HP Photosmart R967 Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
Outstanding simplicity describes this camera's usability well. There are a few buttons and its interface is not only simple - it is self explanatory, literally. The HP R967 is equipped with a two-level self-describing menu system which is so well done that the lack of a printed manual with the camera is completely forgivable. After all, most people do not carry the manual with them while taking pictures, but the camera can explain itself quite well.
At the center of the 4-way controller is the Menu/OK button. Pressing it enters the menu system where the sideways arrows choose from 5 menu sections: capture, playback, design gallery, setup and help. Each section contains a list of vertically arranged functions. Once a function is highlighted using the Up/Down arrows, the Left/Right arrows are used to iterate through specific options. As options are changed, short explanations appear below. This is the first level of explanations. To exit the menu system, either partly press a shutter button or press the Camera/Play on top of the camera. The second explanation level is reached by pressing the OK/Menu button when a function is highlighted. This changes the display to a list of options with longer explanations and simple example photos. Additionally, there is an entire menu section devoted to help. It includes a description of all camera buttons, all camera modes, photography tips and information on HP services.
With simplicity come some inefficiencies which affect certain types of photography. As described above, the camera is self-explanatory. However, it is not organized for frequent and rapid changes. Most people who simply point and shoot may not notice the impact of this. Direct access is given to flash mode (auto, on or off) and focus mode (normal, macro, auto-macro, infinity and manual) via buttons at the top of the camera. The 4-way controller allows changing of the camera mode and aperture/shutter-speed when applicable. Every other capture related setting requires a trip through the menu system. This unfortunately includes exposure compensation (minimum 6 presses), ISO (minimum 8 presses) , white-balance (minimum 10 presses) and self-timer (minimum 4 presses). If only HP had sorted the menu by frequency of use! Each trip through the menu system starts back at the top, so experimenting with various options of a single setting can be long. The menu does stay up after a setting is changed, so multiple settings can be changed with one pass through the menu system.
Since the HP Photosmart R967 does not have a command wheel, the 4-way controller is used when changing exposure parameters. Using the sideways keys, one selects the setting to be changed. Then, the vertical keys scroll though the different values of the setting. Since there are at most 3 settings to be changed (mode, aperture, shutter-speed), this system is quite efficient. Note that attempting to change the mode actually jumps into the menu system's second-level help.
The last thing to say about setting this digital camera is that it has a selective memory. Certain settings, like image resolution, sharpness, saturation and contrast, are permanently remembered, including after turning off the camera. Other settings, like exposure-mode, flash-mode, ISO, white-balance and focus-mode are reset each time the camera is powered off. This can get annoying for some people, specially when it results in the flash unintentionally firing. Also, the self-timer resets itself after every single use, plus it requires a trip into the menu system to set it back each time. Finally, the camera retracts its lens when playback mode is entered for more than a few seconds. When that happens, the camera forgets its zoom position. Therefore, to obtain several shots with identical framing but different settings, the settings have to be changed rapidly enough to not let the camera retract the lens.
There are two shutter buttons on the R967. One is a standard two-stage shutter for taking photographs. When pressed halfway, it locks its focus and exposure. When fully-pressed, it takes the picture. This shutter is large enough and ergonomically placed. The second shutter is a single stage shutter for recording videos. It is somewhat small and recessed, making it harder to use than the other shutter button. There is halfway press for this one, so pressing it once starts the recording, pressing it again stops it. On top of the camera, above the LCD, are 5 buttons level with the camera. The leftmost two are for changing flash and focus mode. The middle button is for accessing integration functions such as print, share and buy online. The next button to the right normally switches between capture and playback mode but also serves to exit the menu system. The rightmost flat button is the power button. Since all these buttons are flat and against each other, you may have to shift your camera position to be sure to press the right one.
The 4-way controller is on the back of the camera along with the menu/OK button, at its the center. Also on the back, there is an oddly shaped zoom controller. The directional controls are fairly ordinary with a positive clicking sensation. The zoom controller is easy to use by rocking your thumb, except when the camera is in portrait orientation.
The only viewfinder on the HP Photosmart R967 is a large and bright 3" LCD. Visibility is superb and works well in both direct sunlight and low-light situations. In low-light, however, the display does become extremely grainy. This LCD has a viewing angle of 170 degrees both horizontally and vertically. Framing and checking details is easy with such a large LCD. It can also be used to follow a moving subject, although it appears to have a slow refresh rate. Unfortunately, the LCD becomes blank when using the continuous drive. In bracketing mode, the LCD shows each picture shortly after it is taken.
The bottom of this camera includes a poorly placed tripod mount and an extremely flimsy compartment door. Off to the side, the tripod mount places the camera's weight away from the tripod center. Since the shutter release is on the opposite side of the camera, it is easy to cause vibrations when shooting from a tripod without the self-timer. The compartment door covers both battery and memory. There is a tiny latch holding the battery in place which makes it difficult to remove the battery. This is not a serious problem since the battery is charged inside the camera.
On the front of the R967, you will find the lens, a flash and an indentation. The flash is located directly above the indentation which serves reasonably well as a finger grip. Thanks to this grip, the camera can be held securely, but the included wrist-strap provides even greater security. When rotating the camera in portrait orientation clockwise, care must be taken not to block the flash. Rotating the camera counterclockwise makes it a bit more difficult to zoom-out. Speaking of portrait shots, the camera annoyingly rotates the preview shots on the LCD display during image review. This means that after each shot in portrait mode, the camera must be rotated to see it correctly oriented. Normally, this automatic rotation should be saved for normal image playback but not for review.
HP R967 Facts
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