HP PhotoSmart M22 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The M22 is another addition to the popular Photosmart series and includes many of the innovative features found on HP's higher-end models like Adaptive lighting and in-camera red eye removal. This is an "entry-level" point-n-shoot that boasts a 4-megapixel imager combined with a HP Precision 36.7mm (equivalent) fixed focal length lens. Aimed more at the beginner, it offers fully automatic operation coupled with various help screens, and also includes a full Help menu that describes various features and controls of the camera. For those who want to be a little more creative, the M22 offers 9 pre-programmed scene modes (Macro, Action, Landscape, Portrait, Panorama, Beach, Snow, and Sunset.)
Ergonomics are good. Although it is small (about the size of a candy bar), it fits comfortably in your hands and one-handed shooting is a snap. However, you need to be careful with the placement of your left hand. I found my middle finger in the frame of a number of our sample pictures. The controls are well placed and functional and allow you to quickly change camera settings. Like past models, the Menu system was easy to navigate and is logically organized. The M22 features only one viewfinder, a 1.5-inch LCD. Outdoors it works well but would benefit greatly from an anti-reflective coating. Indoors it "gains up" the display which allows you to frame your subject in low-light conditions. The picture gets a little grainy, but being able to see in these conditions outweighs this small problem.
The M22's shooting performance was average for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured averaged about 3.6 seconds. Shutter lag (the time from pressing the shutter release to actually capturing the image) measured about 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 5/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot-to-shot delay measured about 2 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and about 2.5 - 3.5 seconds with the flash. Unfortunately the M22 does not offer any type of continuous or burst capture mode. All test were done using a Lexar High-Speed 512MB SD card, using 4MP Best size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was pleased with the overall image quality when using 4MP Best mode. The 36.7mm (equivalent) fixed lens produced relatively sharp results, with noticeable barrel distortion. There is a 6x digital zoom feature, but we recommend you use it sparingly, image quality suffers tremendously. With 4-megapixels, you can zoom by cropping and still have plenty of resolution to create good-quality 8x10-inch prints. Our outdoor samples were well exposed, and colors seemed nicely saturated. There was an average amount of noise in high/low contrast areas as well as visible edge blurring. Indoors you will be limited to group portraits due to the fixed focal length, the good news is it has a powerful flash that covers approx. 16 feet. I found the 320x240 Movie mode produced average results. Our sample clips showed the usual amounts of compression noise, and the AF system did a good job at keeping up with fast moving objects.
Like other recent HP models, we found the Adaptive Lighting feature to be useful when shooting both indoors and outdoors; the camera increases the Gamma of the picture to better enhance the detail of objects in low contrast (shadow) areas. The image quality does suffer a little, so as long as you are not going to print any large prints, you should be fine. You can see some examples on our Samples page. It also features the very useful Remove Red Eye feature. If an image exhibits red eye, simply select this option in the play menu and it will be corrected in-camera. You can then opt to save or cancel the changes.
Bottom line - the PhotoSmart M22 will make a great choice for those who are just entering the digital world or want a replacement for all those disposable film cameras. It's easy to use, has good image quality, and slides into almost any size pocket or purse. Just make sure you watch where you put your fingers when framing a picture. With a street price of about $149, it offers a good value and would make a great gift choice for a friend or family member who doesn't need a more advanced digicam.
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