The Good 5X optical zoom; context-sensitive advice; Adaptive Lighting feature; manual exposure modes; postcapture red-eye removal; compatible with HP's Instant Share system.
The Bad Excessive visual noise in some photos; flimsy lens cover; long recharge time for battery; no optical viewfinder.
The Bottom Line The compact HP Photosmart R817 combines some unusual photo-enhancement technologies with a strong feature set for both novices and experienced photographers.
HP Photosmart R817
When buying a digital camera, the rule of thumb has been small size, small price, big features--choose any two. With recent technological advances and price reductions, you can almost have all three at the same time. The Photosmart R817 is one of HP's recent efforts to cram its mix of image-enhancing technologies into an inexpensive, pocket-size camera. The 6.7-ounce R817 has a 5.1-megapixel sensor, a mostly metal body, and a bright 2-inch LCD screen. It also has a 5X optical zoom, which is unusual in a camera this small. Less impressive, it lacks an optical viewfinder (which can be a problem in bright sunlight), some of its photos are overly noisy, and the battery can take four to six hours to recharge. Despite its flaws, this camera would be a good choice for a beginner who wants to learn more about photography, because it can analyze your photos and offer context-sensitive advice. More experienced photographers will appreciate the HP Photosmart R817's manual controls. Stylish and durable, the HP Photosmart R817's brushed-aluminum finish makes an immediate impression. The shiny metal looks terrific, though it does show fingerprints. A ribbed, leatherlike black strip along the top and the side makes it easy for your left hand to steady the camera. Rather than using a traditional two-button or rocker-style design for the zoom control, HP created a crescent-shaped button that mirrors the shape of your thumb. Raised points at each end of the crescent let you feel the control without looking. It's a very functional design, though the raised points could irritate the skin after extended use.
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