HP Photosmart M537
At a Glance
HP Photosmart M537
This basic camera offers an anti-shake mode and a generous software bundle, but its image quality was disappointing.
The 6-megapixel HP Photosmart M537 is a basic point-and-shoot camera with a 3X zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD, and a very low cost ($130 as of 5/10/07). On the surface, the M537 offers an adequate number of features for the price, such as in-camera red-eye removal, a maximum sensitivity of ISO 800, and image stabilization.
However, in our lab tests, the M537 earned an overall score of Poor for image quality, the lowest for any recently tested digital camera; it also earned some of the lowest recent scores for both color and exposure accuracy, and its images, which didn't look very sharp, suffered from more distortion than those of other models.
In my informal use, I found that the M537 could take attractive outdoor shots in afternoon daylight, but it proved less capable in low light. The camera offers a maximum of ISO 800 for shooting in low light--but you'll have to rely on the camera to pick the ISO for you because you can't select it yourself in the menus. This was something I wished I could have been able to do when taking landscape photos around sunset; some of these photos otherwise might not have come out blurry. One sunset photo that did look sharp turned out quite grainy; surprisingly, the EXIF data says that the camera chose ISO 100 despite the low light.
The M537's plastic case doesn't feel very rugged. However, it does fit well in the hand, and the L-shaped zoom control falls conveniently under your thumb. There are dedicated buttons along the top of the LCD for deleting photos and turning the flash on or off; a selector switch makes it easy to change from still photography to movie mode.
The M537 lacks some common features we've come to take for granted, even in simple cameras. For example, it doesna??t have an exposure compensation setting, nor does it even offer white-balance presets--much less a custom white-balance setting.
That's not to say the M537 does not come with some worthy features. The image stabilization thata??s available in its steady-photo mode improved the sharpness of indoor photos I shot in very dim lighting.
The Photosmart software suite on the bundled CD is generous, offering features for sharing photos, creating greeting cards, and printing in various layouts. Editing functions include cropping, red-eye removal, and an adaptive lighting feature that shows you nine subtle variations on your photo.
In our battery tests, the Photosmart M537 excelled, taking 345 shots before depleting a pair of AA cells.
Despite a generous software bundle and long battery life, low image quality makes the M537 a less attractive option than some other comparably priced cameras.