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HP Photosmart M307 - Digital Camera Review
Introduction: The HP Photosmart M307 is a compact 3 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 39mm -117mm on a 35mm camera). It has a 1.8" Colour TFT screen. The camera comes with 16mb memory built into the camera, and can be upgraded with an additional SD card. The camera takes 2 AA batteries. The camera also records unlimited 320x240 videos at 30fps with sound. The camera can be bought for £80 (UK) / $169 (US) from Amazon. The camera is compact with a size and weight as follows: Dimensions: 109.3 x 36.6 x 52.8 mm. Weight: 144g (without batteries or recording media).

The camera offers very good value for money for a 3 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens.

HP have this to say about the camera:

"Fun-to-use camera with 3.2 MP resolution and 15x total zoom for great photos. Large 4.6 cm LCD ensures clear images even in bright light. Easy printing and sharing by e-mail with HP Instant Share plus many other tools – including fast shot mode."

You can find out more about the HP Photosmart M307 on HP's site.

The Camera: It's compact and made out of shiny silver and black plastic.
(nearly all of these pictures were taken with the Kodak Easyshare CX7330)


Front - Camera off. Flash, optical viewfinder, led, microphone.


Front - Camera on, lens extended.


Back - the 1.8" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, flash/mode, self-timer, email/print, photo mode / playback mode, on/off, HP zoom control, 4-way controller and menu/ok button.


Top - shutter release, video button.


Bottom, under the camera is tripod mount, and HP dock.


Left Side (from back) - DC in, USB connection.


On this side is the battery and memory compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic, this camera is smaller than the Pentax.


The HP style handgrip is on the left, as seen on the R707.


Size comparison next to the similar specification Kodak Easyshare CX7330.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 3.2 megapixel resolution
  • 15x total zoom (3x optical, 5x digital)
  • 16MB internal memory, expandable with memory cards
  • 1.8" color image display
  • Video clip capture with audio
  • Direct photo printing

Full Specifications can be found on HP's site.

Box Contents:

  • HP Photosmart M307 digital camera with HP Instant Share
  • Two AA batteries
  • USB cable for connecting camera to PC
  • USB cable for connecting camera to printer
  • User's manual
  • Quick Start Poster
  • CD with HP Image Zone software for Microsoft Windows and Macintosh
  • American Greetings Create & Print Greeting Cards
  • Wrist strap

Average box contents - It's nice to see a printed manual, but rechargable batteries and a charger, case, and a larger memory card would have been nice.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the buttons on the back - the photo / playback buttons go between the two modes, and there is also an instant video button on the top of the camera that takes you straight into recording a video.

The modes selected using the mode button are: Auto, Macro, Fast shot, Action, Portrait, Landscape, Beach and Snow.

Photo mode: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown below:

The options are: Exposure compensation, Image Quality, White Balance (no custom), ISO Speed, Colour (Full, Black and White, Sepia), Date and Time imprint.

The Setup menu options are: Display brightness, Camera sounds, Live View setup, Date and Time, USB, TV, Language, Move images to card (from internal memory).

Video mode: The video mode doesn't have a menu.

Playback (Review) mode: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown below:

In playback mode the options are: Delete, Record Audio, and Rotate.

HP Instant Share menu: The options here are: Print 1 Copy, Print 2 Copies, E-mail / Instant Share Setup options.

Help menu: The HP Photosmart M307 also has a built in Help menu as shown below.

The items are: Top Ten Tips, Camera Accessories, Camera buttons, using shooting mode, recording audio clips, recording video clips, reviewing images and video, deleting images, sharing images, transferring images, printing images, managing batteries, getting assistance, camera shortcuts.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit on the built in 16mbs of memory:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored (Average file size)

3mp Best (2048 x 1536)

13 (1.1mb)
3mp (2048 x 1536) 15 (900kb)
1mp (1280 x 960) 37 (330kb)
VGA (640 x 480) 151 (120kb)
Video (320x240 15fps) 1 minutes 17 seconds

You can't fit very many images on the provided 16mb memory card - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower quality settings. There is an okay choice of image sizes, and there is only one choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at least a 128mb or 256mb memory, or larger especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the HP Photosmart M307:

