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HP Photosmart R707 Digital Camera Review
Introduction: The HP Photosmart R707 is a compact 5MP digital camera with a 3x Optical zoom lens (8.0 - 24.0mm equivelant to 39mm - 117mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.5" Colour TFT screen. The camera comes with 32mb of memory built into the camera, and can be upgraded with SD cards. The camera takes rechargable Lithium-Ion batteries. The camera also records 320x240 videos at 30fps with sound. The camera has a number of scene modes / built in help to make it easier to use, as well as this HP's 'Real Life Technologies' such as 'HP Adaptive Lighting Technology', and automatic red-eye removal. The camera can be bought for £163 from amazon.co.uk in the UK and for $299 from amazon.com in the US. The camera is quite compact with a size and weight as follows: Dimensions: 98.5 x 35.3 x 60.0mm (3.88 x 1.39 x 2.36in) . Weight: 180 g (without batteries or recording media).

The camera offers good value for money - being very competitively priced for a compact 5mp, 3x optical zoom digital camera.

HP have this to say about the camera:

"The stylish HP Photosmart R707 digital camera with HP Instant Share™ features HP's exclusive Real Life Technologies™, which includes technologies such as Adaptive Lighting Technology and HP Image Advice that take the guesswork out of making every photo picture-perfect. The HP Photosmart R707 also features the world's first in-camera, red-eye removal to instantly touch-up photos and memories. With two additional shooting modes - sand and sun, and document capture - users have more options to assist in taking outstanding photos."

You can find out more about the HP Photosmart R707 at HP's website.

The Camera: It's compact and made out of shiney silver metal on the front, and a rubberised black plastic on the back.


Front - Camera off. Built in lens-cover - Flash, microphone above the lens, optical viewfinder, and AF-assist lamp.


Front - Camera on, lens extended.


Back - the 1.5" TFT, 4-way controller, menu/OK button in the middle, photo / playback button, zoom control. Optical viewfinder, Macro/Manual focus, Flash, Self-timer, Share and Print buttons. On/Off and Green status light.


Top - mode, speaker, shutter release, and movie button.


Bottom, under the camera is the tripod mount which is under the lens. In the middle is the HP dock port. On the right is the battery / memory card compartment.


Left Side (from back) - USB port and DC-in.


On this side is the strap holder.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic, this camera is fairly compact.


There is a small optical viewfinder above the lens to the right.


Size comparison

Specifications / Features:

  • 5.1-megapixel resolution for photo-quality enlargements up to poster size
  • 24x total zoom – 3x optical, 8x digital
  • 32 MB internal storage memory
  • 1.5-inch color, outdoor viewable LCD
  • USB connectivity (USB 2.0 compatible)
  • SD/MMC card slot
  • Direct-printing capability to HP USB-enabled Photosmart or select all-in-one printers
  • PictBridge support
  • Exif 2.2 support
  • HP Real Life Technologies: HP Adaptive Lighting, HP In-Camera Red-Eye Removal, HP In-Camera Panorama Preview with in-camera assist, HP Image Advice.

Full Specifications can be found on the HP's UK site

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Wrist Strap
  • 2 USB cables (PC, Printer)
  • Instruction manual
  • Software CD-Rom(s)
  • AC Adapter
  • Warranty card
  • 1 Lithium-Ion battery

Average box contents - it's a shame no case is included as standard.

Optional Accessories:

- Camera dock - If you want TV-out, you will need to buy the seperate camera dock, this comes with another battery, the ability to charge the battery in the dock (thus charging 2 at a time, one in the camera, and one in the dock), plus a mini-remote control etc.
- Hi-speed charging kit - this is a high speed charger, and comes with a case for the battery charger, as well as a case for the camera. It lets you charge the battery in an hour.
- Luxury Leather case - a fairly chunky leather case with space for a spare battery and spare memory cards etc.

Features / Options: The camera mode is selected using Mode button on the top of the camera:

The modes in photo mode are: Auto, Action, Landscape, Portrait, Beach & Snow, Sunset, Aperture Priority, Panorama, Document, My Mode.

