HP PhotoSmart M437 Review
The HP Photosmart M437 is almost identical to its brother, the M537 that was reviewed earlier this year (2007). This model features a 5-megapixel image sensor, HP Precision 3x optical zoom, 2-inch LCD display, and a QVGA (320x240) movie mode. It offers 9 fully automatic exposure modes with automatic or manual flash settings. This is a well designed camera, with few, but very easy to use controls that are well placed on the body. The menu system is simple to use and doesn't offer a lot of options, perfect for the novice user that is not looking for complicated manual controls. The 2-inch screen was a pleasure to use, self adjusts (gains up) well in marginal lighting.
The shooting performance for this camera was descent, capturing its first image when turning it on in only 4.4 seconds. The shutter lag (time from pressing the shutter release until the image is captured) was 2/10 of a second and when allowing the camera to focus and capturing the image took 6/10 of a second. In single shot mode, this camera was able to capture an image approx. every 1.8 seconds without a flash, and one every 2.8 with the flash. The M437 also features a burst mode, which will capture 3 images in 1 second. While using this mode, the LCD will shut off, making a little tricky to follow the subject since there is no optical viewfinder. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar 1GB SD card, 5MP best quality, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted). Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The M437 sports a HP Precision 3x optical zoom lens, that covers a focal range of 34-102mm (35mm equivalent). At 34mm you will easily be able to take nice landscape and group photographs, while the 104mm extreme will allow you to single out a subject in a group. In marginal lighting, you will find that the flash will cover up to 10.5 ft., according to HP. Our flash shots were well exposed from about 5 ft. away and provided good color and detail in the image. The overall image quality from the 5MP image sensor was good for and entry-level camera. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) were very well controlled and the camera's lens showed only slight barrel distortions. The color and exposure of our outdoors images was pleasing (accurate exposures and the color was very rich). There is some noise in large areas of a single color, such as a blue sky, but not enough that it will be noticeable on a print up to 8x10-inches.
Another feature of the M437 is the capability to record video. This camera will record with a resolution of 320x240 (QVGA) with audio. This is not up to par with most newer models that are being released, as they offer a resolution of 640x480 (VGA) with options for wide screen recording and playback to meet the needs of the new wide screen TV's. There is also NOT a video output unless you purchase a dock from HP. The movie samples taken from this camera were smooth with good color, just smaller than you will find on most cameras. On the other hand, they will take up a lot less of your memory.
The M437 is powered by two standard AA type batteries, you can use alkaline, lithium or rechargeable NiMH cells. HP claims you can capture up to 180 shots with alkalines, 280 with NiMH or up to 480 with one-use photo lithium batteries. We always recommend using NiMH cells, and using a set of 2700 mAh cells, I was able to capture about 80 samples and conclude many of our other tests, with plenty of power to spare.
Bottom line - The HP Photosmart M437 is a very appealing entry-level camera for the novice user looking for a Very simple to use camera. It captures nice photographs with decent performance marks for a camera in this class. With a 5MP image sensor, you will have no trouble capturing images that you can print up to 8x10-inches or larger, with no trouble. AT an MSRP of US$99 or less, this is a very good quality camera for a great price.
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