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DCRP Review: HP Photosmart R707  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 30, 2004
Last Updated: August 11, 2004

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If you think about innovation in digital photography, you probably think of Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, etc. But the truth is that HP is one of the few companies coming up with new and useful features for their cameras, instead of just dropping a higher resolution CCD into the same tired body this year. Their latest camera, the 5.1 Megapixel Photosmart R707 ($349) is a showpiece for HP innovation. Some of the cool features that you'll find on the R707 include:

  • In-camera redeye removal
  • Adaptive Lighting - a kind of "digital flash" that really works
  • In-camera panorama preview
  • Image Advice - analyzes your images and tells you how they can be improved
  • Instant Share - mark pictures for easy printing or e-mailing
  • Ability to undelete a photo you trashed

Of course, none of that matters if the camera doesn't take decent pictures. Find out how the R707 performed in our tests -- starting right now!

What's in the Box?

Before we begin, I should mention that there are several different models of the R707 going around. There's an R707, R707v, and R707xi (at least). Rest assured that the camera is always the same -- it's usually just a difference in the software bundle.

The Photosmart R707 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 5.1 effective Megapixel Photosmart R707 camera
  • R07 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • AC adapter / battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cables (one for computers, one for printers)
  • CD-ROM featuring HP Image Zone software
  • 191 page camera manual (printed)

The latest trend in digital cameras is to not bundle a memory card with the camera, instead hard-wiring memory right into the camera. The R707 has 32MB of on-board memory, of which 27MB is available for photo storage -- not a whole lot. So I recommend buying a memory card right away. The camera supports both SD and MMC memory cards, though I recommend the former due to its superior capacity and performance.

You won't need to buy a battery right away, as HP includes the R07 lithium-ion battery in the box. This compact battery doesn't have too much power -- just 3.8 Wh of energy -- but HP estimates an average of 200 shots per charge, which isn't too bad for a compact camera like this.

If you've been visiting this site for a while you know my position on proprietary batteries like the one used by the R707. For one, they're expensive -- buying another one (which I recommend) will set you back $50. My other complaint, that you cannot use alkaline batteries to get you through the day, isn't totally valid here. That's because the R707 supports Duracell's CP1 disposable battery. That would be all well and good if these batteries were readily available, but they're not -- at least not yet.

When it's time to charge the battery, plug in the included AC adapter. Charging takes a whopping 5 to 7 hours! The AC adapter can also be used to power your camera, thus saving the battery for when you really need it.


Optional dock. Note the video out, DC-in, and USB ports on the side


Another look at the dock plus its remote control

The optional Photosmart R-series dock ($79) is the best camera dock that I've seen -- it does it all. You can use it for charging the camera's battery, transferring photos to your Mac or PC, and playing back photos on your TV. Thanks to the included remote control, you can use the dock and your television from the comfort of your sofa. The remote lets you view photos, navigate the menus, tag photos for printing, and even do the "zoom and scroll" feature! Do note that the remote can only be used in playback mode. But wait -- there's more. The dock can charge a spare battery, too (see above photo), in about half the time as it would inside the camera.

The Photosmart R707 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens caps to worry about. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera.

Accessories for this compact camera are limited. You can purchase a quick recharge kit which includes an external charger, extra battery, travel pouch, and a camera case for $80. The quick charger takes just an hour to fully charge the R07 battery. The only other accessory is a premium camera case ($30) -- there are no lens accessories for this camera.

The area where HP's Photosmart cameras really shine is in the software department. HP's Image Zone Software is for Mac OS X and Windows. The Mac version is 7.1.9, while the Windows version is 3.5. 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.

Above is the main part of the software, known as HP Gallery, where you can view and edit photos, as well as send them to the other programs included in the package.

The software can do basic photo editing like adjusting contrast, sharpening/blurring, and removing redeye. You can crop and rotate photos as well.

The most impressive parts of the software package are the photo sharing tools. You can share photos via prints, online albums, e-mail, or even CDs, all using the HP software.

