Ricoh might not be the fanciest name in digital cameras, but the firm’s latest point-and-shooter shows the boys from Japan are more than capable of turning out fantastic cameras.

First impressions aren’t great. The Ricoh CX3 is an unassuming black slab that’s just slightly too chunky to feel comfy in your trouser pocket. But look past the dour exterior and there’s plenty to get excited about.

New CMOS sensor

The CX3 is Ricoh’s first camera to come with a back-illuminated CMOS sensor. What’s that when it’s at home? Well, it’s the same sort of sensor as the Exmor R recently used to tremendous effect by the Sony HX1 and WX1 – it catches light more efficiently to vastly boost sensitivity, so you can take sharper shots in low-light conditions.

Teamed up with the CX3’s updated noise reduction tech, the CMOS delivers some truly impressive results. Even as the ISO is nudged ever higher, noise seems to rarely affect picture quality – things stay sharp, even when you switch off the flash and shoot a dimly lit scene. This should endear the CX3 to those fond of snapping away at parties, pubs and similar shindigs.

Huge zoom range

But there’s more to the Ricoh CX3 than low-light mastery. There’s the nifty 28-300mm 10.7x optical zoom lens, giving you lots of scope for getting close to your subject without being able to identify their brand of deodorant.

This comes with optical stabilisation to counter the effects of trembling hands, and it works well – we rarely took a shot that looked blurry, even at slower shutter speeds.

There’s also a Sony-style Dynamic shooting mode, which takes two photos at different exposure settings, then automatically blends them together into a single shot showing off detail in both bright and shadowed areas. The effect isn’t as punchy as on Sony’s cameras, but it’s there all the same.


Peach of a screen

The 3in screen is a peach: sharp, bright and clear, updating swiftly and showing off bags of detail when you review your shots. It displays an auto-leveller too, an electronic spirit level that helps you shoot dead straight in both landscape and portrait orientation.

There are other similarly neat touches, like automatic distortion correction in wide-angle shots, the usual selection of scene presets (including a 'pet mode' that apparently comes with cat face recognition – sadly we couldn’t locate a moggie at short notice to confirm this) and the ability to shoot at a speedy 5fps at full resolution.

Hi-def movies

Throw in a 720p HD movie mode and it’s clear the Ricoh CX3 is a jack-of-all trades. It’s also a master of one (low-light shooting), and the fact that this is all stuffed into a sturdy metal body shouldn’t be ignored either.

Sure, it’s not the sexiest snapper out there, but the CX3 does the business when it comes to nailing the two key points of a point-and-shoot: versatility and performance.


Stuff says... 

Ricoh CX3 review

A low-light maestro with plenty more besides, but may be a little too heavyweight for some