Great sound, pity about the monitor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 March, 2004, 12:00am

Product: BenQ S30
Price: $2,280
Pros: Camera and solid MP3 player for the price of only one of these devices
Cons: Quality of LCD is poor

There are good and bad things to be said about Taiwanese electronics maker BenQ's latest digital camera.

On paper, everything about it beats the pants off rivals. The most obvious feature the S30 has going for it is its integrated MP3 player and FM radio.

In addition to its fairly solid audio capabilities, the S30 camera boasts a three-megapixel resolution, a 3x optical zoom lens and the ability to record movies just like the best models in its class.

It offers the most of both worlds for the price of only one device. The price itself is a reasonable $2,280 - cheaper than some mid-range three-megapixel cameras.

Alas, if only BenQ had built a better product.

Digital cameras have outpaced their traditional film rivals in popularity partly because the LCD monitor on most units allows people to review and delete bad pictures. The image captured by the lens has little relationship with the tiny LCD screen on the back of the camera. If the screen is fuzzy then it becomes hard to tell a good picture from a bad.

The 1.5 inch LCD on the back of the S30 is not only out of focus but has oversaturated colours.

Pictures taken in most conditions, whether they are macros, portraits, busy scenes, outdoor or indoor scenes or shot in low light, are fine when they are downloaded on to a PC for viewing.

There is some noise and very minor purple fringing but that is to be expected in a package of its price range.

The LCD is cute in that it can flip out for self-portraits, though it cannot rotate.

The unit that we tested also had difficulty recognising FM radio channels in scan mode. Other minor faults include a big but overly sensitive shutter release that makes it hard to pre-focus, and the fact that the LCD screen refuses to power up when the device has a low battery, leaving one wondering if the camera is broken.