Ricoh CX4 review: Miniaturise your world

At first glance, the Ricoh CX4 looks like your average compact camera. My review sample came in a rather uninspiring black, but search online and you’ll be able to buy it in a rather more fetching pink or silver. However, it is compact and has smooth edges, which make it easy to slip into a pocket. It is missing the textured ‘handgrip’ of its predecessor the CX3, which makes it a little less easy to hold.

Ricoh-CX4

I’ve been having some issues with my own Canon compact, and had recently decided to go back to my trusty DSLR, despite its weighty proportions, as I just wasn’t happy with the standard of shots I was getting.

So when the Ricoh landed in my letterbox, I was interested to see how it would compare.

Screen-wise, it was a big thumbs-up. The screen is large (3in) and has a high resolution of 920K dots offers an excellent view of your shots once taken – better than the standard 230K dot screens. But I found, once I’d loaded the images onto my laptop, that they were rather misleading. A couple of black and white shots I’d taken looked fine on the camera’s screen, but in actual fact was underexposed. And indoor shots taken at night (on a rare night out to dinner) were disappointing.

But outside, I was really impressed with the depth of colours the camera achieved. A trip to an open farm over Halloween presented images with fine depth of colour, and using the auto mode gave me some fantastic blue skies, something that my other compact often fails to achieve.

There’s a decent 28-300 optical zoom, and an image-sensor-shift image stabilisation that cuts down on blur. The ‘subject tracking’ AF autofocus system is designed to ensure photos are in focus and correctly exposed – I’d say the focusing works better than the exposure.

I know I’m sad, but I was also excited by the ‘miniaturisation’ mode. This achieves what is known as tilt-shift images, where a picture of something such as a railway station or Big Ben, takes on the appearance of being in miniature, like a model village or train set. It’s something I’ve been keen to try myself, but had never got round to fiddling around with the settings on my DSLR to achieve it. With the Ricoh, it can be done at the twist of the dial on top.

The High definition 720p video mode creates AVI format files that are rather large, and you can’t zoom or focus during recording. There’s also no stereo sound or an HDMI port for viewing movies on your TV.

The Ricoh CX4 retails at £249.99.

Low and slow: low-light and slow-mo shooting from Canon’s IXUS 300 HS

Canon has made an interesting move for its latest release – the Canon IXUS 300 HS – reducing its maximum resolution from previous models from 14mp to 10mp.

So what’s the reason? Well, the HS in the high-end compact camera’s name stands for ‘high sensitivity’, and the camera maker claims that its 10mp CMOS sensor, combined with fast DIGIC 4 processing, will perform better in ‘challenging’ situations – that is, low-light conditions or high-speed shooting. Canon did a similar thing with its PowerShot G10 to much the same ends.

Generally, higher resolution images are grainier in low-light conditions, so this seems like a sensible move, and as you really only need such high resolutions if you’re enlarging images, for the average user this is unlikely to be a problem.

And offering a full-resolution shooting mode of ISP 3200, rising to ISO 6400 if you’re happy to accept a 2.5mp resolution, it looks like being a good choice if you often take shots on nights out.

So what else does the Canon IXUS 300 HS offer for its admittedly high £379 price tag? The high-end compact has a 3.8x optical zoom, and is capable of capturing 720p HD footage or 240fps super-slow-motion video – great for action shots, whether it’s the kids jumping into the pool on holiday or friends throwing shapes at a party.

The lens’ wide maximum aperture (f2.0) and manually controlled iris will offer greater control over depth of field, a useful facility for taking portraits and macro shots. The IXUS 300 HS also boasts Canon’s acclaimed Image Stabilizer, allowing the user to take longer exposures with minimal blurring.

There are some fun effects to be had too – such as fish eye lens and Miniature Effect, which makes subjects appear like miniature-scale models (sometimes called tilt-shift photography. For examples that have been digitally manipulated check out this site ).

The Canon IXUS 300 HS will be available in silver and black, while Jessops will be exclusively stocking a white model and John Lewis a red version.