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HP Photosmart 735 Digital Camera Review
Introduction: This is a 3.2MP digital camera from HP, with a 3x Optical 5.8mm - 17.4mm zoom lens from Pentax. The camera features video recording with sound. There's a 1.5" colour screen on the back. The camera has 16mb built in. The camera handily takes AA batteries, and can take more memory in the form of a SD/MMC memory card. There are also some "on-camera manual controls for more creative shots" - eg aperture settings, iso settings, white balance etc. The camera has an RRP of £149 including VAT, but can be found on-line new from around £100 (check latest price at Amazon.co.uk). The camera size and weight is 105 x 46 x 71mm, 235g without batteries. HP's introduction goes like this:

"This stylish, full-featured camera represents excellent value for money, with up to 3.2 MP resolution. Its quality Pentax® lens provides 15x total zoom (3x optical, 5x digital) for outstanding clarity. Includes 16 MB internal memory (expandable). • Take a photo straight from your camera and choose where it will go the next time the camera is connected to the PC. HP Instant Share provides a suite of photo services that help easily share precious moments – no attachments, no slow downloads. • The HP Photosmart 735 features a range of intuitive functions for recording unlimited video with audio (depends on internal or SD/MMC memory capacity). Filming has never been easier."

Fairly typical marketing talk, how can they garantee "no slow downloads" for example? But that's just me being picky. Whats more important, is Image Quality, Ease of use, etc, whether it is actually as easy to use as HP want you to believe - and whether the image quality and camera as a whole performs as well as other cameras available. You may want the latest 5/6/8MP digital camera, but a 3mp/3x Optical zoom camera is much closer to your budget, especially as this may be your first digital camera - lets see how it performs.

Full specifications and further details can be found on the HP site.

The Camera: It's a bit bulky and feels heavy, it's larger than the Pentax PC-550 35mm, that I use as a size comparison.


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on - lens extended.


Back - On/Off at the top, on the left is the optical viewfinder, on the right is the wide/telephoto zoom control. On the left next to the screen, is the Photo / Play / Share buttons, and on the right of the screen is the up, ok, and down buttons. On the far right is the SD memory cover.


Top - Flash, Quality, Mode, LCD display, Video button, and shutter release.


Bottom, under the camera is the tripod mount under the lens. On the left is the battery compartment, and at the bottom is the connection for the optional HP docking station


Left Side - under the cover is the SD/MMC card slot. There is also the camera strap loop.


On this side is the connections cover, and under that is the DC-In, Computer connection (usb), and the TV-out.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax Optio 30 (another 3mp/3x Optical camera), and a 35mm Pentax PC-550.


As you can see, the HP 735 appears quite large when compared to the Pentax Optio 30.

Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic

The optical viewfinder is quite small (at the back - it looks big at the front), but still usable, and zooms in when you use the optical zoom on the camera.


On the top of the HP is the silver two-step shutter release button - the video button is just next to that. The LCD is on the top, and next to that are 3 buttons, mode, quality, and flash.

Specifications:

  • 3.34 MP (2140 x 1560 total pixel count)
  • 3.8 cm (1.5 inch) TFT colour backlit
  • 5.8 to 17.4 mm (35 mm equivalent: 38 - 114 mm) 3x Optical Zoom Pentax Lens
  • f2.6 to f4.9 (wide), f5.0 to f9.0 (telephoto)
  • Macro, normal mode
  • 5x Digital Zoom
  • 16mb internal memory
  • Auto focus, auto exposure, auto flash, red-eye reduction, night mode flash, manual controls
  • Video clip feature (320x240/20fps with sound)

Full Specifications can be found on HP site.

Box Contents:

  • Camera
  • Wrist Strap
  • 2 AA batteries
  • USB cable for camera to pc
  • USB cable for camera to printer
  • User's Manual
  • Dock insert for use with options HP Photosmart 8886 camera dock
  • CD with HP Photo & Imaging software

Features / Options: The main modes are: Photo, Play, Share, (all accessible from the left of the screen), and Video mode (button next to the shutter release).