The software doesn't actually e-mail the photos to people anymore. Now it puts them on the web and sends the link to your recipients.

Printing photos is very easy as well, and there are all kinds of prints to choose from, ranging from albums to greeting cards.

If you've got a CD-R/RW drive, one of the coolest features it he ability to create a CD with your photos.

Using 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 camera.

The Photosmart R707'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.

Look and Feel

The Photosmart R707 is a compact camera with a stainless steel front and plastic back. If you have a stainless steel appliance then you know that these things love fingerprints and scratches -- so be sure to take care of your camera.

The camera is quite small and can fit into any pocket with ease. Most of the controls are easy to reach, though I'm on the fence about the R707's zoom controller (which you'll see in a moment). The dimensions of the camera are 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches / 98.5 x 60.0 x 35.3 mm (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs just 180 grams / 6.3 ounces empty. For the sake of comparison, the numbers for the Canon PowerShot S500 and Nikon Coolpix 5200 are 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches / 185 grams and 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches / 155 grams respectively.

Let's start our tour of the Photosmart R707 now, beginning with the front of the camera.

The R707 features an F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range on the lens is 8 - 24 mm, which is equivalent to 39 - 117 mm. The lens is not threaded.

Directly above the lens is the camera's microphone. To the right of that is the optical viewfinder and the AF-assist lamp (which helps the camera focus in low light situations).

To the upper-left of the lens, right next to the HP logo, is the built-in flash. The flash has a range of about 2.7 m at wide-angle and 1.5 m at telephoto (both at ISO 100). The typical flash recharge time is 6 seconds according to HP. You cannot attach an external flash to the R707.

The back of the camera is where you'll find most of the buttons on this camera.

But first, let's talk about the LCD. The R707 has a fairly small 1.5", but with almost 120,000 pixels, the resolution is very good. You can adjust the screen brightness in the setup menu. And speaking of brightness, the camera automatically brightens the screen in low light so you can see what you're shooting at. The image on the LCD is noisy and choppy in those situations, but I'm willing to make that tradeoff.

Up at the top of the photo is the R707's optical viewfinder, which is good-sized for a compact camera. It lacks a diopter correction feature, though, which is useful for those of us without perfect vision.

Now let's talk about the seven buttons that ring the LCD. I'm going to work my way from left to right. Here goes:

  • Focus (Normal, macro, infinity, manual)
  • Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, night)
  • Drive (Normal, self-timer, self-timer [2 shots], burst) - see below
  • Live view - shows the live image on the LCD
  • Playback - enters playback mode
  • Instant Share - tag a photo for e-mail, printing, website; more below
  • Print - tag a photo for printing


Manual focus (sorry some of these are so crummy)

Lots to talk about, starting with manual focus. In this mode, you'll use the up and down buttons on the four-way controller to set the focus just where you want it. Unfortunately it's not the best system out there, with a vague focus distance guide (see screenshot) and no center-frame enlargement that other many other cameras have.

The R707's burst mode can take up to four photos at 2.5 frames/second. It did take over 50 seconds for the camera to finish writing the images to the memory card, but the camera was still usable during that time.

Instant Share is one of the hallmark features of this and all recent HP cameras. You can tag pictures for e-mailing, printing, and transfer to websites. Just set up the destinations on your Mac or PC and you're set to go. When you tag a photo for e-mailing, the photo is later transferred to a website, and an e-mail is sent to the person you have selected telling them how to view that photo. You can tag photos for printing to an HP or any other PictBridge-enabled photo printer. Photos can also be uploaded directly to hpphoto.com or Shutterfly (for printing). All of this is super easy -- even my mom could do it.

And now back to our tour. To the right of the Instant Share and Print buttons it he four-way controller. This is used for menu navigation. Above that is the zoom controller, which you operate with your thumb. I'm not sure if I like the feel of it or not -- you'll need to try it yourself to decide. The zoom moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in under 1.2 seconds. I counted seven steps in the zoom range.

