Ricoh has announced the first in a new PX Series of compact digital cameras. Benefiting from some rugged, go-anywhere qualities, the new camera also features technology capable of doubling the available optical zoom, is quick to start up, and has a good selection of scene-based setting optimization options. If you're not happy with the choice of three colors, Ricoh has also created some brightly colored protective jackets to slip over the top.

The PX compact is sealed against dust and has an impact-resistant design that should be able to cope with a drop from 5 feet (1.5 meters), which is the same as the FinePix XP30, but it can't go as deep underwater. Its Class 8 JIS/IEC water resistance (which is reported to be the equivalent to IP68) keeps it to a depth of 10 feet (3 meters) for up to an hour at a time.

With a 16 megapixel CCD sensor, Ricoh's new camera has more resolution than the Tough TG-810 from Olympus, but doesn't quite match up to the latter's crush-proof and deep diving capabilities. GPS functionality is lacking, too, although Ricoh did dip a tentative toe into the GPS pool when it released the G700SE last year.

The 3.93 x 2.16 x 0.83-inch (100 x 55 x 21.3 mm), flat-faced, rather conventional-looking PX compact sports subject-tracking autofocus and offers the same 5x optical zoom capability as the FinePix, Tough and Ricoh's own G700SE, but with a Super Resolution twist. The company says that this technology gives the wide-angle 28mm to 140mm telephoto lens the equivalent of 10x optical zoom or a focal length of 280mm. Adding in the 4.8x digital zoom results in ratios equivalent to 1,344mm (although no doubt at the expense of some image quality).

The PX's image processing is handled by the Smooth Imaging IV engine, which cuts down on noise, even in low lighting conditions. The camera's sensitivity range runs from ISO100 to ISO3200, and sensor-shift image stabilization takes care of any blur from camera shake. A fast startup time of 1.4 seconds means the compact is ready to roll when you are.

The 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot, high-contrast LCD monitor is said to have a wide viewing angle and has a coating that helps keep greasy fingerprints at bay. There are 28 scene modes that will adjust the camera's settings depending on the conditions, and a help guide to explain which mode is best for capturing objects destined for eBay, when it will be best to apply the soft focus filter, or how to make your cooking shots look mouthwatering.

Snappers can assign five frequently-used shooting modes to the Premium button on the control wheel to the right of the display, for easy recall.

Ricoh is still staying away from the SDXC media format party until there's greater demand and is sticking with SD/SDHC, but there is support for Eye-Fi X2 memory cards with built-in wireless LAN.

The PX comes in silver, black and green and will carry an estimated retail price of US$249.

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