The Ricoh CX5 is a digital camera with a 10Mp sensor, strong image quality and some subtle upgrades from its predecessor. Updated, 8 June 2011

Ricoh cameras are somewhat divisive. They are heavier than most of their peers, but also very solidly constructed. If you want dainty, then a Casio or a Canon Ixus is likely to appeal more than a Ricoh; if you want speed and responsive, however, the CX5 is worth a look.

In fact, improved shutter times is the main thing Ricoh has addressed with this latest model. You can now expect as little as 0.2 seconds focusing in both 28mm wide-angle and at full zoom.

A 10Mp model, the Ricoh CX5 packs a 10.7x optical wide zoom (28 to 300mm 35mm equivalent) and is able to focus in macro mode as close as 1cm. Handheld photography over distance or when trying to take shots of very small objects very close up is notoriously tricky. The Ricoh does a pretty good job of the former, but its lightning-fast autofocus reflexes tend to flit from item to item if you’re snapping, say, flowers gently waving in the breeze. A tripod helps here, simply because it’s impossible to keep rock-steady in such a situation. 

We got great handheld macro results when shooting indoors in controlled lighting conditions. The sensitive autofocus does create a bit of noise, though, and with all that lens retraction and extension going on, we managed to drain the battery a little earlier than we’d have liked. Over very long distances, we found the Ricoh struggled to identify objects to lock on to, leading to a marked but not disastrous loss of sharpness. A super-resolution feature can be used to boost this effectiveness here, but shots don’t bear scrutiny when viewed at their full size. We also had issues with the ISO settings on this camera: bright daylight results in lovely, balanced photos; grey days and twilight are not handled anywhere near as deftly. 

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In general use with the zoom only partially extended, the CX5 was very impressive indeed. Despite combating heavy coastal winds, we were able to point and shot and still end up with well-defined photos with great colour balance. The vibration correction did a good job here.

Ricoh CX5

Composition is straightforward: a 3in LCD with a superior 920K dot resolution dominates the rear of this camera, while a rubber thumb grip to the left of the metal navipad at the top right is ideally placed. The four-way control offers flash and macro options that you simply cycle through by pushing up or down. On the front is a macro/telephoto lever that grinds a little, but is very (if not a little overly) efficient. 

When you’re happy with the focal distance, the large button this lever surrounds is used to lock on and trigger the shutter. A slightly stiff job dial to the right of this moves between playback, video capture, semi-auto, scene and two user preset modes. A C option indicates custom settings. We’d prefer to have seen a dedicated video capture button, not least because we accidentally switched to video capture having inadvertently swivelled the selection dial. 

Ricoh CX5

Scene modes are largely those you’d expect, with tungsten, fireworks, party, sunset and action all on offer, plus the addition with this model of a ‘continuous golf swing’ scene mode. There’s also a 5fps continuous shot mode. 

Video capture is limited to the semi-HD 720p resolution, but Ricoh does also enable the zoom capabilities to be used when videoing and there’s a microphone pickup. HDMI output and high-speed memory cards are supported.

Next page: Our original review of the Ricoh CX5, by PC World Australia's Elias Plastiras, from 7 February 2011 >>

The Ricoh CX5 is a digital camera with a 10Mp sensor, strong image quality and some subtle upgrades from its predecessor. What follows is our original review of the Ricoh CX5, by PC World Australia's Elias Plastiras, from 7 February 2011

There's not many obvious differences between the new Ricoh CX5 digital camera and the Ricoh CX4 that preceded it. Both cameras feature a 10Mp CMOS sensor and 10.7x optical zoom lens, and physically they don't look too different. The upgrades to the Ricoh CX5 are indeed subtle and include the addition of new scene modes as well as improvements to the focusing system and image sharpness at maximum zoom.

