HP PhotoSmart M537 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Photosmart M537 is the latest model we have seen from HP (as of 6/2007), and features 6-megapixels, a 3x optical zoom, 2.5-inch LCD, and QVGA (320x240) movie mode. This is a very simple to use model deigned for those who are just entering the digital world, offering a total of 9 fully automatic exposure modes (Auto, Close Up, Steady Photo, Theatre, Landscape, Portrait, Action, Night Portrait, Sunset) to choose from.
Like past Photosmart models, the M537 is well designed. There are very few controls, but, they are positioned well across the body. The menu system is simple, offering very limited options, which is perfect for those how don't want to fuss with complicated camera settings. The 2.5-inch LCD worked well both indoors and out. Outdoors, the display is a bit reflective, and is very prone to fingerprints. In marginal lighting, the LCD "gains up" well to help aid in framing your subject; something you could never do with a 35mm film camera.
Shooting performance was good. From power up to first image captured measured about 3 seconds. Shutter lag (time from pressing the shutter release to actually capturing the image) was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and between 3/10 of a second to 1.3 seconds including autofocus, depending on the degree of focus distance change. Using single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged about 1.4 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and about 3 - 5 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. When shooting in Burst mode, I was able to capture 3 frames in 9/10 second, then the buffer filled. It then took about 3.5 seconds before I could continue shooting. When using Burst mode the display goes blank until you are finished recording; times like this are when an optical viewfinder would come in handy. All of our tests were done using a Delkin eFilm 1GB SD card, 6MP Best size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The overall image quality of our 6MP Best images was good for an entry-level consumer model. The majority of our outdoor samples were sharp and showed good overall exposure. Colors are richly saturated, almost a bit too much. Image noise is present in areas of contrast (open blue skies and shadows), even when the camera selects the lowest ISO setting available (ISO 50.) Because this model is fully automatic, there's no manual adjustment to settings like ISO, white balance, metering, etc. When shooting in marginal lighting, HP claims the flash will cover up to 10 feet at wide angle. This is a typical range for a camera in this class, and is sufficient for most indoor and close-up macro shooting. Our flash portraits turned out very nice with good flash exposure and sharp facial details. Its HP Precision 3x optical zoom lens covers a focal range of 34-102mm (35mm equivalent). At 34mm you'll be able to capture pleasing group shots as well as landscapes, and the 104mm telephoto extreme will help to fill the frame with your subject while composing the shot. We noticed moderate barrel distortion at the wide angle extreme, but only slight pincushioning at the telephoto end. Chromatic Aberrations (aka purple fringing) were also well controlled.
You can also record QVGA 320s240 resolution movies at 24fps with audio, limited in length by available memory. Most models these days feature at least a VGA (640x480) sized movie mode, with HD format modes becoming more and more popular. Our movie samples were just good with minimal compression noise.
The M537 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 2000 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 M537 is an appealing entry-level digital camera with ability to capture nice photographs with good performance, and not much fuss. With 6-megapixels, you'll have no problem creating beautiful prints up to 13x19-inches. The MSRP of US$129 means this digital camera is easy on the budget and when purchased with an HP printer makes digital imaging a not so daunting task.
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