capsule review

HP Photosmart 945

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder HP Photosmart 945 Compact Camera

HP Photosmart 945
Photograph: Rick Rizner

HP's Photosmart 945 is a camera that's difficult to pigeonhole. Its large black body, 5.1-megapixel imaging, and 8X optical zoom lens might put it in the class of such advanced cameras as the Minolta DiMage A1 or the Fujifilm FinePix S7000, which cost several hundred dollars more. But the overall design of the Photosmart 945 seems intended for someone primarily interested in point-and-shoot ease.

For one thing, this camera has few of the high-end creative controls found in more-expensive models, and those it does contain are not especially sophisticated. Its manual focus, for example, lacks the magnified view that helps with accurate focus--especially with macro shots. Also, HP added aperture- and shutter-priority modes (the former can be found in many point-and-shoot models), but no full-manual exposure mode. Using the priority modes is relatively slow: For instance, selecting an aperture value requires you to repeatedly press one of the camera's four-way navigation buttons. Better cameras often have a dial that lets you pick your aperture quickly.

Photographers looking for simplicity in their camera should like the Photosmart 945. Like most well-designed point-and-shoots, it has dedicated buttons for flash, self-timer, and macro focus settings. A dial surrounding the shutter button lets you quickly select full-automatic, each priority mode, movie mode, or one of the three (a relatively small number by today's standards) special scene options. The camera's viewfinder sensor works well: Put your eye up to the electronic eye-level viewfinder, and it's automatically switched on; move away, and the LCD lights up.

Using the electronic viewfinder, however, is disappointing: It's relatively small, dark, and grainy when compared with those of other cameras we've reviewed. It also tends to smear the image if you pan quickly. The optical zoom is a bit jumpy as you change focal length, and the camera has an annoying habit of popping the image slightly when you let off the zoom button.

You manage the remainder of the camera's settings through easy-to-read menus, many of which have built-in, text-based help screens. You can set menu options quickly by pressing the right or left navigation buttons, or by pressing the OK button and selecting from a deeper level of options (better for novices, thanks to on-screen text prompts). Our one complaint is that a user must go into the menus to change the exposure value setting.

Our image-quality scores for the 945 were at the lower end of the scale for cameras with resolutions of 5 or more megapixels. Overall exposure and color accuracy were fairly good, but colors seemed somewhat muted. An outdoor shot produced a nice contrast range, with no loss of details in the shadows. But none of the images were as sharp as what we've seen from many competing 5-megapixel cameras. Bottom line: The 945 is fine for snapshots, but disappointing if you consider fine image quality a high priority.

The camera is marginally acceptable for sports or action shooting. We noticed significant shutter delay whenever the shutter button was fully pressed in one stroke. However, if you lock the exposure and focus by pushing the shutter button halfway down, the camera fires quickly when you then fully depress the button.

The Photosmart 945 is an attractive camera for casual photographers seeking a long optical zoom. Advanced photographers will want to look elsewhere.

Tracey Capen

This story, "HP Photosmart 945" was originally published by PCWorld.

To comment on this article and other TechHive content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder HP Photosmart 945 Compact Camera

Related:
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.