A minor upgrade to the CX4 model with faster autofocusing, three new scene pre-sets and two new colour options.Aside from cosmetic modifications, nothing much has changed in Ricoh's CX series of slimline digicams since the CX3 was released early last year. The sensor is the same 10-megapizel back-illuminated CMOS chip and the camera has the same retracting 10.7x optical zoom lens. But under the hood, there's a new, faster 'hybrid' AF system plus three new scene modes. . . [more]
Aside from cosmetic modifications, nothing much has changed in Ricoh's CX series of slimline digicams since the CX3 was released early last year. The sensor is the same 10-megapizel back-illuminated CMOS chip and the camera has the same retracting 10.7x optical zoom lens. But under the hood, there's a new, faster 'hybrid' AF system plus three new scene modes.
The CX5 is offered in Australia in three colours: black, spearmint and rose. It is sold through leading camera and electronics retailers.
The three colour options for the Ricoh CX5. (Source: Ricoh.)
Build and Ergonomics
The CX5 looks a lot like its predecessor, the CX4, which we reviewed in October 2010. However, the corners of the front panel are a little more angular and the flash tube has been moved closer to the side edge. A new AF window for the hybrid focusing system is located between the flash tube and the AF-Assist/Self-timer lamp.
Front view of the CX5, 'spearmint' version. (Source: Ricoh.)
The rear panel control layout is unchanged from the previous model and sports a 3.0-inch Transparent LCD monitor with approximately 920,000 dots. This screen has a fluorine coating to resist scratches and an anti-reflection (AR) coating to improve readability in bright outdoor lighting and it's less prone to smearing than most LCDs.
Rear view of the CX5, 'rose' version. (Source: Ricoh.)
The top panel controls are also unchanged, as is the camera's base plate. The battery and memory card share a compartment here, just next to the tripod socket, which is plastic-lined and some way off the lens axis.
Top view of the CX5, 'spearmint' version. (Source: Ricoh.)
The most interesting new feature is the hybrid AF system, which combines a passive distance sensor with the standard contrast detection system found in all compact digicams. The former continuously tracks the distance between the camera and main subject using what we assume is some kind of infrared detector located behind the AF window. Contrast detection kicks in to fine-tune focusing accuracy.
According to Ricoh, this system can reduce AF lag time to 0.2 second, regardless of the lens focal length setting. This represents half the lag time of the CX4 and a valuable feature for photographers who require a camera that will respond quickly to fast-moving subjects.
Ricoh's new Super Resolution technology can pick up outlines, details, and gradations in the image automatically and will process the image based on the optimal settings for each. Users can choose from three processing levels: Weak, Strong and Off.
Our Imatest testing showed this technology achieves its results by over-sharpening, even when the 'weak' setting is used. We found consistent over-sharpening levels in excess of 40% (and reaching 59.3% at times), whereas the normal over-sharpening levels are well under 15%. The images below show the extent to which the Super Resolution setting affects image quality.
Super Resolution turned off. A crop from a high-resolution image enlarged to 60.6%.
Super Resolution set on Weak. Full frame image reproduced.
Super Resolution set on Strong. Full frame image reproduced.
The Super Resolution Zoom technology also enables users to double the digital zoom magnification. In Zoom Macro mode, the camera optimises the zoom position automatically to increase the magnification available with normal macro shooting. Test shots taken with both settings produced images that were artefact-affected.
Three new Scene pre-sets bring the number of scene modes up to 14. The Cooking mode has been designed for shooting close-ups of food and automatically sets the focus to macro mode. Pressing the Fn button brings up an adjustment screen, enabling users to dine-tune brightness and colour with the directional arrows on the joystick control.
The new Fireworks mode requires the camera to be tripod-mounted for long exposures. It sets the focus to infinity, the ISO to 100 and white balance to auto. Pressing the Fn button lets you toggle between exposure times of 2, 4 and 8 seconds.
The Golf Swing Continuous mode sets the camera to the M-Continuous mode, which records images at 2-megapixel size (1728 x 1296 pixels). Grid lines are displayed during shooting and playback. Pressing the ADJ/OK button allows users to adjust the grid point, while pressing the Delete button toggles to a different type of grid.
