BenQ G1 Review

December 24, 2012 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The BenQ G1 is a compact camera with a fast f/1.8-4.9 lens and a swivelling rear screen. Billed as the world’s slimmest camera in its class, the BenQ G1 is built around a 14-megapixel sensor and a 24-110mm equivalent lens that features optical image stabilisation and an ultra-bright f/1.8 maximum aperture at the wide end. The articulated, 3-inch screen offers a resolution of 920,000 dots and a wide colour gamut for more saturated colours and realistic images. Other highlights include full HD video capture, a mode dial with manual and semi-automatic shooting modes, a ‘Handheld Night Shot’ mode, a ‘Background Defocus’ filter, several creative filters and a continuous shooting mode of 6 frames per second. The BenQ G1 costs £279.

Ease of Use

At one time the BenQ brand was synonymous with the ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ type of digital camera more likely found on supermarket shelves and featured in pamphlets that dropped through your letter box than in the trophy cabinets of a specialist photo retailer. Any BenQ camera I’ve tested in the past has also seemed more like PC peripheral than prestige photographic device, and performance has been average at best.

So what’s changed? Well the brand is being re-launched with more purposeful intent, as signified by the 14 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor incorporating BenQ G1 - the given model iteration (subconsciously/deliberately?) making us think of the more well-received/established likes of Panasonic’s Lumix G range, and Canon’s PowerShot G series.

As is the vogue for premium compacts at the moment - not that this is quite as posh as say, Sony’s RX100 - the BenQ comes with a bright f/1.8 aperture lens. Furthermore the camera has a fully automatic background defocus shooting option - though this is a software fix applied at the point the shutter release button is fully depressed. It selectively blurs portions of the image in much the same way that a miniature mode on other cameras operates (and yes, the G1 also has a miniature, or as it’s called here ‘toy’, mode too, found within the ‘scene’ menu).

While the front of the matt black finished camera might look a little Ricoh-like in its utilitarianism, complete with flattened handgrip finished in faux leather effect and BenQ brand logo a little too prominent for our tastes, it’s a different story at the rear.

Despite the camera’s pocket sized dimensions and narrow-ish build, BenQ has impressively squeezed in a fold out, swivel and tilt 3-inch, 920k dot back screen. This offers similar flexibility to the adjustable monitor found on Samsung’s recent, slightly broader EX2F, in that it can be flipped out parallel to the body as well as angled up or down, plus turned so that screen faces subject for more convenient self portraiture. Indeed BenQ is claiming that the G1 is the world’s smallest camera to feature an angle adjustable composition/review screen in tandem with that fast maximum aperture. To the best of my recollection the brand has never been a global best or first at anything before, so initial impressions at least are positive.

BenQ G1 BenQ G1
Front Rear

Also, it’s worth pointing out that build here is mainly metal, so there’s a solid feel to the BenQ when grasped - another pleasant surprise. And as further garnish to this particular lily, a tan faux leather carry pouch and matching strap are provided in the box. It’s been a long while since we’ve been provided with a camera bag as part of the basic kit, unless we’re talking about a Leica. If you care to attach the pouch it certainly adds an unexpected touch of class and elegance to the G1 overall.

So, in terms of initial comparison points, the formerly humble BenQ finds itself in more exalted company than one might have formerly expected. The price for this is a suggested £279, reasonable, if no outright bargain which suggests we are paying a slight premium for that screen. But can the G1 rise above its maker’s humble computer peripheral heritage as regards handling and performance?

First off, yes it’s a little boxy in design, about a third bigger than a business card at an official 114x62.5x25.5mm and with a weight of 195g. Also a little modest is the G1’s 4.6x optical zoom when others are shoehorning a 20x reach into only marginally broader dimensions. Still, the G1’s lens does start wider than most at an equivalent 24mm in 35mm film terms.

