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HP R717 Digital Camera

HP R717 Digital Camera

Review of the HP R717 Digital Camera

Genius in high-tech gear design is making is making complicated and advanced technologies accessible with simple and intuitive interfaces. We think the HP Photosmart R717 accomplishes that in many ways. And more importantly, besides the easy controls, we found the R717 produces high-quality images by and large.

For your reference, here is a link to HP's official data sheet with full specifications on the R717.

Construction

Let's start with the outside: construction. The R717 weighs in at only 205g (7.2 oz), which makes it one of the lightest six megapixel digital cameras for its size. In comparison with similar digicams, the R717's lightness is probably due to its light and tiny lithium ion battery. With dimensions at 96 x 60 x 35 mm (3.8 x 2.4 x 1.4 in), and 202 cubic mm (ml), the R717 is not the smallest six megapixel digital camera, but it is small enough to slip easily into a pants pocket.

We like the sleek look of the brushed stainless steel on the front and left side of the R717. Brushed stainless steel on items such as appliances many times show fingerprints and smudges, but we hardly noticed any on this camera, perhaps due to a coating.

All the R717's controls are ergonomically and conveniently placed...so much so that we could access all the controls using just the right hand, from power on, to menu controls, to taking the photo. This can be a huge benefit when you have your left hand occupied and you need to take one-handed shots.


 

We found two flaws regarding construction. On the bottom of the camera is an open slot for the camera dock connector, indicated with the HomeGear-yellow arrow in the picture below. The slot allows you to connect the camera to the R-series dock. Inside the open slot, you will see exposed gold contacts on the green circuit board. You will also see spaces around the inside corners of the slot, which could let moisture and dirt inside the camera. Knowing this is a compact digicam, a good proportion of users will take this camera outside while doing many outdoor activities: hiking, biking, to sandy beaches, canoeing...you get the idea. The other construction flaw is quite minor. The rubber pull-out door protecting the USB and DC power connector too easily gets pulled out of the camera. Simple solution: the rubber piece just needs another two millimeters in width to help ensure it does not easily come out.

Genius camera?

The HP Photosmart R717 has many powerful features we found easy to use. HP calls some of the main features "HP Real Life technologies". First is Adaptive Lighting technology. This adjusts photos high-contrast photos to bring faces out of shadows and details out of backgrounds, according to HP.

Here is the results of our test shots using Adaptive Lighting. Click on the two images below to open a new window showing the image at full resolution. The first image below uses default, automatic settings without Adaptive Lighting. The shot is taken indoors, with natural light only. As you can see, behind the image is a bright background.

The second image uses the same default, automatic settings except with Adaptive Lighting. Now compare closely both images. Most obviously, on the first shot the surface of the mango has less color and visible detail. The table surface is dark without any easily visible detail. On the Adaptive Lighting shot, the mango's color is more saturated. Also, you can see the stripes of lighter grain on the dark wood surface.

When reviewing the specifications of the image, we were surprised to see that the shutter speed, F-stop and ISO settings were identical. Therefore, the R717 must have done image post-processing through software. Ok, could we have done a better job as quickly doing our own software post-processing in Photoshop?

To find out, in Photoshop we opened the first image, without Adaptive Lighting, and performed the Auto Contrast command. The image was still too dark. We then performed the Auto Levels command. No significant change. We then manually brightened the entire image to +11 and then to +17. Neither setting yielded good results. The colors began to be washed out and the sky in the background became too bright--the blues desaturated excessively. Of course we could spend more time to mask the dark portions of the image and do a better manual job of it, but this would take much more time and probably yield very similar results as HP's Adaptive Lighting, which takes an instant of time.

no Adaptive Lighting. Click here for full size image in new window.
No Adaptive Lighting. Click for full size image in new window.*

with Adaptive Lighting. Click here for full size image in new window.
With Adaptive Lighting. Click for full size image in new window.*

* After the new window pops up, move your mouse over the image. Soon, depending on your Internet connection speed, an orange square with blue arrows will appear. Click on it and the image will expand to 100% size.

Another user-friendly feature is in-camera red-eye removal. This has been a standard feature of compact digital cameras for years. HP's implementation works well removing red-eye under a variety of environments in our tests.

A third feature that makes the R717 more useful is their in-camera picture-specific help system they call HP Image Advice. As you may guess, take a photo and select Image Advice from the menu. The camera returns suggestions which can be quite helpful to help the novice learn how to tweak shots for optimal quality.

A fourth smart feature: auto-rotate. After downloading photos to your computer, don't you hate to spend time rotating photos to the correct orientation? One of the other neat features HP engineered into the R717 is an orientation sensor. This is actually an electro-mechanical device inside the camera which determines if the camera is being held vertically when a still picture is taken. If so, it will automatically rotate the image to its proper orientation when saving the file in the camera. We tested this and it works perfectly whenever the camera is held between 46° and -46°. When the camera rotates the picture, you will see the standard, extra black border on the right and left of the image on the camera's LCD screen.

The on-screen controls are consistently well-thought out throughout the interrface and a joy to use. For one exampe, after you take several photos and you wish to review the pictures, press one button and the LCD screen displays the last picture taken. Three clicks takes you to the delete choices. After deleting the image, the next picture you took is displayed. Now let's say that you want to delete this picture too. The joy is that as you use the menus to delete this picture, the camera remembers and selects your last choices, so you just click, click without scrolling.

For another example, let's say you are reviewing a shot's specs using the "info" menu selection. You are curious what the specs are of the previous three shots too. So just press the left arrow button and the specs of the previous shot will display now.

The R717 has 12 shooting modes, including a customizable mode, so users are able to unleash some manual creativity.

Packing a lot of powerful features in a digital camera is worthless if they are difficult to use or hard to access. HP has made a camera that makes complicated technology easy.

MPN: L2038A. UPC: 0829160782850

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Where to Buy
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