HP PhotoSmart R707 Review
The PhotoSmart R707 is a durable and very affordable ($349 at the time of this review) 5.1-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom lens. Affordable but highly capable, the R707 is packed with various shooting modes, and unique features like HP's Adaptive lighting, in-camera red-eye removal, and an Instant Share menu. It offers the beginner a multitude of context-sensitive help screens and a full Help menu that describes the features and controls of the camera. There are advanced exposure features like Aperture Priority, but it's main purpose is to be a point-n-shoot camera that produces beautiful pictures and makes the uploading and printing process simple and easy.
Ergonomically the PhotoSmart R707 is very well designed. Its controls are well placed and functional, the menu system is legible and logically organized, and with your hand wrapped around the handgrip, your thumb falls naturally between the 4-way selector and the zoom controls. No longer will you have to go into a menu and change the exposure mode to movie capture, right next to the still image shutter release is another smaller release button that allows immediate movie recording -- kudos to HP for this useful feature.
The zoom-coupled eyelevel optical viewfinder has a fairly narrow viewing angle and lacks any kind of dioptric adjustment. It covers about 80% of the captured image, which means you will always capture a bit more than you see. The 1.5 inch LCD, when used as the viewfinder, is much more accurate with approx. 100% coverage and has a real-time 30fps refresh rate. I found the LCD quite useable outside in bright light conditions, though it would benefit from a non-glare coating. When used indoors in low-ambient light, it "gains up" to give you a brighter view, which is crucial when using the LCD to frame your subject(s) in these conditions. When Macro mode is selected the color LCD comes on automatically to prevent parallax errors of the optical viewfinder at close range.
The R707 is equipped with a 3x optical zoom lens, with a focal range of 8mm - 24mm (equivalent to 39-117mm on a 35mm camera). Its maximum aperture is f2.8 which helps with low light photography. It does well focusing in low-ambient lighting conditions, thanks to its focus-assist illuminator. Macro mode focuses to less than 6 inches (14cm) allowing you to shoot impressive close-ups of small objects. The lens exhibits the usual amount of mild barrel distortion at full wide angle, but almost no pincushioning at full telephoto. When you turn off the camera the lens retracts into the camera and the built-in lens cover closes over the lens for protection. It does not accept accessory lenses or filters. It has a 8x digital zoom that multiplies the focal length of its 3x optical zoom lens to 24x, but we recommend not using it as it dramatically effects the images quality.
The PhotoSmart R707 has 32MB of internal memory and is equipped with a SD (Secure Digital) card slot compatible with cards up to 2GB in capacity. It is also compatible with MultiMedia cards. A 'must have' accessory is a larger 128MB or 256MB SD card due to the file sizes of the 5-megapixel images.
The R707 is powered by a proprietary 3.7V 1050mAh R07 Li-ion rechargeable battery. HP claims their R07 battery yields a minimum of 115 shots on a full charge. I had no problem taking our sample photos and performing our other tests, before the battery was even close to being exhausted. This is the third camera we've reviewed so far that uses the new Duracell CP1 disposable lithium battery (the first two being the Nikon Coolpix 3700 and the Samsung U-CA 3.) HP claims you can capture a minimum of 90 shots using the CP1 battery. These very thin batteries are perfect for today's ultra-slim, compact cameras and we expect to see even more cameras using them in the future. The single-use CP1 is expensive though, costing about $13 each.
I was impressed with the R707's shooting performance. From power up to first image captured averaged about 4.5 seconds. Shutter lag (time from pressing the shutter release to actually capturing the image) measured about 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus. Using single exposure mode, the shot-to-shot time averaged about 1.2 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and about 1.8 seconds with the flash. When shooting in Burst mode, I was able to capture 4 frames in about 1.3 seconds. All test were done using a Transcend 512MB SD card, using 5MP*** size/quality, flash off (unless otherwise noted), and all other settings at default. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Overall the image quality in 5MP *** mode was great for a camera in this class. Outdoors, the camera does very well, and its 3x optical zoom lens produces sharp results through out its range. The majority of our test shots were well exposed, and colors were nicely saturated, although I did notice an average amount of noise in High/Low contrast areas. I found the Adaptive Lighting feature to be useful when shooting either indoors or outdoors, the camera increases the gamma of the image to better enhance the detail of objects in low contrast (shadow) areas, but the image quality does suffer a little, if you're not going to print anything larger than an 8x10" you should be fine. I was also happy with our indoor samples, images were properly exposed and skin tones appeared very natural.
When using the Remove Red Eyes option in the Playback menu, you will notice
that sometimes the camera changes small red "things" or objects in the
picture. You can see what I mean by looking at the two samples below. The
necklace has small red beads that the camera thought was red-eye, and
changed them to a dark brown or blackish color. We also saw this on the Nikon 5200, but the major
difference between the two is the Nikon's red-eye removal is automatic and
transparent to the user, where as the HP R707 allows you to view the changes, then
opt to save them or cancel. The other two samples show you a close up of one
of our subject's eyes. We saw a small occurrence of red-eye in our "people"
pictures (even when using the red-eye reduction flash mode), but after a few
seconds using the Remove Red Eyes feature, we must conclude that HP's in-camera
red-eye removal definitely works.
Bottom line - the HP PhotoSmart R707 is an affordable, compact entry-level camera. At the time of this review (June 2004), the HP R707 is an amazing deal for a 5-megapixel camera with a street price of just $349. Couple that with the versatile R-series Camera Dock (about $79 which includes a 2nd rechargeable battery), and you have an even better deal. With the ease of its red-eye removal and the unique Adaptive lighting enhancements, this is a great camera for any user regardless of their experience level.
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