Enthusiast photographers are sure to appreciate the improvements to the series, writes Tim Coleman
Previous models in the series are limited to automatic exposure, but the CX6 offers shutter priority for speeds from 8-1/2000sec, or aperture priority for one of two settings: ‘open’ or ‘minimum’. Combined with a host of sophisticated controls and shooting modes, this could make the CX6 the ideal photographer’s travel companion.
Build and handling
At less than 3cm deep, the CX6 is impressively small for a camera with a lens of such a wide zoom range. However, the camera has a tough plastic exterior with a smooth front panel, which feels a bit cheap. Likewise, the shutter-release button and zoom switch are a little loose. That said, the brushed-metal effect top panel looks classy and the solid shooting mode dial is flush to the body so it can’t easily be knocked.
The rear is dominated by the scratch- and smudge-resistant 3in VGA LCD screen, and the resolution of the screen has been upped to an impressive 1.23 million dots. It is also 1.7x brighter than the screen in the last model, and has an auto brightness adjustment. Bright daylight is still a challenge for easy viewing, but there is no doubt the screen is better this time round.
A new movie-record button has been installed for HD video recording up to 720p. The joystick control doubles up to scroll through the main menu and access a quick menu for four customisable controls, comprising exposure compensation, ISO, white balance and AF mode.
Using the standard electronic zoom, it can be tricky to achieve precise focal lengths. Fortunately, the camera also features step-zoom in 28, 35, 50, 85, 105, 135, 200 and 300mm settings. Start-up time is 2.5-3secs, which is a little slow. Shutter lag is minimal, however.
For a camera at this level, there are some sophisticated controls and shooting modes. For example, the contrast-detection hybrid autofocus system continually measures subject distance for claimed AF speeds as quick as 0.1sec. There are seven different AF modes, including spot, multi-target and face priority. The latter not only prioritises focus, but also the exposure and white balance for detected faces. Manual focus enables precise adjustments.
Shooting modes include 5fps high-speed burst, interval shooting and creative shooting modes, which now features bleach bypass as an option.
It takes a while to get round all that is on offer in the CX6, but once set up to the user’s most frequently used settings the camera is speedy to navigate.
Like the older models in the series that share its sensor, the CX6 reaches the 20 marker on our resolution charts at ISO 100, and the 14 marker at ISO 3200, which is respectable. Image detail appears a little smudged when viewed at 100%, especially at ISO 400 and above.
A new ‘optical super resolution’ is available in ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ settings, and applies further sharpening and tonal compression during processing to give clarity to edge detail and better tonal range. However, I find that detail is overprocessed and is best avoided. Work on the JPEG files in post-production instead.
For natural results, it is better to stick to the standard colour mode, because vivid is overpowering. Generally, auto white balance can be relied upon, although blue skies in sunny conditions are cyan in tone.
Autofocus is very quick in bright light, but in low-contrast conditions the contrast detection hunts for the AF point, which slows down the focusing process.
Images: As with most compact cameras, JPEG compression leaves image detail looking a little smudged when viewed at 100%
With little improvement in specification since the CX3, it is easy to feel a little disappointed with the Ricoh CX6.
However, with greater control over exposure, the camera should please the enthusiast photographer looking for a travel-zoom compact model.