There are ‘travel’ cameras that would befit a rock climber, arctic explorer or deep-sea diver, but the Ricoh PX compact isn’t one of them. It’s not that it doesn’t do what it says on the tin, but this shockproof, waterproof and dust-proof camera isn’t in the same league as some rivals – and in some ways that’s a good thing.
Available in black, green and silver, the Ricoh PX is cheaper than some of its arguably over-specified rivals, despite having all the rugged qualities a traveller could desire – but there’s nevertheless a sense that Ricoh is merely going through the motions.
Whether it’s a sector that is enjoying massive growth or not we’re not yet sure, but virtually all manufacturers are now addressing the travel-proof camera like never before. But unlike ultr-tough competitors, Ricoh’s effort is aimed not at extreme sports, but at the average man with the same fear of dropping expensive gadgets while on holiday, or work trips.
While some rival products can withstand having 100kg of weight piled on top of them, and be used in freezing temperatures, the PX cannot – and nor does it claim to survive being dropped any further than two metres – and that largely depends on using an optional silicone rubber jacket (pictured below). It’s rated as waterproof to 3m, which will suit snorkellers and swimmers rather than committed divers, though the only giveaway as to this special skill is that its lens is hidden from the elements by glass.
The flipside of safety, of course, is a lens with an equivalent focal range of just 28-140mm and a 5x optical zoom. The PX takes 16-megapixel pictures, though, which ought to be impressive enough to earn a few sales.
Other safety features include a snap-shut door across the slots for a SD/SDHC/SDXC Cards, micro USB/AV out, mini HDMI and a DB-100 lithium ion battery.
Measuring 100x55x21.3mm and weighing 156g, the PX features a 2.7in LCD screen – par for the course at this size and price. The build quality is actually above what we’d expect for the money, with an attractive aluminium finish, though Ricoh also sells a PJ-1YL silicone protective jacket in several different colours.
The PX’s controls are a little unusual. Press ‘OK’ on the directional pad on the camera’s rear, for instance, and you bring up a ‘quick shooting menu’.
Oddly, the first of three settings you’re given to tweak is volume, alongside picture quality and size (1, 5, 10 and 14 megapixels, as well as a 16:9 and a 3:2 mode), as well as some ‘advanced’ shooting options, which is where virtually off of the camera’s setup choices reside. A key feature is Super Resolution, which increases the magnification in different areas of the image.
Hit the ‘premium’ key and a list of 23 shooting modes appears, which include everything from night portrait, pets and snow to ‘cooking’, ‘sweets’ and the truly bizarre ‘auction’, complete with auctioneer’s hammer icon. Five of these can be assigned to this button for quick access.
It’s all very simple and easy to understand, with a button provided for swapping between stills and video, which can be filmed at 30 frames per second (fps) only, at either HD (1280x720p) and VGA (640×480) resolution – all of which are saved as AVI files.
However, we’re not convinced by some of the other controls; there’s a dial that switches between flash on/off/auto, and although it’s good to see a manual control replacing a choice buried in onscreen menus, it’s tiny and tricky to operate.
The zoom rocker, mounted on the shoulder PX, is too small and unpredictable to operate smoothly, and causes too much disruption to stability.
Potential buyers should note that a SD card formatted in the Ricoh PX wasn’t recognised by a Mac running the latest OS X.
There appears to be a penchant among manufacturers for under-specifying the LCD screens on compact cameras, and here the PX is on trend. It’s self-defeating: fancy tech such as auto-focus, image stabilisation, and face detection is for nothing if the photographer can’t be sure exactly what they’re capturing at the moment the shutter snaps.
But despite its soft, milky LCD preview screen, the PX actually does auto-focus well – though outdoor shots suffer from over-exposure, and it’s difficult to address this problem.
Anything in less than ideal light suffers from excessive noise and softness (we stayed at ISO 200), though for a camera designed for travellers and sporty types can just about get away with a dodgy performance indoors.
That said, snaps in good light bring strong detail (keep the Super Resolution mode activated) and natural, well saturated colours. Taken underwater, we managed to take colourful, well-saturated shots with just enough detail. In our tests we managed around 270 shots on the PX before the battery ran dry.
Video quality is disappointing; shake reduction proves ineffective and a fixed focus makes zooms and panning pointless. Unless on a tripod, the 16:9-shape HD mode appears anything but, though the quality of 4:3 VGA videos is a lot more stable and comfortable to watch. Both lack contrast, as well as detail in even slight motion shots.
Contact: Alpha Digital Services on 01189 337000
- Build quality; outdoor shots in good light are detailed; colour reproduction.
- Protective jacket is optional add-on; noisy low-light performance; formatted SD cards incompatible with Mac.
Best suited to those on a budget after something a little more rugged to withstand the rigours of everyday life, the well-made Ricoh PX is thoroughly fit for purpose. Backpackers and those after something for short trips will benefit most - though this is nevertheless a fairly uninspiring product.