Just above-left from the zoom controller is the power switch.

There's not much to see on top of the camera.

The mode button on the left switches between the various operating modes on the R707. These include:

  • Auto
  • Action
  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Beach & snow
  • Sunset
  • Aperture priority
  • Panorama
  • Document
  • My Mode

The aperture priority mode is quite limited -- at any one time you can choose between just two apertures. So, at wide-angle, it's F2.8 or F4.8 (these will vary depending on the focal length). Not exactly my kind of manual control (how about a bigger range, and maybe shutter speed control too?).

The panorama mode is really cool. The camera helps you line up your shots and when you're done it gives you a preview of what it will look like when you get home and stitch it.

My Mode is where the non-beginner crowd will spend most of their time. You can choose your favorite settings and the camera remembers them (unlike in the other modes). By default the camera enters Auto mode when you turn on the camera, but you can change this in the menu system.

Next to the mode button is the microphone. Continuing to the right you'll find the shutter release and movie record buttons.

On this side of the R707, you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under a rubber cover. These include DC-in (for included AC adapter) and USB.

Notice that there's no A/V port on the camera. That means if you want A/V output, you must buy the $80 camera dock!

Nothing to see here!

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a plastic (I think) tripod mount, dock connection, memory card slot, and battery compartment.

The memory card / battery compartment is protected by a sturdy plastic door. As I mentioned at the start of this review, the R707 supports both SD and MMC memory cards.

The included R07 battery is shown at right.

Using the HP Photosmart R707

Record Mode

The R707 starts up very quickly, taking just 2.5 seconds to extends its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.


No histogram in record mode

Focusing speeds are about average, with a 0.5 - 0.8 second delay before focus is locked. The image on the LCD pauses slightly while this is going on. Low light focusing was good, thanks to the R707's AF-assist lamp. As I mentioned before, the LCD automatically brightens so you can see what you're pointing the camera at in dim lighting conditions.

Shutter lag was not an issue at fast shutter speeds, but you'll notice it when the shutter speed drops into "tripod territory".

Shot-to-shot speed is good, with a three second delay before you can take another shot. The camera always shows the photo you just took, so you may have to halfway press the shutter release button to get back to shooting quickly.

After 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 of audio.

The Photosmart R707 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.

Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the R707:

Resolution Quality # shots on internal memory
(approx 27MB)
5MP
2608 x 1952
**** 6
*** 10
** 17
* 32

3MP
2048 x 1536

**** 9
*** 16
** 26
* 45
1MP
1280 x 960
**** 22
*** 34
** 51
* 75
VGA
640 x 480
**** 88
*** 136
** 202
* 290

There's no TIFF or RAW mode available on this camera.

The camera names files as HPIMyyyy.JPG, where y = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering even if you erase the memory card.

HP has the best menu system of any digital camera. Period. It's so easy to use and there's actually a help system that explains what everything does. I hope the competition is taking notes. Here's what you'll find in the main menu:

  • Exposure compensation (-3EV to +3EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Image quality (5MP ***, 5MP **, 3MP **, 1MP **, VGA **) - there are five predefined choices or you can customize the quality by choosing the resolution and quality
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, manual) - shoot a white or gray card in manual mode for perfect color in any light
  • ISO speed (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • AE metering (Average, center-weighted, spot)
  • Adaptive lighting (Off, low, high) - see below
  • Color (Full color, black & white, sepia)
  • Saturation (Low, medium, high)
  • Sharpness (Low, medium, high)
  • Contrast (Low, medium, high)
  • AE bracketing (Off, ±0.3, ±0.7, ±1.0) - camera takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value
  • Date & time imprint (Off, date only, date & time)

The Adaptive Lighting feature is a kind of "digital flash" that you can use to bring out more detail in dark areas of your photo. In fact, this feature used to be called Digital Flash back on the Photosmart 945. The catch is that the brightened areas may appear noisy. While you can use it instead of the built-in flash, this is not recommended. Here's a quick example of how it well it works:


No adaptive lighting


Low adaptive lighting


High adaptive lighting

There's also a photo in the gallery in which I used low adaptive lighting -- it would've been pretty lousy otherwise.

