target, Manual, Snap, Infinity
– IS: Image sensor shift method image stabilisation
– HD output: No (just AV)
– Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
– ISO: AUTO, ISO100 / ISO200 / ISO400 / ISO800 / ISO1600 / ISO3200
– Modes / Scenes: Auto shooting mode / Movie mode / Scene auto mode / Scene mode (Portrait / Discreet Mode / Night. Port. / Night Landscape Multi-shot / Sports / Landscape / Zoom Macro / Pets / Skew Correct Mode / High Sens / Text Mode) / My settings mode / Continuous mode / Creative Shooting Mode (Dynamic Range / Miniaturize / High Contrast B&W / Soft Focus / Cross Process / Toy Camera)
– Histogram available: Yes in playback and record
– Manual Exposure Compensation +/-2.0EV (1/3EV Steps),
– Exposure bracketing: Yes – Auto Bracket Function (-0.5EV, ±0, +0.5EV)
– Manual WB: Yes, other options: AUTO / Multi-Pattern AUTO / Outdoors / Cloudy / Incandescent 1 / Incandescent 2 / Fluorescent / Manual / White Balance Bracket Function
– Additional functions: Continuous, Self-Timer (operation time: approx. 10 sec. / approx. 2 sec. / custom self-timer), Interval Timer (Shooting interval: 5 sec. – 1 hour, 5 sec. steps), Color Bracket function, Focus Bracket function, AE/AF Target Shift, Histogram, Grid Guide, Electronic Level
Box contents: Digital camera, software CD, Battery charger, Lithium Ion battery, USB Cable, AV Cable, Wrist strap, Warranty card, and a full printed manual.
Battery life: Rated at 330 shots according to CIPA standards, with Auto dim switched on. I was able to take 950 photos before the battery went flat, although more than half of these were shot using the 5fps shooting mode (around 550), that is still very good, with around 400 normal shots being taken!
Recommended accessories: A large SD or SDHC memory card, 4gb or larger is recommended: SD Cards at Amazon: 1GB, 2GB. SDHC Cards at Amazon: 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32gb. A case is also a must buy for any digital camera, the Lowepro Rezo 20 fits the Ricoh CX4 very snuggly, and if you want a bit more room, and a weatherproof case, have a look at the Lowepro Apex 30AW (or the 20AW).
Speed: The camera has an impressive 5fps shooting, which works for 12 shots (officially, although I managed 25 shots before it slowed down!), and then slows down to 3fps until the card is full. The camera also has a very fast snap-focus mode that makes focusing instant. Combine that with the almost instantaneous shutter response (<0.1 seconds) and you have a very fast and capable street shooter (You can set the Function button to switch Snap focus on or off, making it very easy to set and use without having to go into any menus). Focusing is quick, and shot to shot time is average at 1 shot every 2 seconds, or 2.5 / 2.6 seconds with flash on. Flash is not available in the high speed 5fps continuous shooting mode.
Ease of use / Menus: The camera is really very easy to use, it has a number of scene modes, and automatic scene mode (S-Auto) that chooses the best mode for you, as well as several creative and easy to use auto and program modes. The camera is easy to use even without reading the manual, and the menus are very easy to navigate, and very clear to read thanks to the crisp screen. I think the only way the menus could be made clearer is if easy section (photo, play, setup), had it’s own colour, but even though they are all yellow and grey, the icons are clear anyway. Most of the options and modes are explained on screen, although perhaps it would help if all settings had built in help.
Buttons / Ergonomics: The camera is well built, and is made out of metal. The camera feels well built and robust, although the battery cover could be better. The buttons are clear and large, and also placed very well, being very easy to reach when using the camera with one hand. The buttons are larger than on previous models, and the labelling text is very clear. The hand grip at the front could be better, and I would prefer it if it was rubberised, like the thumb grip on the back. The tripod mount is not centrally located, and mounting the camera on a tripod blocks the battery / memory card cover.
Video: The CX4 records videos as “HD Ready” / 720p HD videos, at a resolution of 1280 x 720, at 30fps as an AVI file. Video quality seems very good, although it’s a shame that optical zoom is not available while recording videos. You can only use digital zoom whilst recording and if you want to use optical zoom you will need to set this before recording. Compression is not high, and longer videos will use a lot of card space, for example, a 1 minute 51 second video is 476mb. View a Ricoh CX4 example video on Youtube.
Shown above: High contrast black and white. Soft, Soft focus options: Weak, Strong.
Shown above: Cross process options: Basic (cyan?), Magenta, Yellow. Toy options: Vignetting Off, Low, High, Toy colour Off or On. I suspect these modes could produce some very pleasing results, particularly with a more interesting subject!
Macro photos: Extremely impressive! The camera is capable of taking some extremely close macro photos, with the subject 1cm away from the lens, even zoomed in (slightly). The camera provides excellent detail and colour, with very nice looking blurred backgrounds that produce pleasing bokeh, particularly when using the macro mode.
