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BenQ DC X725 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £127.00

Back in October last year I reviewed one of BenQ’s earlier forays into the world of digital cameras, the chunky but not disappointing DC C1000, a 10-megapixel compact. It was a re-badged generic Taiwanese model, using BenQ’s brand recognition to get a foothold in the lucrative European market. Since then BenQ’s fortunes have risen and then fallen again. Earlier this year the company announced that it would henceforth be making its own cameras at a shiny new factory in Taiwan. However the company subsequently ran into some major problems. Its mobile phone handset division went spectacularly bankrupt (with a couple of its executives being arrested) and its camera manufacturing capacity has been transferred to Ability Enterprises, a little-known Taiwanese brand specialising in cheap cameras for the re-brand export market. It’s unknown at this time what the long-term future of the BenQ camera brand will hold. (”Edit: or indeed if the brand will even exist”)


This is a great pity, because just a few months ago BenQ were seemingly poised to launch an entire range of new cameras onto the market, including some very interesting looking models. Now apparently all that remains are the T700 touch-screen camera, which I’ve been trying to get hold of since it was announced back in April and this, the ultra-slim DC X725. It doesn’t seem to be widely available through UK distributors yet, but if you want to track one down you should expect to pay about £127 for it.


At first glance the X725 looks superb. It bears a very strong resemblance to the excellent Casio Exilim EX-S770, even down to the 3x zoom Pentax SMC lens. It is almost exactly the same size as the S770, measuring approximately 93 x 61 x 20mm. I say approximately because I measured it myself. Its official dimensions according to BenQ’s website are 91 x 60 x 14.7mm, and 12.5mm at the thinnest point, which would make it the thinnest 7MP camera in the world. What they’ve done is made the right-hand end of the camera taper slightly, so they can measure it just on the thinnest edge, but in my opinion that’s cheating. In reality it’s 20mm thick including the retracted lens and LCD monitor, and 15mm across the thinnest part of the body. That’s still pretty remarkably skinny, but it’s not 12.5mm. I don’t have any scales handy, so I can’t check the 120g dry weight, but then that doesn’t sound unreasonable.

Unfortunately the superficial appearance is where the resemblance to the S770 ends, but it’s not all bad news by any means. The camera is attractively designed, and is available in black or red as well as the plain metallic finish shown here. Build quality is very good; the stainless-steel case is nice and strong with an excellent fit between all the body parts and controls. The battery-card hatch is a bit unusual in that it hinges lengthways rather than endways, but it is solid and secure when closed and hard to open by accident.


Turning the camera over reveals a 2.5-in LCD monitor which with 232k pixels is admirably sharp and has a good fast refresh rate. The control layout is fairly straightforward, but I did find one slight problem. There is a textured thumbgrip area on the back below the zoom control, but immediately below that is a button which toggles between still image and movie mode. It’s positioned in such a way that if you’re a spade-handed clod like myself it’s very easy to press accidentally, so I found myself often shooting movies instead of snapping pictures.


Despite its sophisticated appearance the X725 is a very basic camera, with a set of features typical of most low-end snapshot models. It has a simple three-section menu with the first section devoted to 29 scene modes. That seems a lot, but there are no real surprises. It has all the usual modes such as portrait, landscape, sports, snow, night scene ect. There is a mode called “Super Shake Free”, but as you might expect it’s just a high-ISO shooting mode, counteracting camera shake with fast shutter speeds at the expense of image quality.


Other picture adjustments include contrast, saturation and sharpness, as well as the usual B&W, vivid or sepia modes. There is the usual selection of metering modes (matrix, C/W or spot), centre or wide area AF, and adjustable flash intensity, but that’s pretty much your lot. One thing worth noting is that the date stamp function, which puts the date on all your pictures in large orange characters, is set to on by default, something I only discovered after I’d taken all my sample shots.

Overall performance is not too bad for a budget camera. It starts up in a little under three seconds, but only takes half as long to shut down again. In single shot mode it can manage on average one shot every 3.5 seconds, which a bit slow, although in continuous shooting mode using a fast SanDisk Ultra II SD card it could manage a shot every 1.7 seconds, with focusing between each shot, which isn’t too shabby for something in this class and price range. Focusing is reliable in good light and not too slow. In fact it focuses slightly faster than some big-brand compacts I could name. Low light focusing is a different story though. Above the lens is what I had assumed was an AF assist lamp, but in fact it appears not to be. This is a pity, because it could desperately do with one. In pub/club lighting the X725 frequently refused to focus at all, which is a bit daft since it’s clearly designed to be slipped into a pocket for a night out.


Unfortunately one area where the X725 falls down badly is picture quality. It suffers from a range of problems, including erratic exposure metering, poor colour rendition, very limited dynamic range, image noise problems at all but the lowest two settings, and the Pentax lens, being of an older design than used in that company’s latest models, suffers from heavy barrel distortion at wide angle, although both centre and edge sharpness are good. Also, despite the relatively large 3.5MB JPEG files, image compression artefacts are also a problem. I have occasionally seen worse picture quality from budget cameras, but the X725 suffers when compared to cameras from other manufacturers, and especially other ultra-slim models such as the Casio Exilim S770 or Canon IXUS 70. These cameras don’t cost that much more than the X725 (both are around £170), but are vastly better products.


”’Verdict”’

The BenQ DC X725 gets off to a promising start, and there’s no disputing that it is a well-made and attractively designed camera with reasonable performance, but it is let down by a number of flaws, including poor low-light ability and inferior picture quality. If you have to have an ultra-skinny compact, save up another £40 and go for a Casio instead.

”A range of test shots are shown over the next few pages. Here, the full size image at the minimum ISO setting has 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 placed below it in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality.”


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At the minimum ISO setting of 80 the image quality isn’t too bad, with little visible noise.


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Up one stop to 160 ISO and already there is image noise visible. Also note the slightly different exposure, despite the identical conditions.


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At 320 ISO the image noise is worse, colour rendition is off and fine detail is lost.


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Not much difference at 400 ISO, but then it’s only a third of a stop faster.


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At 800 ISO image quality is extremely poor, with little fine detail and lots of noise.


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At the maximum setting of 1250 ISO the picture is unusable.


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”A range of test shots are shown over the next two pages. Here, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and in some case a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality.”


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


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The Pentax lens provides plenty of sharp detail, but low grade sensor and poor image processing have introduced artefact that reduce picture quality.


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The lens produces quite a lot of barrel distortion at wide-angle.


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However corner sharpness isn’t bad.


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”A range of test shots are shown over the next two pages. Here, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and in some case a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality.”


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This was shot at the wide-angle setting. The poor exposure metering has burned out the sky and most of the highlights.


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Taken from the same spot but at the telephoto setting, this time the metering has under-exposed the shot.


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Colour rendition is pale and lack saturation.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 7
  • Image Quality 4

Features

Camera type Digital Compact
Megapixels (Megapixel) 7 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 3x

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