HP PhotoSmart R837 Review
By Movable Type Admin
HP redesigned their "R" series line for 2007, with the release of the R837. It features a 7.2 megapixel image sensor, and a 3x HP Precision "folded" internal optical zoom lens. Also new to this model is the sleek new housing that includes one touch shooting mode and flash control right above the 3-inch LCD display. With a full "Auto" mode and 12 additional automatic shooting modes, this camera is friendly enough for anyone to use, but also has a few manual settings (ISO speed, AE Metering, White Balance, etc.) to satisfy the novice photographer. There is also an in-camera help menu to help you solve some of the more common digital camera problems or questions. This model does not, however, have Aperture priority (Av), Shutter speed priority (Tv), or full manual modes like the R927.
The body of the R837 is slightly smaller than the previous "R" models, and the shape has also changed with a slightly curved front. That, along with the slight indentation on the back for your right thumb, makes it a very comfortable camera to handle with one or two hands. It is also very easy to fit into a handbag or small pocket without being uncomfortable. The location of the lens and flash are centered enough that you don't have to worry about blocking either of them with one of your fingers. The few controls on the back of the camera are in a good location and easy to use. Along with the controls, the menu is also very easy to use, giving short explanations of all the options at the bottom of the screen. The very large, 3-inch LCD display, takes up most of the back of the camera. This can be a slight problem since the screen collects finger prints very easily and can be a bit grainy when in low light situations. Those are the only problems, however, the screen works very well indoors and out showing very little glare and "gains up" nicely in low light.
This camera performed very well in our shooting tests. Power up to the first image captured was a mere 2.7 seconds. Like most cameras, the shutter lag was less than 1/10 of a second, but the 2/10 of a second when allowing the camera to focus was surprising. In single shot mode, the camera will capture an image roughly every 1.5 seconds without the flash and every 2.2 with the flash.
Burst mode was not spectacular, capturing just 3 images in 1.5 seconds, then there is a 4 second pause before you can capture 3 more. While using the burst mode, the LCD turns off, making it hard to follow the subject since there is no optical viewfinder.
The 3x HP Precision "internal" folded optical zoom lens has the 35mm equivalent of a 39 - 118mm. While favoring the telephoto end, the 39mm wide angle extreme will afford pleasing indoor shots or landscapes, while the 118mm will do nicely for singling out a subject or making the distant object a bit bigger. We saw some barrel distortion, but virtually no chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) and slight pin cushioning.
The R837's image quality was OK for an 8-megapixel model. Our outdoor samples had very vivid colors and had very good exposures, however, there a bit noisy. The indoor test shots turned out to have good exposure and the flash was more than adequate from 8 feet away. HP claims that the flash range for this model is 13.5 feet, which is average for a camera is this class and will perform well when trying to illuminate a small to medium sized room. Again, there was a little more noise than we would have liked to see, and the flash might be a little too strong at times, causing skin tones to be a little washed out if you are too close to your subject. I also found that in situations of marginal light, the camera had trouble focusing on a person, it seemed to prefer to focus on a darker background object.
HP's exclusive adaptive lighting feature is once again present on the R837. This feature is an in-camera feature that will lighten darker background images automatically. This is useful if there are shadows in the background or shooting a backlit subject. The darker the image it tries to correct, the grainier the area is going to be and it will start to become very noticeable, so be careful with this feature. Also included is the Design Gallery for other image enhancements from past models.
There are a few video recording options on this model. It will record in Best (VGA 640x480, 24fps), Better (VGA, 12fps), and Good (QVGA 320x240, 24fps) qualities. Best and good qualities take very smooth video while the 12fps of the Better mode is a bit choppy. There are also a few options that are not available on many consumer models, the R837 allows you to use the optical zoom, adjust Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and AE Metering, which are normally automatically set on most cameras.
Powering the R837 is a R07 Li-ion 3.7v, 1100 mAh rechargeable battery. HP claims that it well take between 140 and 340 pictures on a full charge. These numbers are dependent on following HP's battery saving tips listed in the manual. I took approx. 70 pictures and several videos, along with flipping through all the menus while completing my tests and I did have to recharge the battery near the end. The camera gives a warning when the battery is low, however, there is not enough power to continue to take pictures at this point so a backup battery is recommended. Pictures are saved onto either the internal 32MB memory or a separate SD memory card (supports up to 8GB).
Bottom line - The PhotoSmart R837 is a very appealing 7.2-megapixel model. With this camera offering good image quality, a slew of in camera features, photo enhancements and a full built in help menu, we feel it will make a good choice for the family or even for at the office. With a street price of about $199 or less, it offers and outstanding "bang for your buck" and is sure to be yet another popular HP model.
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