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It’s not uncommon these days for different manufacturers to bring out products based on a standard chassis made by a third party company. For instance, I’ve come across notebooks that look identical apart from the respective company logos stuck on the lid. Indeed, the same can be said of cars too, like the SEAT Marbella which is based on Fiat’s Panda.
So why am I talking about this? Well, the same thing also happens in the world of digital cameras. Here I have BenQ’s DC C50 5megapixel digital camera. Look familiar? Well its strikes me as very similar to Toshiba’s PDR-5300, and Centon’s DC5 – a design that is over two years old. Now of course this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and as always I’ll concentrate on the DC C50 as a standalone product and focus on image quality, design and features, and overall value.
On the face of it, the £163 DC C50 is attractively designed with a mirrored plate mounted to the front giving it an overall “retro” appearance. The body is constructed from metal and the build quality feels sturdy. In the hand, the DC C50 feels well-balanced and your thumb falls nicely over the rocker switch which controls the 3x optical (and 4x digital) zoom. Instead of a going for a bulky grip BenQ has added a bobbled surface to the front to help you keep a firm purchase, while keeping the DC C50 at a suitable size for your a pocket.
The rest of the controls are shifted to the right side of the body and are easily operated with your thumb too. That said, those who are left-handed will obviously find this arrangement more awkward. On the right side, there’s also a small command dial which I have to say is probably the worst feature of the DC C50’s design. This command dial is both difficult to operate because it’s too thin and in my opinion is set too deep into the chassis, further impeding the dial’s operation.
In addition, its purpose is somewhat questionable as it’s only used for changing the aperture size, shutter speed and for scrolling through images in the preview mode. It is much more intuitive to use the four direction buttons around the back for changing the aperture and shutter settings, but BenQ has strictly made this a command dial only process. You can, however, use the up and down buttons to scroll through preview images. The disappointment doesn’t stop there, because the command dial also has a “press in” action that as far as I can tell has no function at all.
Despite these shortcomings, the DC C50 is a relatively high-specced camera. The maximum aperture of f2.8 is pretty large making this a respectably fast lens. The shutter range is also good spanning 8 seconds to 1/1500 second whereas the aperture range closes down from f2.8 to f6.7 at wide angle and f4.7 to f11 at full optical zoom.
The mode dial is fully equipped with what is best described as standard these days. These include Auto, Program, Shutter priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av), full manual (where you can select both the shutter speed and the aperture size independently), as well as preset modes that are designed for the point and shoot user. These consist of Portrait mode for shortening the depth of field and thus enhancing the subject’s prominence in the image. Here red-eye reduction is fixed and cannot be turned off; Sports mode which disables the flash and ensures the shutter is set to an appropriately high value; and last, Night Scene mode which fixes the flash to slow sync, which basically ensures the flash is fired at a slower shutter speed to allow for some information from the night/dusk background to register in the final image.
The DC C50 also features a voice memo on image function, and a movie mode capable of recording 15fps .AVI clips at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels or 160 x 120 pixels. Movie lengths vary with the level of compression mirrored by the compression levels available for normal shooting - namely Fine, Standard, and Economy. Please refer to the tables below for quality settings per storage amount and recording format, bearing in mind that only a 32MB SD card is supplied with the camera.