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BenQ DC E1000 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £140.00

We’ve reviewed a number of BenQ digital cameras over the past few years. If you take a look at those reviews, there is a noticeable progression over time, from generic mass-produced boxes indistinguishable from any other Chinese import camera, to stylish and well-made ultra-slim cameras with decent performance and picture quality, in fact some of the more recent models were starting to look seriously competitive. However with the recent well-recorded turmoil at BenQ I was concerned that this steady improvement would come to a sudden halt or even go into reverse. BenQ has apparently outsourced its camera manufacturing to a low-end OEM manufacturer called Ability Enterprise, whose existing range of cameras is uninspiring to say the least.


However I may have been too hasty in my concern, because I’ve got the latest BenQ camera in for review and it’s actually pretty good. The DC E1000 is so new it isn’t even featured on BenQ’s UK website yet, and won’t be available to buy in this country for another couple of weeks, so this is the first review of the new model in the UK. The E1000 is a 10-megapixel, 3x zoom compact with a 3-inch 230k monitor and s reasonably advanced set of features. I terms of specification its main competition comes from Pentax’s excellent Optio A30 (£145), and the equally excellent Casio EX-Z1050 (£118). The E1000 will be going on sale at an initial price of £140, but will probably be available for much less within a few weeks.


It’s certainly a striking-looking camera. The most obvious feature on the front of the camera is a large bar of what appears to be brushed stainless steel inset into the left-hand side of the facia. According to the hilariously awful translation on BenQ’s corporate website, “Metal is the primary element symbolized the manhood”, because “hard, cold and rigid say it all”. Er…yeah, right. Bizarre phallic symbolism aside, the metal bar does at least provide a secure hand grip (!) making the camera quite comfortable to hold. The other styling features are equally eye-catching. The camera is finished in attractive matt black, with a metallic red ring outlining the lens. The rear of the camera is a flat plate of glossy plastic, transparent over the monitor screen and with the rear controls inset into it and a small textured area for the thumbgrip. The top panel is finished in a metallic gunmetal grey.

As with most recent BenQ models the build quality is excellent. The body is all metal and the fit and finish is very good. The tripod bush is set right at one end of the base plate, which is not an ideal position, but it does allow the battery/card hatch to open when the camera is fitted to a tripod, and the thread of the bush itself is metal, which is good. The hatch door is also fairly sturdy, with a sprung metal hinge. The monitor screen is very good. It has a diagonal size of 3.0 inches and a resolution of 230k pixels. It is nice and bright, but the highly reflective plastic rear panel does make it a bit difficult to see in bright sunlight. The controls on the rear panel are fairly well spaced out, but the buttons are quite small, and the engraved lettering on them is very hard to read in poor light, and the button action is also a bit on the soft side, which makes the actual operation a bit fiddly at first.


The DC E1000 is primarily a point-and-shoot camera, but it’s not short on features. It has 24 different scene modes, including a portrait mode with face detection (doesn’t everything?), the usual selection of landscape, sunset, snow, kids, sport etcetera, but including some unusual ones such as the ‘sketch’ mode, which renders the image in eight shades of grey, and an ‘oil painting’ mode, which uses a reduced colour palette to produce a sort of posterised effect. It doesn’t look much like an oil painting, but it is quite attractive. There is an anti-shake mode, but as usual with budget cameras this simply sets a high ISO value to produce a faster shutter speed.


As well as these automatic settings, the E1000 also has some degree of manual exposure control, specifically aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual. The aperture settings are limited to minimum and maximum only, but the shutter speeds can be set between eight seconds and 1/2000th of a second at roughly 1/2EV increments. It also has a good movie mode, with a maximum resolution of 848 x 480 in 16:9 aspect ratio, and 30 frames per second with mono audio. There are a number of other features, such three metering modes, exposure bracketing, portrait highlights, adjustable sharpness and some amusing composite picture frames, but these are all found in the slightly clunky menu.

Unfortunately the E1000 has a major weakness, and that is its performance. It starts up in a leisurely four seconds, and in single shot mode it can manage only one shot every four seconds on average. It has a continuous mode, but it is virtually useless because after the initial press of the shutter button the monitor screen goes blank and there is no audio cue to let you know that further shots are being taken. In fact they are, but at a rate of only one shot every 1.6 seconds. It also has a high-speed burst mode which takes eleven shots in about a second, but this is limited to two megapixels. The AF system isn’t too bad, and focuses reasonably quickly in good light, but its low-light performance is rather poor, refusing to focus at all in a room lit with a 60-watt bulb despite the presence of an AF assist lamp. Flash performance is also variable; it has good range and frame coverage, but tends to over-expose at close range.


Picture quality is, on the whole, surprisingly good for a budget camera. Exposure, dynamic range and colour rendition are excellent, and the overall level of detail isn’t bad either. The lens quality is less than perfect, producing fairly massive barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom range, and some chromatic aberration as well. It could also be a bit sharper. Another surprise is noise control, which is pretty good. Although there is some colour noise visible at ISO 200, image quality remains good up to ISO 800, although it does break down quite badly at ISO 1200 and 1600, with image noise and visible banding. All in all though a creditable performance from a brand that continues to make significant headway in the digital camera market.


”’Verdict”’

With the launch of the DC E100, BenQ has proven that it is still a player in the digital camera market. It is a stylish, well made high-specification camera with a useful list of features and reasonably good image quality for the price. Performance is rather slow however, and it doesn’t work well in low light. Worth considering, but there are better alternatives.

”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum ISO setting has been reduced to let you see the full image, and below that a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality.”


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At the minimum setting of ISO 50 the image quality is very good.


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ISO 100 and still no problems.


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A little visible noise at ISO 200, but image quality is still pretty good.


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A bit noisier at ISO 400, but still printable.


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The noise is stating to get obtrusive at ISO 800.


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At ISO 1200 there are distinct lines visible in the noise pattern.


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At the maximum ISO 1600 the image quality is, unsurprisingly, rather poor.


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This is the full frame at ISO 1600.


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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 my 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. Please note however that I inadvertently took this shot on the medium quality setting. I will replace it with a maximum quality shot at the earliest opportunity.


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As you can see, even at medium quality the level of detail is very good.


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The lens does produce quite bad barrel distortion at wide angle.


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Corner sharpness isn’t bad, but there is some slight chromatic aberration.


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Flash range is about four metres, and frame coverage is good.


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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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The wide angle end of the zoom range is equivalent to 35mm, wider than most other compacts.


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The telephoto end is equivalent to 105mm.


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Colour reproduction and exposure are very good for a low-cost camera.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 7
  • Image Quality 8

Features

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

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