Ricoh CX5: Image quality

As with the Ricoh CX4, the CX5's image quality is very good, albeit a little noisy. It doesn't handle low-light scenes especially well; any time the ISO speed is pushed above 400, noise becomes even more prevalent in the dark or shaded areas of a picture. Noise issues aside, colours are captured vibrantly and images have plenty of detail - you'll definitely be able to print large photos without them looking too feathered.

A feature called Super Resolution has been added to the CX5, and its job is to make images look a little sharper overall. It definitely does its intended job, and the results look good when you view the photos at a small size on your screen; when you scrutinise them at their full size, they look a little too 'etched'. While the Super Resolution feature works within the standard zoom range of the lens, its main aim is to allow you get more zoom out of the camera - up to 21x (and this is before digital zoom kicks in). The results of this extra zoom look very good when you view the photos at a small size, but at their full size they will look very muddy.

There isn't a manual mode on the CX5 (it's definitely not in competition with the Canon PowerShot S95, for example), so you'll have to make do with its auto and scene modes, which will handle the shutter and aperture automatically. However, you can change the ISO speed (and also limit it so the camera doesn't select a value that's too high and noisy) and you can also change the white balance and exposure compensation. We had to play with the white balance a lot during our tests, as the auto white balance sometimes didn't pick the best setting, especially for indoor shots.

We love the 28-300mm zoom lens, which not only lets you get up close to the action from a distance thanks to its long reach, but also lets you get close to your subject (practically touching the lens to it) to capture great macros. The focusing of the Ricoh CX5 was fast, as promised, and we had no problems with it hitting our intended marks. Its powerful autofocus beam also made night-time focusing very accurate. Unlike our experiences with the CX4, focus tracking on the CX5 was a little too sensitive. The focus point often jumped from one object to a similar-looking object in a scene. Furthermore, it didn't work well with dark-coloured objects in our tests; it favoured brightly coloured objects for tracking.

Ricoh CX5: Creative modes

One of the cool things about the Ricoh CX5 is its creative modes, which include Miniature, Toy, Soft Focus and Black and White. These are fun to play with and they produce good results. You can also make use of the camera's scene modes, which now include the new modes: Cooking, Fireworks and Golf. Yes, Golf. The Golf scene mode allows you to display a vertical line on the screen, along with another adjustable diagonal line. The theory is that you can take a photo of your golf swing (it takes three photos in sequence) to see if your swing ends up resting on the very grid line you've set. None of us are golfers, but we reckon it looks awfully hard to get the timing right with this feature. It would probably be better off as a video mode.

Speaking of video mode, the Ricoh CX5 can record video up to 1280x720 in AVI format. You can't zoom very far in video mode, so it's not a very versatile feature, but it's good if you want to plonk the camera on a tripod to record a speech at a wedding, for example. Its microphones are sensitive and they pick up speech very clearly. However, they also pick up taps if you are holding the camera or moving it while it's recording.

Next page: Our expert verdict >>

See also:

Compact camera reviews

SLR camera reviews

Group test: what's the best digital camera?

Group test: what's the best compact camera?

Photo Advisor

New Products Blog: Ricoh CX5 digital camera

Ricoh CX5: Specs

  • 10Mp digital camera
  • 3in LCD screen
  • 10.7x optical zoom
  • 1/2.3in CMOS sensor
  • f/3.5-f/5.6 lens aperture range
  • 86MB internal storage
  • HDMI
  • USB 2.0
  • video-out
  • 1-year warranty
  • 102x30x59mm
  • 205g
  • 10Mp digital camera
  • 3in LCD screen
  • 10.7x optical zoom
  • 1/2.3in CMOS sensor
  • f/3.5-f/5.6 lens aperture range
  • 86MB internal storage
  • HDMI
  • USB 2.0
  • video-out
  • 1-year warranty
  • 102x30x59mm
  • 205g

OUR VERDICT

The Ricoh CX5 is better built than some of its rivals, and we can’t argue with the responsive focus and zoom. However, this camera is outclassed by both the Nikon Coolpix S9100 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 and can’t handle low-light situations anything like as well as the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS.

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