Ricoh's first camera with a CMOS sensor features slimline styling and a 7x optical zoom lens.Offered in black, silver and Champagne Rose, the new Ricoh CX1 is the first Ricoh camera with a CMOS sensor that provides an effective resolution of 9.29 megapixels. Coupled to this sensor is a 7.1x optical zoom lens that covers a focal length range equivalent to 28-200mm in 35mm format. Maximum apertures range from a modest f/3.3 at the wide setting to f/5.2 at full optical zoom. . . [more]
Offered in black, silver and Champagne Rose, the new Ricoh CX1 is the first Ricoh camera with a CMOS sensor that provides an effective resolution of 9.29 megapixels. Coupled to this sensor is a 7.1x optical zoom lens that covers a focal length range equivalent to 28-200mm in 35mm format. Maximum apertures range from a modest f/3.3 at the wide setting to f/5.2 at full optical zoom.
Superficially, the CX1 is a fairly ordinary-looking slimline Ricoh camera with a fairly large double-retracting lens. Build quality is up to Ricoh's normal high standard and a grip moulding is provided on the front panel with a rubber thumb pad just next to the joystick control on the rear panel. Together they provide a comfortable grip that positions your index finger over the shutter button and allows your thumb to control the joystick.
Front view of the Ricoh CX1 in Champagne Rose colour. (Source: Ricoh.)
Roughly two thirds of the rear panel is covered by the 3.0-inch LCD monitor, which has a high resolution of approximately 920,000 dots. The control panel right of the LCD carries the joystick/arrow pad. Below this is the playback button. Left of the playback button is the Menu button and below it the Function (Fn), Self-timer/Delete and Display buttons.
Rear view of the Ricoh CX1 showing the high-resolution LCD monitor and main button controls. (Source: Ricoh.)
Unfortunately, no viewfinder is provided, which is a pity because, despite its high resolution, the LCD is effectively unusable in bright outdoor lighting. The screen has a fluorine coat to prevent soiling, a hard coat to prevent scratches and an anti-reflection coat to give greater visibility even outdoors in bright sunshine. Nevertheless, even though Ricoh claims 'the optimum fonts are used for high visibility' we're pretty sure these menus weren't designed for Australian conditions. The black background to the menu system and small font size used for the settings make it impossible to adjust menu-based functions outdoors.
The first page of the CX1's shooting menu.
Image size settings.
The mode dial on the CX1 carries eight settings - and none are PASM modes. The standard 'green' auto shooting mode is provided, along with two My Settings memories where you can register frequently used combinations of settings. There's also an Easy Shooting mode that is fully automated and can detect when the camera needs to switch to macro focusing and change focus seamlessly.
The Scene mode provides 10 pre-sets (Portrait, Face, Sports, Night Portrait, Landscape, Nightscape, High Sensitivity, Zoom Macro, Skew Correction, Text). The DR (dynamic range double shot) mode which is described below, leaving only the settings for shooting movies and continuous frame capture.
Dynamic Range Expansion options.
Dynamic Range Expansion plus normal image capture.
The joystick sits at the centre of a tilting ring that acts like an arrow pad, providing fast access to the close-up and flash settings via horizontal movement, while vertical movement selects individual settings. The Function (Fn) button can have any of the following 12 settings assigned to it: backlight compensation, macro target (the default), AE lock, focusing mode switching (AF/Multi-target AF; AF/MF. AF/Snap), Step zoom, AE bracketing, Colour bracketing, White Balance bracketing or Focus bracketing.
Other features that have been offered in previous Ricoh digicams include macro focusing to 1 cm, an electronic level indicator using an acceleration sensor, camera-shake prevention via image sensor shift, a face detection mode plus flash exposure adjustment of +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps. The camera supports exposures up to eight seconds in length, accessible via the Time Exposure setting in the menu.
The CX1's self-timer is one of the most highly customisable we've seen. You can set the camera to record between one and 10 shots with delays between 5 and 10 seconds. The camera can also be used for time-lapse photography, with intervals selectable from one hour down to five seconds. You can also pre-set the shutter speed to a minimum of 1/2, 1/4 or 1/8 second to reduce the potential for blurred shots in dim lighting.
The Date Imprint function in the setup menu lets users imprint a date or date and time on shots as they are taken. (The default setting is off.) This function can't be used for movie clips and when it is used for still shots, the embedded date can't be removed from the image.