Being unacquainted with any golfers who could help us to test this feature, we weren't able to explore this function. However, on the basis of test shots, we feel motion analysis like this is better carried out with slow-motion video, particularly when frame-by-frame playback is available.
Finally, Ricoh has added an HDMI port so you can connect the CX5 to an HDTV set to play video clips directly. This puts it ahead of the CX4, although video resolution remains at 720p, which won't suit buyers looking for Full HD video.
Like its predecessors, the CX5 is designed for point-and-press picture-taking. It provides no way to adjust lens aperture settings and shutter speed adjustments are also limited to the Time Exposure mode, where users can choose from four discrete shutter speeds (eight, four, two or one seconds).
Eight settings are provided on the mode dial: the Auto shooting mode, two My Settings modes (where camera settings can be registered for quick recall), the S-Auto mode, the Continuous mode and the movie mode. The self-timer is unchanged, offering two or 10 seconds delay.
Bracketing options are the same as in the CX3, with AE bracketing of half a stop on either side of the set exposure level, colour bracketing (normal, B&W and sepia), white balance bracketing across three shots and focus bracketing across a sequence of five shots. Most changes are pretty subtle so you have to look closely to see differences, particularly with focus bracketing.
Multi-pattern auto white balance carries over from the CX2. In this mode, the white balance is set to match the light source in different areas of the image. In theory, it should deliver better colour accuracy for subjects lit with mixed lighting. In practice, we found it performed no better with mixed incandescent/daylight and fluorescent/daylight combinations than the standard auto white balance setting.
Metering and AF functions appear to be the same as in the CX3 and the high-speed continuous shooting functions carry over from the CX2, with speeds from 5 frames/second (fps) to 120 fps, with varying resolution. Except for the standard Continuous mode, all other bursts of shots are recorded in multi-picture (MPO) format. Individual shots can only be extracted with the supplied software.
The Time Exposure mode, which is the only way to access shutter speeds of one second or more (up to eight seconds is supported), restricts the top sensitivity setting to ISO 400. Turning this setting off allows the camera to set shutter speeds between one and 1/2000 second. Shutter speeds are non-adjustable in movie mode.
The minimum shooting distance display, which changes depending on the zoom setting, enables zoom distances to be checked on the monitor in macro mode. The menu system is unchanged from previous models, save for the addition of the new functions. There are two pages of shooting settings and four pages for the set-up options. As in previous models, the font size is tiny and difficult to read in bright outdoor lighting.
Sensor and Image Processing
Still image capture is JPEG-only and nine image sizes are provided, including a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 1:1 aspect ratio. However, aspect ratio and image quality can't be set independently and the 16:9 and 1:1 aspect ratios are only available for one size/quality setting each. Typical file sizes for the Easy, Scene and Continuous shooting modes are shown in the table below.
3648 x 2736
3648 x 2736
3648 x 2432
2736 x 2736
3648 x 2048
2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
1280 x 960
640 x 480
M-Cont Plus (10M)
3648 x 2736
M-Cont Plus (2M)
1728 x 1296
Speed Cont (VGA 4:3N)
640 x 480
Video recording is the same as the CX4 and uses the relatively inefficient AVI format, which results in large file sizes. Soundtracks are recorded monaurally and there's no facility for adding a stereo microphone. The zoom lever can be used but zooming is digital, rather than optical. Subject tracking AF is not available. No wind-noise-reducing filter is provided.
Movie clips are recorded in the popular AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG Format compliant) format. Users can choose from three frame sizes: 1280 x 720, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels, all at 30 frames/second. Movies may be up to 4GB in size - or 29 minutes. Typical recording times are shown in the table below.
Recording time on a 8GB memory card
HD (1280 x 720 pixels)
13 minutes, 17 seconds
VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
QVGA (320 x 240 pixels)
Playback and Software
The CX5 provides the same image flagging function as the CX4, CX3 and CX2, with the ability to flag up to 20 image files for quick playback. In-camera image editing adjustments and trimming capabilities are the same as the earlier models. Otherwise, little has changed since the CX1 and details can be found in this review.
From a subjective viewpoint, the CX5's overall performance was almost indistinguishable from the CX4's, although its autofocusing system was slightly faster and more accurate. However, it tended to hunt when shooting close-ups of moving subjects, although it locked on quite quickly in low light levels as long as the subject was within the range of the AF-Assist light.
