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Ricoh CX1 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 09/04/2009
Rating: Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
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Read reviews on: Ricoh CX1


Introduction: Announced on the 19th of February 2009, the Ricoh CX1 is an update to the Ricoh R10 and features a new 9 megapixel CMOS sensor, perhaps a first in the digital camera industry to go down in megapixels from the predecessor which has a 10 megapixel CCD sensor. Other features remain the same: 3" screen (although now with 920k dots), 7.1x wide angle zoom, 1cm macro, anti-shake sensor and ISO1600. The Ricoh CX1 is available from around £299. The camera is enclosed in a metal body available in pink, black or silver and measures approx. 101.5 mm (W) x 58.3 mm (H) x 27.9 mm (D) excluding protrusions, and weighs approx. 180g. excluding battery and memory card.

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 EVOLT E-410)


Front view - camera off.


Front view - camera on, flash, focus assist lamp, lens.


Top: power, shutter, zoom control, mode dial.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 9 megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • Wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens (28 to 200mm equivalent).
  • 3.0-inch 920,000 dots LCD display (R10: 460k)
  • Electronic level
  • 1:1 Aspect square format images.
  • CMOS sensor shift-type image stabilizer
  • HD Output : No
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
  • ISO : AUTO/AUTO-HI/ISO64/100/200/400/800/1600
  • 4fps continurous shooting at full resolution / quality
  • Face recognition (scene mode)
  • 1cm Macro mode
  • Modes / Scenes: Easy, Continuous (4fps full resolution, 15/30fps 2mp, 60/120fps VGA), Dynamic range (Very weak, Weak, Medium, Strong), Auto / Program, My setting 1,2, Video, Scene: Portrait, Face detection, sports, landscape, nightscape, night portrait, high sensitivity, zoom macro, skew correction, and text mode.
  • Histogram available: In playback and record
  • Exposure bracketing: Auto Bracket Function (-0.5 EV, ±0, +0.5 EV /-0.3 EV, ±0, +0.3 EV), WB Bracketing, Colour bracketing (BW, Colour, Sepia), Focus bracketing
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: Yes

Box Contents:

  • CX1 Digital Camera
  • Wrist Strap
  • Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery (DB-70)
  • Battery charger and lead
  • USB cable
  • AV Cable
  • Software CD Rom

Average box contents. A large memory card would be nice and I highly recommend getting a case as one is not supplied as standard.

Menu system: 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 balance compensation.

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.


Bottom - Battery (DB-70, 3.6v, 940mAh), memory card slot, tripod mount.

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
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

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.


Back - 3" screen, adjust / OK / 4-way controller, play, Menu button, function, self-timer, display buttons, speaker.

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:

Heather and Flower (ISO308) Flash photo (ISO176)

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.

Canon Powershot A2000 IS (10mp) Ricoh CX1 (9mp) Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp)

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.

Canon Powershot A2000 IS (10mp) Ricoh CX1 (9mp) Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp)
 
ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO64 - NA
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels

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.

IS Off
ISO200, 1/18
IS on
ISO200, 1/23
Actual Pixels Actual Pixels

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.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO80) Super Lamb Banana (ISO80)

Outside: 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 setting.

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.

Wide-angle (28mm) Roughly 3x Optical Zoom Full optical zoom

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.

DR Off DR Weak (default) DR Strong

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:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO200)

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.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is generally very good - with good colour, saturation and contrast. Noise is noticable but photos come out quite smooth with few hot pixels, compared to the competition, and detail is generally good (until ISO800 and above). There was some red eye in group photos, but generally red-eye was low. To get the best results then some tweaking may be required as images are slightly neutral on default settings (increasing colour depth gives photos a bit more punch). The camera was quick at focusing. The built in image stabilisation in the camera was effective. I didn't notice any vignetting (darkened corners). There is a good range of image sizes, compression options, and aspect ratios including 1:1 square format photos. White balance and metering seemed to be very good 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. The camera gives very good control over image quality with various options such as saturation, contrast etc. (8.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is available in black, silver or pink, and has a compact and stylish body considering the 7.1x optical zoom lens. The camera has an excellent 3.0" screen with an impressive resolution of 920,000 dots. The camera feels well built, and is 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 (4fps), and good flash recharge time. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit every person, such as "My" modes, dynamic range mode, numerous scene modes (although there could be more), level and white balance compensation, good video mode, excellent macro mode, CCD-shift image stabilisation, a wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens, etc. (9.5/10)

Value for Money: The Ricoh CX1 from around £292, is expensive compared to the R10 which was around £199 when introduced, however the CX1 is roughly the same price as other compact cameras with CMOS sensors, such as the Casio FC100. The CX1 is still one of the smallest digital camera available with a wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens. The Ricoh CX1's main rivals are the Panasonic Lumix TZ5, and the Canon Powershot SX110 IS. (7/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

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!

Ricoh CX1 Rating: Recommended (8.3/10)
Available for £292 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Great image quality
  • Low noise for a compact camera
  • Dynamic range mode useful for static / landscape shots
  • High speed shoting - 4fps! better than some DSLRs
  • Great wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens
  • CMOS-shift image stabilisation helps with zoom and low light
  • Excellent 3.0" screen - very good resolution
  • Robust, compact metal body
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent macro mode
  • 1:1 Aspect ratio (Square format) available
  • Electronic level
  • Numerous customisable quick access adjust / function buttons
  • Todays shots - shows how many photos you've taken today
  • Two"MY" custom modes on the dial
  • Quick performance

What I don't like:

  • Expensive compared to predecessor
  • Limited scene modes
  • Poor flash position

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Ricoh CX1 Sample Photo Gallery.
Tested with Firmware version 1.12. Get the latest Ricoh Firmware here.

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