Ricoh's latest CX model features an improved sensor, but does that mean improved results?
When perusing the specification of the CX3, what instantly strikes you is that, indeed, much remains the same as before. However, one of the main changes comes in the important area of the camera’s sensor. A new 10MP CMOS sensor features which, much like many other cameras on the market, is back-illuminated. This back-illumination offers the promise of increased shooting performance in low-light scenes – a feature that will be aided by the improved noise reduction utilising the algorithm seen on the GR Digital III.
Another area that sees an improvement is video capture – the Ricoh CX3 now joins the club of compact cameras offering full HD video capture, itself featuring in 1280 x 720 pixel resolution.
Outside of the new sensor and HD video addition, a lot of the specification remains the same. The CX3 offers the same 10.7x optical zoom, with a range of 28-300mm in 35mm equivalent terms. The eye-catching 3in, 920k-dot VGA LCD screen is also carried on, placing it amongst the highest-specified compact cameras in that department.
Ricoh, however, has overlooked some additions that may indeed have been welcomed. The CX3 still only offers capture in conventional JPEG format, with RAW files capture still absent. Also, while boasting its own incarnation of the fashionable ‘Smart Auto’ capture mode, as well as a range of storable setting locations, the CX3 is still lacking the full manual mode one would expect from a camera with pretentions of a semi-serious shooter. In the place where one would normally expect there to be a manual mode on a camera of this level are a few interesting shooting modes.
The CX3 offers an HDR blending shooting mode, whereby two individual shots are captured at once and then combined to cover a complete exposure of the scene. It also offers several in-camera processing modes including a tilt-shift emulating ‘miniaturisation’ mode.
Design and Performance
Again, the design of the CX3 owes much to the design of its predecessors. The body has a distinctly retro feel, with solid lines and a reassuring weight of 185g. The CX3 has a brushed-steel finish, while a solid plastic handgrip is also present. The control buttons on the model are reassuringly simple, leaving both the top plate and rear of the camera uncluttered.
A simple mode-dial on the camera’s top plate adds to the retro feel, while a joystick-style control on the rear of the camera offers access to focus, flash and quick adjust buttons. The CX3’s menu system is basic and lacks order, though this isn’t to say that it’s a pain to use, while when shooting the CX3 benefits from an on-screen display indicating whether or not the camera is level.
The Ricoh CX3 is a pleasure to use. Not only is it comfortable in the hand, but also the focusing system is sharp and prompt, though at the tele end of the zoom this does slow a touch. As mentioned previously, the high-resolution screen is a joy, making both shooting and reviewing images a pleasure. One point of note is a slight issue with the metering system of the CX3 – quite often the camera errs on the side of underexposure. However, this is something that we see on many a digital camera, owing to the fact that underexposure is often the safest option because it preserves highlights.
Value and Verdict
Currently priced around the £300 mark, the Ricoh CX3 finds itself in the company of some respectable advanced shooters, but it’s worth bearing in mind the fact that the CX3 is lacking both Raw capture and full manual shooting control. However, it’s also worth noting that its predecessor, the CX2, currently retails at around just £50 less than the CX3. When you consider that the CX3 offers the upgrades of a new and improved sensor, as well as HD video capture, its value starts to look more impressive.
There’s no doubting that the CX3 is an impressive camera. It’s one of the most striking advanced compact cameras on the market, and with its 920k dot, 3in LCD, is a pleasure to use. Add to that HD video capture and an impressive backlit sensor and you think you’d be onto a winner. However, the lack of Raw capture and full manual control over images is a real loss, and mean that the CX3 cannot currently be considered amongst the advanced compact camera elite.