While in My Mode, all of those menu items will have "My" before them. This is how you select what settings are your favorites.

In addition to the record menu, there's also a setup menu, with the following options:

  • Display brightness (Low, medium, high)
  • Camera sounds (Off, low, high)
  • Focus Assist Light (Auto, off)
  • Live View at Power On (on/off) - whether LCD is on when you start the camera
  • Date & Time (set)
  • USB configuration (Digital camera [PTP], disk drive [Mass Storage])
  • TV configuration (NTSC, PAL)
  • Language (English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch)
  • Reset settings

The Photosmart R707 actually has a full-fledged help menu -- wow! It has the following sections:

  • Top Ten Tips
  • Camera Accessories
  • Camera Buttons
  • Using Shooting Modes
  • Recording Audio Clips
  • Recording Video Clips
  • Reviewing Images and Video
  • Deleting Images
  • Sharing Images
  • Transferring Images
  • Printing Images
  • Managing Batteries
  • Getting Assistance
  • Camera Shortcuts

Kudos to HP for making this camera so user friendly!

Well enough about all that boring stuff, let's do photo tests now.

The R707 did a decent job with the macro test subject, though I'm not thrilled with the color accuracy. Both the reds and blues are darker than on the real life figurine. There's a bit of grain in the image as well. The camera's manual white balance came in handy, as I have 600W quartz lamps which often don't go over well with preset white balance values.

The focal range in macro mode is 14 - 90 cm at wide-angle and 50 - 100 cm at telephoto, which isn't terribly good.

The night shot was a bit frustrating to take. The camera only wanted to do a super-long exposure: in this case 12 seconds. That resulted in the overexposed image that you see above. There's no way to manually choose a shutter speed, so you're at the mercy of the R707's brain. This photo looks a lot better after a trip through Photoshop. Obviously your mileage may vary, but if you take a lot of photos like this, the R707 may not be the best choice.

The R707 has a really cool in-camera redeye reduction feature, which is actually located in the playback menu. Pick the photo, and the camera does some processing for a while and then the redeye is reduced! It's not perfect, but it's quicker than doing it yourself on your PC.


Before


After

Without using the reduction reduction feature, the camera picks up quite a bit of this annoying phenomenon (and that's with the redeye reduction preflash). But after using the redeye reduction system, it got rid of most, but not all of it. I'm very pleased to see this feature, and I hope more cameras offer it in the future.

The distortion chart shows moderate barrel distortion and no vignetting (dark corners).

Overall image quality on the Photosmart R707 was good, but not great. The main issue I have is noise: there's a lot of grain in the images, and some of it eats away at the details, giving photos a soft appearance. This doesn't really matter if you're making small prints, but for large prints or viewing on your computer screen, you'll certainly notice. Colors did look good, though, and purple fringing was not a problem.

Please have a look at our gallery and see if the photo quality meets your expectations. You are encouraged to print the photos, as well.

Movie Mode

The R707 can record video at 320 x 240 (30 frames/second) with sound until the memory card is full. To record, you use the dedicated video button on the top of the camera. Press it once to start, and a second time to stop.

You cannot use the zoom lens during filming, but you can position it before you begin.

Movies are saved in MPEG format.

Here's a quick sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (2.3MB, MPEG format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The R707 has a pretty snazzy playback mode, even if you don't include the Instant Share features that I discussed earlier. Basic features include audio captions, thumbnail mode, zoom and scroll, and slideshows (assuming you bought the dock). There is no image protection, though.

The magnification (what I call zoom and scroll) feature lets you blow up the picture (not sure how much exactly), and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It takes about four seconds for the R707 to blow up the image, but after that, it's smooth scrolling.

You can rotate photos with a push of the button.

I've already mentioned two of the coolest playback features: redeye reduction and panorama preview, but there's two more that'll really impressive you.

