Ricoh cameras usually have very good performance, and with its high-speed components the CX1 is even faster than usual. It starts up in a little under two seconds, and shuts down again just as quickly. In single-shot mode it can take a picture every 1.3 seconds, which is as fast as any top-end compact on the market. I’ve already mentioned the 4fps continuous shooting mode, which needless to say is also exceptionally fast. The mechanical noise of the zoom and focusing mechanisms which was a negative feature of several previous Ricoh models has been greatly reduced.
The autofocus system is very good, focusing quickly and accurately in all lighting conditions. The CX1 has a very good AF assist lamp with a range of several meters, so it will focus properly in total darkness. The built-in flash is also good, with excellent frame coverage and good close-range metering. The recharge time from an average flash is about five seconds.
Image quality, and especially high-ISO noise, has been a major problem for many previous Ricoh cameras, notably the R10. I remarked in my review of that camera that a new sensor was needed, and I’ll sit here looking smug because the image quality of the CX1, with its new CMOS chip, is a vast improvement over the previous model. The lens takes some of the credit, producing excellent corner-to-corner sharpness, with no distortion at any focal length and only a tiny hint of chromatic aberration in the corners of the frame at wide angle, but it is the sensor and image processor that deserve the accolades. The overall level of detail is superb, and colour rendition is pretty much perfect. The expanded dynamic range feature works extremely well, producing good shadow and highlight detail even in difficult high-contrast shots.
Image noise is handled extremely well, with negligible visible noise at 80-200 ISO, and acceptable image quality at 400 ISO. From 800 ISO upwards noise reduction becomes more noticeable, but the effect is actually oddly pleasant, almost impressionistic, and overall colour fidelity is reasonably good even at 1600 ISO, although a lot of fine detail is lost.
The Ricoh CX1 is a very accomplished camera from one of the veteran names in the industry. It combines excellent build quality, a versatile specification, class-leading performance and superb image quality with a range of innovative features and easy-to-use handling, all for a very reasonable price, and even includes a two-year warranty. It’s impossible not to be impressed.