ISO / Noise / Low light performance: The improved / enhanced image stabilisation does actually appear to work – really well! For the ISO noise tests, I zoomed in roughly 3x (85mm equivalent) to fill the frame, hand held the camera, and took 3 shots at each ISO setting, and the impressive result was that I had sharp photos at ISO100 1/7th shutter speed! (2 blurred). At ISO200 1/14th shutter speed 1 was blurred, 1 slightly blurred, 1 sharp. At ISO400 1/26th shutter speed, only 1 was slightly blurred, and at ISO800 1/52 shutter speed they were all sharp. This means you should be able to use the telephoto zoom in low light situations and rely less on the flash, it should also mean that you can use lower ISO settings, and still get a sharp photo.
ISO Noise results: Shown below, is a 100% view (actual pixels), from several photos taken at the ISO settings available on the Ricoh CX4. I have shown the darker greys / blacks so that it is easier to see how much noise is present in these areas. You can view a full size image here (ISO400).
For best results it’s best to stick to ISO100, as there is very little noise, and no colour noise is noticeable. ISO100 – ISO400 results are good, but as the setting increases so too does colour noise. ISO800 images are still good, with good levels of detail considering, but noise is noticeable. ISO1600 is where you see a dramatic loss of detail, and slight loss of colour, and ISO3200 is best avoided, as the colour saturation and detail levels drop dramatically. Overall fairly decent results for a compact camera.
I mean really, how can Ricoh make the CX series any better? The CX1 was already pretty brilliant, then the CX2 added a 10.7x optical zoom lens, which makes it a compact ultra zoom, and added 5fps shooting. The CX3 added HD video, so the CX4 improves on image stabilisation, and adds a few “art” modes, and a few extra scene modes. But really I think the only thing Ricoh can do next to improve this camera further, is either improve the lens (smaller? or perhaps longer reach, hopefully not at the expense of image quality), or add manual controls and RAW to the camera. However, if Ricoh were to add manual controls to the CX series, then suddenly Ricoh’s other more serious cameras are suddenly beginning to look a) expensive, and b) rather limited in zoom range.
The only thing I would like to see next in all honesty is a fully rubberised, or leather grip at the front and back (much like the 3rd party accessories you can buy), and manual controls. In fact why not have a CX5 with rubber grip, and a complementary CX5-Pro model with flash hotshoe, manual controls, stereo microphone (or microphone socket), and leather grip and bundled leather case, and then charge more for the pro model? You can call it the Ricoh CX5-Pro JW model if you want, and I can sign it for you when you release a special edition 😉
Image Quality: Image quality is generally very good – with good colour, saturation and contrast. Noise can be noticeable but the processing engine produces photos that are quite smooth with few hot pixels, and detail is generally good (until ISO800 and above). To get the best results some tweaking may be required as images are can be slightly overexposed, on default settings, although I didn’t notice any flash overexposure which used to be a problem with some Ricoh cameras. I didn’t notice any vignetting (darkened corners). The CX4 has a 16:9 mode convenient for photo viewing on a wide-screen television. White balance and metering are impressive with plenty of scope to cope with different lighting situations – especially thanks to the Dynamic Range mode which copes with scenes with bright skies and dark areas. (8.5/10)
Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is available in black, pink or champagne (silver), and has a compact and stylish metal body considering the 10.7x optical zoom lens. The camera has an excellent 3.0″ screen with an impressive resolution of 920,000 dots. The camera feels robust, and is fairly comfortable to hold. The camera is easy to use, and has quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is very good. The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, excellent continuous shooting (5fps), and good flash recharge time. The camera is packed with features that should suit photographers, such as “My” modes, dynamic range mode, numerous scene modes (including high contrast black and white, miniature, and several creative scene modes), white balance compensation, good HD video mode, excellent macro mode, improved image stabilisation, a wide angle 10.7x optical zoom lens, electronic level etc. (9.5/10)
Value for money: The Ricoh CX4 offers good value for money – compared to previous models – the Ricoh CX4 is available from around £226 – this makes it good value for money, especially as the previous model (the CX3) was £299 when first introduced. Some others to consider include the Canon Powershot SX210 IS, from £199, the Panasonic Lumix TZ10, from £223, the Fujifilm FinePix F300EXR, from £238, or the high speed Casio Exilim FH100, from £226. (8/10)
Conclusion: After several different versions of the Ricoh CX series camera (and the R series before that), I feel Ricoh have managed to improve the camera with every increment, which is no small feat, considering a number of other manufacturers fail to do this. The only negatives with this version is the lack of front hand grip, although this is a personal thing. The camera excels at macro, image stabilisation, high speed shooting, and has an excellent high resolution 3″ screen. The camera has a very useful wide-angle 10.7x optical zoom lens, and HD video recording. There are a number of useful scene modes, and creative options, as well as an extended dynamic range mode. But most importantly the camera is easy and fun to use, takes good photos, lacks very little. It also comes at a favourable price. What more could you want? The Ricoh CX4 is definitely recommended!
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What I Like (Pros):
– Exceptional macro mode
– Good image quality – pleasing colours, lots of options
– 5fps shooting, quicker than most (all?) entry level DSLRs
– Noise reduction options, more than most entry level DSLRs
– Auto exposure bracketing, better than some entry level DSLRs
– Dynamic Range mode – lots of options
– Excellent 3″ screen with 920k pixels
– Improved battery life
– Electronic level
– Snap focus mode
What I Don’t Like (Cons):
– All these advanced features but no RAW support, or manual controls
– Improved front hand-grip would be nice
– Optical zoom not available while recording video
– Lacks sunset scene mode