Earlier this year, American industrial giant General Electric, under its General Imaging brand, made its first move into the digital camera market with the launch of a small range of budget-priced compacts including the E840s. The company has just launched its latest wave of new products, with seven new models introduced at this year's Photokina camera show, held last month in Cologne, Germany. Among them was the E1050TW, an impressive-looking high-spec 10.5 megapixel compact featuring a three-inch touch-screen monitor, a 5x zoom lens with a 28mm wide angle, and HD resolution video shooting. Retailing at just £149.99, does it have what it takes to make an impact in a fiercely competitive and already overcrowded market?
If looks alone were enough then the E1050TW would certainly be destined for success. GE's designers have done a good job of making what is really quite a cheap camera look a lot more expensive than it actually is. If you slapped a Canon badge on it, it wouldn't look out of place in the IXUS range. The looks aren't just skin-deep either. The body is all aluminium and the build quality is as good as anything from the more established manufacturers. The E1050TW is available in a range of five colours, including black, blue, silver, white and the pleasant metallic red shown here.
Touch-screen controls are all the rage these days, thanks in no small part to that latest must-have icon of the consumer culture, the Apple iPhone. Remember how after the first iMac came out, for about two years every new electronic product was clad in brightly coloured see-through plastic, whether it needed it or not? It's the same thing. I'm not entirely convinced that touch-screen controls on a camera offer any real advantage over conventional buttons and dials, but it looks like we're stuck with them for a while.
In terms of touch-screen operation alone the monitor on the E1050TW is one of the better examples of the type. The button areas are large enough for my big fingers, and it operates quickly and smoothly with only a light fingertip touch. Unfortunately it does have a downside, and it's quite a serious one. The touch-sensitive layer on the screen has a slightly opaque reflective metallic lustre, giving the monitor the appearance of a dull mirror when turned off. Unfortunately this surface is very good at reflecting sunlight, making the image on the monitor extremely difficult to see in daylight, and almost invisible in bright sunlight. This is a major problem for the E1050TW, and one which GE will have to overcome if it wants to compete with the likes of Sony. To be honest I'm surprised that a company with such vast resources in the field of consumer electronics couldn't come up with a better touch-screen monitor than this.