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Despite concerns last year over the prospects for BenQ's future in the digital camera business, it seems that the brand continues to be largely unaffected by the changes in the parent company. New cameras are still arriving, and they're still pretty good. They're not going to be giving Canon executives sleepless nights anytime soon, but as Chinese budget cameras go they're safely above ridicule. The last one we looked at was the DC E1000 in October last year, which was a fairly stylish and well made 10-megapixel 3x zoom pocket compact priced at a competitive £140. Today we're taking a look at the latest model, the DC C1050, which also sports a 10MP sensor and a 3x zoom lens, but is priced at under £100.
The initial impression is that BenQ has taken a step backwards with the design of the C1050. The E1000 was quite slim with eye-catching styling, whereas by comparison the C1050 is rather pedestrian in appearance. There's nothing wrong with it as such, but its shape is certainly much more bulky and blocky than most modern cameras. In part this is due to the space needed by its two AA batteries, but as Pentax and Nikon have repeatedly proven, it is possible to make a slim AA-powered camera. The camera body is made mainly of plastic, with an aluminium strip running around the top, bottom and sides, and a textured leather-look surface on the handgrip. It is quite a large camera by compact standards, measuring 89 x 60.5 x 32.7 mm, but it is also quite light at 140g minus batteries, and as a result it feels a bit cheap and insubstantial. Despite that, the build quality is fairly good and the chunky shape, front handgrip and rear thumbgrip area make it comfortable and secure to hold.
As one would expect from a budget point-and-shoot camera, the external controls are fairly basic. The top plate holds the recessed on/off button and the large shutter button, while the back plate is identical to the E1000, with a large square D-pad that also controls the flash mode and macro/landscape/pan-focus mode, although with a macro range of 40cm it is barely deserving of the name. The buttons are rather small, and the silver-on-silver labeling is hard to see in anything but bright light. The zoom control is a small rocker switch on the back plate, and while it is quick and responsive, the zoom action is stepped with only seven increments between wide and telephoto.