HP Photosmart M537 review: HP Photosmart M537

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MSRP: $122.00

The Good Extremely simple to use; handy in-camera editing features.

The Bad No exposure control other than exposure compensation; slow performance; poor image quality.

The Bottom Line This inexpensive, simple HP Photosmart M537 digital camera is easy to use, but its pictures aren't so easy on the eyes.

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6.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Image quality 5

HP's Photosmart M537 is the archetypal budget camera. It's not particularly large or small, it doesn't look terribly shiny or sleek, and it doesn't have any notably unique features. This is completely understandable; sub-$150 snapshot cameras don't normally have long zoom lenses, high-resolution sensors, or slim, fashionable bodies.

The M537's simple, unassuming design has few controls and is extremely easy to use. Its chunky plastic body holds only a handful of large, easily pressed buttons on its back, arranged sparsely around the camera's screen. The camera's menu system is as simple as its interface and offers few shooting options. Once you take your pictures, though, you can use the comfortable directional pad to tap through the various in-camera editing features.

HP designed the M537 to be an affordable budget camera. Its 6-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens, and 2.5-inch LCD all fit into the mold of an extremely cookie-cutter snapshot camera. Of course, for the price, that's not a terrible thing. Like all HP Photosmart cameras, the M537 features a generous amount of onboard software features that help make up for the camera's unimpressive hardware. HP's Steady Photo antishake feature boosts ISO sensitivity to force a fast shutter speed in order to reduce blur in photos. It's not as effective as either mechanical or optical image stabilization, especially since higher ISOs bring with them noisier images, but it can help in certain situations. An onboard red-eye removal function can edit the red dots out of flash-afflicted eyes without the machine-gun burst of flashes some red-eye reduction features use. Finally, HP's Design Gallery offers a handful of in-camera editing and tweaking functions, though they're much more artistic than useful. It also has a movie mode, but it records only QVGA (320x240) clips at 24 frames per second (fps) compared to most cameras' 30 fps VGA movie modes. The M537 doesn't accept SDHC cards, either, so your choice of storage is limited to 2GB or smaller SD cards.

With no manual white balance, ISO sensitivity, or even exposure controls, the M537 offers few options beyond a small handful of scene presets. It automates the entire shooting process, so it functions as a true "point-and-shoot." This puts the M537 on very similar footing with Olympus' FE-series, another set of almost completely automated budget shooters.

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