The HP R817 digital camera delivers images up to 5.1 Mpixels. The unit is compact enough to fit in a pocket. The sliding power switch prevents accidental battery use. HP’s button and menu system is rather intuitive, making this a very nice camera for the average consumer.
The camera has a 5x optical zoom and an 8x digital zoom. I tend to limit myself to the optical zoom since digital enhancement can be done at the PC or printer. The camera is fast and can handle video at 30 frames/s or a series of stills plus fast single cycle times. The automatic autofocus range finder is quick and accurate. The flash charges quickly as well, making it good for indoor use.
Focusing is strictly through the bright 2-inch LCD display. Single-hand operation is possible if you use your right hand. Switching modes is a two-button, two-handed process, but it provides access to features such as varied light and speed settings from a single selection as well as different recording modes like panorama mode.
Panorama mode is simple to use but it is combined with a step on the PC. You record up to five photos going from left to right or right to left. All photos except the first shows a partial outline on one side of the viewing screen that you line up. The closer the match the faster the images can be stitched together. The actual stitching is done when you download the images to the PC. The camera records the grouping information so the process is transparent, although it does take a little time based upon the number of photos in the group and their alignment. The result stored on the PC includes the original images and the panorama image so you don’t lose anything.
The camera has a host of features, and I have yet to master them all even after going through the interactive manual. There are easy-to-use features like automatic orientation, audio recording, and red eye removal that are relatively transparent, while some are more involved such as setting up slide shows.
The R817 uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery. The docking cradle plugs into a USB 2.0 port and the accompanying power brick. The latter can recharge the battery. The connector on the bottom of the camera is non-standard so you cannot use a mini-USB cable to download images to a PC. You need the dock. The alternative is to remove the SD flash memory card for transfers to a printer like the HP PhotoSmart 475 that we used or via a flash memory reader like the SanDisk 12-in-1 Card Reader/Writer.
HP’s Image Zone software is of their own design and it is now rather refined. The printer and camera software is integrated so going from camera to printer is effortless, including execution of batch processing such as changing contrast and lighting. Overall, the R817 package is an excellent buy.