Steps It Up With A 3.6-Inch Touchscreen LCD
by Theano Nikitas
Published February 2008
P may be known for many things but innovative camera design hasn’t been one of the company’s strong points — until now. With its curved matte black body and huge 3.6-inch touchscreen LCD, the 8-megapixel HP Photosmart R937 is not only eye-catching, but is incredibly simple (and fun) to use. Although exposure controls are limited to point-and-shoot basics, HP spices up the camera’s capabilities with some cool tools to add a creative touch to your images right in the camera. Despite its many benefits, however, the R937 suffers from above average image noise, so for the best results, you’ll need to shoot in bright sunlight or limit the size of your prints.
In the Box
The HP Photosmart R937 comes bundled with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a power adapter that plugs into the camera with the bundled USB cable and charges the battery. Unlike some chargers, this one is pretty much just a plug and a cable, so it won’t take up much room in your bag when you travel.
You’ll also find a stylus for using the touchscreen, a wrist strap, printed Quick Start Guide as well as a CD ROM with HP Photosmart software and an electronic manual. Be sure to budget for an SD or SDHC card when you buy the camera since it comes with only enough internal memory to hold about three best quality shots.
With such a large LCD, it’s no surprise that the R937’s battery life is lower than most cameras, but not by much. On a fully charged battery, you’ll get about 190 shots if half of them are shot with the flash; more if no flash is used so that should be more than enough for most outings. If you’re going on vacation, you might want to purchase a second battery to have charged and in your camera bag in case you need it.
HP offers a few accessories for the camera, including camera cases, quick chargers and, of course, a line of portable compact photo printers.
There haven’t been too many digital camera design innovations recently and touchscreen interfaces have been few and far between. However, with the R937, HP has not only implemented an interesting new design but one of the best touchscreens I’ve ever used in any device.
Measuring 4.12 x 1.06 x2.86 inches and weighing about 0.48 pounds with the battery installed, you won’t be able to slip this camera into the pocket of your tightest jeans or a shirt but the R937 fits easily into looser and larger pockets.
Although photographers with large hands might disagree with me, the camera is surprisingly comfortable to hold even though the LCD takes up almost all of the camera’s rear real estate. As you might expect, there aren’t many external controls. Atop the camera you’ll find the on/off button, a three-stage mode switch (capture, movie, playback) and the shutter button. On the back of the camera, there’s a tiny—and awkward to use—zoom lever and an itty bitty button for calling up the information display/menu on the LCD.
All the real action takes place on the touchscreen. The review unit I received didn’t have a stylus (at least none I could find) so I let my fingers do the tapping. All you have to do is touch one of the icons on the screen to access various settings either via the general Menu lists or directly to one of a number of options such as Flash, Image Quality, etc. The icons and text are large, bright and easy to read and even novices can change settings quickly and easily.
Easy and Fun to Use
You don’t have to know much about digital photography to use this camera. In fact, the R937 has an on-board help system that not only describes the purpose of various settings (just tap the question mark icon in the upper right corner of the screen), but it also provides general guidance for picture-taking. It’s almost like having a built-in instruction manual so assistance is always available, even when you’re on vacation.
The built-in help is a useful feature but even without it, the R937 is a breeze to use. In addition to automatic, the camera offers Close-up, Theatre, Panorama, Landscape, Portrait, Action, Night Portrait, Beach, Snow and Sunset modes. Of course, you can chance the image quality, select white balance, ISO and flash settings. There’s also a self-timer, burst mode, and exposure compensation. Pretty basic stuff, right?
But the feature set doesn’t stop there. The R937 includes exposure bracketing, Adaptive Lighting (which brightens dark areas and is great to use when shooting a subject that is backlit) and a Tag system that allows you to organize your photos as you shoot. With tagging, you can assign your images to one of a number of preset categories such as Family, Friends, Pets and Activities. You can also create your own Tag by using the camera’s virtual keyboard. When you transfer the digital files to your computer, they’re already organized. Very cool stuff.
Tagging is also available in Playback so you can sort images after the fact. Playback mode also offers a long list of practical and creative options. You’ll find redeye removal for people and Pet Eye removal for your furry friends, whose eyes can turn odd colors when photographed with a flash. There’s also a Slimming filter, Brightness/Contrast adjustments and a Touch Up feature that allows you to choose and “fix” a specific portion of an image.
I really enjoyed playing with the creative options and can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun in the Playback mode of a digital camera. In the camera’s Design Gallery, you’ll find plenty of effects including posterization and solarization. You can change photos into drawings, watercolors or even kaleidoscopes. There are even options to adjust the color and saturation of the Sky or Ground, apply a Soft Glow, give images a Vintage or Retro look and a whole lot more. You can also apply artistic borders (no cutesy stuff here, thank goodness) in the color and size of your choice or transform your images into B&W, Sepia or even tint them with color.
With all the editing options available on the R937, you probably won’t need to bring your photos into your computer for adjustments, leaving you more time to take pictures. That also means the R937 is one of the better cameras for direct (PC-free) printing.
Performance and Image Quality
Overall, the R937 is surprisingly peppy. Start-up is fast and there’s little wait time between shots, even when the flash is engaged. Where the camera lags is in burst mode, which maxes out at three high-resolution pictures. Not only does the screen go totally black so you can’t see what you’re shooting, but it takes longer than average for the camera to save those three images.
The 3x optical zoom lens, with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 39-118mm is a little narrow on the wide angle lens but good enough for most snapshot situations (if you can’t fit everyone in the picture, just take a few steps back to get a “wide angle” photo). More importantly, the zoom lever is very small and the lens doesn’t zoom quite as quickly as expected.
- Size/Weight: 4.12 x 1.06 x2.86 inches; 0.48 lb. (with battery installed).
- Image Sensor: 8 megapixels.
- Maximum resolution: 3298 x 2472 pixels.
- Zoom: 3x optical; 8x digital.
- Lens Focal Length: 39-118mm (35mm equivalent).
- Focusing capability: Autofocus.
- Display: 3.6-inch touchscreen LCD.
- Manual Exposure Control: No.
- Exposure Metering: Average and Spot.
- Provided Accessories: AC adapter, rechargeable battery, USB cable, wrist strap, QuickStart Guide, HP Photosmart Software, electronic manual.
- Power Source: Proprietary Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery.
- Warranty: 1 year.
- Contact Info: 1-888-999-4747; www.HP.com.