The HP Photosmart M547 is a small, entry-level digital camera ideal for beginners and non-techies. The M547 features nine fully automatic exposure modes, a 3x optical zoom and a respectable 6.2 megapixels of resolution. It also has a very affordable price tag of $100.
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The HP Photosmart M547 is a small, simple point-and-shoot digital camera. I took the it with me on several outings in San Francisco, including a concert in Golden Gate Park and a bike ride along the Embarcadero, the city’s waterfront. Bright skies and sunshine reflecting off San Francisco Bay put the M547′s metering and sensor to the test.
|HP Photosmart M547 Back Controls and Lens|
With 6.2 megapixels, the Photosmart M547 offers enough resolution for good-quality prints and enlargements. Its 2.5-inch color LCD display is suitable for indoor and outdoor viewing.
The 3x optical zoom has a range equivalent to a 34-102mm (35mm film camera equivalent) lens – providing moderate wide-angle to telephoto capabilities. A 6x digital zoom adds extra oomph for those times when getting close is really important, although image quality will suffer.
The M547 offers two focus modes: normal, and a macro mode for close-ups like flowers. HP’s Steady Photo electronic image stabilization helps take sharp photos in lower-light situations.
The M547 has nine fully automatic exposure modes: Auto, Action, Close Up, Landscape, Night Portrait, Portrait, Steady Photo, Sunset, and Theatre. The lack of manual exposure modes will be a deterrent to more sophisticated camera users, but those who just want to take good pictures in a variety of situations without getting technical will be satisfied here.
The camera also has a burst mode for taking multiple photos at a time. This is useful for action shots.
The built-in, auto-adjusting flash can be set to auto, on, off or red-eye reduction. The in-camera editing mode also offers red-eye removal, as well as the HP Design Gallery of optional colors and borders for creative fun.
Sharing live action with friends and family is made possible by the 320 x 240, 24 frames-per-second video record mode.
The M547 includes 16MB of internal memory and also has an SD card memory slot, ensuring plenty of storage space for all those vacation photos. (Note, however, that the SD card must be purchased separately.)
The M547 is powered by two, readily available, AA batteries.
HP Photosmart M547 during capture
HP Photosmart M547 playback
HP Photosmart M547 Picture Capture menu with Shooting Mode selected
HP Photosmart M547 Shooting Mode menu with Close-up selected
My first impression of the Photosmart M547 was of a small but well-built digital camera. Measuring 3.78 by 1.45 by 2.48 inches, this sleek metal-bodied camera easily fits in a pocket or purse. It won’t weigh you down, either, at only about 5 ounces. In spite of its minimal weight, the overall construction of the M547 feels solid.
When the M547 is turned off, its lens is retracted flush to the body, protected by a built-in lens cap. The lens extends when the camera is turned on. The camera’s few controls are positioned well.
The 2.5-inch color LCD on the back of the camera serves as viewfinder and display for image review. The back of the camera also has a delete button; the mode switch for changing between still, movie and playback; and the zoom control, which in playback mode allows magnification of image thumbnails. A four-way selector navigates menus and selects photos during playback, while a “back” button makes it easy to go back a page in menus.
The HP Photosmart M547 performed well while taking pictures in both bright and low-light situations. It turns on quickly and shutter lag is minimal for a point-and-shoot digital camera. The camera’s Burst mode worked well. I was able to capture approximately two pictures per second for about 10 frames before maxing out the buffer memory. It’s also an efficient camera — I never exhausted the two AA batteries during my camera review sessions.
My biggest gripe is that the 2.5-inch LCD display did not perform very well in bright sunlight. It is a bit reflective, prone to fingerprints and not bright enough for viewing in direct sunlight. However, in lower light situations, the LCD performed fine.
I would prefer to have some manual control – at least the ability to select ISO*. I also thought the M547′s in-camera editing features were kind of silly, except perhaps for the red-eye removal. HP’s Steady Photo electronic image stabilization uses faster shutter speeds to help eliminate camera shake and freeze action. In low light it will increase ISO settings and can make images look more noisy or grainy. In testing, the M547′s Steady Photo image stabilization worked very well and helped catch sharp pictures even while intentionally shaking the camera.
The HP Photosmart M547′s image quality is decent for an entry-level digital camera. My outdoor images came out sharp with good overall exposure. Photographs lean toward over saturation, but they look good.
Photos I shot in lower-light situations were well exposed and sharp, aided by the M547′s electronic image stabilization. Using the Night Portrait mode and Sunset mode, which are intended for low light conditions, produced the most noise. I also noticed that setting the camera resolution to Medium (4 megapixels) produced images with less noise.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
The HP Photosmart M547 is a small, user-friendly, fully automatic camera that fits in a pocket and feels solid in the hand. HP covered the basics well. It takes good pictures in a variety of lighting situations. Its 6.2 megapixels make it a good choice for those who want to make prints. It delivers on its promise of being a compact, easy-to-use, digital camera. The fully automatic camera lacks manual control, but its nine exposure modes will please people who value a little creative control with their simplicity. Besides – for $100, who’s complaining?
Who Should Buy It
The HP Photosmart M547 is a good entry-level camera for anyone who wants a small, simple point-and-shoot. This is the perfect camera for kids, teenagers and technophobes who don’t want to think or spend too much.
However, people with poor eyesight may want to look for a camera with a better LCD display. Those seeking manual-exposure options will also want to look elsewhere.
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*Editor’s Note: the inability to manually select the ISO also made it difficult to do controlled studio testing. In order to change the ISO settings I had to change the amount of light I used on my test setup. For the highest ISO setting I ended up just turning off the studio lights, which resulted in unpleasant white balance. See the M547 studio sample photos to better understand.
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