Review: HP Photosmart 945
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 28, 2003
February 27, 2004
945 ($549) is the 5 Megapixel version of HP's popular Photosmart
850, which was introduced about a year ago (see
our review). Both cameras have an 8X zoom lens, manual
controls, and the HP Instant Share system, which allows you
to easily share your photos. HP added a few extra nice features
as well, and I'll mention them throughout this review.
should mention that the first camera I received was defective.
It took many photos with horizontal
lines in the pictures. I returned my camera to HP, who was
able to reproduce the problem. My replacement camera has worked
fine so far. It's not
just me who had this issue, either. I'll see if I can find
out from HP exactly what the problem is, and will update this
3/1/04: This rare problem has been resolved by
HP. If you do get a camera with this problem, HP will replace
it. New models coming off the assembly line do not have
liked the Photosmart 850 quite a bit -- is the higher resolution
945 also a top pick? Find out now!
in the Box?
Photosmart 945 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll
5.08 (effective) Mpixel Photosmart 945 camera
Secure Digital card
AA lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
cables (one for computers, one for printers)
featuring HP Photo & Imaging and ArcSoft software (see
page camera manual (printed)
Photosmart includes a 32MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card, which
is a good starting point, but you'll absolutely need a larger
card right away. The camera can use MultiMediaCards (MMC) as
well, though you'll probably want to stick to the faster SD cards.
You can find them in capacities of up to 512MB as of this writing.
else you'll need to buy right away are batteries. You'll find
four throwaway lithium batteries in the camera box, which will
quickly find their way into your trash (or preferably, your recycling
bin). You'll want to buy two sets of NiMH rechargeables (and
a charger) as soon as possible. HP did not publish any data about
battery life on the Photosmart 945, but it seemed about average
during my time with the camera.
some unexplainable reason, HP does not include a video out cable
with the 945, even though the camera supports one. They did this
same thing on the 850. You can buy it separately, but I had a
heck of a time finding it (you can just buy a standard video
cable and the right adapter at someplace like Radio Shack).
One easy way to get it is to just buy the camera dock.
camera dock in question is the Photosmart 8881, an $80 option.
The dock includes 4 NiMH rechargeable batteries (which are charged
in the camera while it's on the dock), an AC adapter, another
USB cable, and the fabled A/V cable. This dock isn't quite as
nice as the other HP model (8886) which includes a remote control.
Is the dock a requirement? No, but it's a nice addition that
makes it a little easier to charge batteries and transfer photos
to your PC.
Camera with Tiffen wide converter
are a bunch of accessories for the Photosmart 945. If you want
to take some wide-angle shots, pick up the Tiffen 0.75X wide
converter (a steal at $75). To use it, you'll first need to buy
the Tiffen TIF-HP850AD conversion lens adapter ($20). The adapter
also allows you to use 43mm filters and macro lenses (of which
Tiffen sells two).
accessory you may want to consider is one of the two HP accessory
kits available. The regular kit (model Y1789B, $50) includes
four NiMH rechargeable batteries, a quick charger, and a padded
camera case. The deluxe kit (model C8889A, $80) includes all
that, plus a car power adapter and 32MB SD card.
Other á la
carte items include an AC adapter ($50), SD-to-CompactFlash adapter
($50), and padded camera case ($30). One thing you cannot add
to the 945 is an external flash.
945 includes two USB cables. One is for connecting to a Mac or
PC, and the other is for hooking into any recent USB-enabled
Photosmart 945 includes a lens cap with retaining strap. As you
can see above, it's also quite a handful.
area where HP's Photosmart cameras really shine is in the software
department. HP's Photo & Imaging Software is for Mac OS 8/9,
Mac OS X, and Windows. The Mac version is 5.5.6, while the Windows
version is 2.0. Combined with the Instant Share system on the
camera (more on that later), HP has created a system that lets
you easily share photos in a number of ways.
is the main part of the software, known as HP Gallery, where
you can view and edit photos. The software can do basic photo
editing like adjusting contrast, sharpening/blurring, and removing
redeye. You can crop and rotate photos as well.
most impressive parts of the software package are the photo sharing
tools. You can share photos via prints, websites, e-mail, or
even CDs, all using the HP software.
a few photos are clicking on the E-Mail button brings up this
screen. The software will downsize the photos for you and send
them to your e-mail program.
photos is very easy as well, and there are all kinds of prints
to choose from, ranging from albums to greeting cards.
you've got a CD-R/RW drive, one of the coolest features it he
ability to create a CD with your photos.
the HP Memories Disc Creator Software, you can make a Video CD
containing your photos. They are presented as a slide show, and
you can even pick a song from your MP3 collection to use as background
music. The whole process takes just a few minutes, and then you've
got a CD you can share with friends and family. The catch is
that you need a fairly modern DVD player to read these discs
(most computers can see them), and the Video CD quality isn't
the greatest. Still, it's a nice product to include with the
one of those "weird HP things" is that there are actually
two versions of the camera -- the 945 and 945xi. The only difference,
as far as I can tell, is the ArcSoft software that's also tossed
in with the camera. The regular 945 includes ArcSoft
FunHouse, while the 945xi includes ArcSoft
of this software is Mac OS X native, by the way. You will need
to change the USB mode to "Disk Drive" using the setup
menu, in order for your Mac to see the camera.
Photosmart 945's manual should stand as an example to some of the
other manufacturers who think a digital camera is a VCR (it's not).
There are good explanations for the cameras features, without a lot
of fine print. If you're gathering that this camera is aimed toward
beginners, you're right.
Photosmart 945 is a fairly large camera, made mostly of plastic
(just like its predecessor). Don't expect to put this one in
your pocket. Controls are well laid out, and it's easy to hold.
In terms of build quality, it seems pretty solid for a plastic
a look at how the 945 compares in size and weight when compared
with the competition:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 3.4 x 3.4 in.
x 3.2 x 3.1 in.
x 3.2 x 3.2 in.
x 3.1 x 3.2 in.
C-750 Ultra Zoom
x 2.6 x 2.7 in.
x 3.4 x 4.2 in.
x 2.7 x 2.6 in.
you can see, it's one of the larger cameras in the group.
start our tour of the Photosmart 945 now, beginning with the
Photosmart 945 has the same 8X optical zoom lens (made by Fuji,
apparently) as its predecessor. This F2.8-F3.1 lens has a focal
range of 7.6 - 61 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 300 mm. The
lens barrel is threaded, though you'll need the conversion lens
adapter to do anything with it (see previous section).
the lens is the pop-up flash. The working range of the flash
is 0.5 - 3.4 m at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 3.1 m at telephoto (both
at auto ISO). As I mentioned, the 945 does not support an external
flash via hot shoe or flash sync cable (as some other ultra zooms
the upper-left of the lens is the camera's microphone. On the
opposite side of the lens is the AF-assist lamp, which is always
appreciated it. If you shoot in dim lighting, you want one of
is still being a little misleading with their labels on the camera.
While the 5.3 MP number is true, that's the total number of pixels
on the CCD, rather than those actually used (which is what everyone
else puts on their cameras). Secondly, the 56X zoom number includes
the useless digital zoom. I hate when I see this on cameras and
Photosmart 945 has a large, high resolution LCD display. At 2
inches, it's larger than average (though there are several other
ultra zooms with large LCDs now). Images on the LCD are bright
and fluid in most cases. The exception is when light levels are
low -- the camera brightens up the image at the expense of refresh
rate. The screen brightness is adjustable in the setup menu.
other big zoom cameras, the 945 uses an electronic viewfinder,
or EVF. The EVF is a little LCD screen that you view as you would
a regular optical viewfinder. Like the main LCD, the EVF is high
resolution, bright and usually fluid. Also like the LCD, expect
things to get choppy in low light. I think people will still
prefer this over an EVF that is unusable in the dark.
EVF has a diopter correction knob cleverly integrated with the
rubber eyecup. You just rotate the eyepiece to bring things into
focus. There's also an "eye start" sensor, which turns
the EVF on automatically when you put your eye against the viewfinder.
EVF cannot be used in playback mode -- you must use the main
LCD. That's not a problem here!
other problem that both the LCD and EVF share is that the screen
pauses when you halfway press the shutter release button. This
is quite frustrating when you're following a moving subject.
the right of the LCD are four buttons. The top one turns the
LCD on and off, the middle one enters playback mode, while the
bottom two are for the Instant Share system. The little button
with the printer on it lets you tag photos for printing, while
the share (envelope) button lets you mark photos for later e-mailing.
the print button when viewing an image lets you choose how many
copies of the photo to print. The next time you connect to your
computer or directly to select HP printers, the marked photos
e-mail feature lets you choose the recipient of your photos --
just by pressing the share button. First, though, you must set
up your e-mail list on your computer. Just enter the name and
e-mail address for each recipient, and you're set. You can also
choose to automatically e-mail your marked pictures each time
your camera is connected to your computer. Four image sizes are
available, so you can downsize those huge 5 Megapixel photos
to something more reasonable. Once you've done that, you can
tag your photos just like you see above!
addition to tagging photos for e-mail, you can do it for automatic
delivery to online photo albums, such as hpphoto.com
to our tour now. To the right of those buttons is the four-way
switch, with the "ok" button in the middle (which is
also used for activating the menu). The four-way switch is used
for menu navigation as well as adjusting the exposure compensation
(-3.0EV to +3.0EV in 1/3EV increments). Just below that is the
power switch. Above the LCD are three buttons:
(Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash on w/redeye
reduction, slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
(Self-timer, self-timer [two shots], burst) - see below
(Auto, macro, infinity, manual)
945 has a rather unique two shot self-timer mode, which takes,
well, two shots instead of just one. The burst mode will take
between 4-6 photos at a rate of around 1.5 frames/second. One
annoying thing is that the LCD/EVF does not show the photos you
take in burst mode until after you're finished, which makes it
awfully hard to track a moving subject. Another annoyance is
the lengthy write times, which I'll discuss later in the review.
manual focus feature is a new addition to the 945. You can use
the up/down buttons on the four-way controller to focus the lens.
A guide is shown on the LCD showing the focus, though it only
references the macro and infinite positions -- not terribly useful.
There's no "focus check" feature either, a useful feature
which enlarges the center of the image so you make sure you're
focus-related feature on the 945 is "focus search priority".
This lets you tell the camera to either start focusing from either
the nearest or farthest position. This feature is used while
in autofocus or macro mode.
final item on the back of the Photosmart 945 is the zoom controller.
You can move from wide-angle to telephoto in 2.5 seconds. The
lens movements seem to be a little more precise than they were
on the 850.
the top of the camera, you can see the flash release button,
mode dial, speaker, and shutter release button.
mode dial has been expanded since the Photosmart 850, and has
the following options:
- has a "2 second release priority" feature which
will use the same focus and exposure as the previous shot,
if you take another within 2 seconds.
priority mode (Tv) - you select the shutter speed, camera chooses
appropriate aperture; select from range of 16 - 1/2000 sec
priority mode (Av)- you select aperture, camera chooses appropriate
shutter speed; select from range of F2.8 - F13.4
items were buried in the menu before -- it's nice to see them
in a more accessible place.
this side of the 945, you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept
under a rubber cover. Let's take a closer look:
ports are USB, A/V, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). Again,
the A/V cable is not included with the camera. Another thing
is that when you attach the A/V cable, the camera starts a slide
show. You cannot take pictures with the A/V cable attached.
only thing on this side is the SD/MMC card slot, which is located
behind a plastic door.
here's the bottom of the Photosmart 945. The battery compartment
is on the left, and it holds four AA batteries. Just to the right
of that is where the dock connector is. A rubber cover protects
it from dirt and dust. To the right of that is the metal tripod
mount, which is inline with the lens.
the HP Photosmart 945
takes just under 5 seconds for the 945 to extend its lens and "warm
up" before you can start shooting.
you're there, expect average autofocus speeds. It took about
1/2 second to focus on "easy" subjects, and more like
a second on difficult subjects. Low light focusing was good,
thanks to the 945's AF-assist lamp. As I mentioned before, the
image on the LCD/EVF freezes while the camera is focusing --
which is annoying.
lag was not an issue at faster shutter speeds, but it was quite
noticeable at slower speeds, though you should probably be using
a tripod or the flash in those situations.
histogram in record mode
speed is a mixed bag. In regular, single-shot mode, it's quite
good (about two seconds). In burst mode, the camera will be locked
up for over 20 seconds after you take your shots -- very slow.
Even worse is the total write time for the images. It took the
camera 13 seconds to write a single image to the memory card,
and over a minute to write a burst sequence! This was also a
problem on the Photosmart 850.
you take a shot, you can press the OK button to delete it, before
it's written to the memory card. Another post-shot option is
recording a voice clip; just keep holding down the shutter release
after you take the picture, and you can add up to 60 seconds
the 850, the Photosmart 945 is one of those cameras that is always
ready to shoot. Whether you're in playback mode or the menus,
you can still operate the zoom and quickly get back to shooting
with just a half press of the shutter release button.
here's a look at the image size and quality choices available
on the 945:
shots on 32MB card
2608 x 1952
1236 x 976
no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera.
camera names files as HPIMyyyy.JPG, where y = 0001 - 9999. The
camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the memory card.
Photosmart 945 has a very nice looking, intuitive menu system.
I love how HP has "help" information for each
option. This is something that more cameras should have.
find in the main menu:
compensation (-3EV to +3EV, 1/3EV increments)
balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, manual)
- shoot a white or gray card in manual mode for perfect color
in any light
metering (Average, center-weighted, spot)
speed (Auto, 100, 200, 400) - the 400 option is new
flash (Off, low, high) - see below
(Full color, black & white, sepia)
(Low, medium, high) - these next three are new additions
(Low, medium, high)
(Low, medium, high)
- enters setup menu shown below
Digital Flash feature is probably the most hyped new addition
on the 945. Using what HP calls Adaptive Lighting Technology,
the Digital Flash attempts to increase the dynamic range of photos
taken when lighting isn't perfect. And it works, too. Have a
you can see, the digital flash works -- though it took the high
setting to satisfy me, at least in this shot. You will find that
image noise will increase when you use this feature, especially
at the high setting, but if you're printing or downsizing the
photo, you won't notice. All-in-all, the digital flash a nice
way to improve dynamic range that actually lives up to the hype.
addition to the record menu, there's also a setup menu, with
the following options:
sounds (Off, low, high) - HP's beeps drive my nuts for some
(on/off) - turn the EVF eye sensor on and off
Assist Light (Auto, off)
brightness (Indoor, outdoor)
review (Off, 2, 4, 6 secs) - post-shot review
power off (Never, 2, 6, 10 mins)
- Date & Time
configuration (Digital camera [PTP], disk drive [Mass Storage])
configuration (NTSC, PAL)
(English, German, Spanish, French, Italian)
settings (Flash, focus, burst, exposure compensation, white
balance, ISO speed, metering, digital flash, color)
of my big complaints about the Photosmart 850 -- that it didn't
remember your settings -- has been resolved on the 945, with
the addition of the "remembered settings" option.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
Photosmart 945 did a pretty good job with our macro test subject,
with saturated color and sharp detail. One thing I noticed is
some noise/grain in the reds, which is something that I wouldn't
expect to see at ISO 100. The focal range in macro mode is 10
- 80 cm. Do note that the zoom range is limited to 1X - 3.5X
while in this mode.
night shot results were unfortunately not good, and I can't explain
why. The first attempt was at Treasure Island with 4 other cameras.
All of my shots from the 945 came back blurry. And that's with
a tripod, self-timer, and a myriad of focus options (auto, manual,
I wrote it off as bad luck and tried again down at the Oracle
Corp. compound in Redwood Shores, CA. Once again, all my shots
came back blurry -- except for one. I shot a sequence of them,
each at a different ISO (100, 200, 400), using the same methods
as described above. None of them were sharp. Just for the heck
of it, I took one final shot at ISO 400, 12 seconds, and it was
the only good one.
can't explain the above results. I did everything right, and
this same thing happened to me twice, in two different locations.
I don't know if the camera is actually out-of-focus, or if it's
some strange image processing issue.
3/1/04: This problem was specific to my camera,
which was a production model that was miscalibrated at
the HP labs. Shipping 945's will not have this problem.
a low light shot that did turn out okay, and you can compare
the noise levels at the various ISOs:
#1 - F2.8, 2.8 sec, ISO 100
Shot #2 - F2.8, 2.1
sec, ISO 200
Shot #3 - F2.8, 1.0 sec,
is fairly low until ISO 400, where it starts to eat away at the
details in your photos.
945 did well in the redeye test, with just a hint of red in the
distortion chart shows moderate barrel distortion, and no vignetting
from my first review camera and the night shot problems, the
images produced by the Photosmart 945 are quite good. Color and
exposure are both accurate, and images are sharp (since HP cranks
up the in-camera sharpening). One thing I did notice (probably
due to the image sharpening) were a lot of "jaggies" on
edges in my test photos. They're not hard to find -- just open
up any image. Purple fringing (chromatic aberrations) were higher
than average, a common trait of ultra zoom cameras. Noise was
also a little higher than I'd like, but it's no worse than other
top models in this class.
take my word for all this -- have a look at our gallery and
see if you're pleased with the photo quality. You are more than
welcome to print the photos, as well.