There's also a video mode, accessesed using the Video button on the top of the camera - this starts recording a video the moment you press the button.

The menu's available are: Capture menu, Playback menu, HP Instant share menu, Setup menu, Help menu. (the playback mode/menu is discussed later)

The Capture menu options are: EV Compensation, Image Quality, White Balance (includes manual white balance), ISO Speed, AE Metering (Automatic Exposure metering), Adaptive lighting (off, Low, High), Colour (Full colour, Black & White, Sepia), Saturation (Low, Med, High), Sharpness (Low, Med, High), Contrast (Low, Med, High), AE Bracketing, Date and Time Imprint.

The HP Instant share menu options are: Share all images, HP Instant share setup (lets you add email addresses etc)

The Setup menu options are: Display brightness, camera sounds, focus assist light, live view setup, Date & Time, USB (Digital camera, or Disk Drive), TV Config, Language, Move images to card (from built in memory), Reset settings.

There is also a really useful Help menu with the following topics: Top ten tips, Camera accessories, Camera buttons, Using shooting modes, Recording Audio clips, Recording Video clips, Reviewing images and video, Deleting images, sharing images, transferring images, printing images, managing batteries, getting assistance, camera shortcuts. This is particularly neat, as it lets you learn as you go along without having to carry a manual around with you.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit in the 32mb provided memory: (an extra memory card is recommended if you intend to go on holiday or are going to be away from a computer for more than a day!)

Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality / (Average file size)
**** *** **
5mp (2592 x 1952) 8 (2.5mb) 10 (2mb) 21 (1.25mb)
3mp 2 star default (2048 x 1536) - - 33 (800kb)
1mp 2 star default (1280 x 960) - - 54 (500kb)
VGA 2 star default (640 x 480) - - 180 (150kb)
Movie 320x240/30fps 2min 6seconds    

You can fit an average amount of images on the provided 32mb, depending on the size and amount of compressions used - a larger memory card is recommended. There is a fairly good choice of image size and compression levels available, although no RAW or TIFF mode, and surprisingly no 2mp mode.

Speed, ease of use: The camera is easy to use, quick to switch on and quick to take photos, the photo / play buttons on the back of the camera makes it easy to switch between playback mode and photo mode. The screen updates are quick and smooth in good lighting conditions, inside or in dark conditions the screen updates are much slower, but the camera does 'gain up' very well when it is dark. The camera speed in use, seems fairly quick when taking a photo, but shot to shot time is a bit slow. The camera is a good size, and easily fits into pockets. The menus are easy to pick up and use, I especially like how each menu is a different colour, for example the photo menu is red and the playback menu is blue.

The camera automatically detects when you are taking a portrait photo, and automatically rotates it for you - you don't need to rotate it when you get it on your computer. The continous shooting mode lets you shoot 3 pictures in a row quickly, but unfortunately you have to wait quite a while for the camera to process the images before you can take any more pictures or view the pictures.

Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) There is no dedicated delete button, which seems a little odd. The Photo / Play buttons could also be better, for example, I like the very simple and easy to use round and fairly large buttons on the back of the CASIO digital cameras, the ones on this HP seem a little small and too similar to the other buttons on the back of the camera. The shutter release button seems a bit too difficult to half-press, and then to press fully down it feels as thought the shutter is tilting to the left.

The buttons on the back of the camera quickly give you access to: Macro / Manual Focus, Flash, Self time / Continuous, Photo / Play, Share, Print, Wide/Telephoto zoom, On/off, Menu/OK in the middle of the 4-way controller. On the top is the Mode, Shutter and Video button.

Battery usage: HP say that you should be able to get 120-300 photos on average from the Lithium-Ion battery - 100 or more on average when the TFT screen is on constantly. The battery takes 3-5 hours to charge when charged through the camera / AC adapter - alternatively a high speed charger is available from HP that will charge the battery in an hour. I managed to get about 74 photos from the provided battery before the camera told me I couldn't use the LCD in photo mode, this meant that I was still able to take photos (I got about another 5 photos from the camera before the battery was completely flat).


