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HP Photosmart M417 - Digital Camera Quick Review
Review Date: 27/05/05
Rating: Below Average

Introduction: The HP Photosmart M417, is available from £115 - and is a 5 megapixel digital camera, with a 3x optical zoom lens and a 1.8" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a silver and black plastic body, and features 'HP Real Life Technologies' such as 'Adaptive lighting' and 'Red-eye reduction'. It records unlimited 320x240 / 30fps* videos with sound. The camera's size is: 109 x 52 x 36.5 mm, and the camera weighs 150g (without batteries).

HP have this to say about the camera:

"Get beautiful prints and enlargements with photos up to 5 MP, HP Precision 3x optical lens and 8x digital zoom. View clearly indoors or out with bright 1.8" LCD. Stylish, easy-to-use design with ergonomic grip and intuitive button layout."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's fairly compact and made out of silver plastic on the front, and black plastic on the back.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)

Front - Camera off.

Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, microphone, led, optical viewfinder.

Back - the 1.8" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, photo / play buttons, on/off switch, zoom control, flash, mode (selects: Auto, Macro, Fast shot, Action, Portrait, Landscape, Beach and Snow), self/timer / continuous shooting, HP Instant share button, 4-way controller, and Menu/OK button.

Top - shutter, and movie button.

Bottom, under the camera there is a plastic tripod mount, and the docking station port.

Left Side (from back) USB out, DC in.

Battery and memory compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic.

Size comparison.

Size comparison.

Size comparison next to the Canon Powershot A520.

Specifications / Features:

  • 5.2 megapixel resolution
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 7x digital zoom
  • 16mb internal memory
  • 1.8" screen
  • SD card slot
  • HP adaptive lighting
  • HP in-camera red-eye removal
  • HP instant share menu

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap
  • USB cable
  • 2 AA Lithium batteries
  • Warranty card
  • 178 page instruction manual

Average box contents - a large memory card, a set of rechargable batteries and a case would have been nice. The printed manual is good. The camera has 16mb of memory built in which is enough for six images taken at the 5 megapixel setting.

The Camera in Use:

Battery usage: The camera manual states that you should be able to get on average 500 shots using Lithium batteries, and 225 shots using NiMh batteries. As this camera takes AA batteries I would highly recommend you get some high power Ni-Mh rechargable batteries and a charger to go with this camera. Battery life seemed very good.

Speed: The camera is slow to switch on and take photos - the camera is slow to focus, and indoors is very poor at focusing. The screen updates are quite slow, and very slow indoors. The playback mode is also slow. Playback mode allows you to zoom a long way in, but simply displays a very pixellated version - everytime you zoom into a picture, it displays 'Loading...' before you can zoom in, and if you've just taken the picture and then switched to play mode, you'll have to wait for the camera to display 'Processing...', and then wait for it to say 'Loading...'. The camera has a fairly quick continuous shooting mode that allows you to take 4 photos in a row, however if you want to view them in playback mode you'll have to wait a VERY long time for the camera to process the images (around 50 seconds before you can do anything in playback mode - and in the meantime, the camera's got bored of waiting and decided to go into sleep mode!). If you want to delete the images, you are shown a graphical effect of the image disolving, and then the dreaded 'Processing...' writing appears again before you can do anything. The camera shutter response seemed fairly slow as well.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use. The camera is compact although not as compact as other cameras. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, fairly quick and simple - there's a fully automatic mode as well as various scene modes for simple point and shoot operation.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically.

Screen / Viewfinder: The 1.8" screen is quite grainy, and slow to refresh, especially indoors or in low-light. The optical viewfinder is small - although this is quite normal for most digital camera. The screen displays a widescreen view when you are taking the photo, but in playback mode the photo fills the screen which is very odd!

Image Quality:

Image quality generally: Outside image quality was okay, colour was good, but noise was fairly visible at ISO100, and there were some odd image artifacts in some of the photos. (For an example, see the 'Millets' sign in the shops photo in the gallery). Indoors - image quality was okay assuming the camera focused correctly - however colours did seem slightly off and lacked contrast, even when using flash. Images were generally fairly soft, and benefitted from sharpening. The maco mode was fairly poor and often struggled to focus correctly.

Image quality issues: The camera regularly struggled to focus indoors, on some occasions it took about 10 attempts to focus before the camera actually focused correctly - other times when the camera said it was in focus it wasn't so I ended up with a completely blurry image. There was some purple fringing, and noise was fairly high.

Zoom: The camera's 3x optical zoom is quite noisy, and has 7 steps between wide and telephoto. The camera also has a 7x digital zoom that simply crops the image, however you can always do this later on the computer.

Movie: The movie mode offer 320x240 / 30fps however the true frame rate is 15fps - and the camera simply doubles each frame to make the movie appear to be a true 30fps movie. The movie mode is acceptable, but slightly dated and of average quality, as is the sound. There is also no speaker built into the camera, so you need to playback the video on a computer in order to listen the sound.

Size + Compression options: The choices are 5mp Best, 5mp, 3mp, 1mp, and VGA, there are no other choices regarding image compression other than the choice between 5mp Best, and 5mp. There isn't much choice here, but it should be adequate for the majority of people.

Flash Performance: The flash performed well in the photos I took, however I wouldn't expect the camera to light up large rooms.

Alternative compact 5 megapixel digital cameras: Sony Cybershot W5 / T3, Olympus Mju Mini Digital S (weatherproof), Olympus Mju Digital 500 (weatherproof), Canon Powershot A95, Canon Digital IXUS 500, Canon Digital IXUS 50, Nikon Coolpix 5200 / 5600, Fuji Finepix F450, Pentax Optio S5i / SV (5x optical zoom), Konica Minolta Dimage X50, Casio Exilim EX-Z55, HP Photosmart R707, Panasonic Lumix FX7, Ricoh Caplio R1v (4.8x wide optical zoom). Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices. See more suggestions sorted by megapixels here.

Conclusion: The HP Photosmart M417 offers very good value for money as one of the cheapest 5 megapixel digital cameras currently available - it has an easy to use menu system and built in help which you may find useful. However, I found the camera to be frustratingly slow at times, and rarely wanted to take the camera with me in case I missed the shot. The camera is also very poor at focusing indoors or in low light, this meant that I was pretty much unable to use the camera indoors.

Whilst it offers good value for money and is easy to use, this slow and frustrating camera is best avoided, and you would be well advised to spend more money on a 5 megapixel camera, or buy an alternative 4 megapixel digital camera (for example the Canon Powershot A520, or the Kodak Easyshare DX7440).

HP Photosmart M417 Rating: Below Average
Available from £115

What I like:

  • One of the cheapest 5 megapixel digital cameras currently available.
  • Okay images outside (good colour).
  • Built in help.
  • Built in demo tells you about the camera.
  • Takes AA batteries.
  • Built in red-eye reduction.

What I don't like:

  • Frustratingly slow. (Processing... Loading...)
  • Very poor at focusing in low-light.
  • No Delete button on the back of the camera (it's in a menu)
  • No photo information (in playback)
  • Move images to card failed for one image (unfortunately it isn't a 'copy to card' option)
  • No speaker on camera for video playback
  • Screen shows psuedo widescreen view in photo mode, but normal sized picture in playback mode!
  • Poor macro mode
  • Only 16mb of memory provided with the camera
  • Movie mode only 15fps (but appears as 30fps)

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.