In Photo mode you can choose from the following modes by pressing the mode button next to the lcd screen on the top: Normal, Self-Timer, Burst, Macro, Action, Lanscape, Portrait, F2.6 Aperture, F4.9 Aperture (aperture options are the same in wide/telephoto).

In Photo mode you also have the following settings available by pressing the OK button: EV Compensation (+2/-2 in 0.5 steps), White Balance (auto/sun/shade/tungsten/Flourescent), ISO Speed (Auto/100/200/400), AE Metering (Average/Centre-weighted/Spot), Saturation (high/medium/low), Sharpness (high/medium/low). You can also access the SETUP menu here, where you will find: Camera Sounds (high/low/off), Date&Time, USB Configuration (digital camera/ disk drive), TV Config, and Language.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit in the 16mb provided memory: (an extra memory card is recommended if you intend to go on holiday or are going to be away from a computer for more than half a day!)

Setting: Number of pictures stored in memory:
3mp 2048x1536 *** (Best) 8 (av. size: 1320kb)
3mp 2048x1536 ** (Better) 13/14 (av. size: 1000kb)
640x480 * (Good) 92 (av. size: 125kb)
320x240 / 19fps (22khz/8bps mono sound) Movie

58 seconds (13.3mb)

File sizes / Compression: (shown at 100% / actual pixels)

Good (640x480) Better (3mp) Best (3mp)

You can fit an average amount of images on the provided 16mb, although a larger memory card is definitely recommended.

Speed, ease of use: It's quite a chunky camera, and seems fairly heavy. The display updates are slow when in photo mode. When you switch the camera on, the screen on the back is blank, unless it wants you to set/check the date (which it seems to quite regularly - in fact every time you change the batteries, even though the time/date is still correct?). To get the screen to appear you have to press the Photo or Play button on the back and again to switch the screen off - there is no display button. The camera also spends quite a lot of time "Processing..." the pictures before it will let you view the pictures in Play mode, or before it will let you transfer them to your computer if you have just taken them.

The camera is quite helpful in that it will tell you "Battery Low" on the screen, rather than just assuming you know what the battery low symbol means. Likewise the camera will tell you to hold the camera still, or tell you that you are "Too close" or "Too Far Away" in macro mode.

Battery usage: Okay with Ni-Mh rechargables, but not as good as the Minolta F200, or Pentax Optio 30 I had at the same time.

LCD display in photo mode: The screen updates are slow, and the colours look dark most of the time - although when you look at them in playback or on screen they look better.

Playback mode: This seems very odd, you have to wait a few seconds whilst the camera is "Processing..." the images, and then you can look at them. To zoom into the photos in playback mode you have to press the 'OK' button, scroll down to 'Magnify', press 'OK' again, it thinks about it for about a second, you then get an enlarged version which you can scroll up and down us the up/down arrows, to scroll sideways, you have to press 'OK' again, move the arrow down and select "scroll left/right", then use the up/down arrows to scroll left and right! To magnify some more, you have to press 'OK', scroll down and select 'Magnify more' and then press 'OK'

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Full size versions of these photos are available in the gallery!

Inside:

Kitten (elmo) Inside - Flash (red-eye) Inside - Fruit with flash

Inside in fairly poor lighting the camera occasionally struggled to focus, especially when using the optical zoom. Quite nice colour on these photos, okay sharpness (not as sharp as I would expect from a 3mp digital camera) - although due to there being no AF-illuminator the camera can find it difficult to focus indoors.

Noise: The camera has 4 modes for ISO: Auto, 100, 200 or 400.


This photo (featuring a model "bananalamb" / "lamb banana") was taken with flash, actual pixels shown below from area next to the speaker:

ISO100 ISO200 ISO400

Low noise at ISO100, noise starts to creep in at the higher ISOs. ISO100 can still be a bit noisy however, even when taking pictures of the bright blue sky, eg the picture of Subway, or the statue picture in the gallery.

Outside:

Cars Graveyard Moorhen and chicks.

