The Photosmart 935's styling is clean and reasonably attractive if a bit boxy. The silver-and-gray body is built of plastic and die-cast zinc; the overall construction quality is not top-tier, but the camera feels acceptably sturdy. Weighing 9.8 ounces with the batteries and the media installed, the 935 is easily portable and can just squeeze into a shirt pocket, but it's a tad too bulky for comfort.
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The rather sparsely populated mode dial offers just three scene modes.
The designers positioned most of the controls intelligently, but we have a couple of minor complaints. For one, the buttons for macro focusing and the flash sit on top and to the left, where no finger falls naturally. And the amber status lights for those same functions are invisible in sunlight. The File Write indicator, which flashes to indicate that the camera is occupied, hides under your thumb.
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Cycling through these options is easy, though the buttons don't fall naturally under any of your fingers.
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E-mail and print images with one touch of the lowest button.
The menu system, on the other hand, operates quickly and is admirably easy to understand and use. Extensive onboard help explains many of the settings.
The Photosmart 935 is a moderately flexible but not really notable snapshot camera. The 3X zoom covers a focal-length range equivalent to 37mm to 111mm in 35mm-format terms, which is adequate for most personal photography. Available exposure options include programmed auto; an aperture-priority mode with two choices (2.6 and 5); and sports, landscape, and portrait scene modes. Adjustable exposure compensation keeps the shooting feature set from seeming undernourished. You can choose the default center-weighted metering system, spot metering, or curiously, a simple averaging meter, which is something of a throwback to the 1970s.
The Photosmart 935 records still images in JPEG format at either 1- or 5-megapixel resolution; you have a choice of three compression levels. You can also adjust in-camera processing of contrast, sharpness, and saturation. The movie mode can capture MPEG-1 video with sound in clips up to two minutes long at a resolution of 288x208 pixels--that's low even for a point-and-shoot.
Like other Photosmart models, the 935 supports HP's Instant Share system for photo printing and sharing. Instant Share lets you designate your pictures' destinations (print, e-mail, and so on) in-camera. When you connect the 935 to your computer, you push a single button to generate your prints, e-mail shots to friends and family, and upload image files to an HP server for online display. The camera connects directly to compatible HP printers via USB.
We're willing to overlook the 935's clunky design and rather paltry feature set, but its poor-to-middling performance is hard to ignore. Start-up takes the usual 5 seconds. However, the somewhat slow autofocus contributes to a worse than average shutter lag of about 1.4 to 1.9 seconds, and shot-to-shot time runs 2 to 3 seconds--those delays are lengthy for this class of camera, and there's no continuous-shooting mode to help you work around the wait.
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The camera ships with alkaline batteries, but you really should get some nickel-metal-hydride rechargeable cells for longer life.
The 1.5-inch LCD is simply bad. It's dark and difficult to see outdoors, and its slow frame rate results in a jerky view of your scene. In sunlight, you'll have to use the optical viewfinder; it's adequately sharp and bright, and it shows about 88 percent of the actual image. The lens zooms quickly but not continuously, so the position is tough to control with precision--extremely frustrating when you're composing a shot. The flash's maximum range of 8.2 feet is a bit below par.
We're also disappointed at how quickly the Photosmart 935 exhausts a pair of AA batteries. Photo lithium cells lasted for just about half a day of testing, and rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries turned in only passable results, making it through 264 pictures (half with the flash firing) before closing up shop. The camera can't automatically power down or go to sleep, which exacerbates the problem. Plus, the battery indicator is highly unreliable; for instance, after a mere 54 shots, it informed us that there wasn't enough juice for us to use the LCD for shooting. But we were able to work again after cycling the power. If you buy the 935, we highly recommend investing in a handful of rechargeable AAs.
The Photosmart 935's pictures are a bit of a mixed bag. Sharpness and detail are good compared with what you get from other 5-megapixel models. Though somewhat muted, colors look fairly accurate. Noise at ISO 100, the lowest setting, is acceptable, but many 5-megapixel cameras support lower ISO speeds and, therefore, can produce cleaner images. On the flip side, however, shots taken at ISO 400 showed far less noise than they did with many competitors. Both our flash and ambient-light photos were generally well exposed, although underexposures occasionally occurred outdoors.
On the strength of the aforementioned qualities alone, we'd rate the 935's images as very good. Unfortunately, various artifacts appeared unusually often in our test pictures. Chief among the problems is reddish-purple fringing at high-contrast borders. We also noted frequent JPEG-compression, edge, and color artifacts, such as pixelation and posterizing. These issues don't ruin every shot, but they do limit the enlargement potential of a significant number of photos.
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Pictures display an unusual amount of posterizing. For example, the colors refracting off the CD look blotchy.
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Images look reasonably sharp, but you can spot some edge artifacts here on the upper pink petals.