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Ricoh have this to
say about the camera:
"The CX1 features
the highly evolved image processing engine Smooth Imaging Engine IV together
with a CMOS sensor that enables high-speed image processing. The CX1's
expanded dynamic range of 12 EV equivalent makes it possible to capture
high-contrast scenes in a way not possible with earlier models."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a
visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Average box contents. A large memory card would be nice and I highly recommend getting a case as one is not supplied as standard.
The menu system is logical and very easy to use. It doesn't take long
to get used to the way the menu system works. The adjust and function
buttons gives quick access to the most commonly used options with just
one press of the button. You can further speed up access to your favourite
settings by customising the function buttons. The playback menu gives
you a collection of picture reviewing screens as well as more advanced
options such as resize, skew correction, level compensation and white
Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (9m, 7m, 5m, 3m, 2m, 1m, VGA), and how much compression is applied to the images (Fine, Normal). In addition, aspect ratio can be set to either 4:3 (default), 3:2 (at 8m), or 1:1 (at 5m). Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size or compression to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, compression options and aspect ratios with very few cameras offering 1:1 square format photos.
Battery usage: Battery life is rated at 300 shots (according to CIPA standards) - I was able to take over 330 shots before the battery went flat - this is slightly better than average for a compact camera. Battery life will be dependent on the kind of use you make of the camera.
Memory cards: The highest quality large JPEG Fine images take over 3 megabytes. Typically a 1gb memory card would provide room for about 300 images, which I would recommend as a bare minimum. You can use SD, and SDHC memory cards - I tend to use Sandisk Ultra II Plus USB SD memory cards (pictured above) as these let you plug the memory card straight into a USB socket making it easy to transfer images onto any computer, they may still be available as 1GB, 2GB, 4GB SD cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Ricoh CX1:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £4,
2gb (2000mb): £4,
4gb (4000mb SDHC): £6,
8gb (8000mb SDHC): £9
Speed: The camera can take its first photo from 'off' in 2.1 seconds (without flash), which is quite quick. Focusing seemed very quick. The camera shutter response seems instant when pre-focused, responding instantly - and shot to shot time was quite good, with a delay of around 1.6 seconds without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick allowing a shot to be taken every 2.0 seconds for two shots in succession, flash is not available in the continuous shooting mode. Continuous shooting is excellent, at 4fps at the highest quality JPEG setting until the card is full (there was some slowdown after 16 shots). The playback and menus are also very quick.
Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, particularly in the AUTO mode or the Easy mode, and has a number of scene modes that help get good results. The controls on the back of the camera are very intuitive and the menus are responsive and easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The several modes are easy to access, mainly thanks to the clear dial at the top right of the camera and a lot of the commonly used options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's easy to see when photos are in focus (thanks to the extremely clear, large screen) and the image stabilisation means that more of your shots will be blur-free. The built in level meter helps you make sure your horizons are level as well.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with the most commonly used options reachable with your right hand. The zoom control and shutter release is good. The mode dial is positioned well making it easy to switch modes with your thumb, and the adjust button and function button gives quick access to your favourite settings - so that you aren't being slowed down by always having to go into the menus. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, with a good sized hand grip at the front (although unfortunately it's not covered in rubber like the R10) and small rubber grip at the back of the camera. The camera feels like a solid, robust and well built camera that is easy to hold despite the small size, fits easily into pockets, and looks good (although it wasn't to everyone's tastes, with it's slightly more retro styling). One of the biggest problems I found was with the flash position, as it was too easy to cover with your fingers.
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Ricoh CX1 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is little red-eye in the photo. Otherwise it is very good, coping well with group photos, although red-eye was occasionally noticeable. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low, and noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light where the focus assist lamp kicks in. Colour is quite natural, though lacking in contrast, this can be improved using Image settings to change contrast, sharpness and colour depth.
ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it fragments detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as it is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise and noise is most noticeable in darker areas. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 80 - ISO1600), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 10 megapixel Canon Powershot A2000 IS and Panasonic Lumix FX35.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot A2000 IS on the left, Ricoh CX1 in the middle, Panasonic Lumix FX35 on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.
