Ricoh CX4

    leadpic_Ricoh-CX4

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    Ricoh CX4

      In summary

      A minor upgrade to the CX3 model with six new scene pre-sets and revamped cosmetics.Ricoh's CX4 is a relatively minor upgrade to the CX3, which was announced in February this year. The 10-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processor appear unchanged, as does the 10.7x optical wide-angle zoom lens. Video capture remains at 720p maximum resolution. . . [more]

      Full review

      leadpic_Ricoh-CX4

      Ricoh's CX4 is a relatively minor upgrade to the CX3, which was announced in February this year. The 10-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processor appear unchanged, as does the 10.7x optical wide-angle zoom lens. Video capture remains at 720p maximum resolution.

      The textured grip panel on the CX3 has been smoothed over in the new model, which is otherwise almost identical to its predecessor in the placement of its controls and the size and resolution of the LCD monitor. Even the dimensions and weight of the two cameras are virtually identical.

      The CX4 will be offered in black, ‘Champagne Silver' and ‘Purple Pink', the two-tone option from the CX3 having been abandoned. It comes with a nifty part-leather case that can clip onto a belt or be hung from a carabiner. Press-stud closures make the camera readily accessible, while the case provides good protection against knocks.

      Like its predecessors, the new model is solidly constructed, with a shallow finger-grip on the front panel and a slim, built-in flash. The front panel also carries a small LED AF assist lamp, which doubles as a self-timer indicator.

      Ricoh-CX4_FRONT

      The front panel of the Purple Pink version of the Ricoh CX4.

      The rear panel carries the same 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot Transparent LCD monitor as the CX3 - and the CX2 before it. The button controls are the same as on the CX3 - and access the same functions.

      There's a small joystick in the upper right corner and a vertical line of buttons covering the Menu, Function, Self-timer/Delete and Display settings. The circular Playback button is just below the joystick.

      Ricoh-CX4_BACK

      The rear panel of the Ricoh CX4.
      The top panel has only four controls: a tiny Power button, a large shutter button with a surrounding zoom lever and a mode dial. Eight settings are provided on the mode dial. The seven modes identical to the CX3 include: 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.

      Ricoh-CX4_TOP

      The top panel of the Ricoh CX4.

      The Dynamic Range Double-shot mode has morphed into a new Creative Shooting mode, which is accessed via the mode dial. The sub-menu also contains the Miniaturise, High-contrast B&W and new Soft focus, Cross process and Toy camera settings. The Scene pre-sets are augmented with a new Night landscape multi-shot setting that combines a series of exposures shot at high sensitivities to reduce camera shake and noise.

      Otherwise, nothing much has changed. The menu system is typically Ricoh, with a small font size and requiring lots of toggling to access frequently-changed functions like exposure compensation, white balance and sensitivity. And, despite the monitor's high resolution it can be difficult to read in bright outdoor lighting.

      Like its predecessors, the CX4 provides no way to adjust lens aperture settings. 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) or take a chance on the camera selecting the desired shutter speed from its range between one and 1/2000 second. (Shutter speeds are non-adjustable in movie mode.)

      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. The changes are pretty subtle and you have to look closely to see differences between shots, 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. The minimum shooting distance display, which changes depending on the zoom setting, enables zoom distances to be checked on the monitor in macro mode.
      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.

      Quality setting

      Image size

      File size

      10M 4:3F

      3648 x 2736

      4.00MB

      10M 4:3N

      3648 x 2736

      2.32MB

      9M 3:2F

      3648 x 2432

      3.52MB

      7M 1:1F

      2736 x 2736

      2.93MB

      7M 16:9F

      3648 x 2048

      2.93MB

      5M 4:3F

      2592 x 1944

      2.59MB

      3M 4:3F

      2048 x 1536

      1.63MB

      1M 4:3F

      1280 x 960

      0.90MB

      VGA 4:3F

      640 x 480

      0.22MB

      M-Cont Plus (10M)

      3648 x 2736

      2.32MB

      M-Cont Plus (2M)

      1728 x 1296

      0.66MB

      Speed Cont (VGA 4:3N)

      640 x 480

      0.12MB

      Video recording is the same as the CX3, which introduced 720p HD movies to the CX series. As in the CX3, soundtracks are recorded monaurally and there's no facility for adding a stereo microphone to overcome this limitation. There's also no wind-noise-reducing filter, which means it's difficult to capture clear soundtracks outdoor in anything stronger than a gentle breeze.

