Although it's never been the biggest player in the digital camera market, Ricoh has always been at the cutting edge of technological development, introducing many new ideas that are later adopted as standards by the more mainstream manufacturers. The whole concept of a long-zoom compact camera is pretty much a Ricoh invention, so its no surprise that the company is continuing to innovate with its new CX3, a compact camera featuring a 10.7x zoom f/3.5-5.6 lens equivalent to 28-300mm. It is a replacement for the excellent CX2 launched last year.
The CX3 uses a new type of CMOS sensor developed by Sony, called a back-illuminated sensor. This is a new way of manufacturing sensor chips that should have a significant effect on image quality and especially on low light performance, and requires a little explanation. A digital camera sensor is made up of several million individual photocells, each of which are connected to the camera's processor by wires. In a conventional CCD or CMOS sensor, due to the way the chips are made these wires are actually in front of the photocells, and inevitably block some of the light from reaching the photosensitive elements. In the new back-illuminated sensors the chip is effectively made upside-down, so the the wires connecting the photocells are underneath and out of the way, allowing more light to reach the photocells. More light means better pictures with greater colour depth and better low light performance.
The 1 /2.3-inch CMOS sensor in the CX3 has a resolution of 10.0 megapixels, only a slight upgrade from the 9.29MP CX2. It will be interesting to see if the new technology produces tangible benefits in image quality.
Another benefit of the new sensor technology is a big boost to overall performance. The CX3 can shoot five frames a second at full resolution, and also has a high-speed mode that can shoot at 120fps, although only at VGA resolution.
Other features of the new camera include 720p HD video recording, automatic scene mode selection, a “Dynamic range double shot” mode (in other words in-camera HDR), and a new silent “pet mode”. The “miniturize mode” and high contrast monochrome modes from the CX2 are also included, and the CX3 has the same superb ultra-sharp 3.0-inch 920k monitor as the CX2.
The actual launch date hasn't yet been confirmed, but the CX3 will be available “shortly” priced at £299.99 inc. VAT.