The Ricoh CX5 uses the same outer shell as the Ricoh CX4. To look at this range of cameras, you would think that it belongs to the same class of premium compacts as the Canon PowerShot S95. However, this is more in line with a basic point-and-shoot than those at the upper end of the compact market.
It is sleek, simply but elegantly designed, and is sufficiently weighty to give it a sense of quality when holding it. The buttons on the back are well placed, and your thumb will naturally sit on them when holding the camera.
The shutter release is fairly well built, although the zoom ring does feel a little flimsy. The mode dial is a little stiff, which is good for preventing accidental mode switches.
The joystick on the rear of the camera, which is used for scrolling through the menu, is sadly not a joy to use. Its small size would make it tricky for anyone with larger hands, but the main problem is it's far too easy to accidentally knock the wrong way and lose your path on the menu.
In the menu system itself, although you have a myriad of options, it can be very laborious to scroll through. For instance, if you want to make a simple change, such as changing the ISO value, first you need to press Menu on the rear, scroll past 17 other menu options, press right on the joystick, press down to choose the value you want and then finally push in the joystick to select - hardly a quick process.
Unlike premium compact cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix LX5, shooting in manual mode isn't available on the Ricoh CX5. A mode called My Settings, available through the top scroll wheel offers a close approximation, though. With this you can set different options such as ISO, white balance, autofocus mode and size of the image.
If you find yourself wanting to use the same settings on a regular basis, you have the option to save two presets to the scroll wheel. Annoyingly, however, this does mean that while using My mode, the camera won't remember any settings changes if you decide to switch off the camera and come back to it at a later time.
The Ricoh CX5's large zoom range (10x) is one of the most saleable features of the camera, and one that is likely to appeal to travel and holiday photographers. Zooming is quick and fairly smooth, and you also have the option to add extra digital zoom if something is just beyond reach. The noise from the camera as it extends the zoom is not the most discreet of noises, so you may find this annoying when shooting in quiet areas.
Many compact cameras suffer from slow start-up times, slow autofocus and shutter lag. Start-up is certainly not the quickest we've seen in the compact market, booting up in around three seconds.
The autofocus in the Ricoh CX5 has been designed to be ultra-quick, an improvement from the previous model. It certainly delivers on that front, locking onto most subjects very rapidly, only struggling with very close-up macros and so on.
Shutter lag is virtually non-existent, which is very impressive. If only the start-up time could have also been rectified, this would have been a very quick camera. Still, once it's switched on, most moments will be easy to quickly capture.
The rear 3-inch 920,000 dot LCD screen performs well in a variety of situations, including bright sunlight and indoors. The text display is a little small to read without being quite close to the screen, though, so those with poorer eyesight may struggle.