Ricoh CX5 £249.99
30th Oct 2011 | 15:35
Is the CX4 upgrade an expensive point and shoot camera, or does it offer something extra?
The latest version of Ricoh's CX compact cameras was released just a few months after its predecessor, the CX4, which in turn was only released a few months after the CX3. With a new version seemingly appearing with increasing regularity, is it worth upgrading to the Ricoh CX5 or sticking it out until the next version?
Outwardly, you would be hard pushed to immediately spot the difference between the CX5 and the older CX4. Inside, though, Ricoh boasts a faster autofocus speed, promising to be twice as quick as the CX4, thanks to a new hybrid AF system.
Another new feature is the Super-resolution function, which enables magnification of up 2x for telephoto shooting at up to 600mm equivalent.
With a full price of £250 in the UK or $219 in the US, the Ricoh CX5 isn't significantly cheaper than premium compacts such as the Canon PowerShot S95 and Panasonic Lumix LX5. But despite its sleek black appearance suggesting otherwise, the Ricoh isn't equipped with advanced features such as raw shooting.
It does boast an impressive 10x optical zoom (28-300mm equivalent), though, which could come in handy for travel photography and the like.
Build quality and handling
The Ricoh CX5 uses the same outer shell as the Ricoh CX4. To look at this range of cameras, you would think that it belongs to the same class of premium compacts as the Canon PowerShot S95. However, this is more in line with a basic point-and-shoot than those at the upper end of the compact market.
It is sleek, simply but elegantly designed, and is sufficiently weighty to give it a sense of quality when holding it. The buttons on the back are well placed, and your thumb will naturally sit on them when holding the camera.
The shutter release is fairly well built, although the zoom ring does feel a little flimsy. The mode dial is a little stiff, which is good for preventing accidental mode switches.
The joystick on the rear of the camera, which is used for scrolling through the menu, is sadly not a joy to use. Its small size would make it tricky for anyone with larger hands, but the main problem is it's far too easy to accidentally knock the wrong way and lose your path on the menu.
In the menu system itself, although you have a myriad of options, it can be very laborious to scroll through. For instance, if you want to make a simple change, such as changing the ISO value, first you need to press Menu on the rear, scroll past 17 other menu options, press right on the joystick, press down to choose the value you want and then finally push in the joystick to select - hardly a quick process.
Unlike premium compact cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix LX5, shooting in manual mode isn't available on the Ricoh CX5. A mode called My Settings, available through the top scroll wheel offers a close approximation, though. With this you can set different options such as ISO, white balance, autofocus mode and size of the image.
If you find yourself wanting to use the same settings on a regular basis, you have the option to save two presets to the scroll wheel. Annoyingly, however, this does mean that while using My mode, the camera won't remember any settings changes if you decide to switch off the camera and come back to it at a later time.
The Ricoh CX5's large zoom range (10x) is one of the most saleable features of the camera, and one that is likely to appeal to travel and holiday photographers. Zooming is quick and fairly smooth, and you also have the option to add extra digital zoom if something is just beyond reach. The noise from the camera as it extends the zoom is not the most discreet of noises, so you may find this annoying when shooting in quiet areas.
Many compact cameras suffer from slow start-up times, slow autofocus and shutter lag. Start-up is certainly not the quickest we've seen in the compact market, booting up in around three seconds.
The autofocus in the Ricoh CX5 has been designed to be ultra-quick, an improvement from the previous model. It certainly delivers on that front, locking onto most subjects very rapidly, only struggling with very close-up macros and so on.
Shutter lag is virtually non-existent, which is very impressive. If only the start-up time could have also been rectified, this would have been a very quick camera. Still, once it's switched on, most moments will be easy to quickly capture.
The rear 3-inch 920,000 dot LCD screen performs well in a variety of situations, including bright sunlight and indoors. The text display is a little small to read without being quite close to the screen, though, so those with poorer eyesight may struggle.
As with its predecessor, the Ricoh CX5 may be a little shortcoming in its handling, but thankfully it delivers some pretty decent results. Colours are bright and punchy without looking unrealistic, and in auto scene mode, the camera does a good job of recognising what's in front of it.
Creative filters are always a welcome addition to any compact camera, and those on offer here are the same as in the Ricoh CX4: Dynamic Range Double Shot, Miniaturize, High Contrast B&W, Soft Focus, Cross Process and Toy Camera. All are well worth a play and work reasonably well. Miniaturize mode does a decent job of recreating a tilt and shift lens and will work well when photographing from a high vantage point.
Sensitivity can be altered from ISO 100 through to ISO 3200. Low-light performance is very good on the camera, with images remaining virtually noise free from ISO 400 and below, beginning to creep in at 800-1600 and even coping relatively well at 3200. For a compact at this price range it's an impressive performance.
In our tests, chromatic aberration was kept to a minimum, with virtually no examples of purple fringing in photos - a great bonus for travel and holiday photographers who want to take photos of architecture, landscapes, buildings and so on.
In fully Auto scene mode, white balance proved to be spot on most of the time, with the odd exception – this is always worth keeping an eye on when shooting with a camera that is incapable of shooting raw images.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Ricoh CX5, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Ricoh CX5 is capable of resolving up to around 18 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 100, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 16 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 16 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 14 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 14 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 14 (see full image)
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them please click here to read the full article.
The Ricoh CX5 is a camera that should especially appeal to those looking for a great holiday and travel shooter, especially when left in fully auto mode, avoiding the hassle of attempting to change settings with the joystick and poor menu navigation.
Serious photographers who might expect something along the lines of Canon's PowerShot S95 or Panasonic's Lumix LX5 may be left disappointed, because the manual controls are lacking, along with the ability to shoot in raw.
However, it shouldn't be forgotten that this retails for significantly less than those premium compact cameras the exterior imitates, so it would be unfair to expect the interior to match-up.
The impressive zoom range fits into the neat body with ease, making this camera pocket-friendly but a solid performer.
The badly-designed menu system and fiddly joystick operation make it difficult to make changes on the fly.
As with its predecessors, the Ricoh CX5 is basically a high-end point and shoot camera that will appeal to those looking for high quality images from a pocket and budget-friendly camera. Particularly impressive are its sleek looks and the 10x zoom range.