We’re not kidding when we say you can buy a super-zoom camera with full manual control for just Rs 10,999! Going by the specifications, the BenQ GH600 comes across as an awesome deal. This 16 megapixel shooter boasts a whopping 21x telephoto lens and PASM mode and it resembles higher end models that cost more than twice as much. Let’s find out whether the GH600 is worth considering.
Video review of the BenQ GH600
Design and Features
Ignore the lens and the GH600 resembles an entry-level DSLR camera. The heft is attributed to the large telephoto lens and the chunky grip, which is large and bulges because it houses four AA batteries that power this camera. While the upside to using AA batteries is that they are easily available and you can carry spare rechargeable ones as backup, the downside is they add bulk and take longer to recharge than li-ion battery packs. That being said, the exclusion of a li-ion battery is one factor that has helped to bring down the cost.
Quite limited in features
The GH600 is all-black and the entire shell sports a rough, matte finish, which lends a rugged feel. The only glossy bit is a patch on the top that houses the zoom lever and the on/off button. The flash strobe resides behind the BenQ branding, above the lens. To use it, you have to gently lift it up holding the tiny tabs on the sides. The rear of the camera features a 3-inch LCD monitor and the control panel to its right. A dimpled thumb grip is provided at the top right corner. The control panel starts with buttons for video recording and playback at the top followed by the 5-way D-pad, Menu and Fn button. While shooting, the D-pad functions as a set of hotkeys for Face Detection, Flash, Info display and Focus type (Macro, Infinity, Pan and Auto). In playback mode, the up button on the D-pad can be used to rotate photos. The rotation is not merely for viewing photos - it modifies the orientation data in the EXIF info. This means that when viewed on the PC, the photos will be displayed as per the set orientation.
The feature set of the GH600 is quite limited. Although it has full and semi-manual modes, they are crippled. In M and Av modes, the aperture can only be switched between the largest and the smallest values at the set focal length, instead of 1/3 F-stop increments. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the shutter speed. Also, you don’t have fine control over the zoom speed. Pull the zoom lever one-third, half or completely, and still the zoom speed doesn’t vary.
Looks a bit like an entry level DSLR
The other shooting modes include Program, Smart Auto, Scene, Panorama and Burst. Unlike other cameras that offer a dozen scene presets, the GH600 has only six essential ones – Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night, Child and Backlight. The Panorama mode takes three shots while you’re panning the camera and stitches them on-the-fly to produce a 180 degree panorama. The Burst mode is useful – you can shoot high speed bursts and EV-bracketed shots (0, +0.3 and -0.3). The bracketed shots can be used to choose the best exposure or create HDR images.
The user interface is very intuitive – it’s straightforward and doesn’t require much learning due to the limited options to choose from. Press the Fn button once and you can tweak parameters such as resolution, quality, EV, white balance, ISO, metering and colour effect. The colour effect adds creativity and fun to shooting with Lomo, Sepia, Colour Accent and Black & White. These effects can also be added to photos after you’ve shot them, in playback mode. The ISO speed extends from 100 to 6400. However, at ISO 3200 and 6400, images can only be shot at up to 3 MP. Other options such as self-timer, sharpness, contrast and IS can be set via a separate tab that comes up when you press the Menu button.
Large display for easy viewing
Videos can be shot at up to 720p and you have the optical zoom at your disposal while shooting. We don’t advise using the zoom much while recording videos because the camera mutes the audio while doing so.
Though a bit bulky, the GH600 feels extremely steady when gripped. The thumb grip and the textured rubberized grip around the bulge, inspire enough confidence for single-handed shooting. The mode dial, shutter release and buttons on the control panel are placed such that the thumb isn't stressed. The user interface is snappy and allows for quick operation; however, the slow focussing speed takes away all the charm. At certain focal lengths, the GH600 takes its own sweet time to focus and it’s all the more frustrating when it fails to do so on the subject, which happens many a times (even while shooting videos).
The overall performance of the GH600 is just above average. Macro shots look very good. You can shoot extreme close-ups from as close as 1 cm from the subject. The reproduction of colours is very good, but the details aren’t up to the mark even at the lowest ISO. There is visible colour noise and compression artefacts take away the minute details. The artefacts look like armies of marching ants and this gets worse with higher ISO values.
ISO Sensitivity Test
The overall contrast is good, and the photos look great when they are viewed fitted to the screen. Rescale and share them via social networks, and your friends will like them. View them at 100 percent zoom and you’ll be disappointed if you’re particular about details.
The quality of video recording is good so long as you don’t use zoom. The results are almost jitter-free at 720p. The GH600 allows jazzing up your recordings by throwing in colour effects.
Verdict and Price in India
For Rs 10,999, the BenQ GH600 is good value for money. Even though it has its share of drawbacks, we still recommend it because we liked the combination of the telephoto lens, manual controls and the overall performance. If you’re willing to compromise on zoom for better image quality and user interface, we suggest you go in for the Canon PowerShot SX160 IS. It costs Rs 12,990 (MRP) and the specifications include 16 MP sensor, 16x optical zoom and full manual control.
Rescaled images look great
Close ups look good
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