Sensor and Image Processor
The most interesting features of the CX1 are the CMOS sensor and the new Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processor. Measuring 6.16 x 4.62 mm, the sensor in the Ricoh CX1 is the same size as the imager chips in competing digicams and Ricoh makes no claims about it beyond promoting its type.
Although CMOS sensors dominate the DSLR category, they are becoming increasingly common in small-sensor digicams, with Canon, Casio and Sony also offering them in recent models. They have a few advantages over CCD chips in being simpler (and potentially cheaper) to build and using less power. They can also provide faster readout than CCDs. But these benefits can't compensate for the small photosites (approximately 1.8 microns square) due to the small chip size.
It seems most of the credit for improvements in image quality should go to the new Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processor, which boasts a couple of interesting functions. One is a new pixel output interpolation algorithm that is used to minimise the risk of blown-out highlights. Image data from the red and blue channels are interpolated to calculate the green value if the green channel (which is prone to over-saturation) is over-exposed. This processing claims to expand the camera's dynamic range by up to +1EV (which isn't a lot), compared with conventional processing.
The second underpins a dedicated, DR mode that claims to expand the CX1's dynamic range by up to 12 EV. In this mode the camera captures two exposures in quick succession, one recording the highlights and the other the shadows. In-camera processing combines them to produce the end result. The degree of dynamic range expansion can be set across four levels: very weak, weak, medium and strong.
In the DR mode, the camera can also be set to record two images, one with dynamic range expansion and the other a normal shot. Both images are displayed briefly on the LCD screen immediately after being taken, allowing users of the camera to compare them. The illustration below simulates the on-screen view the photographer sees.
Another noteworthy feature is the multi-pattern auto white balance, which sets the white balance on the basis of light sources in different areas of the image. This setting is additional to the standard auto white balance mode and is designed to provide better colours in mixed lighting scenes, including those combining sunlight and shadow and subjects photographed with flash and natural light.
In addition to the standard infinity, snap, spot AF and manual focus modes, the CX1 also comes with a Multi-target AF setting that selects a range of focus positions when the shutter button is half-pressed. Fully pressing the shutter button causes the camera to capture seven shots at the distances automatically defined by the camera. The sharpest image (selected on the basis of file size) is saved.
Thanks to its CMOS sensor, the CX1 supports high-speed continuous shooting at full resolution at approximately 4 frames/second. It also includes an M-continuous plus function that saves the 30 images (at 30 frames/sec.) taken during the one second or so before the finger is removed from the shutter release button or the 30 images (15 frames/sec.) taken during the two seconds before. Image size is fixed at N1728 (2M) and the sequential images are saved as a single file.
Photographers hoping for raw file support will be disappointed. Image capture is JPEG only and nine image sizes are provided, including a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 1:1 aspect ratio. At the highest 4:3 resolution, you can choose between Fine and Normal compression. Typical file sizes for the Easy, Scene and Continuous shooting modes are shown in the table below. (Interestingly, files are marginally larger in Multi-AF mode.)
3456 x 2592
3456 x 2592
3456 x 2304
2592 x 2592
3072 x 2304
2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
1280 x 960
640 x 480
N1728(2M) M-Cont Plus)
1728 x 1296
Video clips are recorded with monaural audio and the optical zoom is disabled, leaving users with digital zoom only. Maximum clip length is 90 minutes - or the equivalent of 4GB. Users can choose between VGA and QVGA resolutions and 30 or 15 frames/second frame rates. Typical recording times for a 1GB memory card are shown in the table below.
Recording time on a 1GB memory card
VGA (640 x 480 pixels)
9 minutes, 15 seconds
18 minutes, 20 seconds
QVGA (320 x 240 pixels)
23 minutes. 42 seconds
46 minutes, 19 seconds
Playback and Software
Pressing the playback button displays the last picture taken with basic shot data superimposed by default. You can toggle through the various display options by pressing the Display button. These include a highlight alert display, thumbnail image plus brightness histogram and basic shooting data and image only display.
The highlight alert display in playback mode.
The thumbnail image plus brightness histogram display.
When an image is displayed on-screen turning the zoom lever toggles between 20 and 81-frame thumbnail displays. Once a frame is selected, zoom playback is also accessed via the zoom lever and up to 16x magnification is possible with high-resolution shots. The arrow pad is used to move the magnified area around the frame. Users can also switch from frame to frame in playback mode at a pre-set enlargement ratio.
