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HP Photosmart R717 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 27/07/05
Rating: Good / Worth Considering

Buy now: £219 | $299


Introduction: The HP Photosmart R717 is a compact 6MP digital camera with a 3x Optical zoom lens (8.0 - 24.0mm equivelant to 39mm - 117mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.8" Colour TFT screen. The R717 is an update to the 5 megapixel, 1.5" screen R707 which I reviewed last year. 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 £219 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: 96 x 60 x 35 mm. Weight: 180g (without batteries or recording media).

HP have this to say about the camera:

"Get brilliant prints and poster-size enlargements with photos up to 6.2 MP, HP Precision 3x optical lens and 8x digital zoom. View clearly indoors or out with bright 4.6 cm LCD. Stylish stainless steel front and small enough to fit in your pocket. Automatically reveal detail in shadows with HP adaptive lighting. Remove red-eye via your LCD screen as soon as you’ve taken a photo. Take accurate, multi-shot photos with panorama mode. Learn to take better photos with tips from HP Image Advice."

You can find out more about the HP Photosmart R717 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.
(Photos taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ3).


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 1.8" TFT, 4-way controller, menu/OK button in the middle, photo / playback button, zoom control. Optical viewfinder, Macro/Manual focus, Flash, Self-timer, 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 - this is normally covered with a rubber cover.


On this side is the strap holder.

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


Size comparison


Size comparison


Size comparison compared to the HP Photosmart M22.

Specifications / Features:

  • 6.2 megapixel resolution for photo-quality enlargements up to poster size
  • 24x total zoom – 3x optical, 8x digital
  • 32 MB internal storage memory
  • 1.8-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 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.

Battery Life: Battery life seemed good, although because of the proprietry rechagable battery, I'd recommend you buy a spare, especially if travelling.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the Photo, Play or Video buttons.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a fairly decent resolution and the colours appear accurate. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is a small optical viewfinder.

Menu options are: Exposure compensation, Adaptive lighting (more on this below), Image quality, White balance (including custom), Auto Focus Area, AE metering, ISO Speed, AE Bracketing, Colour, Saturation, Sharpness, Contrast, Date and Time Imprint.

Help menu Setup Menu

Help menu: options are: Top Ten Tips, Camera accessories, Camera buttons, Using shooting modes, Sharing images, Printing images, Recording audio clips, Recording video clips, Reviewing images and video, Deleting images, Transferring images, Managing batteries, Getting assistance, Camera shortcuts.

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Display brightness, Camera sounds, Focus assist light, Instant review, Digital zoom, Live view setup, Date and Time, USB, TV config, Language, Move images to card, Reset settings.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick, however the zoom is quite slow as the camera displays 'Loading...' after you press the zoom button.

Playback menu options: Delete, Remove Red-Eye, Image advice, Image information, Preview panorama, Rotate, Record Audio.

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
  *** **
6mp (2482x2144) 8 14
4mp 2 star default (2304x1728) - 20
2mp 2 star default (1600x1200) - 31
VGA 2 star default (640 x 480) - 191
Movie 320x240/30fps 2 minutes  

You can fit an average amount of images on the provided 32mb, depending on the size and amount of compressions used - however a larger memory card is definitely recommended. There is a fairly good choice of image size and compression levels available, although no RAW or TIFF mode, and no 3:2 aspect ratio available.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the HP Photosmart R717:

128mb SD memory card - £9.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £15.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £25.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £49.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed: 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.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use. The controls on the back of the camera are very easy to use. The camera is quite compact - but easy to hold and use. The menus are responsive, very easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a fully automatic mode as well as some scene modes for simple point and shoot operation.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be a limited amount of buttons - for example a delete button would be good. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically, and was the correct weight - it seemed a decent weight and felt well built. The only issues I have are that there is no delete button.

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 HP Photosmart R717 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather (telephoto) Group photo indoors

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, 50, 100, 200 or 400. To choose the ISO setting, you simply go into the menu.


Noise test photo, Macro mode, Flash on.

ISO50 - 100% Actual Pixels ISO100 - 100%
ISO200 - 100% ISO400 - 100%

Noise levels at ISO50 are quite low - which means you get quite smooth images. ISO100 still displays fairly acceptable noise levels. It is probably best avoiding ISO200-400 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:

Shops Group photo

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 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. 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.

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.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens noise is fairly average. The lens is fairly quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 10 steps between wide and telephoto. This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

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: I did notice purple fringing in some photos, i.e. the photo of the shops, however it is still quite low.

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%)

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.

Night Photo: I left the camera on the auto setting, turned off the flash, put the camera on a wall, and set the self-timer to go so that the camera would be still whilst it took the photo - the camera automatically set the shutter to 2 seconds.

Night Photo Actual Pixels (100%)

The camera did a very good job of the night photo, despite the camera being left on the auto setting - the only problems: noise is quite high in dark areas, and the image is slightly soft.

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. 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 as long as you stick to ISO50 or ISO100 and depending on how much adaptive lighting changes the image. There is very little purple fringing, although it can be spotted. 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 fiarly compact, and stylish (the black back tends to grow on you if you don't initially like the look of it), it has a medium sized 1.8" 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 5 / 6 megapixel digital cameras: (Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices. See more digital cameras reviews sorted by megapixels here.)

Fujifilm FinePix F10 - Recommended 6mp
Konica Minolta Dimage G600 - Recommended 6mp (excellent value for money!)
Fujifilm Finepix A350
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ2 - Recommended 5mp
Konica Minolta Dimage X60
Olympus Camedia C-500 / D-595 - Highly Recommended 5mp
Olympus Mju Digital 500 - Highly Recommended 5mp
Canon Digital IXUS 500 - Highly Recommended 5mp
Ricoh Caplio R1v - Recommended 5mp
HP Photosmart R707 - Recommended 5mp
Panasonic Lumix FX7 - Highly Recommended 5mp

Summary: The HP Photosmart R717 is average value for money - and compared to the Fuji FinePix F10, seems slow and slightly dated. It has a medium size 1.8" colour screen, and records videos with sound. The camera is quite compact and very easy to use. Image quality is good, with good detail, good colours, although with some corner 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, built in help this camera is very easy to use. For someone looking for a very easy to use, compact and stylish camera the HP Photosmart R717 is worth considering.

HP Photosmart R717 Rating: Good / Worth Considering
Buy now: £219 | $299

What I like:

  • Good image quality - good colour
  • HP Adaptive lighting can be very good
  • Built in red-eye reduction (although it doesn't work for people who wear glasses)
  • Good movie mode
  • Good Built in help system / image advice etc
  • Stylish compact camera

What I don't like:

  • Average macro mode
  • Slightly sluggish
  • Corner softness / soft images
  • Some purple fringing
  • High noise

Remember to have a look at the full size (and medium size) versions of these photos in the HP Photosmart R717 Sample Photo Gallery!