Generally quite good colour, sharpness, etc - although the camera does seem to have some exposure problems, especially on the graveyard picture above, or in other photos with bright skies (The pictures below where there is more ground than sky appear correctly exposed). The moorhen picture above looks very nice.

Zoom: The camera has a built in 5x Digital zoom, as well as a 3x optical zoom lens - the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software to blur the image so that it does not look pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using this, and simply crop the image later on your computer. I've included an example below simply to show what this feature does - and whilst it looks acceptable at the size shown (the last photo), if you printed the images out or viewed the full size versions in the gallery you would easily notice the negative effect it has on image quality.

Wideangle Full Telephoto Telephoto + Digital Zoom

The digital zoom factor is clearly displayed when using it - although the camera very smoothly starts using the digital zoom - I would have prefered a small pause before it started using the digital zoom. It also appears in yellow writing on the screen "Digital Zoom" when you start using the digital zoom. The digital zoom levels are 1.3x, 1.6x, 2.0x, 2.5x, 3.2x, 4.0x, and 5.0x.

When using the optical zoom, it's quite noisy, but seems fairly quick, and has about 6 steps between wide and telephoto.

Macro: If you are too close to the subject "Too Close" will appear on screen, if you are too far away "Too far away" will appear on screen.

Macro - wide angle Actual Pixels
Macro - Full Telephoto Actual Pixels

Quite impressive macro mode. It's quite unusual for a camera to let you use the telephoto zoom in macro mode, but this camera does.

Movie: 320x240 / 19fps (22khz/8bps mono sound) - The camera lets you film unlimited videos with sound, until the memory or the memory card fills up. You can not use the optical zoom, nor the digital zoom whilst recording. Pressing the "Video" button on the top of the camera instantly starts recording a video.


20second video - 4.77mb AVI - click here to download. (saved as Zip file)

Conclusion - I think this camera is okay, it's got a good lens, and can take good photos, but the screen updates / general slowness and awkward controls of the camera let it down. The movie mode is fairly good, especially as it has sound. For the price it is okay, but when given the choice between this and a similar specification Fuji / Pentax / Olympus / Nikon / Canon, I would definitely go for one of the other brands. With so much competition in this spec/price range I find it hard to recommend this camera, not necessarily because this camera is bad, but simply because other cameras are better.

Image: Image quality is okay, especially outdoors, the camera produces colourful images when the exposure is correct - perhaps too colourful. Indoors it's not so great - especially when the camera struggles to focus, although when it does focus correctly the colours are well saturated. Overall I think this camera is capable of producing good colourful images, as long as exposure and focus problems don't occur.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): HP tend to try and design cameras that are easy to use - this one however is quite awkward to use - especially in playback mode. The camera is quite bulky, heavy and a bit quirky. It's annoyingly slow at times, where other cameras aren't. The choices of image size and compression is very limited!

Alternate cameras: There is a lot of competition from other 3mp/3x zoom digital cameras, quite a lot of them are available for the same price as the HP 735. Worth looking at is the: Pentax Optio 30 (£110) / 33LF (£99), Fuji A210 (£99) / A310 / A330 (£119), Nikon 3100 / 3200, Canon A70 / 75, Olympus C-310 (£113) / C-350 / C-360, Minolta Dimage E323, Sony P-72, Kodak CX7330 (£118). Prices correct at 09/07/04 - see www.kelkoo.co.uk or www.dealtime.co.uk for the latest prices.

Summary: Overall I think this camera is capable of producing good colourful images, as long as exposure and focus problems don't occur. But I would not recommend this camera due to the camera being slow and sometimes awkward to use. It's video mode with sound is okay, but will soon be outdated as more and more cameras include VGA video with sound. Check latest price at Amazon.co.uk

What I like:

  • Pentax lens
  • Good macro mode
  • Unlimited Video with sound
  • Good colourful pictures

What I don't like:

  • Playback mode zoom controls are awkward and slow (no sideways scroll buttons!)
  • Heavy / Bulky
  • Very limited photo size / compression settings
  • Slow screen updates
  • Slow in general to use
  • Struggles to focus in low light.

Other Reviews:

Steve's Digicams.