On examining the camera, left of lens we get a small porthole for the built-in self timer/AF assist lamp plus alongside this a lozenge shaped flash, positioned close enough to the grip that we had to watch for a finger inadvertently straying in front. The handgrip, though a welcome addition, seems more for show than practicality as it’s still easy for fingers to slip; a complementary thumb rest at the back would have helped. As it is the thumb instead comes to rest against a time saving command dial at the back - another unexpected feature. While the zoom is retracted within the body when the camera is inactive, upon powering up it stands a couple of centimeters proud of the body at maximum 100mm equivalent zoom setting.

With lugs for attaching a strap found top left and right of the relatively slender chassis, the top plate of the BenQ is straightforward in terms of control layout. Indeed it helpfully comes complete with a conventional 10-option dime sized shooting mode dial. The other controls are the standard raised shutter release button surrounded by a lever for operating the zoom, plus a recessed on/off button to prevent accidental activation. Also located on the top plate are a built in mono speaker yet stereo microphones, positioned directly above the lens. A press of the power button and the camera readies itself for action in two to three seconds, lens extending to maximum wideangle setting and rear screen bursting into life. As you’d expect there’s no additional optical nor electronic viewfinder on offer. A half press of the shutter release button and the G1 determines focus and exposure after a moment or so, the view on the back screen briefly blurring before snapping back into focus, with AF point/s highlighted in green accompanied by a loud beep of confirmation. Take the shot and a maximum resolution JPEG, in the expected absence of any Raw option, is committed to memory in two to three seconds in single shot mode. The alternative is up to 6fps continuous capture. Though the operational buzz of the zoom when adjusting in stills mode is noticeably gnat-like, this is slightly better disguised by a much slower movement and adjustment of the lens once video recording has begun.

BenQ G1 BenQ G1
Front Tilting LCD Screen

Back to the shooting mode dial for a moment and it’s here that we find the full creative quartet of shutter priority, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual modes. Again, manual photographic controls haven’t been a big feature of past BenQ efforts. These are augmented by further settings for scene mode, a selection of digital filter effects signposted on the dial by a magic wand icon, plus a handheld night shooting mode, the aforementioned dedicated defocus mode, continuous burst mode and regular auto mode.

The digital filters on hand here are as fun as they always are and can help lift an otherwise drab scene. If you want to add a boost to contrast and colour but keep the shot looking vaguely photographic rather than impressionistic the HDR mode is the one to choose. The ‘MagicQ’ is the most extreme option - providing a highly stylized retro look, with further alternative options being the black and white sketch, wholly unrealistic oil painting and a Canon PowerShot-like colour accent, again an automatically applied process at the point the shot is captured. It’s best to experiment with these filters to find what works as obviously some subjects lend themselves better to a highly stylized treatment than others. However it should be noted that since processing takes place at the time of capture, there’s around a six second wait before you can fire off a subsequent shot.

The plentiful scenes modes here also include an HDR option, along with a 360° panorama, fisheye lens effect, Lomo camera effect (!), plus a ‘toy’ mode, which is a ubiquitous tilt and shift lens ape-ing miniature mode by another name.

Though inevitably the tilting and swiveling screen dominates the back of the G1, there is still some room to the right - roughly a fifth of the entire backplate - given over to physical controls.

From the top working our way down these comprise the aforementioned command dial with, just beneath, a dedicated video record button for 1920x1080 pixels video clips at a maximum 30fps frame rate. Both of these controls are easily operated by the thumb - a spin of the command dial allowing shooting mode options to be scrolled through - though in addition at the rear there is a regular four way command pad encircled by its own scroll wheel a bit further down the back plate. An equally familiar OK/function button sits at its centre. At points north, east, south and west on the pad are a means of adjusting screen display, flash settings (including anti red eye and slow sync options), self-timer and focus mode respectively. So far, so standard issue.

