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Ricoh's CX1 digital camera feels great in your hand and it's capable of taking some cracking snaps. It's a compact camera with a 9.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and a 7.1x zoom lens, but it has a lack of manual settings that will make it appeal only to novice camera users.

It's largely an automatic camera, with an easy mode in addition to an auto mode and a scene mode. You can play around with its white balance, ISO speed and exposure compensation; you can also choose to manually focus the camera. What you can't do is manually adjust the aperture or shutter; the camera decides these values on its own. It has a built-in flash, a 3in LCD screen, and optical image stabilisation built into the sensor (image sensor shift).

Its lens has a wide angle of 28mm and can zoom up to 200mm, making it useful for close-ups as well as landscape photography. The lens is constructed of 10 elements in seven groups and it does a good job of keeping chromatic aberration to a minimum. In fact, we only noticed slight purple fringing between high contrast areas when we viewed our photos at their full 9.2-megapixel size. If you'll be taking photos to use at A4 or smaller (or online), it’s not an issue.

In fact, the Ricoh CX1's image quality was superb overall. It was clear and sharp, there was barely any lens distortion at the widest angle of the lens, and colours were not overdone. We only had to add approximately five per cent contrast to our photos during post-processing in order to make them look a little richer. There was some noise visible when we used ISO speeds higher than 400; it was mostly noticeable when we viewed photos at their full size.

The Ricoh CX1 handled the exposure well when in bright conditions as well as cloudy conditions. It overexposed some white areas when shooting on overcast days, but it didn't ruin the picture. It was also useful in low-light conditions. We were able to capture images with relatively good clarity when the camera used a slow shutter (down to 1/8th of a second), but you will want to use a tripod or rest the camera on a sturdy surface when shooting in low light. For night-time shots, you can use the somewhat cryptically named Time Exposure, but we wish it provided a shutter speed slower than eight seconds.

In difficult lighting situations or when indoors, you can also use the Ricoh CX1's DR mode, which stands for dynamic range. It ensures pictures have well-lit dark areas while at the same time not overexposing the bright areas. It does this by taking two shots and combining them in the camera. In our tests, shots with a dark foreground benefited most, but bright areas tended to look too bright.