Although most people seem to consider the Panasonic TZ series to be the definitive long-zoom travel camera, in fact the currently popular format of a compact camera with a flush-folding long-zoom, wide angle lens was actually invented by Ricoh with its innovative Caplio R-series cameras, starting in 2005 with the Caplio R1. That design has evolved over the years through a series of progressively more advanced Caplio R and CX models, culminating in today's review camera, the new CX4. Ricoh has been launching new CX models at an incredible rate; it's only just over a year since we reviewed the CX1, with the CX2 following this time last year. Earlier this year we took a look at the excellent CX3, so what's new for the CX4?
The answer, unfortunately is 'not much'. Ricoh has long had a policy of incremental upgrades, but comparing the specification charts for the CX3 and CX4 is like playing a game of “spot the difference”. They have the same f/3.5 – f/5.6 10.7x zoom lens (28-300mm equiv.), the same back-illuminated 10.0 megapixel CMOS sensor, the same ultra-sharp 920k three-inch LCD monitor, and the same box-like all metal body with almost identical dimensions. In fact the body design hasn't changed significantly since the R8 launched in 2008.
In fact there are a few significant differences between the CX3 and the CX4, but you have to look pretty hard to find them. They include the addition of a subject-tracking autofocus mode, a couple of extra Creative Effects modes and “Night Landscape Multi-shot” to the scene mode menu, and the sensor-shift image stabilisation system has been improved. In a highly competitive market it's easy to see why a camera company would want to keep its products up to date. Many of the latest travel cameras have added features such as high quality lenses, stereo audio recording or built-in GPS tracking with viewable maps and landmark databases, but it seems that with the CX4 Ricoh has launched a new model to add just a couple of fairly trivial features to the menu, something that other manufacturers might have done with a firmware update.