HP Photosmart 435
At a Glance
That you can get any picture at all out of a $150 digital camera is an achievement in itself, but we're even more impressed that the price tag hangs from a 3.1-megapixel model. The Photosmart 435 is by far the least expensive model we've seen with that resolution. Despite the loss-leader price, it comes with 16MB of internal memory, plus a Secure Digital card slot. It's simple to use--slide open the smoothly operating lens cover to turn it on, and start snapping. You can even record movies (with audio). As on other HP models, the menus offer tons of help, with short text below the options to explain what they are, plus a more extensive help screen that you can reach with a few button pushes.
Just because it has a 3.1-megapixel sensor doesn't mean you get very good pictures. In our tests, the Photosmart 435 placed just behind the 2.1-megapixel Sony DSC-U50, which has a very tiny camera body. Pictures taken from a distance--an outdoor shot and an indoor still life--looked OK, but a magnified-and-cropped shot looked extremely grainy. The Photosmart 435 lacks a zoom lens (not a big surprise) and has just two aperture values available to it (f4 and f8), and no scene modes. A pair of AA batteries gave us just 186 shots, or 65 minutes of life, much below the average of cameras we've tested. The LCD looks very grainy, and it shows images in slow motion.
The Photosmart 435 goes well with the Photosmart 8886 camera dock. Though it costs more than half the price of the camera ($80), the dock is a good buy because it comes with a set of rechargeable camera batteries that the dock can juice up. The dock also comes with a remote control: You can use it to control a slide show if the dock is connected to a TV, and you can use the remote to e-mail photos if it's connected to a PC.
Though we'd never recommend it to photo enthusiasts, the Photosmart 435 is well worth the $150 price. It'd be great as a starter camera.