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BenQ DC C1050 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £100.00

Despite concerns last year over the prospects for BenQ’s future in the digital camera business, it seems that the brand continues to be largely unaffected by the changes in the parent company. New cameras are still arriving, and they’re still pretty good. They’re not going to be giving Canon executives sleepless nights anytime soon, but as Chinese budget cameras go they’re safely above ridicule. The last one we looked at was the DC E1000 in October last year, which was a fairly stylish and well made 10-megapixel 3x zoom pocket compact priced at a competitive £140. Today we’re taking a look at the latest model, the DC C1050, which also sports a 10MP sensor and a 3x zoom lens, but is priced at under £100.


The initial impression is that BenQ has taken a step backwards with the design of the C1050. The E1000 was quite slim with eye-catching styling, whereas by comparison the C1050 is rather pedestrian in appearance. There’s nothing wrong with it as such, but its shape is certainly much more bulky and blocky than most modern cameras. In part this is due to the space needed by its two AA batteries, but as Pentax and Nikon have repeatedly proven, it is possible to make a slim AA-powered camera. The camera body is made mainly of plastic, with an aluminium strip running around the top, bottom and sides, and a textured leather-look surface on the handgrip. It is quite a large camera by compact standards, measuring 89 x 60.5 x 32.7 mm, but it is also quite light at 140g minus batteries, and as a result it feels a bit cheap and insubstantial. Despite that, the build quality is fairly good and the chunky shape, front handgrip and rear thumbgrip area make it comfortable and secure to hold.


As one would expect from a budget point-and-shoot camera, the external controls are fairly basic. The top plate holds the recessed on/off button and the large shutter button, while the back plate is identical to the E1000, with a large square D-pad that also controls the flash mode and macro/landscape/pan-focus mode, although with a macro range of 40cm it is barely deserving of the name. The buttons are rather small, and the silver-on-silver labeling is hard to see in anything but bright light. The zoom control is a small rocker switch on the back plate, and while it is quick and responsive, the zoom action is stepped with only seven increments between wide and telephoto.

A few years ago when digital cameras were much more expensive, it was possible for Chinese label brands to undercut the market with cheap mass-produced cameras of questionable quality. However it is now possible to get a very good compact camera from a leading brand for under £150, so the smaller and traditionally cheaper brands have to work hard to keep up. The C1050 has to compete with well-priced 10MP models such as the excellent Casio EX-Z1050 (£140) and the Pentax Optio S10 (£150), as well as other budget models such as the Nikon L-series, some of the lower-end Olympus FE models and Fujifilm’s A-series, particularly the new 9-megapixel A920 (review coming soon) priced at a very competitive £95.


So apart from a sub-£100 price tag and 10MP resolution, what else does the C1050 have to offer? Sadly, the answer is “not much”. It has a 3x zoom, f/2.8-5.1 lens with a focal length equivalent to approximately 35-105mm, a rather low resolution 112k pixel 2.5-inch LCD monitor, and a maximum ISO setting of 1030. The C1050 has auto exposure, 12 basic scene modes and unusually for a budget camera it also has a limited manual exposure capability, with aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure. The aperture control is limited to minimum and maximum aperture only, but shutter speeds from eight seconds to 1/2000th of a second can be selected.


Virtually all the camera’s functions are controlled via the main menu, including exposure compensation, which is relegated to the second page. It has three metering modes (multi-zone, centre-weighted and spot), the usual selection of white balance options, and some colour effects, including monochrome, sepia, negative and three colour filters. Drive modes include 2-second, 10-second and 10+2-second self timers and a burst mode. It has a VGA 30fps video mode, which is pretty much the standard these days, and the zoom lens can be used while shooting video, however to get around the sound of the zoom motor being recorded on the soundtrack, it simply disables sound recording while the lens is moving.

As has been the case with previous BenQ cameras, overall performance is rather slow. It takes nearly four seconds to start up, and shuts down again in just under three. In single-shot mode the shot-to-shot cycle time is almost five seconds, which is extremely slow even by budget camera standards. It does have a continuous shooting mode which can take a shot approximately every 1.2 seconds, but it doesn’t focus between shots, and the LCD monitor is also turned off while shooting in this mode, so aiming the camera is a problem. One reason for the poor performance is the very slow AF system, which takes over a second to focus even in good light. It is also not terribly reliable, often failing to focus on well-lit high contrast targets, which is a big problem because the camera will take a picture even if the AF system has failed to focus. Low light performance is also very poor, failing to focus most of the time in a room lit by a couple of 60-watt lamps. It has no AF assist light, so it won’t focus at all in the dark.


On the bright side, image quality is not too bad for a sub-£100 camera. The lens produces a good sharp image with only slight blurring in the far corners of the fame, and although it does produce quite bad barrel distortion at wide angle, the telephoto end is distortion-free. Colour reproduction is generally a bit under-saturated, and exposure is sometimes also a bit off, under or over exposing by about half a stop on high-contrast shots. Image noise is quite well handled, with little visible noise until 400 ISO, and more-or-less usable picture quality even at 800 ISO. The file size at maximum quality averages around 2.8MB, which is quite small for a 10MP camera, indicating a high degree of file compression, but even so there were no obvious problems with JPEG artefacts. Flash exposure is also good, avoiding the usual problem of over-exposure at close range.


”’Verdict”’

Considering its price of under £100, the BenQ DC C1050 is really not at all bad. It has a limited but useful set of features, good handling and build quality, and produces acceptable results in most normal conditions. Its only real problems are its extremely slow shot-to-shot time and its very poor low-light performance, but on the whole not bad value for the price.

”A range of test shots are shown over the next few pages. Here, the full size images at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced for bandwidth purposes to let you see the full image, and a series of crops taken from original full resolution images at a range of ISO settings have been included in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality.”


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This is the full frame at 50 ISO.


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At the minimum ISO setting of 50, the image quality is very good, with clear sharp details and no noise.


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Quality is still good at 100 ISO.


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There is a little colour mottling at 200 ISO, but not enough to cause a problem at normal print sizes.


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Noise is more noticeable at 400 ISO, but the picture would still make a good print.


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At 800 ISO the colour reproduction is starting to suffer, but the level of detail is still quite good.


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At the maximum setting of 1030 ISO image noise is very noticeable, but it’s no worse than a lot of other 10MP cameras.


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This is the full frame at maximum ISO.


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”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image.”


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Here’s the usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture.


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The overall level of fine detail is pretty good for a camera costing less than £100.


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Apart from some lens flare at the top of the frame, the main problem is significant barrel distortion at wide angle.


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Sharpness is quite good at the centre of the frame.


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Sharpness only drops off at the far corners of the frame.


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There is virtually no pincushion distortion at the telephoto setting.


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”Here are some general test shots to help evaluate the camera’s overall image quality, including the zoom range of the lens. Some pictures may be clicked to download the full size original image.”


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This was shot at the widest angle setting, equivalent to approximately 35mm. This shot is a bit under-exposed.


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The telephoto setting is equivalent to approximately 105mm. Again, the shot is under-exposed.


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Colour reproduction is a bit under-saturated, but the exposure is accurate in this shot.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 8
  • Image Quality 6

Features

Camera type Digital Compact
Megapixels (Megapixel) 10 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 3x

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