A miracle cure? Redeye removal camera comparison
Everybody talks about redeye, but (other than that nasty preflash thing) nobody has done anything about it. Until now. These two digital compacts are the first to use software as virtual visine. Does it work? First, let's test the cameras...
HP downsizes & upgrades the 5-shooter
An update of the well-regarded Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 935 (reviewed October 2003), the $350 R707 is a clean-sheet design in a more compact body with a striking metal face plate.
Despite its slab-sided appearance, the R707 has enough subtle curves-notably the finger rest on the front, and the thumb indentation on the back-to give it a nicely ergonomic feel. The rubberlike charcoal-gray cladding on the back may look forbidding, but we like it. It prevents reflective glare from the camera back when you use the viewfinder.
While the HP finder has higher magnification (larger image) and a bigger exit pupil (disappearing image if you don't keep your eye centered) than the Nikon, the image is a bit blurry at all focal lengths. We'd also like a bigger LCD monitor than the 1.5-inch one on the R707.
Control buttons are arrayed neatly around the top and right side of the LCD, which keeps them out of the way of your left hand but still within easy reach. The zoom toggle is cleverly located in the thumb indentation.
The R707 is essentially an automatic. Besides plain-vanilla auto, you can use a top button to scroll through nine other auto modes including panorama stitching and a user-setting memory. Aperture-priority is the bare-bones variety with a choice of only two f-stops (i.e., big and small) at any focal length. And exposure compensation must be accessed through the menu. Like many cameras, the R707 goes automatically into digital zoom at the top limit of the
optical zoom, but unlike many cameras, you can't lock out digital zoom.
The menu system is a strong point. The screens are crowded but readable, and with one additional button press you can call up contextual help for any control on the menu. A separate help menu is concise and written in plain English.
Besides in-camera redeye removal, the R707 has another software fix. Called Adaptive Lighting, this setting will, on the fly, brighten the shadows in a contrasty scene to bring them closer to the highlights. You can select two levels of shadow brightening. The fix adds about two seconds to the image processing time, but the camera has sufficient buffer that it doesn't add to the click-to-click time (about 2 sec) unless you are taking pictures fast enough to fill up the buffer. (In our shooting, this took about five frames.)
The fix works very nicely. HP does warn that you may see some noise in brightened shadows; we found the noise levels at ISO 100 weren't much higher than what was already there.
The HP's autofocus uses a wide-area central AF zone, with pretty good sensitivity to horizontal as well as vertical/oblique detail, although it would occasionally be fickle.The HP also uses a hard-working Li-ion rechargeable-it's the same size and capacity as the Nikon's, although they are not interchangeable.
Images from the R707 show extremely high resolution, about average for a 5.1MP camera, and decent contrast. Color accuracy was remarkably good-the best score of any camera to date-but noise proved a buzzy fly in the ointment. It was already moderate at ISO 100, quickly hit the threshold of unacceptable at 200, and was really bad at ISO 400.
Conclusion: Stylish camera solves two vexing gremlins for snapshooters.