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Performance is one area where budget cameras often lag behind their more expensive rivals, but the E1050TW bucks the trend with some fairly impressive figures. It starts up in approximately 2.5 seconds, which is fairly respectable, while in single-shot mode at maximum image quality it can capture a shot every three seconds, which isn’t exactly Olympic record territory but is far from shabby. In continuous mode it is considerably quicker, shooting at just over a frame a second, but it doesn’t change focus or exposure between frames. Interestingly these performance figures are identical to the earlier E840s which I reviewed back in May.
Also unchanged from the earlier model is the autofocus system, which is again much better than one might expect from a relatively cheap camera. It focuses quickly and reliably in good light, even at longer focal lengths, and also works surprisingly well in low light. It can focus in the dark at a range of several metres thanks to an AF assist lamp.
The acid test is of course image quality, and here the E1050TW has both good and bad points. The lens quality is reasonable, producing some barrel distortion at the wide-angle end, but no more than I’ve seen from more expensive models. There is noticeable blurring and chromatic aberration towards the corners of the frame. Apart from this the images are generally sharp and well detailed, but the overall quality is impaired by the rather harsh image processing. Images look rough and over-sharpened, with some spurious artefacts appearing on areas of plain colour. Automatic white balance was also inconsistent, often changing from one shot to the next even in a sequence of pictures of the same subject in the same light. Dynamic range is about average for a 10MP compact, with fairly good shadow detail but some blown out highlights.
Where the E1050TW has the most trouble is with image noise control. Noise is visible even on shots at 100 ISO, and is a major problem by 400. Shots taken at 800 and the maximum 1600 ISO are of very poor quality, with random colour variations and no fine detail.
The GE E1050TW offers a lot of features for a very reasonable price, including a very useful zoom range. Build quality, design and handling are very good, and the camera certainly feels more expensive than it is. The touch-screen control system works well, and overall performance is better than expected, especially the autofocus system. Unfortunately it is let down by inferior image quality and the fact that you can’t see the monitor in daylight.