HP Photosmart R817 review
This is my first digital camera although I have occasionally used other people's gear (Canon compact, Minolta dSLR) since 1995. I got it in August 2005 and simply put, it is excellent. The panorama mode is a joy to use, and so far has only failed me once. The HP software makes processing pix and storing them on computer a doddle; it compares fairly well to MS Picture It! Photo 7.0. Where one would creatively fiddle say with hue & saturation controls on Picture It!, HP offers several ready-made choices, which is fine for most of my needs. On one occasion, Picture It! was able to remove red eye where HP could not.
Having no viewfinder is not much of a problem except in strong sunlight when it is impossible to see much on the display even when at its brightest setting.
The lens is a Pentax and works wonders but its built-in cover is flimsy and might not provide adequate protection. I found a fingerprint on the lens practically as soon as I unpacked it. The only drawback is that when the camera is turned on, the lens slides out wide-angled instead of neutral (what would be ca 50mm on 35mm). So you have to bring it into position by the zoom button on the back, and that is fiddly since you have to watch the progress on display and hit the tiny mark on a scale. A bit of a job in sunlight. My verticals lean in far too often (complex lens with barrel effect) because it is so easy to forget & check properly. The lens has no thread, so no filters or hood can be attached, making glare quite often unavoidable esp. with pans.
Another little quibble: The camera comes with a wrist strap which is not adjustable. The loop would be more than enough for Schwarzenegger's paw but it dangles freely around mine.
The cam is so packed with features, mostly unnecessarily for you get it all and better with the installation software anyway, that playing with facilities while shooting eats up the battery rather fast. What with power zoom and all.
Apart from a spare battery to be on the safe side, a reasonable SD card for capacity is necessary.
But that is all quibbles: As far as I am concerned, this Photosmart is brilliant.
Despite several attempts, so far I have been unable to update the software online. HP working on it? Not sure. It does not work on my laptop even though it is an HP.
While travelling & not using it for a week, the cam went dead on me. I had started out with battery fully charged & could not see why it should go flat (unused, it is supposed to keep charge for 2 months!). I passed through airport security twice, and thought there might be a problem there so I raised it online with HP. They were not aware of anything & the only advice I got was to recharge for full 12-15 hours.
Another instance of battery failure happened during a four-hour drive in freezing conditions when the camera was in the boot. It had been fully charged but only managed to start up & promptly die on arrival. I am having now some serious doubts about the advantages of lithium-ion cells, and would probably opt for simple AAs if I could.
NB: June 2006 - a firmware update has come my way to fix this particular issue. So I cannot have been the only one having trouble! Frankly, this should be done in-house since it is quite a cumbersome job. An auto-maker would make a recall but what do you want for the money you paid for your camera!
The software is excellent for organizing pictures yet has its problems too. It has repeatedly kept an added caption under another photograph (resolved by going into edit mode & saving again); once I lost the original negative of a heavily reworked picture; and the vault automatically storing original negs contains stuff that should not be there while I cannot see pix which I thought were safely placed in it.
When using more than just simple automatic mode, the display may get cluttered with plethora of symbols. This interferes with properly framing the shot.