The Ricoh CX3 is a 10-megapixel compact camera with a 10.7x zoom lens - UPDATED 14-04-2010

At 205g, the Ricoh CX3 is at the slightly weighty end of digital cameras that earn the compact name. And measuring 100x59x28mm, it's also a little fatter than the norm. But with a generous 10.7 optical zoom from the 28-300mm lens, and 10-megapixel resolution, you'll find more potential than from a typical compact.

The Ricoh CX3 camera is solidly built, our sample finished in anodised black, with a comfortable finger grip to the right. On the rear is a bright 3in LCD display, capable of showing pictures with great definition. In fact, in playback mode, they can almost look over-sharpened.

Navigating the Ricoh CX3's on-screen menus is easy with small but quite legible text used in favour of garish cartoony icons. Look through the setup menus and you'll find an impressive range of options, like Skew Correction and Level Compensation in playback mode, while the shooting menus allowing you to easily switch between such settings as the eight different focus options - Multi AF, Spot AF, Face-Pri AF, Continuous AF, Multi-targt AF, Snap and Infinity.

Start-up time is a little sluggish at around four seconds, most of that time waiting for the fat three-ring lens to motor forward to its 33mm extension. To zoom, you use the usual two-way toggle to the side of the top mode dial, and we noted that its zoom action is not the very smoothest you can expect.

As you can now expect of full-featured compacts, the Ricoh CX3 is capable of shooting high-definition-sized video, in this case 1280x720p. The resulting footage is bright and relatively faithfully coloured, with softening of edges and to remind you this is no real camcorder, HD or otherwise.

And zoom in while shooting and you'll see plenty of pixellation, suggesting digital rather than optical magnification at work here. But sound quality from the mono mic is rather good, captured as 16-bit uncompressed PCM with 16kHz bandwidth.

Still pictures from the Ricoh CX3 are also rendered without obvious spectral bias toward particular colours. Zoom in to 100% on strong dynamic contrasts, though, and you may notice the chromatic aberration, with a hint of red/green ghosting to the outlines of edges.

Low light shots are certainly better than you'll find on any entry-level compact, but with auto ISO creeping beyond 1000 ISO, expect some noise and artefacting.

A DR (dynamic range) option on the Ricoh CX3 combines two separately taken shots to enhance image quality. Taking these shots adds a few seconds to each snap but the result is worth waiting for.

Extra scene modes include such effects as Miniaturize, which blurs the top and bottom of the picture to simulate an exaggerated limited depth of field.

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Ricoh's CX3 is a compact digital camera for users who want something largely automatic and comfortable to use. It's a light camera with a big, 10.7x optical zoom lens and a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor. It feels well built and looks stylish, and its image quality is great for the most part, although it does produce images with noticeable noise.

The Ricoh CX3 digital camera is the upgrade to last year's Ricoh CX2, but it's not much of an upgrade to be honest. Its sensor packs in a few more pixels compared to the CX2, so it produces slightly higher resolution photos using the same size sensor; it has a higher ISO capability (up to 3200); the flash has a slightly longer range (4m compared to 3m when shooting in the wide angle); face detection has been added, which brings it in line with most other compact cameras on the market; and a new scene mode called Discreet mode has been added. Perhaps the most noteworthy new feature is the ability to capture HD video (1280x720). Unfortunately, an HDMI output has not been added.

The Ricoh CX2 could only capture VGA-sized (640x480) videos, so the added resolution makes the Ricoh CX3 a better proposition for users who are looking for a "hybrid" camera with which to take stills and video. We found video shot with the CX3 to be smooth and clear, but zooming wasn't easy. If you are zoomed in when you start taking a video, you can't zoom out - you can only zoom in further (and then back out). In general, you're better off not zooming at all as each zoom step also introduces an audible pause in the video.

Because there are no manual shooting modes on Ricoh CX3, you can't wrestle with the exposure like you would on an advanced compact, and this can lead to unsatisfactory results if the lighting conditions are difficult. There is no doubt that the Ricoh CX3 can capture some wonderful images, but it won't work magic if the lighting is too strong or too dim. Without manual controls to adjust the aperture and shutter, some of your shots might be tarnished by harsh light.

There are plenty of scene modes to play with, and you should definitely consider using them to give the camera a better idea of what you are trying to accomplish. A new scene mode has been added to the list since the Ricoh CX2. Called Discreet mode, this just allows you to take photos without any audible beeps coming from the camera, and without the flash or focus assist lamp. It's designed so that you can take photos in quiet places such as museums. You also get miniature mode and a black and white mode, and there are also the usual modes for capturing scenery, portraits, indoor subjects and close-ups.

The overall picture quality of the Ricoh CX3 is very good. Images look clear and colours tend to look natural. However, some of our test photos indoors and in dim lighting conditions could have used more colour saturation.

You can give photos more of a 'pop' by using the Vivid colour setting that's present in the camera's menu. This will add a dash more contrast to your shots without making them look muddy.

Although Ricoh has added a further ISO speed to the Ricoh CX3 (ISO 3200), photos taken at this speed will have plenty of noise and a substantial drop in contrast. But even at ISO 400 you start to notice grain on the smooth surfaces of your photos. The camera can select the ISO speed automatically or you can set it yourself. There is no limiting function to allow the camera to take photos within a range that you specify.

In general, most of the pictures the Ricoh CX3 took at low ISO speeds looked good when viewed at up to 1920x1200, but when we viewed them at their native size (3648x2736), they looked too soft and noisy.

Despite the noisiness at ISO 400 and beyond (which is similar to what we saw in the Ricoh CX2), the Ricoh CX3 is still a fun camera to use. It can take great macros, has a manual focusing feature that is much better than most compact cameras, and for the most part it will take clear and natural looking photos. We also like its build quality and the way the camera feels. We just wish it had an HDMI port and that it could handle bright scenes without blowing out highlights.

Ricoh's CX3 isn't much of an upgrade over the CX2 but it does offer HD video recording, which makes it a useful hybrid for people wishing to shoot stills and video with the same camera. Its pictures are a little noisy and it can struggle in bright light, but overall its image quality is very good.

Elias Plastiras

PC World Australia

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Ricoh CX3: Specs

  • 10Mp digital compact camera
  • 1/2.3in CMOS sensor
  • 3.0in (920k) LCD display
  • ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600/3200
  • 1/2000–8 sec shutter speed
  • f=4.9–52.5 focal length
  • 1:3.5–5.6 F-aperture
  • 1280 x720 motion JPEG video, 16-bit/32kHz PCM mono audio
  • 2.5mm AV mini-jack
  • 3.5Wh Li-ion battery
  • 100 x 59 x 28mm
  • 205g
  • 10Mp digital compact camera
  • 1/2.3in CMOS sensor
  • 3.0in (920k) LCD display
  • ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600/3200
  • 1/2000–8 sec shutter speed
  • f=4.9–52.5 focal length
  • 1:3.5–5.6 F-aperture
  • 1280 x720 motion JPEG video, 16-bit/32kHz PCM mono audio
  • 2.5mm AV mini-jack
  • 3.5Wh Li-ion battery
  • 100 x 59 x 28mm
  • 205g

OUR VERDICT

The Ricoh CX3 is a solidly constructed digital compact with a powerful zoom and reliable imaging skills. It’s also relatively easy to operate, thanks to a good layout of sufficient hard buttons to get you to the essentials, while the LCD display and its menus are all top quality.

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