128mb SD memory card - £11.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £19.00 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £33.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £59.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed, ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, fairly quick to switch on and to take photos, the controls on the back of the camera are easy to use. The screen updates are quick and smooth. The camera speed in use, seems fairly quick when taking a photo, and shot to shot time is okay. The camera is fairly compact, and fairly easily fits into pockets. The menus are easy to pick up and use - I especially like how the menus are different colours, and the built in help menu is very helpful and would be very good for newcomers to digital cameras. The modes are easy to access (due to the photo/play buttons), and the menus seem quick. Playback mode could be a bit quicker, as there are pauses while the image is displayed, and there are pauses when you first press the zoom button - also if you switch to playback mode as soon as you have taken a picture - the camera will display 'Processing...' meaning you have to wait for the picture to be displayed.

Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons, although whilst pressing the Menu/OK button it is very easy to press the buttons surrounding the Menu/OK button. The buttons feel good, and are labelled well. I like the way the Photo / Play buttons are very clearly labelled. It is also a bit easy to press the video button, when instead you mean to press the shutter release button.

Battery usage: Battery life seems average - although high power rechargable batteries are highly recommended, as these will last much longer than Alkaline batteries, and are much better for you financially, as well as much better for the environment. They are also relatively cheap - for example, you can buy a set of 4 NiMh AA 2000mAh rechargable batteries and charger for only £12.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

LCD Display (Photo mode / Playback mode):


LCD display in photo mode: Battery life, Picture size / quality, remaining pictures.

LCD display in photo mode: The screen is a decent resolution, and updates smoothly - the colours appear fairly accurate / although the camera does sometimes display an overly yellow picture when indoors. The screen shows how many remaining photos you can take with the available memory, as well as current picture size, it also shows the battery life (which for some reason isn't shown above). Unfortunately the camera does not show aperture / shutter speed, or any other information and there is no live histogram.

Playback mode: The camera displays very little information as shown above. Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick - although there is a 1 to 2 second delay whilst the camera displays a sharper picture, after first displaying a blurry version of the picture. The zoom is fairly quick, and easy to use. Playback menu options are discussed above.

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 (and medium size) versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Gorilla 2/3 people Group photo

Inside: The camera has quite a powerful flash, and copes fairly well with group photos. Red eye was noticable on some photos of people. Some of the images look quite noisy, and are lacking contrast. The camera did okay focusing in low light - but did fail on some occasions. Skin colour was quite good.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, as well as ISO settings: 100, 200 and 400. To demonstrate the effect of the different ISO levels on this camera I have taken these pictures, and cropped an area of the image to show you at 100% what the noise lookes like.

Test photo. (flash on) ISO100 - 100%
ISO200 - 100% ISO400 - 100%

ISO100 is quite noisy, even on bright sunny days, ISO200 and 400 are even noisier, this is especially noticable in the darker areas of images - if possible it is probably best to stick to ISO100 or 200 on this camera to avoid the problems caused by noise. You can also spot purple fringing around the frogs eyes.

Outside:

Red Letterbox Christmas Trees Unisys Building

Outside the camera had okay colour, but lacked contrast and produced fairly noisy images that removed detail. I didn't notice jpeg artifacts in the images. The Unisys building photo was taken at the same time as the Unisys building photo in the upcoming Pentax Optio S30 review.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x Optical zoom and a built in 5x Digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and crops it using software. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image - in the case of this camera the image is simply cropped so that it only shows you the area you want. I think this is a better way of doing digital zoom because generally digital zoom simply degrades image quality, whereas the digital zoom on this camera doesn't degrade image quality. I've included examples below simply to show what these features do.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom Full 3x Optical + 5x Digital

The digital zoom is shown with a box that covers the area of the zoom, whilst showing you the rest of the image outside the box - it shows "Digital Zoom" over the image when you first start using it, and shows you the Megapixel size of the image that you will get when you take the photo using that amount of zoom. (as previously explained in the HP Photosmart R707 review)

Lens noise: When using the optical zoom, it's not very quiet, but it is fairly quick, it has about 7 steps between wide and telephoto. The amount of optical zoom isn't displayed on screen numerically, the amount is only displayed when you start using the digital zoom. The digital zoom can't be switched off as far as I'm aware. These photos was taken at the same time as the clock tower photos in the upcoming Pentax Optio S30 review.

