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Ricoh CX2 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £300.00

It’s only been a few months since I reviewed the Ricoh CX1. Ricoh has never been the most prolific of camera manufacturers, only launching a couple of new models a year and keeping its older designs in production long after faster-moving brands would have discontinued them. It’s rather surprising then that less than six months after the launch of the CX1, Ricoh has followed it up with today’s camera, the new CX2.


Ricoh pretty much invented the concept of the pocket-sized compact camera with a long-zoom wide-angle lens, launching the five-megapixel, 7.1x zoom (28-200mm equiv.) Caplio R3 in 2005. At the time it was a unique idea, but other manufacturers eventually saw the potential of the design and introduced their own zoom compacts, most notably Panasonic with its highly successful TZ-series, the latest of which features a 12x zoom and HD video recording. Rather than try to play catch-up though, Ricoh introduced a new technical innovation with the CX1, in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging, taking two pictures simultaneously at different exposures and combining them to produce a single image with improved shadow and highlight detail. I have no doubt that other manufacturers will soon copy this idea, in fact Pentax has included in-camera HDR in its latest DSLR, the K-7.


The CX2 is really only an incremental upgrade of the CX1, and shares nearly all of that camera’s features, including the 9.29MP CMOS sensor, the incredibly sharp three-inch 920k monitor, the strong all-metal body and of course the in-camera HDR feature. The only obvious external difference is the small handgrip, which is now slightly more rounded and has a non-slip texture. I say obvious, because the main upgrade is easy to miss at first glance. The CX2 has a new f/3.5-5.6 10.7x zoom lens, equivalent to 28-300mm, but which retracts flush with the camera body and is exactly the same size as the f/3.3-5.2 7.1x zoom that Ricoh had been using since 2005.

Although the CX2 is in most respects identical to the CX1, the lens isn’t the only new feature. There are several new items on the scene mode menu, including one that I’ve certainly never seen before. If you’ve read my tutorial on faking focal plane effects, you’ll have seen how blurring the foreground and background to mimic restricted depth of field can make large buildings and other objects look like tiny models. Since they’ve already copied my HDR tutorial, the boffins at Ricoh decided to copy the focal plane effect as well, and have incorporated a filter to automatically produce the same effect in-camera, applying a gradient blur to the background and foreground. It only works on certain types of image, generally large objects photographed from a high angle, but the effect is quite striking.


As well as that bit of fun, the other new modes include a discreet shooting mode which disables the flash, the AF assist lamp and the operation sounds, for taking pictures in churches or art galleries where such distractions would be unwelcome. The other new shooting modes include a high-contrast monochrome mode producing an effect similar to push-processed black and white film, and an improved portrait mode, with automatic face detection, focusing and white balance adjustment.


The CX2’s huge high-resolution menu still has all the eccentric but brilliant features that made the CX1 such fun to play with, things like focus bracketing with multi-point autofocus. This is a well-thought-out feature, allowing the user to select wide or narrow field, and then taking a sequence of seven shots, each one focused on a different element of the scene. Using a photo editing program these shots could be combined into one image with massive depth of field. I wonder if this effect will be the next to be automated in camera?


There are a few nifty features in playback mode too. As well as manually adjustable cropping, white balance adjustment and automatic skew correction, there is also a handy manual level adjustment feature with three movable points on a histogram, just as you would do in a photo editing program.

One effect of the new longer lens with its complicated folding internal structure is to slow down the start up time. The CX2 starts up in a little under three seconds, which is reasonably quick by most standards, but much slower than the CX1’s sub-two-second start time. However in all other respects the CX2 shares the CX1’s excellent performance. In single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of an impressive 1.3 seconds.


The multi-point autofocus system is very good, focusing quickly and accurately in all lighting conditions. The CX2 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.


While overall image quality is just as impressive as the CX1, there is one respect where the CX2 doesn’t do quite as well as its predecessor. The new lens has an admirable focal length range, and produces very little wide-angle distortion and almost no chromatic aberration, but I suspect that this may be at least partly the result of software manipulation, because corner sharpness is severely lacking.

Image noise is handled extremely well, with virtually no visible noise at 80-200 ISO, and better than average image quality at 400 ISO. From 800 ISO upwards noise reduction becomes more noticeable, but it is still on a par with any of its main rivals, and overall colour fidelity is good even at 1600 ISO.


”’Verdict ”’

The Ricoh CX2 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.

”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced to let you see the full image, and a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality. These pictures were taken indoors using reflected natural light ”


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This is the full frame at 80 ISO.


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At 80 ISO the image quality is excellent, with smooth colour rendition and lots of detail.


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Much the same result at 100 ISO.


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Still no problems at 200 ISO.


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There are signs of noise reduction at 400 ISO, with some loss of fine detail.


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At 800 ISO the noise reduction has further reduced fine detail, but colour rendition is still accurate..


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There’s a lot of noise at 1600 ISO, but the overall colour isn’t too bad.


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This is the full frame at 1600 ISO.


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”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image. ”


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Here’s the usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture.


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Close to the centre of the frame the level of fine detail is very impressive.


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The CX2 produces very little wide-angle distortion, although some of that may be down to processing.


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Centre sharpness is very good, but….


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…corner sharpness is sadly lacking, although at least there’s no chromatic aberration. Again, that may be down to processing.


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”Here are some general test shots to help evaluate the camera’s overall image quality, including dynamic range, colour rendition and the zoom range of the lens. Some pictures may be clicked to download the full size original image. ”


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The wide-angle end is equivalent to 28mm.


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The telephoto end is equivalent to 300mm


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With the HDR feature switched off, dynamic range is no better than any other 9MP compact.


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With the HDR feature on, there is loads more shadow detail and fewer blown highlights.


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Colour rendition is very natural.


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The CX2 is fun to use and encourage experimentation.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 8
  • Image Quality 9
  • Build Quality 9

Features

Camera type Super Zoom
Megapixels (Megapixel) 9.2 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 10.7x

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