Unfortunately, focusing accuracy declined as the lens was zoomed in and at the 52.5mm focal length it was difficult to get anything sharp unless the subject was really well lit. Digital zoom shots were doubly difficult when the camera was hand-held and artefact-affected when the camera was tripod-mounted.
AF tracking was a bit hit-and-miss and tended to favour light subjects and those with saturated colours. This resulted in quite a lot of jumping between in- and out-of-focus, when shooting moving subjects.
Images straight out of the review camera were slightly sharper-looking than those from previous models but with the slightly elevated saturation that characterises small-sensor digicams, particularly in reds and blues. Imatest showed colour accuracy to be better than the CX4's and quite good for this type of camera.
We switched off the super-resolution processing for our Imatest tests, for the reasons outlined above. Imatest showed resolution levels were patchy and only just reached expectations for a 10-megapixel camera at the 7.5mm focal length setting. The graph below shows our findings across the focal length range we were able to test.
The anticipated decline in resolution as ISO sensitivity was increased was less than expected and the ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 test shots held up well in our Imatest tests. The graph below shows centre and edge resolution at different sensitivity settings.
Eight second exposures were relatively noise-free at ISO 100 but noise was visible (particularly in shadows), although reasonably well controlled, in relatively short exposures at ISO 1600 and 3200. Flash exposures at ISO 3200 were sharper and less noise-affected than we found with the CX4.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained mostly in the ‘low' band and we only detected slight coloured fringing when test shots were enlarged to 100%. In the graph below showing the results of our tests, the red line separates 'negligible' from 'low' CA, while the green line marks the boundary between 'low' and 'moderate' CA.
Close-up shooting was competently handled and the review camera was able to focus down to 1 cm with the lens at the wide position. Shooting close-ups with longer focal lengths (but not digital zoom) produced shots with very attractive bokeh for a small-sensor camera.
Strong backlighting was quite well-handled and exposures were well balanced, although contrast tended to be rather high. We found few instances of flare affecting shots, although without engaging the Dynamic Range mode, the dynamic range in backlit shots was rather narrow. Switching on the Dynamic Range mode tended to reduce colour saturation.
The built-in flash was too weak to illuminate an average-sized room at ISO settings up to ISO 800. Thereafter, exposures were reasonably well balanced but image sharpness declined slightly at ISO 3200.
The review camera's auto white balance setting produced similar results to the CX4's with incandescent lighting but produced close to neutral colours under fluorescent lights. The pre-sets tended to add a purplish cast under both types of lighting. Manual measurement produced neutral colours.
Video clips were sharper than those from the CX4 and the review camera's autofocusing system appeared better able to keep pace with even very slow pans and zooms than the previous model's. However, we found compression artefacts in many clips and highlight areas were frequently blown-out in clips shot in bright outdoor lighting.
VGA and QVGA clips were up to expectations for their resolution. Soundtracks were similar to the previous model and the camera's microphone tended to pick up operational sounds and rustling if the user is moving while shooting. Wind noise was also recorded, but was less intrusive than we've found with many cameras.
For our timing tests we used a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-1 memory card, one of the fastest cards available. Overall response times were variable. The review camera took just over one second to power-up ready for shooting and almost 1.5 seconds to zoom from the widest to the narrowest focal length setting.
Shot-to-shot times averaged 1.1 seconds without flash and 3.9 seconds with. Capture lag averaged 0.15 seconds, reducing to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took 1.5 seconds, on average to process each high-resolution image.
In the continuous shooting mode, the review camera recorded 11 10M 4:3F frames in 1.8 seconds, which is just under the five frames/second rate specified for full resolution. It took 3.8 seconds to process this burst. Four additional frame rates are supported but bursts of shots are recorded in the MP format.
With the M-Cont Plus (10M) setting, the camera recorded 15 frames in 1.8 seconds, with each frame at the full 10-megapixel resolution. It took 5.1 seconds to process this burst and convert it to multi-picture file format.
In the Speed Cont (Low) mode, while the shutter button is held down the camera will record up to 120 frames at around 60 frames/second. In our tests, we recorded 120 frames in 2 seconds, which equates to the claimed frame rate. It took 6.2 seconds to process this burst. The Speed Cont (High) mode performed as specified, recording120 frames in one second. It took 5.6 seconds to process this burst.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for an affordable long-zoom digicam that can be slipped into a pocket.
