When I first signed up to do Media as an A Level subject, I knew that I needed a decent digital camera that would not only be easy to use but that would provide me with excellent, high quality images.
I originally got a cheaper, unmemorable brand that included dodgy software that nearly sent my computer into melt down! Deciding that the best thing to do would be return it back to the shop, my search began again for a better camera. I knew that the only way to be truly satisfied would be to buy a more expensive one by a better brand, one that I had a lot more experience with.
Hewlett Packard is a very respectable brand, producing anything from printers to laptops and now-a-days bluetooth headsets. I'd had a lot of their products before and was consistently impressed with the ease of use and longevity of their technology.
But was the HP Photosmart M22 any better than the rest?
WHAT YOU GET...HOPEFULLY!
I was first impressed with this little number whilst looking for my replacement camera. To me it was 'the one' because it had many great features on it, including 4 Megapixel shot ability, a 6X digital zoom as well as panorama and red eye removal assistance. Great.
Then, I hit my first snag. Once I got my new baby home, to my horror, there was no USB cable or batteries in it plus the CD software had already visible been used. Grrr. Obviously, this was not HP's fault but not a great way to start my experience, thanks to a well known electrical chain that shall not be named.
Thankfully, I got a replacement and continued with the adventure.
In the box, second time round, there was everything there was meant to be, including:
*The actual camera
*Two AA batteries
*HP's own photo editing software
*Strap for wrist attachment
After checking that everything was in included, I managed to get it up and running, taking random shots of anything and everything available to me. I was very surprised as to how lightweight it was; it would be a very good camera for someone who is younger or who has problems holding heavy objects due to arthritis because of it's round and compact shape.
The HP adaptive lighting technology is fairly useful, a good mode to have on all of the time. Although sometimes it is not evident on the screen whilst taking the picture, it is a feature that is prominent whist re-examining the pictures later on. I have noticed though that with this camera, in general, it doesn't work exceptionally well in dim lighting situations, which could mainly be a product of its now logo megapixel unit.
Other light features that are included are used in the event of severe weather conditions, including heavy sunlight and even snow. The snow one is perhaps a little hit and miss and the sun is slightly dodgy as it may make images a little too light. The picture quality is also good but can struggle a little under limited, artificial light which isn't much of a surprise.
As well as being able to take pictures in their regular, colourful setting, you can also capture images using sepia and black and white effects. The sepia tone is the weaker of the two as it actually makes the pictures come across as a bit wishy washy but there are some good features that appealed to a media student like me who enjoys fiddling about with different functions and shooting things in different styles.
ON SCREEN TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTING TO YOUR COMPUTER
The red eye removal feature is a good one if you want to send the image straight away via email. It works a lot better than I honestly expected it to although, in some extreme cases, not all of the red eye effect was depleted as much as I would have liked. Having said that, it does take away the majority of this issue and makes the picture look less like a satanic attack than before!
The panorama view allows the picture taker to take a much wider shot of a landscape or building because it joins the images together to make it look as if they were shot all at once. However, it is a little difficult as you do have to make sure that the lens is in the right place so that the image looks complete. Then again, it is easy enough to edit any mistakes out because of the software being of a fairly good quality.
The video capture and audio function is also another good selling point for this camera. Although you can't take vast amounts of footage - depending on what else you have on your device already - it is still a great part of the Photosmart M22, which was another reason as to why I chose this camera above some of the others. These are stored and converted into MPEG's once on your computer, meaning that they can be watched back at a moderate amount of ease on such Microsoft programmes as the Movie Maker.
Although you have to make sure your camera is switched on when you try and upload to your computer, I do find that this is useful as it lets your know exactly what is going on with the connection between your computer and camera. For example, it will tell you if your USB is not connected properly and is simple and easy to rectify.
Whether it was just me trying to get use to some of the software or not, it was originally a little difficult to get it to translate over to the correct file. I would definitely recommend that you make sure that your footage isn't stored where the camera wants it to be on your computer or it may take you the best part of a week to find it again!
Uploading the software was simple but took a bit of a while to complete, lasting just over half an hour. Never the less it was worth it, as it includes a number of great features including changing the size, colours, horizontal or vertical fixtures and many other things, perfect for just that one photo. Don't get me wrong, it could never replace something like Photoshop but is still a good addition to this, especially if you want to use the 'quick send' feature via email and just want to edit the image a little.
