The shape and style of the CX-1 won't be to everyone's liking. It may be available in silver and metallic pink as well as the matt black shown here, but there's no disguising the rigid linear design. It's not the most organic shape in the world, but it is surprisingly comfortable to hold, and the repositioned controls leave plenty of room to grip the camera securely.
Ricoh's camera control interface is simple but versatile. Main shooting options are controlled by a small four-item customisable quick-menu, activated by pressing the joystick. Options such as white balance, ISO setting, exposure compensation, focus mode, metering mode and others can be assigned to this menu for quick access.
Other options are accessed via the superb main menu. The CX1 has a big three-inch monitor with an ultra-sharp resolution of 920,000 dots, four times the resolution of most other camera monitors, and the menu has been designed to take advantage of this extra sharpness. The lettering is small, but extremely sharp and clear, which is just as well because the list of options is a long one and contains some unusual entries.
The CX1's list of unusual features isn't limited to Expanded Dynamic Range setting. The CMOS sensor also gives it a high-speed shooting capability similar to the Casio EX-FC100 which I reviewed in April. It can shoot stills at between 15 and 120fps, pre-recording up to two seconds, but only at a limited resolution, ranging from 2.0MP to VGA. As with the Casio it's hard to think of a useful application for this function, but it's an impressive technological feat. Just as impressive and far more useful is the 4fps full-resolution continuous shooting mode.
The innovation doesn't end there either. The CX1 also features multi-pattern auto white balance, which can set white balance differently for different areas of the image, which is useful if your image is lit by a mixture of different light sources. Also potentially useful is focus bracketing, which automatically takes a series of five shots, adjusting the focus between shots. With the camera on a tripod this function could be combined with Photoshop's Auto Blend feature to produce some interesting results. Other minor but still rather nifty features include colour and white balance bracketing, and a neat little electronic spirit level on the monitor display that works in both landscape and portrait formats.
The only slight disapointment is the video mode. When most other manufacturers are moving in the direction of HD video recording and advanced audio options, the CX1 has to make do with 640 x 480 resolution at 30frames per second, with only digital zoom. I suppose they had to leave something to put in the next model.