The first is HP Image Advice. This analyzes your photo and tells you ways in which you could improve it. Above is just one of many possible responses (50 to be exact). Other times it will say that your photo is just dandy.


Yes, you can really do this

Have you ever been reviewing photos when you deleted a photo accidentally? Usually cursing follows, and then depression. Well, worry no more -- the R707 lets you bring the previously-deleted photo back to life at the push of a button. The catch (there always is one) is that once you take another picture or turn off the camera, this option disappears.

By default, the R707 tells you nothing about the photos you've taken. If you want more information about your photos, choose the Image Info option in the playback menu.

Moving between photos is super fast -- it's basically instantaneous.

How Does it Compare?

The Photosmart R707 shares one thing with its ultra zoom brother, the 945: with a few changes this could be one of the best cameras out there. If HP improved the image quality and added a few manual controls, this would be the camera to beat. While other camera manufacturers are developing things like "image roulette" or putting tiny 6/7/8 Megapixel sensors into their cameras, HP's engineers are developing things that people actually need, like in-camera redeye reduction, image advice, photo undelete, and easy photo sharing. I hope the competition is taking notes.

One thing at a time though. The R707 has two major shortcomings: image quality and manual controls. While photo quality is decent and perfect for making smaller-sized prints, enthusiasts will be turned off by the above average noise levels. And while the camera has manual controls, the ones that matter are limited. Manual focus needs a better distance guide and center frame enlargement, and real aperture and shutter speed controls are badly needed (witness the night shot). Some other quibbles: the macro mode isn't so hot, and the dock is required if you want to view photos on a television.

There are so many other things that I love about this camera that I'll just list them off. When shooting in low light, the LCD amplifies the image on the screen so you can see it, and the AF-assist lamp helps the camera lock focus. The Instant Share system lets you tag photos for direct e-mailing, transfer to a web gallery, and printing through Shutterfly. The panorama assist feature helps you set up the shots and then gives you a live preview of the whole thing. A digital flash feature, known as Adaptive Lighting, helps bring out details in dark areas -- and it really works. And I love, love, love all the in-camera help systems -- this is a great camera for beginners. The redeye reduction feature works fairly well, but is not going to totally eliminate this annoyance. Image Advice gives you hints about improving your photos, with 50 possible answers! Finally, the image undelete feature is handy if you accidentally trash an important photos.

Did I mention that this camera only costs $349? Quite a deal if you ask me, though you'll have to factor in a memory card and extra (pricey) battery into that. The $80 dock is useful too, but is not a requirement unless you want to view photos on your TV.

The R707 is a nice camera for beginners or those who do prints smaller than 8 x 10 inches. Enthusiasts will probably find better image quality on other cameras.

What I liked:

  • Decent image quality
  • Lots of cool toys for under $350
  • Excellent Instant Share system + software bundle
  • Useful Adaptive Lighting feature
  • Can undelete last photo taken
  • LCD can be used in low light
  • In-camera redeye reduction feature
  • AF-assist lamp
  • Very easy-to-use: in-camera help system and manual are excellent
  • Image Advice tells you had to improve your photos
  • Can use Duracell CP1 disposable battery -- if you can find one
  • Cool (but optional) camera dock

What I didn't care for:

  • Noisy images
  • Limited manual controls
  • Unimpressive macro mode
  • Lengthy write times
  • To get video out you must buy the dock
  • Slow battery charging

Some other compact 5+ Megapixel cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot S500, Casio QV-R51, Fuji FinePix F450 (coming Fall 2005), Kodak EasyShare LS753, Konica Minolta DiMAGE G600 (6MP), Nikon Coolpix 5200, Olympus C-60Z (6MP), Pentax Optio 555, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P100 and DSC-W1.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local retailer to try out the Photosmart R707 and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality stacks up in our photo gallery!

Want another opinion? How about more?

Read more reviews of the Photosmart R707 at Steve's Digicams and dcviews.

Buy it now

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.