LCD display in photo mode: Mode (when not AUTO), Picture size / quality, remaining pictures, battery life. The camera does show you the shutter or aperture speed, when the shutter is half pressed.

LCD display in photo mode: The screen is fairly clear, and updates quite smoothly - the colours appear accurate. The screen shows how many remaining photos you can take with the available memory, it also shows the picture size and compression quality, the battery level, current mode, plus other things, such as Adaptive lighting is on (the little man in the bottom of the picture) - there is no live histofram.

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom can be used up to an unknown amount - it zooms in so much however, that it shows you very large pixels. The playback zoom is very quick, but the first time you start using it, you have to wait a short while while the camera is 'loading...' the picture.

Playback Menu lets you: Delete, remove red-eyes, get image advice, get image info (this tells you the files name, size, flash settings, adaptive lighting setting, shutter, aperture, ISO, MP, quality, date and time), record audio (this lets you record a short audio clip about the picture), rotate, preview panorama.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Full size (and medium size) versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the gallery!

Inside:

Heather (telephoto) Heather, Me and our Kitten (Elmo) Party people

Inside: The camera has quite a powerful flash. Red eye was noticable on most photos of people - the built in red-eye reduction which you can apply to the photos in playback mode is quite effective, except if you wear glasses like me, if you do, the camera seems to ignore the red-eye, and will tell you that it hasn't found any red-eye to remove, in other photos the red-eye reduction was a bit hit and miss regardless of whether the subject was wearing glasses. Green-eye removal would be nice for pictures of animals. Good accurate colours and details.

Noise: Noise generally is a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise.

The camera has 4 modes for ISO: Auto, 100, 200 or 400. To choose the ISO setting, you simply go into the menu.

Noise test picture. (Flash on) ISO100 - 100%
ISO200 - 100% ISO400 - 100%

Noise levels at ISO100 are quite low - which means you get quite smooth images. ISO200 still displays fairly acceptable noise levels. It is probably best avoiding ISO400 where possible, due to the noise. Using adaptive lighting can add more noise to images regardless of the ISO setting used, as it lightens up dark areas of the image.

Outside:

BMW Z4 Building People

Good colour, low noise, all photos were taken on the default setting of Adaptive Lighting set to 'low' - the pictures could do with more contrast - blacks tend to be lightened. I didn't notice jpeg artifacts in the images. Images are a tiny bit soft, especially to the right hand side of the image, and in the corners - and could do with a sharpen.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x Optical zoom and a built in 8x Digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and crops it using software. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image - in the case of this camera the image is simply cropped so that it only shows you the area you want. I think this is a better way of doing digital zoom because generally digital zoom simply degrades image quality, whereas the digital zoom on this camera doesn't degrade image quality. I've included examples below simply to show what these features do.

Wide-angle* 3x Optical zoom Full 3x Optical + 8x Digital

The digital zoom is shown with a box that covers the area of the zoom, whilst showing you the rest of the image outside the box - it shows "Digital Zoom" over the image when you first start using it, and shows you the Megapixel size of the image that you will get when you take the photo using that amount of zoom. [updated: 21/10/04] A picture showing you this will probably help explain if that wasn't very easy to understand:


Zoom in action - section inside the yellow circle is what you are taking a photo of, the camera discards everything outside the yellow box. [/update]

When using the optical zoom, it's fairly quiet, and fairly quick, it has about 6 steps between wide and telephoto. The amount of optical zoom is not displayed on screen numerically.

HP Adaptive lighting in action: HP Adaptive lighting is like a digital flash, making dark areas of the picture brighter. Below is a series of photos, taken with adaptive lighting set to off, low and high to demonstrate the difference it makes. (*Adaptive lighting can also be seen in the wide-angle picture above, where it has made a big difference to the bottom left and right side buildings - these are normally in shadow on other cameras without Adaptive lighting.)

