HP Photosmart 435

HP Photosmart 435
Company: Hewlett-Packard

Price: $149.99

I love doing product reviews. I like to think, while writing one, that I am actually talking to someone, telling them about the product in question. And as a reviewer, there are some companies whose products I love to review. Hewlett-Packard (HP)is one such company. I have had a long and happy relationship with every HP product I have used and reviewed over the last decade. So it saddens me when, after testing the HP Photosmart 435 digital camera, it came time to write this review.

The Photosmart 435 is a 3.34MP digital camera that you can also use to take small Quick-Time movies with. While not a large camera, the Photosmart 435 is by no means tiny. It fits easily in a purse, but not in the pocket of your pants. (Unless you are wearing cargo pants.)

The camera is not stylish, but rather plain and boxy. This works for me, as I don’t always want to call attention to my camera. It does not look expensive, and at $149 (US) it is not. If anything, the design reminds me of a 110 Film camera I owned in my teenage years. It has that feel in my hands, very familiar.

Operation is simple. Slide the lens cover, which doubles as the on/off switch, and take a picture. There are a variety of options, from picture quality, shutter speed, flash, red-eye flash, zoom, and most of the other features every digital camera sports. So far so good.

The Photosmart 435 has 3.34MP resolution at its highest quality setting. As I already own a 3.1MP camera (The Kodak DX3900) I had an idea what to expect in image quality. In fact, I was expecting somewhat better looking photos with the Photosmart 435, being a higher resolution camera. I was sorely mistaken. The image quality, most times, is decent to good. However, the quality of the pictures is not at all consistent. I found that out of ten pictures taken indoors under normal lighting conditions, eight of the ten photos would be of decent quality, while the other two would be very poor. I don’t know why the image quality is so unpredictable with this camera, but after extensive testing, I would personally not use this camera.

Also like most digital cameras, the Photosmart 435 has an image display viewfinder. The 1.5-inch LCD is used to set options, review pictures or movies, and can be used instead of the optical viewfinder. For those who hate looking through the tiny optical viewfinder when taking pictures, the image display viewfinder is a much better choice.

The problem here is the quality of the Photosmart 435’s 1.5-inch LCD display. It is far and away the worse I have ever used. In live mode, the display is a green and blurry mess, all but unusable. In picture review mode, it is somewhat better, but still far and away sub-par to any other digital camera I have used in the past.

One of the biggest disadvantages is the zoom. There is no optical zoom on the Photosmart 435, but rather digital. A digital zoom is always sub-par than a optical zoom, and that is true here as well. The 5X Digital zoom works as advertised, but any picture zoomed became pixilated and not at all sharp. After playing with the various settings, I found that if I had to zoom up on an object with the Photosmart 435, it simply was not worth taking the picture.

Taking photos of objects in motion, even a slow walking cat, really showed the Photosmart 435’s shortfall. After taking pictures of a cat in both normal and action shutter speed mode, the pictures were blurry and unusable.

The big test, however, came when I gave the camera to our eight-year-old daughter, Brittaney, and told her to take pictures around the yard of anything she wanted to. The conditions were very cold, around thirty degrees and frosty, but the sun was very bright and the fall colors look beautiful. Brittaney took a total of 17 pictures. One of the first problems I noticed was that every other picture had a nice close-up of a finger. Because the lens on the Photosmart 435 is receded, it is very easy to block the lens with your hand while taking a picture. Camera’s that have a lens housing that sticks out some, extends from the camera body itself, usually prevents this. The pictures she took, about ten, that was unobstructed by a finger, came out blurry or the camera had too much light. Different setting made no difference.

The Photosmart 435 does come with 16MB of internal memory, so you will not have to run out and buy extra storage. However, today, 16MB will quickly prove too small. It is nice, though, that the 16MB is internal, not a card that you will toss out when you upgrade to a 256MB memory card. This is great if, by chance, you fill your memory card up and still need to take a few pictures. I wish more digital camera’s would have internal, built-in memory. Unfortunately, you can use one storage device at a time. If you have a memory card installed, the internal storage will not work. The Photosmart 435 takes the smaller SD / MMC Memory cards, not Compact Flash.

The Photosmart 435 ships with its own software solution, HP Director, which you can use to store and transfer pictures. While the software does work fine, I preferred using iPhoto. The Photosmart 435 works perfectly well with iPhoto, as expected. But if you use the Photosmart 435 to take video with, you will need to use the HP Director software to capture that file from the camera, as iPhoto will not work. Also, the HP software does not find the Photosmart 435 when running Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) but does under 10.2. If you do buy this camera, look for an update to their software if you are running 10.3. As I type of this review, there is no update for the HP software. In fact, I have not seen anything on the HP website that indicated you can download updates. The only option I have found is to order a CD-ROM.

The video capture feature is more gimmick than anything. The clips are small, grainy, and not worth using to record your important memories with. But it is fun! My kids liked the ability to capture video and audio using the Photosmart 435. I have less worry letting them practice being the next Spielberg with this camera than I do turning over my Canon Camcorder to them. All the video recorded can be used in iMovie, so this is a neat and fun way to let kids learn the basics of shooting video and editing in iMovie.

Unfortunately, the Photosmart 435 is a sub-par digital camera. The price, at US $149, makes it inexpensive. Simply reading the specifications in its documentation would sounds like a great deal: 3.34MP, internal 16MB of memory, able to capture video and audio, a 1.5-inch LCD, the ability to use an optional dock, and an optional AC adapter, and more. The reality is that the Photosmart 435 has horrible power consumption (I used three sets of batteries in one week of testing, a total of around 100 pictures!) sub-par picture quality, and a near-useless LCD display.

I am disappointed with the Photosmart 435. I expect much better from HP. I am hoping that the next HP camera we review will better meet my expectations of quality HP products. The Photosmart 435 does not feel or operate at the expected quality of an HP product.

MyMac Rating: 2 out of 5

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