      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 and typical recording times are shown in the table below.

      Resolution

      Frame rate

      Recording time on a 2GB memory card

      HD (1280 x 720 pixels)

      30 fps

      12 minutes, 14 seconds

      VGA (640 x 480 pixels)

      30 fps

      35 minutes, 38 seconds

      QVGA (320 x 240 pixels)

      30 fps

      86 minutes, 28 seconds

      A Class 6 or higher SD/SDHC memory card is recommended for shooting video clips. There's still no HDMI port so you can't connect the CX4 to an HDTV set to play video clips directly. Consequently, this camera is at a disadvantage when compared with other HD-capable digicams.

      Playback and Software
      The CX4 provides the same image flagging function as the 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.

      Performance
      As we found with the previous model, images straight out of the review camera were slightly soft and edge softening was visible in many test shots. Autofocusing was patchy and. although most shots taken in bright lighting were acceptably sharp, we encountered many misses in cloudy conditions and low light levels.

      Imatest showed resolution to be slightly below expectations for a 10-megapixel camera, with best performance between the 23.6mm and 34.9mm focal lengths. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

      CX4_Res-vs-FL-graph

      Resolution declined gradually from ISO 400 onward, without plunging at ISO 3200 as we found with the CX3 we tested. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

      CX4_Res-vs-ISO-graph

      Test shots taken at different sensitivities largely confirmed our Imatest findings. Little noise was visible in flash shots, although images became progressively softer from ISO 800 on. Long exposures (eight seconds) were also relatively noise-free up to (and including) ISO 400. However, exposures of one second at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 were visibly noise-affected - and the ISO 3200 shot was distinctly soft and blotchy.

      Lateral chromatic aberration was 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 border of the 'moderate' CA band.

      CX4_CA-graph

      Strong backlighting was generally well-handled and we found few instances of flare affecting shots. Imatest showed colour reproduction to be reasonably good, with slight hue shifts and elevated saturation in the red and blue bands of the spectrum.

      Skin hues were slightly off the mark in our Imatest tests, while overall saturation was marginally higher than normal. Test shots taken in cloudy conditions with auto white balance control tended to appear slightly greenish-yellow. (Examples are provided in the SAMPLE IMAGES section below.)

      The review camera's auto white balance setting came quite close to correcting the orange cast of incandescent lighting and produced close-to-natural colours under fluorescent lights. The pre-sets tended to over-correct and added a purplish-blue cast under both types of lighting. Manual measurement produced neutral colours.

      Video clips were slightly soft, particularly with the 720p resolution setting. The camera's autofocusing system also appeared unable to keep pace with even very slow pans and zooms, compounding the problem. VGA clips appeared slightly sharper than the 720p HD clips but suffered from the same focus tracking problems. Soundtracks were similar to the previous model.

      For our timing tests we used a Class 6 Silicon Power 8GB SDHC memory card. Overall response times were variable. The review camera took just over one second to power-up and almost two seconds to zoom from the widest to the narrowest focal length setting. Shot-to-shot times averaged 1.4 seconds.

      We measured an average capture lag of 0.4 seconds, which is roughly half the lag measured for the CX3, indicating an improvement in autofocusing speed. Pre-focusing reduced the lag time to around 0.1 seconds. It took 1.7 seconds, on average, to process each JPEG file.

      In the normal continuous shooting mode, the review camera recorded 10 shots in 1.7 seconds. It took 2.8 seconds to process this burst. The other continuous modes package bursts of images in multi-picture (*.MPO) files, which can't be opened by normal software. The supplied software is required to view individual images in bursts.

      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 5.9 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 6.4 seconds to process this burst. With the Speed Cont (High) mode we recorded 120 frames in 0.95 seconds, which is marginally faster than the claimed maximum frame rate with this setting. It took 5.7 seconds to process this burst.

      Buy this camera if:
      - You're looking for a slim, pocketable digicam with a relatively long, retractable zoom lens.
      - You want effective image stabilisation.
      - You'd like extended dynamic range capture.
      Don't buy this camera if:
      - You want the ability to capture raw files.
      - You want P, A, S and M shooting modes plus full control over aperture and shutter speed settings.
      - You require an optical viewfinder.
      - You want an easy-to-read menu system.

