HP PhotoSmart R927 Review

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Steve's Conclusion

HP's PhotoSmart R927 is the highest resolution "R" series model we have seen thus far (4/2006), and offers users an 8-megapixel imager, a 3x optical zoom lens, and a massive 3.0-inch LCD as well as HP's Real Life technologies. With a fully Automatic exposure mode or one of its 12 pre-programmed Scene modes, this durable point-n-shoot model can be used easily by anyone, no matter their level of experience. There's also in-depth help screens and a full Help menu that describes many of the camera's features and controls. When wanting more control, the Program (Auto) mode gives access to settings for ISO, white balance, AF area, metering, etc. The more advanced users can also choose from Aperture priority (Av), Shutter speed priority (Tv) and full Manual.

Like its predecessors, I was pleased with the R927's ergonomics. While it's compact enough to fit nicely in your pants pocket or handbag, it's still large enough to offer a comfortable feel in your hands. Most of the controls are well placed and functional, and the menu system is very legible and logically organized. Like all of HP's "R" series models, you will no longer have to go into a menu and change the exposure mode to record a movie, right next to the still shutter release is a smaller release button that allows for immediate movie recording. Unlike most consumer cameras that feature a 2 or 2.5-inch LCD, the R927 offers a huge 3.0-inch display that takes up more than 2/3 of the back of the camera. This is the only viewfinder and it worked well outdoors in bright sunlight. It would benefit greatly from a non-reflective surface; there are many angles that reflect the sun and it's prone to fingerprints. When shooting in conditions of low light, the display "gains up" well to help frame your subject. Overall it is a nice display, but I did notice it was grainy, even when shooting outdoors with plenty of light.

Shooting performance was very robust for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured just under 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 only 2/10 of a second including autofocus. Using single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged about 1.4 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and about 2 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. When shooting in Burst mode, I was able to capture 3 frames in 1 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 Lexar High-Speed 1GB SD card, 8MP*** size/quality, flash off, instant review off and all other settings at default (unless noted otherwise.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The R927's image quality was OK for an 8-megapixel model. The majority of our outdoor samples were sharp and showed good overall exposure. I was very impressed with the portrait ability, capturing awesome outdoor "people" shots when using the Fill-in flash mode. The AF system did very well, continuously changing focus, even when you are not holding down the shutter release; this also helped with shooting performance. Its HP Precision 3x optical zoom lens covers a focal range of 35-105mm (35mm equivalent), which is typical for a consumer model. At 35mm you'll be able to capture pleasing group shots as well as landscapes, and the 105mm telephoto extreme will help to fill the frame with your subject while composing the shot. I saw noticeable amounts of barrel distortion at the wide angle extreme, but only slight pincushioning at the telephoto end. Noise levels were also average, especially in areas of contrast, but I did notice above average amounts of purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberration) around brightly lit objects. The VGA*** (640x480, Best) movie mode was OK for a consumer model. Our movie sample shows good exposure, but noticeable compression artifacts.

Our indoor results were good. HP claims the built-in flash has a range of about 15.6 feet, with the ISO set to Auto. I found it was quite powerful when compared to similar models that feature a much shorter range. We achieved the best results when shooting from about 4 to 6 feet away, with most of our indoor samples being properly exposed and showed pleasing skin tones. Although I did not notice much Red-eye in my portrait subjects, the Remove Red Eyes option located in the Design Gallery playback menu allows you to fix your images when they show any signs of red-eye. On past models, we saw that sometimes the camera changed small red "things" or objects in the picture (like beads on a necklace, dark earrings, etc.) However, I did not see this during our testing with the R927, but make sure you check your "corrected" images just in case. One thing I really like about HP's red-eye correction software is you can view the changes first, then opt to save them or cancel (if you do save, it will overwrite the original file.)

The R927's Macro capabilities were very good. While you may not be able to focus as close as some models (approx. 4.6 in.), it does produce sharp images when shooting within its limits and also does a good job of "throttling down" the flash to ensure you get an optimum exposure. It would make a good model for shooting most items for online auctions, etc.

Like past models, the R927 feature HP's exclusive Adaptive lighting, which helps to brighten the background of your marginal lighting shots. This is a very helpful tool that will make a huge difference at how your images look. I found if you are going to use this feature, the Low setting produced the best results. You can see on our samples page how it increases the gamma (brightness) of the image, to help bring out dark objects. While this is useful, image quality does suffer. But, you should still be able to produce pleasing 4x6-inch prints, with the occasional 8x10.

The R927 is powered by a 3.7V 1050mAh R07 proprietary Li-ion rechargeable battery which HP claims can capture up to 200 shots with a fully charged pack. I had no problem capturing most of our samples (about 80 images + several movies) and performing other tests before the camera posted a "battery too low" warning. We recommend you purchase at least one extra pack and keep it charged and ready. Pictures and movies are stored on either the 32MB of internal memory or an optional SD/MMC card. While the internal memory will allow you to take pictures, it will fill up quick due to the average file size of its 8-megapixel images being around 2.5 - 3.9MB. We feel a 'must have' accessory would be a larger 512MB - 2GB SD card.

Bottom line - The PhotoSmart R927 is an appealing 8-megapixel model. Offering good image quality, performance, and durability, it should make a great camera for any family or business. You're sure to capture some great pictures thanks to its Real Life technologies and helpful hints and menus. With an MSRP of about $399, it offers a good "bang for your buck" and is sure to be yet another popular HP model.

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