HP Photosmart R717

If you’re a beginner to photography, the 6.2-megapixel HP Photosmart R717’s unique help features will help you expand your comfort zone. And when you’re ready, a smattering of manual controls will let you expand your creative horizons.

The R717 feels well-constructed, with a stainless-steel front, subtly sculpted for a comfortable grip. The 1.8-inch LCD is bright and clear, and menus are very easy to read and navigate. Like many of the new HP cameras, the R717 includes a system designed to help beginners along. Help messages explain settings and a Help menu provides tips and other useful information (such as guides to camera buttons and shortcuts). An Image Advice feature analyzes your images after you take them and offers suggestions for improvement, such as which mode to use, or when to use exposure compensation or the flash.

In Auto mode, you can point and shoot. Scene modes include the typical Landscape and Portrait, along with less common ones, such as Document and Museum (which turns off the flash and mutes camera sounds for shooting in quiet places). Macro mode lets you focus to six inches. My Mode lets you save a collection of settings you define, including tweaks to saturation, sharpness, and contrast. The manual controls are limited, but aperture priority mode lets you set aperture directly, and you can also adjust exposure compensation, white balance (including custom white balance), and ISO. You adjust exposure compensation via a menu; unfortunately, this is one time when the help message is an intrusion and makes changes difficult to judge.

The R717 excels at taking panoramic images. In panorama mode, the camera provides a transparent overlay of the left third of your previous image to help you align it with the next shot. You can stitch as many as five images together, and the included Image Zone software does an impressive job of assembling the images on your computer.

I didn’t have a problem with red-eye, but an in-camera feature is supposed to let you fix red-eye-ridden shots after you take them. Adaptive Lighting technology brings out detail in your shadows, but it can also lose detail in your highlights.

The HP Photosmart R717’s startup time is about three seconds, and shutter lag is very noticeable. After you’ve taken a few images back-to-back, you’ll wait helplessly while the green processing light flashes and that once-in-a-lifetime moment comes to an end. I snapped three shots in burst mode in under two seconds, a respectable continuous shooting speed, but then twiddled my thumbs for about 25 seconds while the camera wrote the images to memory.

The color in the images I took with the R717 was very good, and the detail was good. The ISO ranges from 50 to 400, but noise becomes noticeable at 200 ISO.

Video capture is limited to a low-resolution 320-by-240 pixels at 30 frames per second, and the resulting movies are dark and grainy. The audio, however, is excellent—very clear with virtually no hiss—and is useful for annotating images. If you continue holding down the shutter after taking a still image, audio recording begins automatically (you’ll need the Image Zone software to play your clips).

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The HP Photosmart R717 is a good choice for beginners who want some hand-holding, but its manual controls are limited.

Jury Tests

Color Quality—Accuracy Very Good
Clarity—Detail Good
Clarity—Artifacts, Noise Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

Specifications

Resolution 6.2 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length 3x Optical (39mm to 117mm)
Maximum Aperture f2.8-f4.9
Size (wxhxd) 3.88 inches x 1.39 inches x 2.36 inches
Weight 6.35 ounces

[ Robert Ellis is a photography enthusiast with a growing collection of digital cameras. He is a frequent contributor to Macworld and maintains the blog Futurosity.]

HP Photosmart R717

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