HP Photosmart R817 review

£165
Price when reviewed

It’s clear from the aggressive pricing that HP is serious about taking on Canon for supremacy of the compact digital market. And, at £34 cheaper than the IXUS 55 (see above), the R817 should give serious pause for thought to those new to digital photography.

Image quality from the R817 was generally good – the 5.1-megapixel CCD and 5x optical zoom from Pentax means you can hone in on details from a distance, but we noticed significant noise at all ISO settings.

There are some fine features though, and in some cases they’re better than those on the IXUS 55. The Sports mode decreases shutter times for crisper action shots, while several bracketing modes allow you to take three quick shots with the camera adjusting either exposure, colour effects or adaptive lighting.

Continuous shooting mode is a let-down, though – the frame rate is two per second, but the R817 can take only four burst shots at a time, comparing poorly to the IXUS, which is limited only by the size of the memory card.

But not only are there shutter and aperture priority modes, there’s full manual control too. There’s even a manual focus of sorts: the middle of your subject is magnified, and the up and down buttons on the rear can be used to increase and decrease the focus distance.

Both the Canon and HP cameras have an equivalent focal length of about 35mm at their widest, with HP’s macro feature comparable to the IXUS. We could focus well on subjects about 3cm from the end of the lens, although quality wasn’t as crisp as Canon’s.

Start-up time is a little long. Whereas the IXUS 55 takes about one-and-a-half seconds to be ready to shoot, the HP isn’t warmed up until three-and-a-half seconds have elapsed.

Ergonomically, the R817 takes some getting used to. The zoom button is where your thumb naturally lies when framing a shot, leading to accidental zooms. It’s also undeniably chunkier than the IXUS 55.

There’s no arguing with the quality of the R817’s features. But with the IXUS 55 offering superior image quality in a smaller package, it isn’t difficult to justify the extra cash.

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