Ricoh CX4

Providing you don't need RAW capture or manual controls, the CX4 is a pretty decent camera — even if it is a letdown compared to other Ricoh models that have come before.


7.8
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8.0
User Rating

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The CX4 is the successor to the CX3, a camera we praised for finally getting the Ricoh CX formula right. With a long zoom (10.7x) and plenty of shooting options, it was a camera that deserved to find many fans.

This iteration falters though, and with such small incremental updates it will have trouble competing with the big names in the compact zoom segment like Panasonic's TZ10.

Design and features

As is the tradition with the CX series of cameras from Ricoh, which seem to be updated more frequently than any other camera line we can think of, the CX4 looks like it means business. There are no prizes here for spot the difference, as the CX template is well and truly fixed. Apart from the front panel, that is, which has gotten a bit of a makeover for the worse on the CX4. Rather than the chunky textured grip found on earlier cameras, this model does away with the bulge and the front is coated in the uniform metallic casing. This means it's slippery and falls out of the hand a lot easier than previous cameras. But it does look sleeker and more sophisticated, which we're assuming is a marketing move to make the CX series more appealing to point-and-shooters looking for a more advanced camera.

A handy wrist strap is provided in the box, but as a whole the CX4 just feels counterbalanced without that weight on the right side. At the back, buttons have been given a plastic rather than metal finish found on the earlier cameras. The screen remains identical; 3 inches at 920,000-dot resolution.

Also the same is the 10.7x optical zoom lens with a wide-angle of 28mm, with an unremarkable maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.6. Changes have been made to shooting modes and the image stabiliser. The mode dial now has a creative mode option, with selections for dynamic range (found also on the CX3), miniaturise, high contrast black-and-white, soft focus, cross process and toy camera filters. There's also a new option called night landscape multi-shot, which is designed for night photos without a tripod and combines four exposures to obtain a steady shot.

CX4 filters

A selection of the filters of the CX4. From top left: cross process, toy camera, soft focus and black-and-white. (Credit: CBSi)

Given the price and the capability of shooting HD video at 720p, we're surprised that there is no HDMI output available. Instead it's just regular USB or AV out.

Compared to other cameras like the Panasonic TZ10, which feature manual controls and other add-ons like on-board GPS, the CX4 looks a little staid.

Compared to

Ricoh CX4 vs. Panasonic Lumix TZ10 vs. Canon PowerShot SX210

Ricoh CX4 Panasonic Lumix TZ10 Canon PowerShot SX210 IS
10 megapixels 12.1 megapixels 14.1 megapixels
3-inch 920,000-dot LCD 3-inch 460,000-dot LCD 3-inch 230,000-dot LCD
10.7x optical zoom 12x optical zoom 14x optical zoom
No GPS tagging GPS tagging No GPS tagging
No manual controls Manual controls Manual controls
HD video (720p, unknown frame rate) HD video (720p, 25fps) HD video (720p, 30fps)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Ricoh CX42.92.10.2

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Ricoh CX45

Ricoh rates the battery for the CX4 at 330 shots.

Image quality

Given the CX4 has the same lens and sensor as the CX3, its images are remarkably similar. Colour rendition is good, without being oversaturated or too punchy. Lens sharpness is also good, though tends to be sharpest in macro mode.

Unfortunately, when applying the creative filters, the CX4 does not save two images to the memory card; a frame with the effect applied, and a frame without. This could be easily done, as the camera is fast enough to take and process two shots almost simultaneously for the dynamic range mode. We're also dismayed to see RAW image capture left off the spec sheet again.

Multi-pattern white balance, carried over from the CX3, still works well and produces accurate results in most conditions.

The CX4 does display some digital artefacts, even at lower ISOs, and noise at ISO 400 is pronounced at full magnification. Higher ISOs only magnify the problem, with ISO 800 and above proving a bit too messy for enlargements or prints.

Video quality is disappointing, as the image is not sharp and there's no optical zoom while filming — just digital as you can see in the clip below.

Image samples

Click each image below for JPEGs straight from the CX4. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.

Exposure: 1/64, f/4.5, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/143, f/4.6, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/133, f/4, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/233, f/5.2, ISO 436

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

While we said the CX3 had finally hit the nail on the head in terms of performance and features, it's very difficult to see how the CX4 can even attempt to do the same without any significant feature update and a step backward in design. Ricoh, if you're listening, as photographers we ask for RAW capture and even a small amount of manual control for the CX5.

On a more positive note: without looking to the past, the CX4 is a pretty decent camera providing you don't need RAW capture or manual controls.

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Drew
8
Rating
 

Drew posted a review   

The Good:Great art filters, zoom range, quality images, pocketable

The Bad:Not much--see below

Recommended. This is an excellent camera for creative photographers. Here are the things I like.

1) The art filters are more imaginative and generally better executed on the CX4 than on cameras from other manufacturers. The “toy camera,” “soft focus,” and “cross process” are all very useful. The “high dynamic black and white” and the “sepia” are much better here than on other cameras I have tried. The sepia is really brown, not the strange pink that you get on Panasonics. And the high dynamic black and white is not just blown-out highlights and inky blacks—it has a range of grays as well.
2) The lens zoom range is very useful, as it goes from a decent wide angle to a very useful 300mm telephoto.
3) The camera is small and easily carried in a pants or shirt pocket, so it is available at all times.
4) There is a range of formats—square 1:1, the 3:2 that emulates the traditional 35mm format, 3:4, and a panorama option.
5) The viewing screen is brighter than the ones on other compacts I have used. No screen is perfect in bright sunlight, but this one is certainly very usable under all conditions. It’s one of the better screens I have worked with.
6) Ricoh, along with Olympus, is noted for its rich colors, and this model inherits that tradition. It’s JPEG-only, but they are nice JPEGs!

I don’t use the CX4 for general snapshots, so I can’t comment on how it does at parties or football games. But the quality of the shots I have made in just plain “camera” mode look good to me. I use this camera (and others—Panasonic LX5 and Olympus EPL-1) for my blogs (http://ingallsgrove.wordpress.com and http://everythingwecomeacross.tumblr.com), so issues of print quality, etc. do not apply.

I have used lots of cameras, including several of the Panasonic travel zooms (which I also like), but the CX4 combines many things I am looking for, notably those well-thought-out creative modes, along with high-quality images, a wide zoom range, and pocketability.

The only thing I would mark it down on is that it’s fairly easy to bump the joystick to the left, which puts the camera in macro mode. Sometimes I have a hard time focusing, and it’s usually because I am trying to take a landscape shot in macro.




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User Reviews / Comments  Ricoh CX4

  • Drew

    Drew

    Rating8

    "Recommended. This is an excellent camera for creative photographers. Here are the things I like.

    1) The art filters are more imaginative and generally better executed on the CX..."

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