- You want fast autofocusing and high-speed continuous recording options.
- You could benefit from the new super-resolution technology and scene presets.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You want P, A, S and M shooting modes plus full control over aperture and shutter speed settings.
- You want to capture raw files.
- You require an optical viewfinder.
- You want an easy-to-read menu system.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/350 second at f/3.5.
52.5mm focal length, ISO 176, 1/290 second at f/5.6.
Digital zoom; 52.5mm focal length, ISO 176, 1/290 second at f/5.6.
Super Zoom mode; 52.5mm focal length, ISO 238, 1/290 second at f/5.6.
Close-up at 4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/3.7.
Close-up at 52.5mm focal length, ISO 135, 1/290 second at f/5.6.
Time exposure; 8 seconds at ISO 100; 6.2mm focal length, f/3.7.
Time exposure; 4 seconds at ISO 400; 6.2mm focal length, f/3.7.
Flash exposure at ISO 100;24mm focal length 1/143 second at f/5.1.
Flash exposure at ISO 1600; 24mm focal length 1/143 second at f/5.1.
Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 24mm focal length 1/143 second at f/5.1.
Low-light exposure at ISO 100; 12mm focal length 1/12 second at f/4.5.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
Low-light exposure at ISO 1600; 12mm focal length 1/176 second at f/4.5.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
Low-light exposure at ISO 3200; 12mm focal length 1/380 second at f/4.5.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100%.
Strong backlighting; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/2000 second at f/7.
Extended brightness range subject; 24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/48 second at f/5.1.
15mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1150 second at f/9.3.
15mm focal length, ISO 308, 1/79 second at f/4.6.
44mm focal length, ISO 519, 1/233 second at f/5.2.
35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/217 second at f/4.5.
Still frames from 720p HD video clips.
Still frames from VGA video clips.
Still frames from QVGA video clips.
Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mm CMOS sensor with 10.6 million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
Image processor: Smooth Imaging Engine IV
Lens: 4.9-52.5mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (28-300mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 10.7x optical, up to 4.8x digital
Image formats: Stills- JPEG (Exif 2.3); Movies - AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG)
Image Sizes: Stills - 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432, 2736 x 2736, 3648 x 2048, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1728 x 1296 (multi-picture only), 1280 x 960, 640 x 480; Movies - 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240; Text - 3648 x 2736, 2048 x 1536
Shutter speed range: 8, 4, 2, 1 - 1/2000 sec.
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
Image Stabilisation: Image sensor-shift system
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2.0EV in 1/3EV steps
Exposure bracketing: +/- 0.5EV in three steps
Focus system/range: Hybrid distance sensor plus contrast-detect AF with Multi, Spot, Face-priority, Subject-tracking, Multi-Target modes plus manual and fixed (Snap) focus; range - 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm
Exposure metering/control: Multi (256 segments), Centre Weighted & Spot Metering; Program AE
Shooting modes: Auto, My settings mode, Movie, Continuous mode, Creative Shooting Mode (Dynamic Range, Miniaturise, High Contrast B&W, Soft Focus, Cross Process, Toy Camera); Scene auto, Scene mode (Portrait, Landscape, Discreet Mode, Night Portrait, Night Landscape Multi-shot, Fireworks, Cooking, Sports, Pets, Golf Swing Continuous, Zoom Macro, High Sensitivity, Skew Correct, Text)
ISO range: Auto, ISO100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance: Auto, Multi-Pattern Auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent (x2), Fluorescent, Manual plus White Balance Bracket Function
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto (during low light and when the subject is backlit), Anti Red-eye, Flash On, Slow Synchro, Flash Off; range approx. 20 cm - 4.0 m
Sequence shooting: Approx. 5 frames/sec.
Storage Media: 40MB internal memory plus expansion slot for SD/SDHC memory cards
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch Transparent LCD (approx. 920,000 dots)
Power supply: DB-100 rechargeable battery; CIPA rated for approx. 280 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 101.5 x 58.6 x 29.4 mm
Weight: Approx. 176 grams (without battery and card)
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 8.0
- Autofocusing: 8.0
- Image quality: Stills - 8.0; Video - 7.5
- OVERALL: 8.5