Design and features
Ricoh continues to add incremental updates to its CX camera series, which seems to get an update every 6 months. The CX5 is the latest in the series, and is almost identical in body shape, button layout and configuration to the CX4. Predominantly, the main issue we had with the CX4 was its backwards-step in terms of design, which traded the textured grip found on earlier cameras to a slippery, uni-body feel with just one strip of metal to differentiate between the parts of the front panel.
Elsewhere, Ricoh has added useful, but not class-beating, updates including speedier autofocus and more filters for creative picture effects. Ricoh's super-resolution technology, to optimise the appearance of subjects when using the digital zoom, is comparable to similar technology that other vendors like Panasonic use in their zoomy cameras.
Still, the biggest bugbear remains — why no RAW capture?
The CX5 sports the same 10.7x optical-zoom (f/3.5-5.6) as the previous generation's lenses. The 3-inch, 920,000-dot screen is bright and excellent to see. That said, the main issue with the screen is the lack of "what you see is what you get". A live image presented on-screen before shooting more often than not doesn't match up with the finished shot that the camera produces — particularly when shooting in well-lit situations that would normally produce an optimum exposure on other cameras.
On the more gimmicky side, the addition of food, fireworks and golf swing modes do what they say on the tin. These are in addition to the existing scene-modes from earlier cameras, including the standard portrait and landscape options, as well as the creative modes, including (but not limited to) dynamic range, miniature, black-and-white and toy camera. It still uses the same backside-illuminated 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor as before.
Ricoh has also made the CX5 compatible with Eye-Fi cards, which allows images taken on the camera to be offloaded onto a computer using Wi-Fi. HD video at 720p is included, as well as a mini-HDMI port on the side.
Compared to ...
|Ricoh CX5||Panasonic Lumix TZ20||Canon PowerShot SX230 IS|
|10.1-megapixel backlit CMOS||14.1-megapixel MOS||12.1-megapixel CMOS|
|3-inch LCD (920,000-dot)||3-inch touchscreen (460,000-dot)||3-inch LCD (460,000-dot)|
|10.7x optical zoom||16x optical zoom||14x optical zoom|
|28mm wide-angle||24mm wide-angle||28mm wide-angle|
|No GPS tagging||GPS tagging||GPS tagging|
|HD video (720p)||HD video (1080i)||HD video (1080p)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Ricoh CX184.108.40.206
- Panasonic Lumix TZ220.127.116.11
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Ricoh CX56.5
- Panasonic Lumix TZ2010
Ricoh rates the battery at 280 shots.
Ricoh has an ace up its sleeve with the backside-illuminated sensor carried over from the previous generations of cameras. This means that it's capable of producing rich colours that are vibrant but not unnatural. Exposures tend to be conservative, favouring under- rather than over-exposing scenes.
ISO performance is still problematic, and shots taken without a flash display noise issues at ISO 200 and above when viewed at full magnification. The lens keeps chromatic aberrations under control well, and there's only a small amount of distortion visible at the wide end.
Visible noise and over-processing in the full-magnification crop of an image taken at 10.7x optical zoom, ISO 1600. (Credit: CBSi)
As with all other CX cameras before it, the CX5 is excellent at macro-shooting. Focusing is quick and accurate thanks to the new hybrid system. White balance is fine in most conditions, too. Image stabilisation is OK, but not amazing at the full-reach of the optical zoom, with the camera choosing to pump up the ISO value, resulting in messier shots in order to keep the image mostly shake-free. The super resolution technology works just like every other example of digital zoom that we've seen, with a slightly crunchy look to resulting shots, as outlines are over-emphasised to compensate for not having any more optical zoom.
As there's very little different in the internal specifications from this camera to previous generations, we suggest reading our analysis of image quality from the CX4 and the CX3 for more information.
Video quality is only average, with obvious blockiness present on the image, and average sound. Wind noise doesn't seem to be too much of an issue but subjects can sound distant.
Click each image for full-sized samples from the CX5. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/217, f/3.5, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/97, f/4.5, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/32, f/3.5, ISO 200
Exposure: 1/153, f/4.5, ISO 100
Ricoh is most definitely a niche camera brand, and it appeals to a particular sub-section of photographers. Class-leading features like quick autofocus and a bright screen don't always make up for the lack of other essential options like RAW capture and manual controls. The Ricoh CX5 is a well-built camera with a few design and implementation flaws that might dissuade newcomers to the brand from picking up an otherwise good camera.