Adaptive lighting off Adaptive lighting low Adaptive lighting high

Adaptive lighting is a good thing, it has made a big difference in the pictures above, whilst the first picture looks good, adaptive lighting brings out the dark areas so they can be seen more easily in the second photo. When adaptive lighting is set to high the whole image looks as though there are no shadow areas and the contrast is greatly reduced - in my opinion the high setting creates a less dramatic picture - and of these photos I prefer the first two. Adaptive lighting also brings out more noise in the dark areas of photos as it increases the gain there.

Other Image Quality issues: Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing doesn't appear to be a problem on this camera.

Macro: When this camera is in macro mode, the lens is at full wide angle, and you can zoom in - you can also use the digital zoom - The camera can focus down to 14cm in macro mode.

Macro - Timex Watch Actual Pixels (100%)
Macro - Packet of Coffee Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode isn't brilliant (worse than average) due to the fact that you can't get very close to the subject. You can use the flash in macro mode - the camera does a decent job of toning down the flash - but occassionally the flash over-exposes the image, especially if the subject is close to the camera. Colour and detail is quite good however.

Movie: 320x240 - 30fps with sound - you can't use the digital or optical zoom whilst recording a video, but you can zoom in using the optical zoom before you start recording. The movie is recorded as an .MPG file. Length is only limited by the memory card size.


Dangermouse (and penfold) this time with sound!
Download 320x240/30fps movie - Click here. (right click, save target as, 3.5mb MPG) (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie(s) is good - 320x240 is a bit small compared to other digital cameras, 30fps is good, the camera "gains-up" well when the lighting is poor.

Conclusion

Image: Image quality is good - the images have really good pleasing colour, good detail although images could do with a sharpen and suffer from corner softness. Images have fairly low noise depending on how much adaptive lighting changes the image, and there is very little purple fringing. Image compression doesn't seem to cause jpeg artifacts, and there is an additional high quality (4 star) mode for even higher quality images. The macro mode is fairly poor, although for the odd macro photo will probably be fine. The flash did occassionally cause problems when the subject was too close, causing highlight detail to be lost. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. The movie mode is good although a bit low-res compared to other cameras. The digital zoom makes a refreshing change, cropping the image and letting you know what size file you will get.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact, and stylish (the black back tends to grow on you if you don't initially like the look of it), it has a small 1.5" screen that updates smoothly depending on lighting conditions. The camera is easy to use, the menu systems easy to use and well laid out. The 3x optical zoom is a useful feature to have. Camera handling and design are good. The camera speed is good in use and has a quick and quiet zoom - shot to shot time could be quicker. The HP features such as Adaptive Lighting, Red-eye reduction, Panorama-mode and HP Image advice and help make it easier to produce good photos without having to spend additional time on the computer fixing the pictures.

Alternative compact 5mp digital cameras: Panasonic Lumix FX7 (read my review), Canon Digital IXUS 500, Sony Cyber-shot DSC T1, Sony Cyber-shot DSC P100 (Silver) / P120 (Black), Nikon Coolpix 5200, Olympus Camedia C 50 Zoom, Pentax Optio S5i, Pentax Optio S50, Konica Minolta Dimage G500/G530. Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices.

Summary: The HP Photosmart R707 is one of the cheaper 5mp / 3x optical zoom digital cameras currently available. It has a small 1.5" colour screen, and records videos with sound. The camera is quite compact and easy to use. Image quality is good, with good detail, good colours, although with some corner image softness. The movie mode is slightly better than average recording 320 x 240, 30fps movies with sound. With the HP features such as Adaptive Lighting, red-eye reduction, and HP image advice, this camera is very easy to use. For around £163 (UK) $299 (US) from Amazon this camera offers very good value for money. Overall, for someone looking for an easy to use, compact and stylish camera I would recommend this camera.

What I like:

  • Good image quality - good colour
  • HP Adaptive lighting can be very good
  • Good movie mode
  • Good price
  • Good Built in help system / image advice etc
  • Stylish compact camera

What I don't like:

  • Average macro mode
  • Small screen.
  • Corner softness / Right hand side softness

Remember to have a look at the full size (and medium size) versions of these photos in the gallery!