Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Ricoh CX1 - Build & Controls

Another part in my ongoing Ricoh CX1 review diary. Today, I will look at the build and external controls of the camera. At the same time I will also compare it with the Ricoh R10 and see where there have been improvements and where the R10 is better.

If you have read my Ricoh R10 review you will know that I was very impressed with the build quality and had only some minor complaints.

Let's start with the looks first, like the R10 the CX1 looks how a camera should look. The design is very good indeed, it is understated but professional and comes in the colors black, silver and a really classy looking champagne rosé color (the version I got for review). It is a shame that Ricoh dropped the fantastic bronze color of the R10 but I guess it was not easy to sell due to it looking brown in most pictures. The rosé color should have a much wider appeal, it does look very stylish and due to it being a metallic color it should not only appeal to girls.

The feel of the CX1 is very similer to the R10 and it even feels more solid. One immediately apparent change from the R10 is the removal of the rubber grip on the front. The missing ruber grip makes quite a big difference in the way you hold the camera and without it the camera feels more slippery. In my opinion it is a shame the rubber grip at the front has been removed, it helped to have a better grip on the camera. The thumb pad on the back is a welcome addition but on it's own without the front rubber grip means the CX1 is not quite as secure to hold as the R10.

The back of the camera is where some of the biggest changes have taken place. First the excellent LCD screen from the R10 has again been improved and is now one of the best screens you can find on any camera. The size has remained the same at 3" but the resolution has been doubled to 920,000 pixel and it is even brighter now. The only camera to have a LCD screen with a resolution that high is the Nikon D3 and this is not really in the same price range. Ricoh have surely made the most out of the increased resolution and use it to the full advantage to give clearer fonts in the menus and fit more information on the screen in record and playback mode. It really is a fantastic screen and must be seen to be fully appreciated.

I said this is my R10 review: "The only downside with the screen is that Ricoh did not put anything in front of the screen to protect it, like they did on the GRD II." I am glad to say that Ricoh has indeed listened and have addressed this. There is now a protective layer in front of the screen. This helps protecting the screen but also takes care of glare in bright light. One minor issue could be for people wearing polarized sunglases, in portrait mode the screen goes black and you can't see anything but it is fine in landscape mode. This is only minor and should not really mater to most people.

Other big changes have been done to the controls where some buttons have been re-arranged and the most obvious the Adj./OK joystick has been changed. It is smaller now and feels more solid, unfortunately because it's smaller it's also a bit more fiddly to use. The R10 was better in this respect although I am sure there are people who prefer this over the R10 so it is more a personal choice. It sits also higher and more to the right so this makes it a bit more difficult to use in my opinion but at the same time it is more difficult to accidentally press. One thing I don't like about it is that now you can't just press up and down to adjust the EV compensation without opening the Adj. menu first. This is something that could be fixed in firmware though and I would prefer to have the choice and set it like the R10. Otherwise it works the same as the one on the R10 and makes selecting the mot important options very easy.

Like the R10 the CX1 has superb controls and I can only repeat what I wrote in the R10 review. All of the main controls are handled by the ‘Adj./Ok’ joystick, press it and you get to the ‘Adjust’ menu where you can access your most used settings. This can be freely configured so you can select up to 4 options such as ISO, WB, EV and Focus, the last option is always AE/AF shift. Hold the joystick to the right and it will allow you to activate and cycle through the Flash modes, to the left and it activates the Macro mode. Could not be simpler or faster so it should allow you to experiment with different settings without having to constantly go in the menu or rely on scene modes.

The only problem is with the ‘Fn’ button which is difficult to press and would be much better suited in place of the play button, this has not been improved from the R10, if anything is it slightly worse since the texture of the button is the same as the other buttons.

The zoom control is around the shutter and this is where it should be, it has been slightly re-designed and feels better now. You can set the zoom to be either continuous or to work as a step zoom. The step zoom feature is great on the GX series but it does not work for me here. It has 7 positions and to get to each it requires a pull or push of the zoom lever so it takes quite long to get from 28mm to 200mm. This could be easily solved by just activating the high-speed zoom when holding the zoom lever in position.

The dial on the top is easy to turn and clicks firmly into place so it won’t turn accidentally. You can save 2 ‘My Settings’, activate the high speed mode, select the DR mode and the usual scene and video mode. The camera will remember everything, including the zoom position, when using the ‘My Settings’. The green Auto mode also remembers all your last settings and passes some of them on to the high speed and DR modes.

The ‘Easy’ has been improved and works much better now. It limits what you can do and only displays a few items in the menu but can now activate the macro mode automatically. This is indeed a good improvement and means you can happily use this mode only if you don't want to worry about the correct settings.

Overall this camera is extremely well built, great to use and has a fantastic screen, it is a good improvement over the R10 in some areas and not such an improvement in other areas.

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