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.
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.
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.
|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)|
Ricoh rates the battery for the CX4 at 330 shots.
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.
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
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.