By Matt Metzker
Like past models, the E1486TW feels well built, with a good weight to it. Although small, the camera still fits well in our hands, and due to the touchscreen there are very few controls mounted on the body. All you will find are the power and playback buttons as well as the shutter release with the zoom controls mounted around it. Everything else is handled by touching the large 3.0-inch screen. The LCD seems to have an anti-reflective coating, as there are only a few angles in which is reflects strong light. I did find that it collects finger prints quite easily, so be sure to wipe it off often.
The touchscreen system itself worked Ok. It wasn't the most responsive system I've used, but not the worst either. We especially found it difficult to use during playback mode, where the camera's response to our touch was a bit slow. If you touched the screen to quickly, it would not respond. I was also disappointed with the playback zoom function. While you can zoom in quite easily by using a diagonal sweep with your finger or using the telephoto zoom control, once magnified you can not scroll around the frame. This function has been standard on digicams for years, and pretty much made the zoom function worthless on this camera as it only enlarges the center of the frame.
Image quality from the E1486TW was average for a compact camera. It produces nice looking 14-megapixel photos outdoors that display good exposure and pleasing color balance. Images are also relatively sharp, however when viewing at 100% you can see a large amount of luminous noise present throughout the photo (much more easily seen in on dark objects or in shadow areas). This can cause photos to look a bit soft when critically viewing them, however it is unlikely to be seen in you small to mid-sized prints; larger ones on the other hand could possibly be affected. Image noise stays pretty consistent up to ISO 800, however after this setting images are pretty much unusable in my opinion. One small annoyance we found was that the date imprint function is set to On by default. I noticed this after I had taken all of our typical outdoor photos.
Indoors the E1486TW did well capturing close-up portraits, just be sure you are no more than about 6-7 feet away from your subject. The flash is tiny, like most all compact cameras, and will not be able to properly illuminate subjects beyond that range. The Face Detection system seemed to find faces within the frame rather quickly, which will help ensure that your family and friends faces will be nice and sharp.
Like most digicams on the market today, the E1486TW boasts a HD video recording option at 1280x720 (720p) resolution. You can also choose smaller standard definition options for 640x480 and 320x240. The frame rate is selectable from 15 or 30fps. Our video samples looked Ok for a sub $200 camera. Videos play back nice and smooth then using the 30fps quality setting, and the exposure system seems to do well. There is a good amount of compression noise, even outdoors. The lower the lighting, the worse this will get. One annoyance we found was that movie mode will not start recording unless focus is achieved. Therefore, if you just mash the shutter release to start recording a movie, it will not start. You have to wait for the slower AF system to lock focus first. Also Digital zoom is the only magnification option available while recording, the optical zoom is inoperative. As you can see from our movie sample, it's degrades quality and causes the video to get choppy while you are zooming; it would be best to only use this option sparingly.
Battery life on this model is quite bad. Power is supplied by a small 3.7V, 700mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery pack, which is charged in the included AC charger. While testing the camera, we were only able to capture about 100 photos and some other brief tests before it posted a low battery indicator. They claims you cna get about 160 photos, which might be possible on a single outing, but it pushing it. A second battery pack is pretty much a necessity with this camera, especially if you are planning on taking it with you on vacation.
Bottom Line - GE's E1486TW is one of the cheapest touchscreen digicams on the market today. This model is loaded with high-end features at an affordable price tag of US$199 or less. However, you get what you pay for. While the camera captures decent photos and offers good burst mode options, it's slower standard shooting performance, substandard touch system, and horrible battery life help reflect why it's so much less than the competition. Therefore, we highly recommend you ponder on the features that mean most to you, and look at various models in the Sub $250 category. While you may not get a cool touchscreen, for $200 you can find a camera with superior performance and image quality.
Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.