HP PhotoSmart 635 Review
By Movable Type Admin
Offered at an entry-level price, Hewlett Packard endowed the Photosmart 635 with a 2.1 megapixel imager, 3X optical zoom lens, movie mode with sound, and several scene modes. This automatic point-n-shoot is simple enough for a novice to obtain good results, and offers enough creative control to please most intermediate users. In addition to automatic exposure shooting mode, the 635 offers settings for Exposure Compensation (+/-2EV), White Balance, ISO Speed (100, 200, or 400), and several scene modes including:
The Photosmart 635's controls are somewhat unusually-organized, although you'll quickly grow accustomed to them. The LCD on/off switch is located adjacent to a camera icon next to the LCD; this multi-purpose switch returns the camera to shooting mode from the review or menu modes as well. The 635 has two independent shutter release controls, one for still shots and the other for movies; this arrangement is actually easier to use than the standard rotary or slide Mode switch found on other cameras. The menu system is arranged logically, and even offers help text for each of its settings; think of it as a built-in camera operations guide that will help novice users improve their shooting skills!
The Photosmart 635's shooting performance is average. From power-on to the capture of your first image takes about five seconds. Shutter delay, the elapsed time between releasing the shutter and capturing the image, measured a respectable 2/10 second when pre-focused, or about 1 second including autofocus time. Shot-to-shot took a leisurely 5 seconds. These times are based on 1600 x 1200 images without the flash on. The 635 is not responsive enough to be considered good for sports or capturing unposed action, but it should suffice for most other shooting situations.
Outdoors, the Photosmart 635 produces good results, both well-exposed and nicely saturated. The 3X optical zoom lens has enough range, 37-111mm in 35mm equivalence, to provide flexibility in composing your shots and is sharp enough to produce pleasing 5X7-inch prints. A 4X digital zoom is also included, although image quality suffers in proportion to the degree of digital zoom used. You'll be better-off not using it, instead cropping your photos in an image editor when necessary. The LCD viewfinders brightness can not be adjusted; although it has an anti-reflective coating, we found it difficult to view on the brightest of days. Fortunately, the 635 is also equipped with a zoom-coupled optical viewfinder for such circumstances.
Because of the limited flash range and 37mm wide angle focal length, you'll realize the best indoor results when shooting portraits of individuals and small groups; capturing an image of a large banquet room is beyond the 635's capability. You'll have difficulty obtaining good results in low ambient light; the Photosmart 635 is not equipped with a focus-assist lamp and it sometimes produced out-of-focus images despite illuminating its AF confirmation lamp! The 635 did a reasonable job of squelching its flash during macro-photography, but its inability to achieve consistent focus in low light prevents me from recommending it for online auction product shots. We found the LCD viewfinder difficult to view in low light; you'll be happy that the 635 is equipped with an optical viewfinder.
The 645's battery life was somewhat disappointing in our tests. Using a pair of AA NiMH 2000 mAh rechargeable batteries, we were able to capture only about 60 images with the LCD on before a low battery warning occurred. We always recommend using NiMH batteries when possible, and given the 635's rate of battery drain, you should have several charged pairs on hand. In addition, we recommend that you shoot with the LCD monitor off to extend battery life.
Hewlett Packard is offering a very good value in the Photosmart 635. For an entry-level MSRP of under $180, the 635 is equipped with mid-range features that you'll enjoy having, including the optical zoom lens, scene modes, and movie mode with sound. If you can live with its indoor low-light shooting limitations, the 635 will reward the beginner with good results, and provide an opportunity to develop his or her skills via its more advanced features and built-in help. If you are in the market for a camera with an entry-level price, be sure to include the HP Photosmart 635 on your short list. Because of this cameras low price, you may consider buying one as a gift for a child; what follows is the opinion of a 15 year old high school sophomore:
This camera has many good qualities for a young adult's first digital camera. It has enough functions to let a teen do what they need and want to do. It has a bright flash and good zoom. After you take the picture the LCD lets you see the picture and delete it if you want to. It is the average size for a camera and it is very light so anyone can handle it. There is only one thing that I think could be better - it takes a long time for this camera to take the picture, especially when using the flash.
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