In terms of overall performance the T700 shows its budget camera heritage. Start-up time is very slow at well over four seconds, and in continuous shooting mode it averages around one frame every two seconds, and that’s with a high speed memory card. It is another of those annoying cameras with no audio cue to let you know when it’s taking shots in continuous mode. In single shot mode it is even slower, with a cycle time of around five seconds, and slightly longer if the flash is used. This is odd, because the wide-area AF system is actually fairly quick, and I suspect this is another Pentax component. Low light focusing however is another matter entirely, and is a real problem. It fails to focus in even fairly moderate light, and the lack of an AF assist lamp means that it cannot focus at all in the dark. Another performance issue is the battery life. The T700 is powered by a very small 720mAh battery, even smaller than the 740mAh cell in the Optio T30, and the charge level indicator was down to one bar out of three after only around 70 shots.
Actual image quality is, not surprisingly, almost identical to the Optio T30. The Pentax Sliding Lens System, which has been around since the original Optio S in 2004, is still a pretty good lens by ultra-compact standards and performs well here, producing some barrel distortion at wide angle but good overall sharpness and better than average edge and corner sharpness. It’s possible that the T700 has the same CCD as the T30 as well, because the colour rendition and level of detail are pretty much indistinguishable, and good for a seven megapixel camera. The only fly in the ointment is the noise issue I mentioned earlier. Image quality is only good at the lowest ISO setting. There is some colour speckling visible even at 160 ISO and it gets progressively worse as the numbers get higher. 800 ISO is unprintable. I would say this is a pity, and spoils an otherwise good camera, but the real pity is that with such poor distribution in the UK hardly anyone will notice.
The BenQ DC-T700 is a well made and stylishly designed ultra-compact camera, sharing many of the same features as its brand-mate the X725 and the Pentax Optio T30, including its lens, sensor and 3-in touch screen interface, which should be an advantage, but slow performance, poor low-light ability and serious image noise problems make the Pentax offering a better choice. The limited UK availability is also a major problem.