Noise results: Noise is very noticeable when viewed at 100% as shown above. ISO400 is probably the highest ISO setting you would want to use with this camera as noise degrades image quality quite dramatically at ISO800 and above. Noise is slightly higher than the competition, although when photos are printed it is much less noticeable.
Image Stabilisation: The Ricoh CX1 comes with built in "Vibration Correction" and moves the sensor in order to counter any camera movement when taking photos - this feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. Examples showing this feature switched on and off can be seen below.
With image stabilisation switched on the images are much sharper and clearer, and are much more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. The camera's image stabilisation system appears to work well, and it's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras and Digital SLRs.
The camera has good colours - on default settings they are natural
and accurate. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing
images outside with good contrast. Images were slightly soft on default
settings, so it could be worth increasing saturation and sharpness settings.
In general jpeg artefacts are not easily seen at 'lower' quality setting,
however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality
Zoom: The lens provides a 7.1x optical zoom equivalent to 28 - 200mm. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. An example of digital zoom can be seen in the gallery.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas, although there is some highlight clipping (the Dynamic Range mode can help here). Exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation. Some purple fringing can be seen in the wide angle shot.
Dynamic Range Mode: This takes two photos in rapid sequence - both with different exposures - one to capture detail in the dark areas of the photo and the other to capture detail in the bright areas of the photo - the camera then combines both photos to produce a photo with much better dynamic range. There are four settings - very weak, weak, medium, and strong. The only downside is that the subject needs to stay still otherwise any movement will be captured.
This feature is very
good - and once you've used it - when you go to use a camera without it
you'll wonder why they don't all have something to expand the dynamic
range. It can be very useful in capturing detail in the sky which would
otherwise be lost with a normal camera or on normal settings (alternatively
you would have to underexpose the photo and lose detail in the shadows).
Lens noise and zoom: The shutter makes very little noise and the lens is fairly quiet and gives you very good control over how you frame your subject with roughly 19 steps between wide and telephoto zoom. The camera also gives the option of step zoom - this lets you zoom to the following set positions: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, and 200mm.
Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was not generally an issue and was very rarely seen.
Macro Lens Performance:
The camera can take macro photos where the subject is roughly 1cm away from the lens in macro mode! Colour and detail is very good, and there appears to be very little noise at ISO200. The camera has manual white balance which can help get better shots in artificial lighting, and you can zoom in for even closer results.
Video mode: The camera features a video mode - VGA videos can be recorded at 30fps with sound. Optical zoom is not available whilst recording, only digital. The videos are recorded as AVI files and quality appears to be fairly good.
Summary: The Ricoh CX1 may seem like other Ricoh cameras before it - however the new 9 megapixel CMOS sensor adds some important features - namely extremely quick continuous shooting. With 4fps at full resolution the camera can shoot quicker than most budget Digital SLRs! High speed shooting also allows Ricoh to provide an impressive Dynamic Range mode - this uses the speed of the camera to take two shots of different exposures - combines the two and produces an image with greatly increased dynamic range. The results are quick, clever, and very useful. If this is what's possible by using a CMOS sensor, then I predict a bright future for CMOS sensor cameras.
The CX1 also happens
to have an impressive high resolution 3.0" screen, and inherits all
of the great features of earlier models such as the R10, adding some new
features along the way (such as focus bracketing), and gives you a compact
wide angled digital camera with some unique features such as an electronic
"spirit level", 1:1 aspect ratio photos, a 28mm wide angle 7.1x
optical zoom lens, and lots of customisable functions. Image quality is
very good, and the camera offers an excellent package. If you can look
past the seemingly expensive price then you'll find a great camera. To
sum up the Ricoh CX1 in one word: Awesome! The Ricoh CX1 in one sentence:
The Ricoh CX1 is the best digital camera Ricoh have ever made!
What I like:
What I don't like: