Looking like a million bucks, the Photosmart R707 was the first to break the mold in HP's formerly boring design scheme. This 5-megapixel camera, with its 3X zoom, doesn't offer many manual exposure controls, though it provides several unique--and useful--features. Snapshooters and beginners who want to learn the ropes should be attracted by the HP Photosmart R707's in-camera help system and competitive price. Fussy shooters, however, will take issue with some of the camera's photographic flaws. With its attractive brushed-silver and black-matte finish, the compact HP Photosmart R707 is as easy on the eyes as it is comfortable to hold. At 7.4 ounces with battery and SD card, the R707 is just about light enough to wear with a neck lanyard and small enough to stash in your pocket.
The Menu/OK button, on the back of the camera, is surrounded by a four-way controller. Our natural instinct is to press Menu/OK to turn off the menu, but instead it requires a press of the record or playback button to get out of the menu, which we find counterintuitive.
HP's unique help system offers abundant text explanations for and implications of using different features. A full-fledged help menu provides shooting tips and instruction, an invaluable addition when you have to figure out details in the field. A trip to the manual makes finding all this good stuff a lot easier and is highly recommended.The HP Photosmart R707 targets photographers who don't really use advanced controls but who nevertheless might like to tweak settings on occasion. For instance, although there's an aperture-priority mode for controlling depth of field, you're limited to a choice between two settings for a given focal length. The camera's 3X zoom lens runs from 39mm to 117mm (35mm equivalent), so you're stuck with a fairly narrow angle of view.
Automatic exposure metering options, custom and preset ISO settings, several scene modes, and AE bracketing are welcome additions. We were happy to see multiple resolutions to choose from: VGA, as well as 1, 3, and 5 megapixels, with preset compression settings. However, if you delve another level into the menus, HP includes a custom option that allows you to choose resolution and compression settings independently. Each selection is accompanied by a descriptive note, along with the number of remaining pictures at that setting. We would prefer to have had the individual options more readily available, rather than the presets, especially since photo quality improved significantly with the lowest compression setting. The camera is equipped with 32MB of internal memory, so budget for a large SD card.
Other, more useful options for finessing images include exposure compensation (plus or minus 2EV in 1/3EV increments), saturation, sharpness, and contrast. HP's unique Adaptive Lighting technology, which the company dubbed Digital Flash when it debuted in the HP Photosmart 945, automatically extends dynamic range and actually works better than we expected. Similarly, the in-camera red-eye-removal feature was intriguing, but the R707 provided no opportunity to try it; people photos simply did not suffer from demon eyes. A panorama-assist mode, which provides an outlined edge of each shot, makes it relatively easy to align up to as many as five shots in succession. You can preview the panorama in playback and stitch it together with bundled software.
HP's help system also provides assistance with autofocus. Pressing the up or down arrow on the four-way controller guides the AF to focus either on closer or more distant objects in the scene. However, we found this feature more impressive in concept than in practice.