Clever capture modes
Review It doesn’t seem five minutes since we looked at the CX1 – well, back in April actually – so it’s quite surprise to find that Ricoh has already launched its successor, the CX2. Again, this is a super-zoom compact seemingly aimed at the enthusiast or the DSLR user who occasionally wants to pack something simpler and smaller. That said, there are a few surprising omissions for a top-end compact.
Ricoh's CX2 offers a more powerful zoom and some image processing tweaks
At first glance, there’s little difference between the CX1 and CX2 – both have the same box-shaped metal body with relatively few buttons and a 3in LCD screen composed of 920,000 dots. The most obvious design change has been the addition of a textured hand grip on the right hand side of the CX2’s body.
The cameras are also a similar size and weight, with the CX2 measuring 102 x 58 x 29mm and weighing around 200g with battery and card. Although the CX2 is highly portable, you will need deep pockets to carry it around comfortably. Both models use SD/SDHC cards and include 88MB of internal memory.
Even below the skin both cameras have some similar features including a 1/2.3in CMOS sensor with 9.20Mp and Smooth Imaging Engine IV image processor. So, is the CX2 simply a case of the same chocolates in a slightly different box? No, but that said, if you were one of those who rushed out and purchased the CX1 a few months ago, you shouldn’t feel too bad about missing out on the CX2.
One of the biggest differences is that the CX2 has a 10.7x optical zoom compared with the CX1’s 7.1x zoom. The CX2’s offers an f/3-5-5 6 4.9-52.5mm optical zoom, equivalent to 28-300mm on a 35mm camera. Other features include an ISO range of 80-1600 and a shutter speed range of 8-1/1000sec.
Crisp LCD panel, but no viewfinder
As with the CX1, you get Ricoh’s Dynamic Range Double Shot system (DR), which takes two consecutive frames at different exposures and then combines the exposure information from both to produce a frame with an expanded dynamic range. A new addition is an automatic version of this feature.
There are also a few extra scene modes including Miniaturise, this blurs the edges, which makes objects appear much smaller than they are, and Discreet mode, designed for when shooting in museums and other places where you don’t want your camera to be a distraction.
10x zoom lens has a range equivalent to 28-300mm on a 35mm camera
In this mode, the camera’s flash, AF light and sounds are disabled. Still, there are a few things missing that you might rightly expect to find on a high-end compact costing £300. There is no RAW shooting option, no HD video (just VGA and QVGA), no viewfinder (which we think is essential on a super-zoom), no aperture or shutter priority, and no manual aperture or shutter speed.
Switch on to first shot, is a shade under three seconds, which means the CX2 isn’t the fastest camera off the blocks, but it’s not too bad. The large mode dial clicks firmly into position and you have a number of modes to choose from including: Auto, Easy (Auto on steroids, with even fewer user options), DR, Continuous, Scene and Movie. You can also create you own customised settings and store them in the two My Settings modes. The CX2’s screen is large and clear, even in bright light, and the menu is easy to see.
There are two main menus, one for shooting (two pages) and the other for set-up (three pages) that are navigated from a joystick control. We found the joystick rather fiddly, and it was easy to push it too hard and exit the menu before making your adjustments. If you use the menu for adjusting the ISO speed, you are directed to almost the bottom of the second page, which is a pain.
Fortunately, the CX2 offers a fair degree of customisation. A Function button can be assigned one of eleven options, which are selected from a menu list (including AE lock and auto/manual focus select). You can also assign four functions to the Adjust button on the top of the joystick, such as ISO, exposure, white balance and image quality, which is much faster than navigating the menu.
Also available in pink, if you must
If you’re not too confident about getting the best shot, there are plenty of choices that enable you to hedge your bets. For instance, focus, white balance and colour modes can all be bracketed, while multi-target AF results in the camera automatically selecting seven different focus positions in a scene and then taking seven consecutive shots, one for each position. We were pleased to see that Ricoh has retained the electronic spirit level display.
Miniature mode enabled
Without Miniature mode enabled
High sensitivity mode
Night shot mode
Night: ISO 1600
Auto exposure, without Dynamic Range mode enabled
Auto exposure, with Dynamic Range mode enabled
Dynamic Range mode - strong
Dynamic Range mode - medium
Dynamic Range mode - weak
Dynamic Range mode - very weak
In terms of performance, the CX2 wasn’t bad. Noise isn’t an issue until you crank up the ISO speed to 400 and beyond. Colour and sharpness are impressive, although like the CX1, there is a tendency to overexpose. The CX2 boasts a White Balance MultiPattern Auto system, which divides a scene up into a 32 x 27 grid and calculates the optimum white balance setting for each zone. This is designed to enhance performance, but we saw little difference in the resulting image when using it or the plain vanilla auto white balance setting.
A lack of manual exposure control hampers flexibility
The DR system offered little when used in the Auto mode and its overall effect on the resulting image is subtle rather than stunning. You also need to use a tripod to get the best results. Shooting in low light produced less than spectacular results and the absence of any manual aperture or shutter control means your options are limited.
We did like the continuous shooting modes, which can shoot at 5 fps at 9MP image quality and a blistering 120fps in VGA quality. The CX2’s CCD-shift Camera Shake Correction system, however, is less tolerant of camera shake than some other systems we’ve used, and it produced variable results, especially when shooting at the extreme end of the telephoto setting. Battery life is rated at 290 frames using the CIPA standard, although it was closer to 260 on our tests.
It is somewhat puzzling as to why Ricoh has rushed out the CX2. Is it a sign of a lack of confidence in the CX1 or was the company keen to unveil its latest technology to the public? If it’s the latter, then there’s very little on show. In the time since the CX1 was launched, HD movie making has become available on some similarly-priced compacts, like Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-TZ7, so the CX2’s VGA offering is somewhat underwhelming.
The lack of a viewfinder, plus the absence of manual or even semi-manual control will limit its appeal to enthusiasts, and yet at £300, it’s rather a lot to shell out if you simply want a point-and-shoot compact. The CX2 is well made and has some useful features, but we think there are stronger candidates on offer at this price point. ®
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