HP Photosmart R967 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
There are two main parts to performance: image quality and speed of operation. Image quality is defined in terms of exposure, color, sharpness, focus, noise, distortions, aberrations, contrast and dynamic range. The HP Photosmart R967 exposes its image conservatively, reducing the chances of blown highlights. Photographically speaking, this produces more vibrant and dramatic pictures. The flip side is that a main subject may appear darker than expected without using exposure compensation. This digital camera has an exposure compensation range from -3 to +3 EV, controllable in 1/3 EV steps. HP seems to have listened to its reviewers here which have criticized the older 8 megapixels R927 to produce slightly overexposed images.
Color saturation is adjustable in three steps. The default setting produces nicely saturated colors which have consumer appeal without appearing artificial. The other two settings produce either more naturally saturated colors or overly saturates ones. The colors themselves appear quite accurate in all types of lighting. This camera appears to have an extremely accurate white-balance which performs better under artificial lighting than anything we have seen so far. White-balance is equally accurate outdoors, even at sunset and nighttime.
The camera's lens seems to resolve details acceptably well but its 10 megapixels sensor can capture more detail than the lens transmits. Resulting images have plenty of details but show some softness when seen at 100%. Remember that a 10 megapixels sensor can normally produce highly-detailed 13" x 19" prints. With a little softness, good resolution 12" x 16" prints are still possible. This camera's focus system seems above average in speed and accuracy and it is intelligent enough to let you know when macro-focus is needed or when the subject is too close.
Noise levels are clearly this camera's greatest weakness. The bad news is that a fine noise pattern is clearly visible at all ISO sensitivities. The good news is that noise increases slower than normal with increased sensitivities. Overall, ISO 100 is substantially noisier than average, ISO 200 is moderately noisier and ISO 400 is a bit noisier. Under bright conditions, the pattern of noise is rather fine and mostly composed of luminance-noise until ISO 200. At ISO 400, chroma-noise becomes visible. Thanks to its high-resolution sensor, this fine noise is not visible on medium-sized prints up to 12" x 9". Under low-light, noise levels increase substantially. ISO 100 and 200 noise is slightly visible on 8" x 10" prints, while ISO 400 noise is visible on 5" x 7" prints.
Optical quality is reasonably good with the HP Photosmart R967. There is a slightly noticeable amount of barrel distortion near the wide-angle side of the lens. There is absolutely no vignetting to be seen. Slight chromatic aberrations can be seen throughout the R967's images near areas of overexposure. Luckily, this camera's metering system rarely overexposes highlights, making chromatic aberrations an occasional occurrence.
Dynamic range and contrast are both handled well in this camera. Its metering does favor highlight detail rather than shadow detail which helps reduce the visibility of noise. Contrast is adjustable in three steps, which brings in more or less dynamic range into the photograph.
Speed of operation is good and an intelligent buffering system lets the camera remain usable during most operations. The shutter-lag is very short when prefocused. Focus speeds are about average except in macro, when it slows down the closer the subject. It appears that the camera performs some adaptive processing since shot-to-shot delays increase with slower shutter-speeds. Under bright conditions, shot-to-shot speeds are excellent, with several shots possible per second. Under low-light, shot-to-shot delays can increase to just above one second, which is about average. It takes about one second for the LCD view to reappear after a shot is taken. However, the camera's buffering system allows shots to be fired before that. When three shots have been taken but not yet written, another shot cannot be taken but menus remain usable. The zoom control also moves the lens at above average speeds.
Even though the built-in flash is quite powerful, it recharges very fast. Several bursts can be fired without delay. After that, it takes 1-2 seconds to recharge. Recharging times may increase when battery levels are low. The menu system and buttons respond instantly. Image review and menus appear fast and can be dismissed rapidly with a press of the shutter. In playback mode, you can move between images at a good speed which is accompanied by a sliding animation which gives the illusion of rapid movement. Zooming into an image causes an initial delay while the full-resolution image is loaded. After that, zooming and scrolling is very fast.
The HP Photosmart R967 is an intriguing camera to recommend. Image quality is good except for noise levels which are mostly noticeable in large prints or low-light photography. White-balance is superb with automatic white-balance handling most types of lights, including mixed indoor lighting. Colors and exposure are well calibrated for consumer appeal and avoiding overexposure. This ultra-compact camera is well built and packed with advanced features including full-manual controls. This, together with its speedy performance, awards it a good rating.
It is this camera's target audience which is not so clear. On one hand, there is a complete built-in help system aimed at beginners. On the other, the are advanced controls using a simple but inefficient interface. Users of advanced functions normally demand an efficient interface and persistent camera controls. However, the R967 tends to forget most settings like its exposure-mode, ISO setting and flash-setting. It also requires a significant number of button-presses to change common settings like ISO and exposure compensation.
Overall, this camera is usable for general photography but specific conditions will challenge it. Particularly, low-light hand-held photography requires high-ISO capabilities and action photography requires either an optical viewfinder or that the LCD stays on during continuous shooting. In sum, the HP Photosmart R967 is recommended for beginners who rarely use advanced features for general outdoor and family photography.
HP R967 Facts
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