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BenQ DC-T700 review: BenQ DC-T700

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The BenQ DC-T700 is a slender compact that still manages to cram an enormous screen to a pocketable package. It's trim and stylish, and reasonably priced at £150.

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5.5

BenQ DC-T700

The Good

Large touchscreen; clear images; thin build.

The Bad

Slow; struggles in low light; poor battery life.

The Bottom Line

The BenQ DC-T700 ticks plenty of the compact camera boxes: supremely pocket-friendly, easy to navigate (thanks to the cool touchscreen) and pretty as a picture. If you think that a choice of colours is more important than a choice of features, then the DC-T700 could be for you. But its poor low-light performance and slow operation mean that £150 may not be such a bargain after all

We investigate whether it's different enough from the Pentax T30, with which the DC-T700 shares most of its innards, or any of the other glut of 7-megapixel compact cameras on the market.

Design
BenQ claimed on launch that the DC-T700 was "the world's slimmest 3-inch touchscreen camera", and it certainly is svelte. It measures 15mm thick, and is only slightly wider at the Pentax Sliding Lens ring. It's so slim that we found ourselves reaching into our pocket and pulling it out instead of our mobile phone.


We like the easy up-and-down movement of the 3x zoom control

At the back, there's a pleasingly large 76mm (3-inch) touchscreen. With most of the controls accessed through the touchscreen, the number of actual buttons is kept to a minimum.

There is a menu button and shooting/playback toggle, with a vertical 3x zoom rocker. Although the up/down movement of the zoom control is preferable to side-to-side rockers, the motion is hamstrung by a choppy, stepped mechanism. When reaching maximum zoom, continuing to hold down telephoto will start the camera zooming out again, which is just annoying.

The DC-T700 is available in black, red, white or silver flavours. Our silver version was more of a matte grey with silver accents, including a sleek metallic fin running around the side of the camera.

The frame feels satisfyingly sturdy. We're not keen on uncovered USB ports and the touchscreen will pick up fingerprints, but these are only minor gripes.

Features
The touchscreen icons are large, clear and responsive. It isn't perfect, though: when snapping, tapping anywhere on the screen brings up the same shooting menu.

We'd prefer it if tapping on the indicator for a specific function, such as the flash icon, took you straight to the menu for that function, cutting out a level of navigation. You can get around this to a certain extent by programming customisable onscreen hotkeys. The menu system also lacks an onscreen 'back' option, although hitting the menu button generally takes you back a level.


The slim theme extends to the slender 12MB internal memory, while features are a bit thin on the ground. BenQ's Super Shake-Free system is another of the automatic high-ISO systems with which manufacturers insist on saddling compacts.

We liked the accessories: a touchscreen stylus that clips to the camera so you won't lose it, a cute little iPod-shaped charger and a velcro-sealed pouch with a dinky memory card pocket.

Performance
The DC-T700 takes an age to start up, at four seconds including a pointless BenQ logo screen. It then takes up to five seconds between shots in single mode. Continuous mode isn't much faster at around 0.5 frames per second.


The DC-T700 is slim all the way down to its 12MB internal memory

Image quality is good, though. Detail is sharp, and colours are vividly produced. The quality of the lens showed in a lack of distortion except right at the very corners of the frame.

Autofocus is only available in a wide form, rather than a centre-weighted spot. This makes locking focus rather arbitrary, as the reticule will lock on anything within its width. This is especially annoying when trying to lock on to a specific subject, such as in macro or portrait mode. Manual focus is available, controlled by a touchscreen slider, but it is slow and jerky.

Low light is once again the bane of yet another budget compact. Autofocus struggles to lock, and there's no AF assist lamp to help out. Meanwhile noise adversely affects images at all but the lowest ISO 80 setting.

The flipside of the DC-T700's diminutive size is a small battery, which does lead to battery issues. A full charge was enough for the 400 or so shots involved in our lab testing, but we didn't have to do much more shooting with the flash before the battery failed.

Conclusion
The Pentax lens means that picture quality from the DC-T700 isn't bad at all, at least until the light starts to go. We've come to expect cameras this size to struggle in the dark, but not to be so slow or have such poor battery life.

Nonetheless, the DC-T700 is stylishly made and the touchscreen is both fun and user-friendly.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday