Ricoh might not be the la-di-da big name in the camera world, but it has been turning out lovely compact snappers for years – and this new superzoom is no exception.

The fifth model in the CX series, the CX5 (see what they did there?) looks much the same as its predecessors: matte black exterior and large retractable lens on the front. With a brick-like metal construction and ultra-sharp 3-inch 920,000-pixel screen, there’s much to admire here: and the whole thing can be slipped into your jeans pocket without causing too much discomfort.

Maze of menus

The screen makes even the CX5’s massively detailed menu screens look good. Those familiar with camera settings won’t have too much trouble fiddling with them, but noobs could find their complexity a little off-putting. Thankfully there are the usual auto and scene modes on hand, plus a handy creative mode that adds a range of effects to your shots, including grainy black and white, fake HDR and Lomo-style cross processing.

Ricoh has slapped a new contrast autofocus on the CX5, and claims it’s lightning fast. And it is. Usually. In good light it locks on in under a second, but when things get dimmer it struggles like a greased up hippo on an escalator. It’s never slower than you’d expect, mind you, just not exceptional.

What is exceptional is the continuous mode, which shoots full 10MP shots at around 5fps. Not to be sniffed at.

The 10.7x zoom lens works well, delivering sharp shots across the range, and you can zoom another 2x further with the digital “Super-resolution” zoom, which actually produces good results through some clever upscaling tech. Pictures are generally low in noise up to ISO 1600, but you can push it up to 3200 if you need to – just expect it to be grainier than a jar of grain mustard.

Review continues after the break…

Vid skid

There’s 720p HD video too, but it’s not among the best we’ve seen. Zoom is limited to digital, and autofocus doesn’t seem to work – you can’t force it using the shutter button either. Quality isn’t up to some rival models (the Sony HX5 springs to mind), and video really isn’t a highlight here.

All in all this is a great little superzoom that gives a good account of itself next to the Nikons and Canons of this world. A nice alternative with great build quality and a fantastic screen.

Stuff says... 

Ricoh CX5 review

A solid, dependable and versatile superzoom compact, but doesn't do enough to outshine big name rivals