BenQ might not be the first manufacturer you think of when it comes to digital cameras ... or even the second, third, fourth or fifth. But the new G1 is an intriguing proposition, featuring as it does a fast F1.8 lens, a swivel-screen, and thumb wheel for manual settings, while still coming in at a modest price of €239 (that's around US$291).
Though being billed as "the world’s slimmest F1.8 swivel-screen digital camera," it's important to note that the BenQ G1 only boasts F1.8 at the widest point of its 4.6x optical zoom lens. By the time you reach the maximum zoom (the lens has a 35mm effective focal length of 24mm-110mm) this is limited to F4.5.
In a bid to keep the camera svelte, BenQ opted to use a lens which was designed in-house. As such, it's constructed from seven lenses in six groups and features an aspherical lens element to improve focus. However, the Taiwanese firm decided to pair this with a 14-megapixel Panasonic 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor.
On the rear of the G1 there's a 3-inch 920k pixel swivel-screen that allows for multiple-angle shooting and has a wide color gamut for more saturated colors and realistic images. There's also all the usual buttons you'd expect, along with a thumb wheel for dialing through commonly-used features and controlling manual settings - a feature normally reserved for higher-end models.
But while the manual mode allows users to set the shutter speed and aperture value, photography enthusiasts could be disappointed by the lack of RAW image format support, as images can only be shot in JPEG. A burst mode with six frames per second and the lens shift-type image stabilizer might go some way to making up for this.
Because smaller sensor cameras are always going to struggle to give good bokeh, (even with a fast lens) there's a faux bokeh background de-focus mode that simulates the shallow depth of field you can get from a DSLR. It works by layering two images with a different depth of field to create a soft, blurry background.
On the video side of things, the BenQ G1 can shoot Full HD 1080p footage with stereo audio and there's also a slow motion mode which can capture 120fps at 640x480 and 60fps at HD 720p. A fast motion mode speeds up the action by recording Full HD 1080p at 15fps.
Measuring 114 x 62.5 x 25.5 mm (4.5 x 2.5 x 1-inch) and coming in black or white, the BenQ G1 will be available in July for €239 (around $291).
Here's a promotional video showing how that fast lens and swivel-screen can help you take better cat photos. Really.
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