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I've reviewed several BenQ digital cameras over the past couple of years, and on the whole I've been pretty impressed with them. BenQ's range is fairly small when compared to the major brands, with just ten models ranging from seven to ten megapixels, including ultra-slim cameras with some fairly advanced features and more basic point-and-shoot models running on AA batteries. Today's camera is in this latter category. The DC C850 is a budget-priced 8.0-megapixel camera with a 3x zoom lens, 2.7-inch monitor and two AA batteries.
The C850 is going on sale with a recommended price of £79.99, although the street price is more likely to be around £69, which is remarkably cheap by any standard. At that kind of price it doesn't have much competition, or at least not much worth worrying about. There's the horrible Nikon L14, which even at around £70 isn't worth buying. The aging 6-megapixel Panasonic LZ5 is still just about available for around £80, and Olympus has its entry-level 7-megapixel FE-210 at around £70, but the closest match is probably the Pentax Optio E40 which is widely available for around £80. There are a lot of similarities between the C850 and the E40, in particular the lens, which is - as far as I can tell - identical.
The C850 is superficially similar to the DC C1050 that I reviewed in January, but there are a number of important differences. While the shape of the body is almost identical, the C850 is made entirely of plastic. The overall build quality is good though, with no embarrassing creaks when squeezed. Measuring 93.4 x 62.2 x 33 mm it is slightly larger than the C1050, but it is still far from bulky. It only weighs 190g including two standard alkaline batteries, so it's light enough to travel in a coat pocket.
The handgrip on the right, which holds the batteries and memory card, has a comfortable textured vinyl surface which extends around to the back of the body, and makes the camera quite comfortable and pleasant to hold. However the back panel has a more rounded shape than the C1050, and lacks the raised thumb-grip area of that model. This, along with the larger monitor screen and different button positions means that there's nowhere to rest your thumb without accidentally pressing the playback or menu button, which is a bit annoying. Other than this inconvenience though the control layout is very simple and straightforward, with just four buttons, a square D-pad and a rocker switch zoom control. The silver-on-silver indented labels are a bit hard to see in low light, but once you know which button is which this shouldn't be a problem.