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BenQ GH700 digital camera review

Sabyasachi Biswas December 26 | Updated on December 24, 2012

BenQ GH700 digital camera   -  Business Line

Test shot from BenQ GH700

Test shot from BenQ GH700

Test shot from BenQ GH700

We, at Smartbuy, have had two BenQ digital cameras on our test bench so far. The GH 200, we found out after using extensively, was a decent entry-level ‘point and shoot’. It wasn’t spectacular, but something that could just serve the purpose for its price. The G1, on the other hand, was a bit more fun to play with, with all its ‘Magic Filters’ and so on. It even came in a leather case which I personally thought lent it a touch of class.

We recently received the GH700, a ‘super-zoom’ camera from BenQ, and we have been trying to figure out why anyone would opt for this one, instead of offerings from established camera makers like Canon, Nikon or Sony.

Features overview

The specs sheet for the GH700 looks good – a 21x optical zoom, Back Side Illuminated 16 mega-pixel sensor, 1080p HD video recording, 10fps burst mode and a ‘Super Macro’ mode that lets you take shots from just a centimetre away. Yes, that looks like a decent camera, but we’ll get to the performance part in a bit.

The camera is of a very compact build, and very light too, even with batteries. A 3-inch LCD screen sits at the back, which reproduces colours decently. The LCD screen is designed to simulate exposure on Manual and Priority modes, but is not very dependable. When I deliberately took underexposed shots, it simulated the resulting exposure, but sometimes it took time to respond (by a second, which is quite a lot if you consider the competition).

The dials are quite easy to use, and settings are easy to change – usually 2-3 clicks to get into the settings. This was good, because the GH700 comes with a manual pop-up flash (with a mechanical button to pop it up) and even when the flash is popped up, it doesn’t always automatically go into a compulsory flash on mode.

I was disappointed to see that the camera did not have a face detection mode. Face detection has become a norm, even with entry-level cameras.

The choice of power supply was also a bit disappointing. The GH700 uses 4 AA batteries. And the contents of the box don’t include any rechargeable batteries or chargers. The Nikon Coolpix L310, which has almost similar specs and costs around Rs 6,500 less, comes with a set of rechargeable AA batteries and a charger. Canon’s Powershot SX 500 IS, however, comes with a Lithium-ion battery pack. It costs Rs 2,000 more, but also has a 30x zoom and a high-speed AF system.

Performance

The GH700’s auto-focus system is like a kid lost in a fair. It doesn’t know where to stay and where to go. On wider frames, it doesn’t struggle that much, but when you start zooming in on a subject, it starts losing focus (pun intended). Also, it takes a lot of time to lock on a subject, or multiple subjects at the same distance, if the lighting is anywhere under normal daylight levels.

I put two smartphones (one white, other black, against a background of steel grey) at a distance of about 40 centimetres, with the light source being 2 fluorescent lights. After about 3x zoom, the AF just refused to work. Of course, at that distance, after 10-11x the object would be too close for the focus system’s comfort, and it would be unfair to call it inefficient, but even at 4-5x it was faltering.

Next up was my favourite – the low light test, and this is where the camera gave me the first surprises. I tried taking photos on both auto and manual modes, of objects on a candlelit table, and to my surprise the photos were not as grainy as I expected them to be. Even at ISO 800, the GH700 manages to keep noise down to respectable levels. The photosensitivity can be increased up to ISO 1600, and the noise levels do go up a bit, but then one also needs to acknowledge that this camera uses a small sensor, and for its size, the low-light performance is quite good.

Also, the optical image stabilisation is good. I could click photos at shutter speeds as low as 1/10 and 1/5 seconds, without having to use a support. The macro mode too, produces very good images.

The video mode is however a bit of a pain. You cannot control the zoom speed, and the AF acts up again, though the output is not so bad.

Verdict

The BenQ GH700 has a decent zoom, and good low-light performance, but that’s about it. It doesn’t have the fun filters that I loved on the other two cameras I tested. I wouldn’t say that this is a versatile high-zoom point-and-shoot, because the more versatile ones, in the same price segment are Canon Powershot SX 500 IS and Sony DSC-HX20.

Love – Low light performance, macro mode

Hate – Inefficient autofocus, no filters

Rs 17,999

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 24, 2012

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