The software has got a few unavoidable problems. The main one is how slow it is in comparison to some of my other programmes; it may just be my computer that is jam packed with rubbish but the process of just inverting the image takes quite a while. You also get the feeling that your computer is about to conk out through its epic use of hard work! It could take literally minutes to do a two second job with the software provided here.
Also, if you did want to send images via email, you do need to make sure you're signed up to Snapfish or else this isn't possible. Then, once you've signed up, you'll be getting an obscene amount of messages from the company, telling you about 'free' photo processing and stuff like that on a fairly regular basis.
The email process in itself could be quite challenging as you do have to literally go through your sending technique with a fine tooth comb before it will even send the one photo.
The print quality of your pictures does largely depend on your printer. However, if you use a HP printer, I have found that these images look a lot more pristine and professional in comparison to a Lexmark printer that we had when I first purchased this camera. Again, this might just be down to the reliability and model of your printer but overall, the print outs of the various photographs I have taken are very good and lifelike.
GOOD CAMERA OR BAD CAMERA?
This camera does have some good advantages, mainly because of the fact it is lightweight and quite durable. I've dropped mine several times and it's still - for the most part - in fine working order. However, after I have dropped it in the past, I have needed to check to make sure that it is ok straight away as there is usually an issue with the battery holder (more about that later). This camera fits roughly in the palm of your hand, another thing I personally liked about the Photosmart M22 as it makes photo taking easier because of how handy the camera in itself is.
However, there are definitely a few faults with the digital camera itself, firstly the terrible battery life. Included in the pack are two AA Alkaline batteries. Yet, working at its best, the camera requires either rechargeable or Alkaline batteries or failing that, Lithium ones.
To be honest, the battery life is so poor that I am thinking their is a problem with my camera; the batteries I am currently using, Duracell Plus, have only been in the camera for a little over half an hour (at various time intervals but still not very long) and is drained of power already! Rip off! The batteries are certainly not a positive part of this other wise averagely good quality digital camera which is a real disappointment.
Another thing that does detract away from the quality of the camera is the fact that the battery door latch is very loose and doesn't always shut very well. I wouldn't say I have abused the camera so much that it is in dire straights but this is a bit of an issue as it often tells me that my new set of batteries are drained of power, even if I've just taken them out of the packet! This can be more than a bit frustrating sometimes, especially when you get a moment of inspiration and want to capture it on camera straight away.
As the battery door latch is so temperamental, if you do drop the camera by accident, make sure that it will actually close again with the batteries in their rightful place. Whilst I may have made it sound in parts of this review as if I am a right clumsy so and so, truth is that this product hasn't been dropped even a handful of times but is already showing the strain.
The AC adaptor is not included in this purchase, again, something which is not fantastic about this model. While you do get a fair amount of additional accessories, such as a wrist strap and software, some essentials such as a case are missing, as well as the o-so expensive batteries needed for it to function properly. I do think that in many ways it is a cheek with them advertising the more expensive batteries when you purchase the camera as you are not getting the best of the best as they are so keen to promote.
Another minor thing; whilst uploading the software, you need to turn your Anti-Virus software off, something that I am not a huge fan of. Whilst - thankfully - my computer was alright after its instalment, I did wonder how necessary it was at the time. It may put some people off it they use their computer for their business as you do have to log onto the internet at some points during the instalment process.
This camera software is compatible with Window's XP and Mac and I Photo. As it was released a good few years ago, I don't know how this particular model fairs against the newer Vista packages but in my experience with my laptop, if you get a HP printer or laptop, than this software should be automatically updated and work fine with the HP Photoshop M22.
In conclusion, whilst the camera's quality is good, think very carefully before purchasing this as the battery life is really awful and an expensive part of this other wise good money purchase. The instruction manuals are good, in a variety of different language to solve many of your teething troubles. Yet, with it only having 4 megapixels in itself, there are many more up-to-date models you can get than this one, which would undoubtedly provide you with better quality images at a similar sort of price but with a higher megapixel rate.
I would recommend getting a memory card if you do decide to purchase this camera as it can't really hold all that much data. If I remember from when I first used it, I could store about 30 images before I needed more space which isn't bad but certainly not the best around.
Also, don't be fooled by the fact that this camera is supposedly 'weather proof'. At a glance, it may look like water proof but I really would not want to chance chucking this in water, especially not with the battery door latch being as poor as it is.
I originally purchased my camera from the high street nearly two years ago at about £90, which is a good price for a camera by this particular brand. It is still available on many internet retail shops at a similar price.