The Ricoh CX1 is a digital camera that not only looks good but also feels great to use. It's quite expensive, though.

UPDATED 25 JUNE.

Most importantly, the Ricoh CX1 is capable of taking some breathtaking snapshots. It's a compact camera with a 9Mp CMOS sensor and a 7.1x zoom lens, which ranges from the base setting of 28mm and extends up to 200mm, and you don't have to know what you're doing in order to use it properly.

It's largely an automatic camera, with an easy mode in addition to an auto mode and a scene mode. You can play around with its white balance, ISO speed and exposure compensation; you can also choose to manually focus the camera. What you can't do is manually adjust the aperture or shutter; the Ricoh CX1 decides these values on its own.

The Ricoh CX1 has a built-in flash, a 3in LCD screen, and optical image stabilisation built into the sensor (image sensor shift). The display is noticeably more detailed than some of the other compacts we’ve tried, with some impressively accurate colour renditions. The photos we took lived up to the preview images on the 960K LCD.

Its lens has a wide angle of 28mm and can zoom up to 200mm, making the Ricoh CX1 useful for close-ups as well as landscape photography. The lens is constructed of 10 elements in seven groups and it does a good job of keeping chromatic aberration to a minimum. In fact, we noticed Ricoh CX1 slight purple fringing between high contrast areas when we viewed our photos at their full 9.2Mp size.

If you'll be taking photos to upload to the web or to print on 4x6in or A4-sized paper, then you won't notice this effect at all.

In fact, the Ricoh CX1's image quality is superb overall. It is clear and sharp, there was barely any lens distortion at the widest angle of the lens, and colours were not overdone.

We only had to add approximately 5 percent contrast to our photos during post-processing to make them look a little richer. There was some noise visible when we used ISO speeds higher than 400; it was mostly noticeable when we viewed photos at their full size.

The Ricoh CX1 handled the exposure well when in bright conditions as well as cloudy conditions. It overexposed some white areas when shooting on overcast days, but it didn't ruin the picture.

It was also useful in low-light conditions. We were able to capture images with relatively good clarity when the Ricoh CX1 used a slow shutter (down to 1/8th of a second), but you will want to use a tripod or rest the camera on a sturdy surface when shooting in low light.

For night-time shots, you can use the Ricoh CX1's somewhat cryptically named Time Exposure, but we wish it provided a shutter speed slower than eight seconds.


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