The CX2 had excellent overall performance, but the CX3 is even faster. It starts up in a little under 2.5 seconds, and in single-shot mode at maximum quality it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 1.4 seconds. However it is in continuous shooting mode that it really excels. The CX3 can shoot at five frames a second at full 10 megapixel resolution, 30fps at 2MP resolution, or at 60fps or 120fps at 640 x 480 resolution.
The nine-point autofocus system is the same as the CX2, and so unsurprisingly is still extremely fast and accurate, and works fairly well in low light, with an AF assist lamp that has a range of about three metres. The flash however has been upgraded and is now even more powerful and has an even faster recycle time of approximately 4.8 seconds from a full power flash. The battery powering all this goodness is also slightly more powerful, 950mAh instead of 940.
I have to admit I was expecting the new sensor to produce a bigger improvement in overall image quality. The CX2 certainly suffered no major problems in this department, but the CX3 is really not very much better. The overall level of detail is among the best of the 10MP compacts, colour rendition is as good as ever, white balance is accurate and exposure is generally good, although there were some occasional over-exposures. There is a slight improvement in corner sharpness, possibly due to an improved anti-distortion algorithm, and dynamic range in non-HDR mode does appear to be slightly broader producing more shadow detail, however high ISO noise is pretty much exactly the same, with good image quality up to 400 ISO and then steady loss of detail from 800 upwards. The new maximum 3200 ISO setting is very low quality and should really be avoided.
So is the CX3 enough of an improvement over the CX2 to justify upgrading? Probably not, to be honest, but if you're looking for a versatile well made long-zoom compact with outstanding performance, great handling and a range of advanced features and useful functions, as well as good image quality, then it's one of the best options available.
The Ricoh CX3 is only a minor upgrade of the CX2, but the improved performance, HD video recording and marginally better image quality ensure that it can still compete with its more popular rivals. Build quality, handling and ease of use are all excellent, performance is fantastic and picture quality is up there with the best.