In a welcome move away from HP's previously rather clumsy-looking and bulky cameras, the R707 is small and stylish without being ostentatious, and seems incredibly well built. The front of the camera is clad with a single piece of brushed stainless steel that curves around the left hand side of the body and incorporates HP's new design signature; the 'wave'- designed to offer the same function as a handgrip without the bulk. The rest of the body is covered in a silky-smooth rubberized high impact plastic that adds to the quality feel of what is, after all, a very competitively-priced camera. Kudos to HP for putting so much effort into the design and construction of the R707, let's hope this attention to detail is maintained as the entire range is updated over the next few months.

In your hand

The R707 is surprisingly comfortable in your hand, with the subtle moulding of the front plate offering considerably more secure single-handed operation than appearances might suggest. The two controls most used in everyday snapping - the shutter release and zoom rocker - are perfectly positioned, though I felt more comfortable supporting the camera with both hands as operating the zoom meant relaxing my grip. There are eight other clearly marked buttons on the rear, plus a 4-way controller and the power switch. At 180g the R707 is weightier than it looks, which helps keep the camera stable when shooting. One minor point - the R707 can get mighty warm in continuous use, something you need to bear in mind if you want the best possible image quality (noise increases as the camera temperature rises).

Body elements

The R707 has a combined SD/MMC and battery slot (fortunately the battery is held in with a latch so no chance of losing it when changing cards. Although no card is supplied in the box. The camera can handle any SD or MMC card from 8MB to 2GB. The battery is a L1812A Lithium Ion that is recharged in-camera, and - if you can find one anywhere - the camera can also use a Duracell CP1 disposable cell. In our tests battery life with the supplied rechargeable was excellent.
The optical viewfinder is a standard direct view affair that is really too small for regular use. And if you wear spectacles, forget it; there's no dioptric adjustment and you'll never see the entire frame with your glasses on. The upper LED (red) lights up during movie capture, the lower (green) LED glows when the camera is ready to take a picture, or blinks to indicate a focus problem or flash not charged. I'd prefer a separate indicator for flash and focus readiness, but this is a minor niggle.
The LCD monitor is a fairly typical 1.5-inch 119,000 pixel affair, it's sharp and bright with sufficient resolution, and the refresh rate is significantly better than earlier HP models. My only complaint is that screen is turned off after about 30 seconds (something you can't change) to save batteries. The camera can be woken up by half-pressing the shutter, but the live preview has to be re-activated by pressing the record button, an unnecessary extra step.
HP's new design 'signature' is a wave-shaped indent moulded into the front of the camera to improve grip. It adds a little flair to the design and certainly seems to do the job without adding to the bulk of the body. The brushed steel cladding looks and feels very luxurious, but we found it quite easy to scratch, and inevitably it shows every greasy fingerprint. If you like your camera to look clean you'll be wiping the fascia with your T-shirt every 10 minutes.
In a move we struggle to understand (also seen on Canon's new PowerShot S1 IS) there are two shutter releases - one for stills, the other for movies (it only works when the camera is set to movie mode). The results from the R707's movie mode are certainly impressive, which makes the fact that I kept pressing the 'wrong' capture button whenever I tried to use it doubly annoying. Another minor niggle is the main stills capture button, which could be more responsive.