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Ricoh has a unique way of snaring attention: like the delicate lilac hue of the CX2’s top panel, neatly capping the two-tone grey body. Pick it up and you immediately know which is the camera’s upper level, with power button, mode dial and zoom lever clearly seen.
The style continues: the rear has the usual four way rocker plus a vertical row of four buttons (menu, function, trash, display) and a replay button. There’s no optical viewfinder but the 7.6cm LCD screen provides a bright and ultra sharp look at the scene.
The CX2 has a 9.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, able to capture a maximum image size of 3456×2592 pixels, leading to a final print size of 29x22cm at 300 dpi. Movies? Just there, with support for 640×480 and 320×240 pixel clips — surely a wider movie spec is expected these days!
The zoom has a 10.7x range, equivalent to a 28-300mm lens on a 35 SLR camera; image stability is achieved with a shifting sensor. Amazingly, the lens retracts completely within the body when power is cut.
The exposure modes are basic: auto, plus two ‘My Settings’, a bunch of scene modes, an Easy shooting mode and a novel Double-shot mode that rapidly fires off a pair of shots with varied exposures; the camera processes these and delivers a final, exposure-adjusted shot. One warning: not for fast moving action.
What sets this cameras apart is a 5fps continuous shooting ability, directly selected from the mode dial; in spectacular fashion, the camera can shoot up to 999 shots in a single burst … as long as you hold your finger down and your memory card has the capacity. In reality, the camera fires off a round of 15 shots at 5fps, then slows down as the buffer memory handles the data. Still, pretty damned good!
Augmenting this high speed shooting ability are two ‘add-ons’: in M-Cont Plus 9M mode you hold the button down and the camera saves only the final 15 shots (three seconds) as your finger leaves the button, then blends them into one single 3456×2592 pixel image, ideal for golf swing analysis and the like. M-Cont Plus 2M performs similarly, but you end up with 30 shots in a 1728×1296 pixel image.
Taking it even further, you can even shoot a blaze of 120 frames in one second! That’s 120 fps — saved as a series of 640×480 pixel shots.
Following the current trend for digicams to shoot radically different pictures with ease, the CX2 has a couple of modes that, in one case captures the scene in ultra high contrast B&W in the manner of infra red photography.
In another, the camera renders the shot in the manner of a diorama, with the top and bottom of frame blurred and the scene’s contents depicted as miniatures. Hard to explain, better to show.
Face detection? Yes. Up to eight faces can be captured with optimum exposure, white balance and focus.
I was impressed with the camera’s upper ISO settings: ISO 800 renders very useable shots, with little noise; ISO 1600 is marginal but with the right sort of shot — ie not too many large areas of one tone — would be very handy in ultra low light.
With the lens set to wide there was some evidence of barrel distortion, while the tele setting indicated an insignificant amount of pincushion distortion. Tops.
The lens takes a while to come out of its hidey hole, so don’t expect to shoot your first shot until three seconds have passed after power up; follow on shots can be reeled in at about two seconds a pop.
In some ways the CX2 is a surprising camera but by adding a few features (more exposure options — shutter and aperture priority) and RAW capture it could have been an absolute winner. As it is, I figure many of the CX2’s attractions, like burst shooting and hi con B&W capture will be ignored by many point-and-shoot owners. Pity.
Quality: an excellent snapshot camera, with an excellent image performance in good condtions.
Why you’d buy the CX2: sharp LCD view; fabulous continuous shooting ability; slim profile.
Why you wouldn’t: no optical finder; poor movie capture.