HP Photosmart R707


7 Oct 2004

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Product: Digital camera
Price: €446.50

As one of the world’s largest printer manufacturers it was no surprise when Hewlett-Packard (HP) entered the complementary and fast-growing digital photography market a few years back. HP now offers an extensive range of cameras, running from the cheap and cheerful to the mega-powerful and expensive professional jobs. The HP Photosmart R707 falls towards the higher end of the market, in the space occupied by prosumer cameras.

The R707 is an average-sized compact camera. It is reasonably light, at 208 grams including battery. At 98mm x 60mm, its profile is only a little larger than a credit card, though its girth of 36mm (nearly one and a half inches) is substantial. The 5.1MP camera also features the following features: 24 x zoom (3x optical and 8x digital); 32MB internal memory with an expansion slot for SD/MMC cards; 1.5-inch LCD screen and a video-capture facility.

With battery life and cost such a major issue with digicams, HP is to be commended for including a rechargeable lithium ion battery as standard with the R707 (a Duracell CP1 disposable battery can also be used). A recharger unit does not come with the camera, however. The options are to buy either a recharger kit or a docking unit incorporating a charging bay.

The dock is worth considering because it allows you to recharge two batteries at once: one in the camera while docked, the other in the dock’s charging bay. With the camera sitting in the dock, moreover, pictures can be transferred to a PC, emailed, printed out, or viewed on a TV (using the dock’s accompanying remote control).

All of these functions are of course possible without the dock but HP clearly hopes the convenience of the dock will appeal to users. HP could well be right — what digicam user hasn’t played back pictures on a TV while squatting on the floor using the controls on the back of a camera?

On the face of it then, the R707 has plenty going for it. In pure design terms, however, it is a bit of a let down. Yes, its brushed steel front looks the part but overall it does not have the finish quality of many of its competitors. In car terms it’s not quite a Lada but not a Porsche either; it’s more of a Daewoo.

The indifferent design is most apparent on the back, where the LCD is a smaller-than-average 1.5 inches and the various control buttons are disappointingly small and plasticky.

That said, the controls are intuitive for the most part and users should find it easier to locate and change menu options on this device compared to many others. For example, as you press the shooting mode button on top of the camera, 10 different modes (eg, sports, landscape, red eye) are displayed in turn on the screen. You simply stop at the one you want to automatically select. Another plus is having a dedicated video- capture button alongside the shutter. Also worth mentioning is an excellent in-camera help menu that supplements the exhaustive printed manual.

As with any digital camera, print quality is all important and the R707 did not disappoint. The lens is razor sharp at all focal lengths, a high degree of clarity that carries through to the prints themselves.

The machine comes with the usual software for viewing images on a PC as well as a power cable and two USB cables for connecting to PC and printer.

In summary, in terms of performance and features, the R707 compares favourably with most other cameras in its class. It is let down, however, by an indifferent design and finish that may not sit well with the more style-conscious user.

The R707 costs €446.50 incl. Vat or, bundled with the docking station, €543 incl. Vat.

By Brian Skelly