The remaining mode dial options are Set, PC, and Playback. Set is used for resetting the frame counter and the whole camera system if need be, as well as formatting the card, setting the date and time, displaying the available space on the SD card, setting the auto power off timer and turning off the camera’s sounds. The PC mode is used when the DC C50 is hooked up to a PC using the USB cable provided. Upon connection, the camera is recognised as a removable disk and it’s simply a case of copying the images to your PC. A quick word here. The interface conforms to the USB1.1 standard so transfer is not super fast, and bear in mind that the cable and interface are not your standard USB-mini type. If you lose or damage the cable you’ll probably have to source one directly from BenQ. That said, the USB interface also doubles up as a NTSC/PAL video output allowing you to view images on a television.
As for the buttons around the back these offer up a full suite of settings that should satisfy most avid photographers. Options include the obligatory delete rubbish bin, fill-in and red-eye reduction flash, exposure compensation from -2.0 to +2.0 in approximate 0.3 increments, a macro function for shooting as close as nine centimetres, and a self timer that can be set to a delay of 2 sec, 10 seconds, and 10 + 2 seconds. The latter takes a picture after 10 seconds and then another after 2 seconds just to make sure that the flash was fully charged for the first shot. The self timer also allows for interval shooting over one minute, three minutes, 10 minutes and one hour. Any number of shots from two to 99 can be chosen within these intervals but I would suggest that the power adapter is used for the longer intervals as I found the battery life to be rather short and good for only 60 or so shots.
On the whole, the control layout makes navigating the menus a simplistic affair. Although the 1.5inch colour LCD screen is on the small size the menus are clearly designed and for a sub £200 camera the available settings are impressive. For instance, the Picture menu gives you the option of changing the size of the image (2,560 x 1,920, 2,048 x 1,536, 1,280 x 960, and 640 x 480), the Quality (Fine, Standard, Economy), Sharpness (Hard, Normal and Soft), Contrast (Hard, Normal and Soft) and Colour (Vivid, Sepia, and Monochrome).
There’s also a Function menu for changing the brightness of the LCD, as well as turning off picture preview and the digital zoom. You can select from a range capture modes too. First there’s continuous shooting at approximately two frames per second, but for a maximum of only three shots, and secondly there’s an Auto Exposure/Auto White Balance menu for changing the metering (centre, spot), ISO sensitivity (100/200/400), and white balance (automatic, manual, daylight, cloudy, incandescent light and two for fluorescent light).
In use the DC C50, strikes me as a rather slow camera. The start-up time was a shade over seven seconds, so the chances are you’re going to miss that spur of the moment shot. Focusing is also somewhat slow, taking up to smidgen under 2 seconds before the camera can capture a shot. However, in low light conditions, the focus assist light proved its worth. As for the zoom control mentioned earlier, this was quite precise with 10 steps across the 7.2mm to 21.6mm optical zoom range – equivalent to 35mm – 105mm on a 35mm camera. The optical viewfinder, although a little small and dark for my liking also zooms in unison with the lens and features a dioptre dial for tuning its focus to the user’s eyesight.
Various settings are displayed on the LCD and a correctly focused image is indicated by a centre frame that lights up blue. A little hand will also show, warning you of camera shake if the shutter speed is too low. In addition, if you’re within a menu a press of the shutter release button will not return you back to the live display. Instead, you have to press the menu button in order to exit before you can take a picture. On several occasions I also found that the DC C50 locked up after taking a picture and the only way to reset it was to pull out the battery.