Photosmart 945's movie mode isn't the greatest. You can record
up to 60 seconds of video at the unusual (and small) resolution
of 288 x 208. Sound is recorded as well.
are saved in MPEG format.
the 850, the 945 lets you use the zoom lens during filming. There's
a reason why most sound-recording cameras don't let you do that,
though: the microphone picks up the zoom motor noise. So, pick
a zoom setting and stick with it for your movie.
a brief sample movie for you. There's unfortunately some sound
clipping here... first time I've experienced this.
to play movie (3MB, MPEG format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
from the Instant Share stuff I already covered, the 945's playback
mode is quite basic. You can delete photos, record audio clips,
and use the "zoom and scroll" feature. Slide shows
are only available when the camera is hooked into a television.
magnification (what I call zoom and scroll) feature lets you
blow up the picture to 4X (and nothing in between), and then
scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It takes about four seconds
for the 945 to blow up the image, but after that, it's smooth
you can't rotate photos in playback mode, it's not a big deal --
the Photosmart does it automatically.
you want more information about your photos, choose the Image
Info option in the playback menu. I like how the zoom setting
is shown -- I've never seen this on other cameras.
between photos is super fast -- it's basically instantaneous.
Does it Compare?
a few tweaks, the HP Photosmart 945 could be one of the top ultra
zoom cameras. But based on the two 945's I tested, it's about
average (I'd rank it below the Olympus, Panasonic, and Kodak
models). My main concerns are regarding the two strange photo
quality issue I ran into, as well as overall performance. The
first image quality issue are the horizontal lines in images
on my first camera, which have been reported by other 945 owners.
The second issue was the inability of the camera to take the
night shot test -- they always came out blurry, even with settings
that should produce great results. I don't know if there's a
quality control problem, or if I'm just cursed with bad luck.
My other big complaint about the 945 is regarding the lengthy
write times on the camera. It
flush the buffer after taking a sequence of six shots. For about
1/3 of that time, the camera is unusable. In other areas, the
camera's performance was average.
HP can resolve those issues, I'd warm up to the camera a little
more, because it is a good camera otherwise. The 945 sells for
around $500, and that's quite a deal for an ultra zoom, 5 Megapixel
camera. Photo quality was good (aside from the issues discussed
above), with good exposure, sharpness, and color, though "jaggies" and
purple fringing were worse than average. It has a full suite
of manual controls, an AF-assist lamp, and the very impressive
Instant Share system that makes sharing photos a snap. The Digital
Flash feature is one of the most useful things I've seen in some
time, even if it does increase noise a bit. The camera supports
a wide-angle conversion lens and filters, but no external flash
(something most of the competition can do). HP has one out of
their way to make this camera easy-to-use, and I'm not just talking
about the Instant Share system. I think the in-camera help system
and the camera manual should be examples for other manufacturers
few other complaints, if I may. I don't like how both the EVF
and LCD freeze up when you halfway press the shutter release
button. Combine this with occasional choppiness (especially with
the EVF), and you'll find that tracking a moving subject is frustrating.
Along those lines, action shots in burst mode are difficult,
as the EVF/LCD black out until the sequence is done. The 945's
movie mode is quite dated as well, with a 60 second limit for
below average-resolution movies.
the Photosmart 945 is a mixed bag. Worth looking at, but there
are better choices.
good photo quality in most cases
Instant Share system + software bundle
Flash feature actually lives up to the hype
can be used in low light
easy-to-use: in-camera help system and manual are excellent
wide-angle conversion lens + filters
I didn't care for:
above average purple fringing in images
weird image quality issues: lines in images + night shot troubles
slow write times
pause when shutter release pressed halfway
turn off during burst shooting (both of these make action shooting
can get choppy in low light (the tradeoff for being able to
use them in those conditions)
cable not included
zoom cameras are quite popular now, and there are many choices.
Here are some other models to consider: Fuji FinePix S5000 and S7000, Kodak
EasyShare DX6490, Minolta DiMAGE A1 and Z1, Nikon
Coolpix 5700, Olympus C-740 and C-750 Ultra
Lumix DMC-FZ10, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F717 and DSC-F828,
and the Toshiba
always, I recommend a trip down to your local retailer to try
out the Photosmart 945 and it's competitors before you buy!
how the photo quality stacks up in our photo
a review of the Photosmart 945 at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for
personal camera recommendations.