The HP Photosmart R607 is a competent enough entry in the 4-megapixel compact camera arena, with acceptable image quality, a speedy burst mode, and a 3X Pentax zoom lens. It's seasoned with enough quirky features to please the most gizmo-crazy budding photographer. Some of the options in this camera's cornucopia are only marginally useful in practice--the Aperture-Priority mode lets you select from just two apertures, for example. But others, such as Adaptive Lighting, which brightens dark shadows, and the Image Advice feature that diagnoses your pictures and offers fixes for common problems, are especially valuable for neophytes. However, a skimpy complement of scene modes, a 1.5-inch LCD that's too small for comfortable viewing, and a minimovie mode that really is mini at 288x216 pixels are the chief drawbacks to this otherwise capable and fun-to-use package.
It's easy to get carried away by the cool features, including the bundled HP Photosmart R-series camera dock, which lets you charge batteries, transfer images to your computer over a USB cable, and display photo slide shows on your television using a handy wireless remote control. Other goodies range from a panorama preview to a two-shot self-timer that snaps one picture after 10 seconds, then an additional photo 3 seconds later. User tweaks include a choice of average, spot, and center-weighted metering for exposures from 1/2,000 second to 16 seconds; exposure compensation that goes up or down three stops instead of the customary plus or minus 2EV; and adjustments for color, saturation, and sharpness.
Focus for the 35mm-to-105mm (35mm-camera equivalent) zoom lens extends down to 7 inches in macro mode at all zoom settings and comes as close as 2.5 inches in Super Macro mode at the wide-angle setting. Holding the up or down arrow while depressing the shutter release halfway activates a Focus Priority feature that tells the camera whether to start the search for correct focus at infinity or at the close-up position. Sweet!
The HP Photosmart R607's gray-and-metallic-silver-colored plastic body, suitable for either one- or two-handed shooting, weighs in at 6 ounces and measures a compact 3.5 by 1.1 by 2.3 inches. Up on top is a shutter release; a video-recording button; a macro mode activator; a speaker; and a button for choosing Action, Landscape, Portrait, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Panorama, or Aperture-Priority modes. Aperture-Priority gives you a choice of f/2.6 or f/4.3 at the wide-angle position and f/4.8 or f/7.6 at the telephoto end.
On the back are a sliding power switch; both an optical viewfinder window and the 1.5-inch LCD; a zoom rocker that's rotated to the 9 o'clock-to-12 o'clock position to fall under your thumb when you're pressing the shutter release; a cursor control pad with a central OK button; and dedicated keys for flash options, the self-timer, burst mode, LCD power, picture review, picture sharing, and image tagging for printing.
Once aroused from its power-off slumber to take a first shot, a process that takes about 4.4 seconds, the HP Photosmart R607 was a good performer. It snapped off pictures every 1.8 seconds with the flash turned off and about every 2.7 seconds with the speed light activated. Its robust burst mode captured about 2.8fps for five shots, but unfortunately, the LCD blanked out completely during sequence shooting. Shutter-lag times for this camera were poor at 1.1 seconds under contrasty lighting and 1.2 seconds with more challenging low-contrast illumination, which we blamed on the lack of an autofocus assist light.
Although HP doesn't specify a flash range, we found the built-in strobe effective out to about 12 feet. Red-eye prevention was less than perfect, though. Our human victims often had dull red glows in their pupils. While the tiny LCD made composing images tricky, especially under bright illumination, the 120,480-pixel screen gained up like a champ in low light. The smallish optical viewfinder came in handy outdoors, when the LCD image became hard to see.
Image quality was good for a 4-megapixel camera for smaller enlargements, but even the Best image-quality setting uses enough JPEG compression to produce plentiful artifacts that were clearly visible in blowups. There was some chromatic aberration in our test shots--chiefly purple fringing--and while the HP Photosmart R607 actually did a decent job of not blowing out highlights, detail in shadows was poor, with most shots looking a bit on the contrasty side. While most of our photos didn't show color casts, hues were generally muted and not fully saturated. Visual noise was a problem, even at ISO 100, but images were still usable when sensitivity was boosted to ISO 400.