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HP’s Photosmart 715 digital camera is suited to all users. Hardware review hed: dek:

Form follows function so well with Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart 715 digicam that anyone who’s ever used a film-based point-and-shoot camera should have no trouble with it.

HP has wrapped up its 715 digicam in a slightly chunky shape that’s easy to hold with all controls placed exactly where you want them. If you leave the lens cap on, the camera makes an annoying noise and lights up the 1.8-inch LCD preview screen with a photo indicating how hard it is to make pictures with the lens cap in place. The lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.0 and a 35mm equivalent focal length of 34-102mm, making it ideal for all-around snapshooting. Zoom controls are easily accessible, and each functions smoothly. The front has a 46mm thread, allowing use of supplementary lenses, such as those available from Tiffen.

The Photosmart 715 uses CompactFlash cards and includes a 16MB card that provides a maximum of 10 images at the camera’s top resolution of 2,048-by-1,536. A button on the 715’s top controls resolution. Pushing it selects one, two, or three stars, with more stars meaning higher resolution and bigger files. I inserted a 128MB card from Crucial Technology and boosted storage capacity to 94 images at full 3.3-megapixel resolution.

Since all major controls are mechanical buttons, the LCD panel is more intuitive than those in most digicams: Immediately after an image is captured, you see a display letting you save or delete it. Save is the default command, so you can take a peek, or just keep snapping away. Using the LCD panel to delete an image after it’s been stored is similarly easy–just push a button next to the screen.

The optical viewfinder has a slight parallax problem, and detail-oriented users will prefer using the LCD screen for precise cropping. When in capture mode, the viewfinder also makes images seem brighter than they actually are after they’ve been captured. Some users have complained about how hard it was to evaluate the images because of the dim screen and its narrow angle of view.

You can connect the Photosmart to your computer via a bundled USB cord. HP includes ACDSee software for browsing images, along with proprietary software that makes it a snap for digital newbies to e-mail or send images to Web-based services. More experienced users will prefer a card reader and work with their existing software for manipulation, output, and presentation.

Image quality is superb (as you might expect from a 3.3-megapixel camera), but there’s more to image quality than megapixels. Once they were copied to my hard drive, the images from the Photosmart 715 needed no correction; I just printed them and they looked great. I typically have to tweak every image I capture in Adobe Photoshop, but these image files, like Goldilocks might say, were just right. With the exception of a poorly performing LCD preview panel, the sub-$500 Photosmart 715 provides lots of bang for the pixel.

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