Compact Digital Cameras Under $300 (Part 1) - BenQ GH200

10/8/2012 3:01:13 AM

You may well have a decent camera built into your mobile phone, but what if you want to take really good photos with loads of optical zoom and clever effects. We take a look at five cameras that cost less than $320.

BenQ GH200

Here's an interesting thing. The GH200 is the cheapest camera in this group with a street price of $151, yet it comes with a mighty 12.5x optical zoom.

Description: BenQ GH200
BenQ GH200

There are some signs that BenQ has worked hard to keep the price low. For example, the camera is rated at 14.1 megapixels rather than the 16.1 MP sported by the Canon, Panasonic and Samsung models. You might wonder what difference that makes so we have the facts and figures to give you the full story. The 14.1 MP BenQ takes photos at 4,320 x 3,240 pixels while the 16.1 MP cameras pack in 4608 x 3456 pixels.

The difference between those two settings is minimal and it would be grotesquely unfair to say that BenQ has cut corners on this score.

You get minimal internal storage - a mere 13.6MB - so you'll need to use the SD card slot if you want to take more than a handful of photos, and certainly if you plan on shooting 720p HD video. We'll come to the video side of things in a moment.

In short the GH200 packs in a decent list of features and has a specification that is similar to the Panasonic. However, it is a good bit cheaper and comes in under the $159 mark.

Using the BenQ requires a degree of thought: The Set button opens the set-up menu which defaults to non-Simple mode, which we'll call Standard mode. In Standard mode you can adjust the MP rating, change movie mode between 720p and VGA, enable face tracking, turn beeps on and off, enable Simple mode, use the Set-up menu (aren't we already in Set-up?) or choose a Scene mode. Curiously, you cannot change the flash setting or use the timer.

Scenes are spread over two pages in a list that appears to be endless but you get some help as the zoom control enables explanatory notes for each mode. For instance Candlelight mode uses 'Soft sharpness and tungsten white balance' and you are cautioned to 'keep the camera still!1 which suggests that the exposure time is rather long. The list of modes consists of Auto, Portrait, Landscape, MagiQ, Kids, Sport, Candlelight, Party, Pet, Flower, Flowing Water, Sunset, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Auction (no, really, the images are smaller), Backlight, High Sensitivity and voice record.

The Set-up menu is where you change white balance, set ISO or change the auto focus mode.

Switch to Simple mode and the number of options is reduced to avoid complication, allowing you to change the MP setting, set the flash or timer, and also change the date and time.

Let's look at the things we don't like about the GH200.

Description: BenQ GH200

Shooting 720p is a pleasant experience and we were pleased that the 12.5x zoom is enabled, but the sound of the zoom is clearly audible on the movie. Then, for some reason, BenQ feels it is necessary to use a massive 230MB of storage for each minute of video. The same figure applies to the LM100 so this appears to be a BenQ quirk rather than an issue with the GH200.

Secondly we don't much like the arrangement of the menus. That business with Simple mode and the Other Anonymous mode is annoying.

Thirdly, in Simple mode the auto focus is really, really annoying. We had the button beep set to silent, yet each time the auto focus kicked into action. With the camera stationery on a desk you'd get a red square on the screen and the camera was silent, then the auto focus would engage, you'd get the green square and the camera would


Price: $151

Manufacturer: BenQ


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