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Ricoh CX1 review

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Ricoh CX1
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  • CX1 Digital Camera - Black

Summary

Our Score:

9

Ricoh is a strange company. Its main business is its extensive but rather pedestrian range of white-cabinet office machinery, such as copiers, fax machines and printers. Another department manufactures specialist microchips for industrial applications, which while no doubt important is hardly exciting for most of us. Meanwhile its digital camera division has, for over a decade, managed to produce some of the most creatively ingenious digital cameras ever seen, often leading the market, and even opening new niches which other manufacturers have exploited. Ricoh's range of cameras has never been extensive, but models like the GD Digital, GR Digital II, R7, R8 and this year's R10 have established a well-deserved reputation for quality, performance, value and innovation. Ricoh was the first to introduce the wide-zoom compact, and now with the new CX1 it has taken that innovation one step further.

Outwardly the CX1 looks very similar to the excellent Ricoh R10, which I reviewed back in February. It has a strong aluminium body with the same uncompromising box-like shape, and the controls on the top plate are identical. It has the same 7.1x zoom 28-200mm-equivalent lens, and while the shape and layout of the rear panel has been tweaked to accommodate the larger LCD monitor it still has the joystick menu navigation control. However the CX1 is far from being just an update of the earlier model. The new camera features a 9.29-megapixel high-speed CMOS sensor and Ricoh's Smooth Imaging Engine IV processor, which give it some unique capabilities.

Dynamic range has always been a problem for digital cameras, especially those with very small over-powered sensors. Many recent cameras have attempted to compensate for this with contrast-balancing functions, but mostly these just adjust the tone curve of the image to boost shadow detail. Ricoh however has come up with a better solution. Using the high-speed capabilities of the new CMOS sensor the CX1 can take two pictures at different exposures in rapid succession, and then combine them internally to produce a single image with much greater dynamic range. It's similar to the Photoshop technique of HDR imaging, but the camera does it internally and automatically in an instant. The resulting images have plenty of shadow detail but avoid the burned-out highlights that plague many other compact cameras.

Jmac

July 2, 2009, 3:58 pm

That extended dynamic range feature is remarkable and ingenious! This is a definite contender to replace my ageing and slightly temperamental Ricoh R6.

ChrisC

July 2, 2009, 4:25 pm

This looks to me like it might be a good value alternative to the LX3. Can anyone comment how the CX1's dynamic range trickery compares with the LX3s inherent goodness in this department?

Cliff Smith

July 2, 2009, 5:19 pm

ChrisC - In terms of dynamic range I'd say that the LX3 is better on highlight detail, but the CX1 has the advantage in the shadows. However do bear in mind that the CX1 has none of the LX3's manual exposure functions, so it's not really an alternative.

smc8788

July 2, 2009, 5:27 pm

@ John - I would hardly go so far as to call it either remarkable or ingenious. Nearly every other high-end camera on the market has has such a feature, and many provide more significantly improved results than I see in the test shots with this camera (although this may be down to the poorly calibrated monitor I'm currently using).

Cliff Smith

July 2, 2009, 6:58 pm

smc8788 - In fact the majority of enhanced DR features work by adjusting the tone curve of the image to improve shadow detail. The CX1 is the first compact camera to actually use instant in-camera HDR to extend dynamic range. I'd call that pretty ingenious myself.

CV

July 2, 2009, 9:30 pm

How does the Ricoh CX1's image quality and dynamic range compare to that of the Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR?

smc8788

July 2, 2009, 9:39 pm

Hmmm, OK then, I'll give it ingenious as it hasn't been done before, but if it isn't any better than its rivals it's perhaps not a remarkable solution just yet.





Out of interest, how fast does it take the different exposures for the HDR imaging feature? Does it struggle with moving subjects that would result in ghosting, for example?

Martin Daler

July 3, 2009, 12:34 am

@ Cliff Smith - "The CX1 is the first compact camera to actually use instant in-camera HDR to extend dynamic range"


Well, apart from the Fuji F200 EXR, about which you said:


"In high-contrast situations the sensor splits, capturing two images simultaneously at different sensitivity settings. These are combined in the camera to produce a single image with greater dynamic range", which amounts to the same HDR thing as here, only without the time difference.

BobaFett

July 3, 2009, 1:38 am

@Martin Daler - the Fuji F200 EXR takes a different approach in that it captures two images simultaneously rather than taking two successive images with different exposures. The details of the EXR sensor can be found here:





http://www.dpreview.com/review...

Ron 1

July 3, 2009, 11:54 am

How does this compare to the Panasonic TZ7?

jens s

July 3, 2009, 2:38 pm

Like smc8788 I'm not impressed by the dynamic range test shots.


Does it have settings for dynamic range?

Ataripower

July 4, 2009, 12:41 am

Ugly as hell though!!

Vic Barnes

July 6, 2009, 9:45 pm

Not another damn camera without a 'proper' viewfinder. Imagine trying to shoot action pics in bright sunlight and a strong wind. I actually like the camera's shape but don't like the noise control -- it should be better. I'm looking for a non-DSLR with the CX1's spec, but it won't be this camera.

PB

July 28, 2009, 5:46 pm

I do love my R6 but this is making my mouth water and my palms itch. The problem I have is how much better than my super reliable R6 is it gonna be? Also will she let me buy this when the R6 has been more than adequate. The R6 has struggled with crisp winter views in Skye. But then all cameras of similar age and price are the same. The combination of clear sky, sea, mountains and snow make it impoeeible to "get the shot" but it has been so good. It has proven itself at the F1 as well, dificult though with the speed obviously.


God I want this model but not sure if I can justify it

joose

August 6, 2009, 8:36 pm

@Trusted Reviews. I've just tried to show somebody this review (through digital cameras, search by brand, Ricoh and this doesn't show up. Just letting you know.

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