The playback menu includes rather a lot of settings, as shown below.
The playback menu, accessed by pressing the Menu button in playback mode.
As well as the standard rotate, resize, trimming and protect functions, the CX1 includes a basic slideshow display without selectable transition effects. An interesting Flag Function Setting lets you 'flag' up to three images so they can be accessed quickly. It's handy for things like train or bus timetables, which you have captured with the Text scene mode.
Post-capture white balance compensation is also provided in playback mode.
Post-capture white balance compensation adjustments.
The software bundle includes DL-10 for downloading image files and Irodio Photo & Video Studio from Pixela. Both are Windows only. A software user guide in PDF format is also provided, along with Adobe Reader for Windows and Macintosh. DL-10 automatically creates a folder called Digital Camera in the My Documents folder on the computer and saves all images there in folders carrying the date of each shoot.
A screen shot showing the browser interface for the DL-10 application.
Irodio Photo & Video Studio is a reasonably capable image editor, after the style of other Pixela applications. It has lots of special effects for users to experiment but actual adjustments to image parameters like brightness, contrast and colour are pretty scanty. Some screen grabs showing different aspects of this application are shown below.
The main Edit interface in Irodio Photo & Video Studio.
Hue and brightness adjustments via ring-around illustrations.
The Auto Image Quality adjustments accessed via the Adjust sub-menu.
'Solarisation' is one of a number of adjustable special effects.
Artistic effects can be produced with the many tools in the Retouch sub-menu.
You need the Irodio application to open bursts of images shot with the M-Continuous and Speed-Continuous modes. Right-clicking on the burst icon on the thumbnail of these shots calls up the message 'Split-multi-image file' which allows you to access individual JPEG images.
Pictures taken with the normal Auto and Easy mode settings looked bright and punchy and showed slightly elevated contrast. Saturation was a touch emphatic, particularly in reds and yellows. Shifting to the DR shooting mode reduced contrast; almost invisibly with the weak setting but quite noticeably with the strong setting. This had the effect of bringing out details in both shadows and highlights but tended to emphasise the small amount of flare we forced from the test camera.
The illustrations below show crops from two photographs of the same subject, taken from the same position. The only change made to camera settings was swapping from the auto to the DR mode.
The illustration on the left was taken in the normal auto mode. (Shot data: 6.3mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/530 second at f/3.5.) The illustration on the right was taken in the DR mode. (Shot data: 6.3mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/164 second at f/4.9.)
In this pair of images, which were taken with the camera pointing towards the sun to produce flare, the photograph on the left was taken in the normal auto mode, while the one on the right was taken in the DR mode. The only difference between them was in the shutter speed, which was 1/660 second in the normal shot and 1/133 second in the DR mode shot.
Imatest showed the review camera to be capable of a higher level of resolution than we expected from a 9-megapixel camera - but only at mid-range focal length settings and only for measurements from near the centre of the image field. Edge softening was detected throughout the zoom range, including the 12.9mm setting where the highest resolutions were measured. The graph below shows the results of our tests across six focal length settings.
Edge softening was further confirmed by our Imatest results at different ISO settings, although the test camera maintained relatively high resolution levels right up to ISO 1600. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Colour accuracy was relatively poor in our Imatest tests, with no hues coinciding with their ideal positions and some dramatic shifts in hue and saturation, particularly in the red to cyan band. Skin hues were also noticeably off-the-mark.
Lateral chromatic aberration was moderate at most focal length settings and we observed some coloured fringing in outdoor shots both in daylight and after dark. An example is shown in the crop below, which was taken from a photograph that was enlarged to 100%.
Autofocusing and metering were generally accurate and the image stabiliser system enabled us to use shutter speeds as slow as 1/15 second before image blurring became likely. Backlit shots showed only minor evidence of veiling flare in the normal shooting modes. The built-in flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at all ISO settings. Flash exposures were well balanced for both close-up and more distant subjects.
Low-light performance was variable. Long exposures (6-8 seconds) at ISO settings of 400 or lower were relatively noise-free but a long way from colour-accurate. Noise became evident in shots taken with slow shutter speeds by ISO 800 and image shar0pness began to decline at ISO 1600. This decline was more obvious in flash shots at ISO 1600, which were noticeably softer than shots at lower sensitivity settings.
Close-up capabilities were similar to other Ricoh digicams and the ability to focus down to 1 cm provided plenty of scope for botanical subjects. Digital zoom shots were soft and artefact-affected. Video quality was much as you'd expect for VGA and QVGA capture and the accompanying audio quality was unspectacular.