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      IMATEST GRAPHS

      CX4_RIMG0027_colorerror
      CX4_RIMG0027_colors
      CX4_RIMG0027_YBL71_ca
      CX4_RIMG0027_YR50_cpp
      CX4_RIMG0027_YBL71_cpp

      SAMPLE IMAGES

      CX4_RIMG0086_AWB-tung

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      CX4_RIMG0090_AWB-fluoro

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      CX4_R0010001_wide

      4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/470 second at f/7.

      CX4_R0010002_tele

      52.5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/620 second at f/5.6.

      CX4_R0010004_digizoom

      Digital zoom; 52.5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/760 second at f/5.6.

      CX4_R0010056_close

      Macro mode; 5.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/3.7.

      CX4_R0010041_close

      Macro mode; 5.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/270 second at f/3.7.

      CX4_R0010055

      12.2mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/270 second at f/4.4.

      CX4_R0010055_softening

      Crop from a 100% enlargement of the above image showing edge softening.

      CX4_R0010005_backlighting

      Backlighting; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/570 second at f/7.

      CX4_R0010005_fringing-crop

      Crop from a 100% enlargement of the above image showing slight coloured fringing and edge softening.

      CX4_R0010069_cloudy-wide

      Examples of the yellow-green colour cast in cloudy conditions; 4.9mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/930 second at f/3.5.

      CX4_R0010070_cloudy-tele

      A shot taken with the 52.5mm focal length from the same position. ISO 200, 1/310 second at f/5.6.

      CX4_R0010015_flash-portrait

      Flash portrait showing skin tones; 16.3mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/90 second at f/4.8.

      CX4_R0010045_night-ISO100

      ISO 100, 8 second exposure at f/4.3; 11.0mm focal length.

      CX4_R0010046_night-ISO400

      ISO 400, 8 second exposure at f/5.6; 11.0mm focal length.

      CX4_R0010050_night-ISO3200

      ISO 3200, 1 second exposure at f/4.3; 11.0mm focal length.

      CX4_R0010026_flash_ISO100

      Flash exposure; 20.9mm focal length. ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/4.9. (Note the underexposure due to the relatively low flash output power.

      CX4_R0010028_flash_ISO400

      Flash exposure; 20.9mm focal length. ISO 800, 1/125 second at f/4.9.

      CX4_R0010031_flash_ISO3200

      Flash exposure; 20.9mm focal length. ISO 3200, 1/125 second at f/5.4.

      CX4_R0010024_night

      Night landscape multi-shot mode;4.9mm focal length, ISO 993, f/3.5.

      CX4_HD-video-1

      HD video clip near the beginning of the recording where the camera was pre-focused on the subject.

      CX4_HD-video-2

      A second frame grab from the same clip showing the softening that occurred as the lens was slowly zoomed in.

      CX4_VGA-video-1
      CX4_VGA-video-2

      VGA video clips of the same subject, shot under the same conditions.

       

      Specifications

      leadpic_Ricoh-CX4

      Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mmCMOS sensor with 10.6 million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 4.9-52.5mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens (28-300mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 10.7x optical, up to4.8x digital
      Image formats: Stills- JPEG (Exif 2.21); Movies - AVI (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: sensor-shift system
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2.0EV in 1/3EV steps
      Focus system/range: Contrast-based 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, Movie, Scene auto, Scene mode (Portrait, Discreet Mode , Night. Portrait, Night Landscape Multi-shot, Sports, Landscape, Zoom Macro, Pets, Skew Correct, High Sensitivity, Text); My settings mode; Continuous mode; Creative Shooting Mode (Dynamic Range, Miniaturise, High Contrast B&W, Soft Focus, Cross Process, Toy Camera)
      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. (10M 4:3F shooting time; shooting speed after 12 pictures is approx. 3 frames/sec.)
      Storage Media: 86MB internal plus expansion slot for SD/SDHC memory cards
      Viewfinder: No
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch Transparent LCD (approx. 920,000 dots)
      Power supply: DB-100 rechargeable battery; CIPA rated for approx. 330 shots/charge
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 101.5 x 58.6 x 29.4 mm
      Weight: Approx. 184 grams (without battery and card)

       

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      Rating

       

      RRP: $499

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 7.5
      • Image quality: Stills - 7.8; Video - 6.5
      • OVERALL: 8.0

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