Point-and-shoots don't get much more basic than HP's 3-megapixel Photosmart 435. It offers a 36mm (the 35mm-camera equivalent) fixed-focus lens and bare-bones features. However, it also boasts decent performance; adequate image quality; and HP's Instant Share system, which makes it easier for you to share your photos with friends and family.
The 435's silver body is plastic, boxy, and not particularly stylish, but it is fairly portable, weighing a little more than 6 ounces with batteries and media installed. The shutter release is so touchy that we took lots of inadvertent pictures, but we like the sliding lens cover, which also turns the camera on and off. Overall build quality is decent, and HP has done its usual good job of providing clearly labeled and logical menus. There are separate shutter buttons for photo and video capture--an unusual touch that enhances the 435's easy and efficient operation.
This simple snapshooter doesn't have many features, but HP's Instant Share system is worth noting. It enables one-touch printing to compatible HP printers and photo sharing via e-mail or the Web. Instant Share works most conveniently with the optional camera dock.
The 435's lens is fixed-focus, and there's no macro position, so forget about close-ups. Exposure options are limited to a programmed automatic mode with exposure compensation to plus or minus 2EV, and a programmed Action mode. For white balance, you get an automatic option and four manual presets, and light sensitivity is adjustable from ISO 100 to ISO 400. The camera captures JPEG stills at three quality settings and saves the photos to its 16MB internal memory or optional SD/MMC media. Movie mode records 320x240-pixel MPEG-1 video with sound in clips as long as your card capacity allows.
The 435 performs modestly better than most cameras in this class. The approximately 5-second start-up isn't great, but shutter delay is only around 0.7 second (the fixed focus helps here), and shot-to-shot time is good at about 2 seconds. Our two optional AA rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride cells lasted for a healthy life span of 634 photos, about 40 percent of them taken with the flash. The 435 forces you to conserve your batteries by preventing you from using the LCD as a viewfinder when power is running low. In our tests, we snapped nearly 200 pictures after the LCD had stopped working. Fortunately, the optical viewfinder is bigger and clearer than what we're used to seeing on models in this range. On the other hand, the 1.5-inch LCD is just adequately sharp and bright. The flash's 10-foot maximum coverage is decent for a snapshot camera.
Our tests with the HP Photosmart 435 yielded average results for a budget point-and-shoot. As with most HP models, colors were very vivid, so this isn't the camera for staunch realists. The problem was especially noticeable in blue skies. Sharpness and detail fell below par. But noise was moderate; even ISO 400 photos weren't completely terrible. And our exposures generally came out well. We did see fairly prominent purple fringing, and in pictures containing broad swaths of one color or tone (such as a clear sky), some lens vignetting showed up as dark corners.