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Although the R8 body design is beginning to look rather dated after two years there's no denying that the CX4 is a well made camera. The body shell is all aluminium, with tight panel joins, solidly mounted controls and a strong metal hinge on the battery/card hatch. Even the small plastic hatch covering the USB and A/V socket has a proper hinge rather than the usual plastic tether. The handgrip on the front has lost the textured plastic cover, but has gained a small ridge which does provide a secure and comfortable grip. On the back there is a plastic thumb rest feature which also helps, and the camera is easy and comfortable to handle.
The control layout is identical to the CX3, but this is no bad thing. Ricoh's control interface has always been very good, and the CX4 has the same small small joystick-type control to activate and navigate a handy quick function menu. As before the items appearing on this menu can be customised, with up to four available from a list including exposure compensation, white balance, ISO setting, image quality, focus mode, metering mode, bracketing and flash compensation. As well as this there is a user-customisable function button which can be used to control a long list of parameters.
The three-inch monitor screen has a very wide viewing angle and an effective anti-glare coating, and is exceptionally sharp, with a resolution of 920,000 dots, the kind of resolution usually only found on DSLRs. The menu takes full advantage of this, with a small but very clear text font allowing a large number of items to be displayed on screen, making menu navigation very easy. However there is no option for a larger font size, so anyone with poor eyesight may have a problem with this. Similarly the on-screen data displays use very small text and symbols, leaving plenty of screen area for the displayed image.
Although the CX4 only adds a few new features to the already impressive list boasted by the CX3, to be fair they are potentially quite useful. The subject tracking AF system works a lot better than some other similar systems that I've tried, and is capable of following quite fast moving subjects even if they pass out of the frame for a period. The image stabilisation system is certainly better, and now offers over 3.5 stops of extra stability, and the Night Landscape mode also works well, reliably producing sharp low-noise shots in dark conditions. There are a couple of extra effects in the Creative Effects mode, including a fairly pleasant soft focus effect, a 'cross process' filter effect for some interesting colour distortions, and a 'toy camera' effect for those deluded fools who think that shooting with a badly-made replica of a cheap 1960s Diana camera is the height of ironic hipster cool.
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