By Josh Fate
GE's E1250TW is a 12.2-Megapixel digicam that is packed full of useful features. Sporting a 5x wide optical zoom, 3-inch touch LCD, HD movie recording, Auto Scene Selection and much more, you will find everything if not more on this camera than you would on any other digicam in its price range. Auto Scene allows the camera to choose the correct scene mode for the current shooting situation, making it incredibly easy for anyone to take the best pictures possible. The camera also features a built-in speaker, A/V cable and HDMI port allowing you to view your images and videos on the camera, a computer or SDTV and HDTV's.
This stylish digicam is heavy, but has a very sturdy feel to it. It has been designed to offer easy one-handed operation without interfering with the lens or flash and a thumb grip on the right side keeps your thumb from touching the LCD. One thing we did not like is the large, slightly raised "Playback" button on the top, which is very easily confused for the smaller power button that has been placed next to it. Framing, viewing and navigation is all done via the 3-inch Touch LCD that takes up the entire back of the camera. It shows sharp images with great color replication, making it a pleasure to use. As far as navigating the menus with the touch screen, it will take a little time to get used to the page scrolling, image scrolling and image rotation as they require sliding your finger across the screen.
Performance from the E1250TW is good for a camera with an MSRP of under US$200. It is able to capture its first image just 2.7 seconds after you press the power button. Shutter lag is approx. 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and anywhere between 2/10 and 9/10 of a second when allowing the camera's autofocus to work. Shot to shot is approx. 0.5fps when shooting without the flash as I was able to capture 5 images in 10.8 seconds. With the flash it took 14.5 seconds to capture 5 images (0.35fps). For shooting at a faster pace, you can select one of the several continuous shooting modes.
"Unlimited" mode allowed me to capture 10 images in 5.8 seconds (1.72fps) and 50 images continuously without filling the buffer. "3-Shot" mode offers a faster 2.31fps but only allows you to capture 3 images at a time. "Last 3" will continuously capture images at a rate of 1.67fps but will only save the last 3 images captured. Finally there is a time-lapse mode that will capture an image once every 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute or every 5 minutes. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Professional Class 6 (133x) 8GB SDHC memory card, Manual Shooting mode, ISO Auto, Auto WB, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The quality of our outdoor image samples are "ok" for an entry-level digicam. We did have one instance of overexposure when shooting against an overcast sky as shown in our cannon shot. Other than that, exposures where good and colors are very realistic. Featuring a 5x wide optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 28-140mm, you can capture vast landscapes and large group portraits on the wide end, while the telephoto end will get you a bit closer to distant objects. On the wide end of the zoom you will see some barrel distortion and chromatic aberrations in high-contrast areas. Throughout the zoom range you will see noise in the dark or shadow areas, no matter what ISO you are shooting at.
Our indoor sample shots show good exposure and color reproduction, when the camera is capable of a proper exposure. In manual shooting mode, the slowest shutter speed the camera will select is ¼ second, leaving some images dark when using a low ISO and no flash. Our samples also show that the entire image is soft, whether shooting indoors or out. Even at ISO 64, there is noticeable amount of noise when viewing the images at 100%, and even more in the dark areas. This takes away from some of the detail in your images. If you look at our ISO 64 M&M Man shot, you'll see that it's difficult to make out the stitching in the flag. Any setting over ISO 400 shows an unacceptable amount of noise and should be avoided if possible. With a flash range of up to 10.5 ft. at ISO 400 (wide), you will have enough room to get a large group of people into a medium sized room for a portrait. However, when using the telephoto end of the zoom you'll want to get a bit closer. At ISO 64, the flash was not enough to illuminate our shot from 7 ft. away at mid-telephoto zoom.
Shooting portraits with the camera's portrait scene mode was a little disappointing. Featuring Face Detection, Smile Detection and Blink detection, you should not ever have difficulty taking an a pleasing portrait shot. This was not the case however, as the Face Detection and Smile Detection both had difficulty at times finding and following faces or recognizing when our subject was smiling. We also had a little trouble with the flash, as it would blow out our subject, even when the Face Detection was reading a face as seen in one of our Portrait samples.
GE has kept up with the changing times by offering a movie mode that captures video with sound at resolutions of 320x240, 648x480 and 1280x720 HD. All three can record at 15fps and the first two can also record at 30fps, while the 720 HD is limited to 25fps at the high end. Our video sample shows smooth playback with very good color and exposure and very little noise in a well lit setting. You will see more noise as the lighting goes down. The built-in mic does an excellent job of not only picking up noises that are close to the camera, but also further away in the direction the camera is aimed. This also enables it to pick up more background noises, so you have to be especially careful where you position yourself if you are hoping for excellent sound quality.
Powering the GE E1250TW is a 3.7V, 1050mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack. While completing our tests, this battery was able to capture approx. 130 images and videos before needing to be recharged. This is not too far under the 180 images that GE claims the battery can handle under CIPA standards, which could be explained by how the camera was used and how much time it spent on playback. Keeping this battery pack charged is an external charger that is easy to carry, and also allows you to easily keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - GE E1250TW is a very stylish and full featured, 12.2-Megapixel entry-level digicam. Features like Auto Scene selection; Face, Smile and Blink detection, HD movie mode and a versatile 5x wide optical zoom lens allow for anyone, not matter what their experience to capture decent images and high-quality videos. Image quality is not perfect, with the major problem being a slightly soft overall photo. With a MSRP of US$199.99, you will not find very many cameras with this very abundant selection of features, however, you might end up sacrificing a little image quality.
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