BenQ G1 BenQ G1
Top Memory Card Slot

At the very base of the backplate we find a further two buttons - the self-explanatory menu plus a button marked with an enigmatic ‘Q’, which also doubles up as a handy delete button when the camera is in playback mode. While in stills capture mode an initial press doesn't achieve anything, its function becomes clearer when drilling into the camera menu - in that a range of functions can be attributed to it. So, for example, a press of the ‘Q’ button can provide a fast cut to swapping ISO settings when required. Again, user attributable customisable buttons aren’t something expected from the once cheap and cheerful BenQ.

On the right hand flank of the G1 - if viewing it from the back still - we find a covered port with HDMI output, plus a joint port for standard AV output and connection of the supplied USB cable. An HDMI cable is not supplied. Incidentally the rechargeable lithium ion battery is also charged within the camera, with only a mains lead supplied. Ours came with a plug for Europe rather than the UK, but hopefully this has been put right for sales samples. As a fallback, thankfully the applied USB lead can be used to charge the camera from a device with a vacant USB port, such as a laptop.

The left flank of the camera is devoid of any features save for a vacant lug for a strap and the ‘arm’ of the adjustable screen. The base of the G1 meanwhile features a centrally positioned tripod screw thread plus a door protecting the joint battery and SD card compartment, opened and ‘locked’ here via a sliding catch. The G1’s battery life is good for 260 shots from a full charge which is perfectly adequate for its class if short if exceptional.

While the above all sounds better than we’d have previously expected, how does the BenQ G1 deliver in practice? Click forward to our next section to find out.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3.5Mb.

As with most pocket compacts, unadulterated images straight of the BenQ G1 can tend to look a little flat and would benefit from a Photoshop tweak, especially in terms of boosting contrast. However daylight photos do look sharper and crisper than we imagined it capable of, even if quality isn’t a match for premium compacts with slightly larger sensors costing £100 to £150 more.

While a 4.6x optical zoom starting out at an equivalent 24mm suggests itself as useful for landscape shots and group portraits, so it proves, and, equipped with the benefits of both that wider reach and the flip and tilt screen, we were able to come up with less familiar interpretations of scenes that for us were already tried and tested. Being able to adjust the screen to shoot over walls and enable operation with the camera held at arm’s length means that you inevitably end up with shots that you wouldn’t have dreamt of attempting otherwise - which is never a bad thing.

While the camera is capable of delivering even exposures, it’s not always consistent, and familiar bugbears such as blown highlights and pixel fringing rear their heads under brighter daylight conditions.

In terms of low light shooting and our standard ISO tests, this exposed some issues with colour balance and again a slight lack of consistency shot to shot if we’re being picky. There is a reasonably broad light sensitivity range on offer here, from ISO100 to ISO6400 and all points in between, plus standard auto and a further auto option whereby the camera is limited at ISO3200 maximum in order to show the G1’s performance at its best. As with most compacts though, ideally you’ll want to stick at ISO800 and below as we started to see a loss of definition at ISO1600, getting progressively more noticeable at ISO3200. The top ISO6400 is there only if you get particularly desperate, as soft detail across the frame lends shots that distinctly watercolour-like effect.

Overall the G1’s performance could be summed up as ‘not too bad’ and while that’s not a ringing endorsement, it’s especially good given our initial fairly low expectations.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the BenQ G1. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The BenQ G1's 4.6x zoom lens offers a focal range of 24-110mm, as demonstrated by the examples below.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are sharp enough at the default sharpening setting and don't benefit that much from further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The BenQ G1 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The BenQ G1 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 3cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


Here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Force On or the Auto Anti Red-eye settings caused any red-eye.

Force On

Force On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Auto Anti Red-eye

Auto Anti Red-eye (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The BenQ G1's maximum shutter speed is 1 second, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 400.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the BenQ G1 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 19 second movie is 44Mb in size.