Other Image Quality issues: Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing was noticable in some photos - unfortunately there seemed to be a higher amount than normal.

Macro: When this camera is in macro mode, the lens is set to wide angle, and you can zoom in but you must move further away from the object when you do zoom in, you can also use the digital zoom - and you can use the flash. This camera can focus down to roughly 10cm in macro mode.

Macro - Timex Watch Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is okay - you can't get very close, and noise can be a problem. The camera does a good job of toning down the flash.

Movie: 320x240 / 30fps with sound (although there is no built in speaker for playback on the camera) - you can't use the digital zoom whilst recording a video or before, but you can zoom in using the optical zoom before you start recording. The movie is recorded as an .MPG file. Length is limited only by the size of the memory card.


Spaced "Pump up the Jam" Out-take - Download 320x240/30fps movie
Click here. (right click, save target as, 2.12mb MPG) (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie(s) is okay, in that colour and focus are okay, although they can be a bit noisy in low light - 320 x 240/30fps with sound is slightly better than average.

Conclusion

Image Quality: This is where the camera is let down - the images have quite dull colour and lack contrast. Images also suffer from quite high noise levels even on sunny days. Detail can be quite good, with fairly sharp images assuming lighting conditions are good. There seems to be a higher amount of purple fringing than normal. There is a fairly poor range of image sizes and compression options. The macro mode is average. The flash didn't cause problems when the subject was close. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be okay. The movie mode is better than average, at 30fps with sound. When inside, the camera does an okay job of focusing, the flash is fairly decent, but images do suffer from noise, and low contrast.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The design is okay, the size is okay, the camera is quite compact and pocketable, the camera is fairly stylish depending on your tastes. The decent size 1.8" screen updates smoothly and has fairly accurate colour. The camera is very easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and the help system is very good. There is a fairly good amount of options and features available (such as the scene modes, and quick video button). The 3x optical zoom lens seems to be good but noisy. Camera handling, and button layout are quite good. The camera speed is good in use and has a quick zoom, and shot to shot time is okay.

Alternative 3mp/4mp digital cameras: Kodak Easyshare CX7330 (£99 - read my review), Canon Powershot A400 (110 - read my review), Canon Powershot A75 (144), Pentax Optio S30 (99), Fuji Finepix A330 (123), Fuji FinePix A340 (4mp, 155), Sony Cybershot P73 (4mp, 153), Olympus C-310 (100), C-360 (130), Olympus C-470 (4mp, 149), Nikon Coolpix 3200 (125), Konica Minolta Dimage X31 (117 - read my review). Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices.

Summary: The HP Photosmart M307 is a compact 3 megapixel, 3x optical zoom digital camera with a good 1.8" colour screen. The camera records unlimited length videos with sound. The camera is easy to use and has a useful help system, but unfortunately image quality is lacking as the camera produces fairly noisy images that lack contrast and saturation, and also suffer from purple fringing. The camera does not have HP's "Real Life Technologies" which were impressive on the HP Photosmart R707. For £110 (Amazon UK) / $169 (Amazon US) this camera offers good value for money, as an easy to use digital camera, with a decent sized screen, and an easy to use menu and help system. If you want a very easy to use digital camera that produces 3 megapixel images on a budget, printable up to 8 x 6 inches, then this is worth considering, but I do have reservations about it's image quality, as there are better cameras available at this price.

HP Photosmart M307 rating: Average.
Buy now from Amazon for £80 (UK) / $169 (US)

If you like the look of this camera, and especially like the look of the HP Help system, then take a look at the 4 megapixel HP Photosmart M407 - available from around £130, or the 5 megapixel HP Photosmart R707 which I reviewed here - available for £179 from Amazon.co.uk.

What I like:

  • Very easy to use
  • Good menu system
  • Good help system
  • Good size screen (1.8")
  • Sharp pictures when taken in good light
  • 30fps movie mode

What I don't like:

  • Not too keen on the two-tone effect.
  • Noisy lens
  • Images lack contrast / saturation, and are quite noisy
  • Playback mode shows you a blurry image for nearly 2 seconds before showing you a sharp version of the image
  • No built in speaker for video playback
  • Purple Fringing

Remember to have a look at the full size (and medium size) versions of these photos in the new gallery.