Auto white balance performance was typical of a point-and-shoot digicam for both the Auto and Multi-pattern auto settings - and we could see very little difference between them in actual use. The camera failed to remove the orange cast of incandescent lighting in our standard tests but produced close-to-natural colours under fluorescent lighting. Both manual pre-sets over-corrected colours slightly but the manual measurement setting produced neutral colours under both types of lighting.
The test camera powered up ready for shooting in approximately half a second and shot-to-shot times averaged 1.1 seconds without flash in the normal mode, 1.5 seconds in the DR mode and approximately 3.4 seconds with flash. On average, it took 1.2 seconds to process each image file in the auto shooting mode and 1.5 seconds with the DR mode.
We measured an average capture lag of 0.4 seconds, which changed to instantaneous capture when shots were pre-focused. The normal continuous shooting mode recorded 11 high-resolution shots in 2.4 seconds. Image processing appears to be on-the-fly as it took only 3.8 seconds to process this burst.
In the M-Continuous shooting mode, the test camera recorded 30 1728 x 1296-pixel frames in 1.7 seconds and took 6.6 seconds to process the burst. In the Speed-Continuous mode, the test camera captured 120 VGA-sized frames in 0.9 seconds and took 7.6 seconds to process the burst.
Buy this camera if:
- You could benefit from the dynamic range expansion function and can tolerate its restrictions.
- You're happy to use the monitor for shot composition.
- You want manual flash adjustment plus a good range of flash settings for a slimline digicam.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You require P, A, S and M shooting modes.
- You want to shoot raw files.
- You want to shoot widescreen or high-definition video (the CX1 can't).
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up. 5.7mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/64 second at f/3.6.
Digital zoom. 35.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/120 second at f/5.3.
Flash exposure; 20.9mm focal length. ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/4.9.
Flash exposure; 20.9mm focal length. ISO 1600, 1/125 second at f/4.9.
Night shot: ISO 80, 8 second exposure at f/3.5; 12.9mm focal length.
Night shot: ISO 1600, 2 second exposure at f/4.3; 12.9mm focal length.
Night shot; 18.4mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/18 second at f/4.8.
5mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/350 second at f/5.5.
35.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/174 second at f/5.5.
Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mm CMOS sensor with 10.29 million photosites (9.29 megapixels effective)
Lens: 4.95-35.4mm f/3.3-5.2 zoom lens I28-200mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 7.1x optical; up to 4.8x digital (Auto Resize up to 5.4x)
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.21) Fine/Normal; Movies - AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG Format compliant)
Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3: 3456 x 2592, 3072 x 2304, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1728 x 1296 (M-Cont Plus), 1280 x 960, 640 x 480; 3:2: 3456 x 2304; 1:1: 2592 x 2592; Movies – VGA/QVGA at 30 and 15 frames/second
Shutter speed range: 8, 4, 2, 1 to 1/2000 second (Movie: 1/30 to 1/2000 sec.)
Self-timer: 10 sec. / 2 sec. / custom self-timer
Image Stabilisation: Image sensor shift method
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2.0EV in 1/3EV steps
Focus system/range: Contrast-detect AF; range – 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm
Exposure metering/control: 256-segment multi, centre-weighted and spot metering; Program AE plus 10 Scene pre-sets
Shooting modes: Auto, Easy, Dynamic Range Double Shot Mode, Continuous, M-Continuous Plus, Ultra-High-Speed Continuous; Scene Modes (Portrait, Face, Sports, Night Portrait, Landscape, Nightscape, High Sensitivity, Zoom Macro, Skew Correction, Text); My Setting Mode; Movie Mode
ISO range: Auto, Auto-Hi, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance: Auto, Multi-pattern auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent, Incandescent 2, Fluorescent, Manual (WB bracketing available)
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Red-eye-Reduction, Flash On, Slow Synchro, Flash Off
Sequence shooting: approx. 4 frames/sec.; slows after 60 frames
Storage Media: Approx. 88MB of internal memory plus SD/SDCH expansion slot
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch Transparent LCD (approx. 920,000 dots)
Power supply: DB-70 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (CIPA rated for approx. 270 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 101.5 x 58.3 x 27.9 mm (excluding projecting parts)
Weight: Approx. 180 g (excluding battery, card, strap)
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