Product Images

BenQ G1

Front of the Camera

BenQ G1

Front of the Camera

BenQ G1

Isometric View

BenQ G1

Rear of the Camera

BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen

BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen

BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen

BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen

BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen


BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen

BenQ G1

Tilting LCD Screen

BenQ G1

Top of the Camera

BenQ G1

Top of the Camera

BenQ G1

Side of the Camera

BenQ G1

Side of the Camera

BenQ G1

Memory Card Slot


It’s fair to say that BenQ probably won’t be most photographers’ first choice of camera - not even those trading up from a mobile phone or looking to update an older snapshot model, both of whom would potentially be the ideal audience. And, while the G1 won’t be mounting a strong challenge to the bigger name brands - it would have to be utterly exceptional to do so - the advantage of features such as the tilt and swivel screen help command the attention and set it apart from the crowd. Then there are the other key features to draw interest, such as that ultra bright f/1.8 maximum aperture lens, customisable ‘Q’ button, automatic background defocus option, handheld night shot mode, plus digital filter effects, not to mention manual control alongside fully automatic shooting.

Compared to BenQ cameras we’ve seen in the past the G1 is a marked improvement. The fact that it isn’t wholly exceptional however means that this brand will continue to be a hard sell, especially to a casual customer who isn’t too bothered about the dual benefits of a pocket sized camera with a swivel and tilt screen.

That said a £279 asking price is undeniably a lot cheaper than another comparably sized camera with a swivel screen in the Samsung EX2F at £429. So unless you really are after a bigger sensor and that extra oomph in the imaging department that comes with it, here is a chance for the less demanding user to spend less.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 3

Review Roundup

Reviews of the BenQ G1 from around the web. »

One of the neat things about the new BenQ G1 is that it has all of it's key features written over the camera body, which certainly makes writing the features list easier, although it's the opposite of what most of the other manufacturers do, with most taking a much more subtle approach.
Read the full review »


Sensor Panasonic 14 Mega Pixels, 1/2.3 inch CMOS
Zoom Optical: 4.6X
Digital: Up to 6X (Preview) / Up to 12X (Playback)
Lens f = 4.3 (W) ~ 19.8 (T) mm
F= 1.8 (W) ~ 4.9 (T)
(f = 24~110mm, 35mm equivalent?
Focus Range Normal: W=30cm ~ Infinity ; T=60cm ~ Infinity
Macro: W=3cm ~ Infinity
LCD 3.0” 920k pixels swivel LCD
Image Resolution 14M / 8M / 4M / 2M / VGA / 16:9
Movie Mode FHD 1080p (1920 x 1080) 30fps / HD 720p (1280 x 720) 30fps / VGA (640 x 480) 30fps
Continuous recording with Stereo sound
Slow motion: VGA (640x480) 120fps / HD 720p (1280x720) 60fps
Fast motion: FHD 1080p (1920x1080) 15fps
Shutter Speed Auto: 1/2000 ~ 2 sec?Manual Mode: 1/2000 ~15 sec.
White Balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Tungsten / Fluorescent H / Fluorescent L / Manual
Exposure –2.0 ~ +2.0 EV (0.3EV / step)
ISO Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 ,3200, 6400
Flash Auto Flash, Auto Anti Red-eye, Force On, Slow Sync, Forced Off
Drive Mode Off / 10 sec. / 2 sec. / Smile detection
Power Source CIPA approx 260 base on bundle Li-ion battery
Storage Type Built-in Approx. 82 MB (+-5%)
4GB SD / 32GB SDHC / SDXC(> 32GB) card compatible
File Format Still Image: JPEG (EXIF 2.3 compatible)
Video: MOV?Audio: WAV
Dimensions/Weight 114 x 62.5 x 25.5 mm
195g ( w/o battery & SD card)
Interface Digital output: USB 2.0 compatible
Video/Audio output (NTSC/PAL) & HDMI
PictBridge compatible
Accessory USB Cable / USB Adapter / Li-ion Battery /
Software & UM CD / Quick Guide / Neck Strap & Pouch (optional)

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