BenQ GH700: A Little Too Late

 
BenQ GH700

BenQ GH700

Intrigued by the superzoom BenQ GH700, Aditya Nair decides to put it to the test, only to be left disappointed by performance.

The GH700 is the first BenQ camera we have tested and I was extremely curious to see what the camera had to offer. Let’s face it. The projector company is not a well known brand in photography. That made this camera all the more illustrious. What would it offer that other cameras do not have?

Features
That was answered quite soon—nothing! The fact is that the camera lacks quite a few basic features that you would expect. The ability to sharpen, saturate or boost the contrast of an image, is not possible within the camera. You cannot even shoot in B&W.

The GH700 has no creative effects or fun modes like Fisheye that many compact cameras provide. It also lacks the panorama mode found in Sony, Fujiflm and Nikon cameras. Surprisingly, the cheaper BenQ GH600 has quite a few fun effects.

The GH700 uses the Sony-manufactured, 16MP CMOS BSI sensor used in the some Cyber-shot cameras2. The camera has a 21x (25–525mm equivalent) zoom range that is optically stabilised. Hardly groundbreaking in today’s market, but it does covers quite a large focal range.

The camera has a Manual and a Program mode. Within the Manual mode, you can choose only two aperture values at any focal length. The shutterspeed can only be changed by one-stop. As a result, you will end up using the Program mode.

With the Continuous mode, you can shoot at 10fps at full resolution. The camera takes just a few seconds to write the images and you can shoot again.

An interesting feature, the HDR mode is useful in high contrast lighting. Sadly, exposure compensation is not available while using this mode. The GH700 is capable of recording Full HD video at 60fps. It also has an option to cut noise generated by the wind. The video quality is pretty decent too.

Handling
The camera is quite sturdy to hold and has just a few buttons. The position of the video-recording button though, can be problematic. On some occasions, I found myself accidently pressing it while trying to shoot. The GH700 has a 3-inch 460k dot LCD that represents colours well. While shooting video, zooming in or out is considerably slower. This helps smooth video transition while zooming.

The battery indicator simply does not work. At one moment you see a fully charged battery and a minute later, the camera has switched off. The other problem is that if the battery dies abruptly the lens does not retreat into the camera. So, you cannot put the lens cap on. This leaves it exposed to dust, fingerprints and scratches.

Speaking of lenscap troubles, if you start the camera without removing the lenscap, you need to restart the camera. So, even if all you want to do is review pictures, you need to remove the lenscap.

Performance
The camera’s AF is slow in low light and at the telephoto end. If you combine the two scenarios, you will be able to shoot a lot of very creative out-of-focus images. What makes the situation worse is the lack of a manual focus option.

At the wide end, the lens distortion is well controlled. In bright conditions, the camera focuses effectively and produces sharp images. You would not want to increase it beyond ISO 400. It shows plenty of oversharpening and compression artefacts.

The Handheld Night Shot is similar to the Handheld Twilight mode in Sony compact cameras. This mode shoots multiple images and combines them to reduce shake. While it works well, the mode makes the camera hang frequently.

Conclusion
The GH700 simply does not cut it in the superzoom race… certainly not at Rs. 17,999. Had its price been a few thousand rupees lesser, it would have been a decent buy.

For a little more money, you can buy the Nikon P500, which offers better quality and a 36x zoom. If you are a fan of Sony’s more entertaining features like Sweep Panorama, you may want to go for the 30x HX100V (Rs. 22,990). If it is just zoom you need, the Nikon COOLPIX L120 offers a 21x zoom and costs only Rs. 13,950.

You can overlook the lack of features and even the poor performace. But at this price, you expect a level of image quality that the BenQ GH700 simply does not deliver.

The Continuous Shooting mode helped capture the water splashes quite well. Exposure: 1/60sec at f/4.2 (ISO 160). Photograph/Aditya Nair

The Continuous Shooting mode helped capture the water splashes quite well. Exposure: 1/60sec at f/4.2 (ISO 160). Photograph/Aditya Nair

Final Ratings
Features
Full HD video at 60fps, fast continuous shooting, HDR, lacks fun filters and effects
24/30

Performance
Slow AF, poor high ISO performance, artefacts even at base ISO
18/35

Build Quality
Well built, easy to grip
12/15

Ergonomics
Few buttons, cannot be customised
10/15

Warranty & Support
Two years warranty, limited service centres
2/5

OVERALL: 66%
Value for Money: 2/5

Who should buy it?
I would not recommend the BenQ GH700 to anyone at all.

Why?
There are cheaper superzooms that give you the same, if not better features and slightly more expensive ones that give you far superior features.

Tags: 16MP, Aditya Nair, BenQ, benQ GH700 review, Camera review, july 2012