Editor's note: Subsequent to posting this review, we have retested the R717 and updated the text, charts, and rating to reflect some improvements we saw over the original performance results.
Thanks to a well-rounded personality, the 6.2-megapixel HP Photosmart R717 stands out from the crowd of snapshot cameras. Though it doesn't really excel in any particular area, its well-conceived design, novel shooting features, average to good performance, and decent image quality make it an attractive option for the no-nonsense shooter.
The 7.1-ounce R717 is a nice-looking camera, with a pleasingly curvy design, a brushed-metal front, and an easy-to-grip rear surface. The 1.8-inch LCD screen isn't terribly large, but it's more than bright enough to read and can be adjusted to a lower setting to save on battery life. The buttons are nicely laid out on the rear right side of the camera; the only control not in immediate reach of your right thumb is the Shooting Mode button, located to the left of the R717's top panel. The included optical viewfinder provides decent coverage of your frame, though if you're zoomed all the way out, a piece of the camera's lens is visible in the lower-right corner of the window. HP deserves kudos for its extremely well-designed menu and user interface; clicking OK on any menu function pulls up a detailed explanation of what to expect at every setting of each included feature. Furthermore, the menu's uncomplicated layout makes it an engaging, educational tool for anyone just getting their feet wet in digital photography.
There's a comfortable array of features included with the camera, the most highly touted of which are HP's Real Life technologies. Those include in-camera red-eye removal, a well-executed panorama-assist function, and HP's own adaptive lighting technology for correcting underexposed areas of high-contrast or backlit shots. Unfortunately, even when our test subjects' red-eye was plainly visible, the R717's removal function failed to locate the problem, let alone fix it. In fact, we ran out of patience, having taken about a dozen red-eyed shots in various conditions, before we could get it to work even once. The panorama-assist function, on the other hand, delivered excellent results; you can stitch anywhere from two to five pictures together, and the R717 did a great job of both keeping our shots on a level plane and then showing us an onscreen preview of what the final panorama would look like. Other notable features include a limited aperture-priority mode that switches between f/2.8 and f/4.8, and HP's Instant Share function, which allows you to tag images with e-mail addresses for easy delivery once they're uploaded to your computer.
Though it took a bit more than 3 seconds from boot to shoot--a bit long for its class--the rest of the R717's performance was pretty good. The camera's 0.3 second typical shutter lag was very good, and its corresponding 2 second shot-to-shot time fell in the middle of the pack. In burst mode, the HP Photosmart R717 can grab three full-resolution images in just under a second--0.9 second, to be precise--though processing the images will tie up the camera for a bit afterward. That's quick, but most point-and-shoots with burst modes can grab more than just three images; you'll have to choose whether speed or quantity is more important to you. Last, the R717's flash functioned poorly in our image-quality tests, demonstrating below-average range by failing even to reach the test scene.
The R717's image quality was inconsistent. The camera has a very good macro mode that gave us sharp details in close-up shots but also took somewhat noisy pictures when we bumped the sensitivity up to ISO 100. The noise problem was exacerbated when we turned on HP's Adaptive Lighting feature; though we definitely saw improved exposures in what had been darkened sections of our photos, the trade-off came in the form of increased noise in those areas. We also noticed some chromatic aberration in our test shots, with buildings and trees taking on the occasional green-tinted border. The high quality of our macro images was an especially pleasant surprise given the overall softness of many of our longer shots, even when we switched to infinite focus. But for anyone planning to do lots of close-up work, the HP Photosmart R717 seems well suited to that particular task.
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|