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I have been using the HP Photosmart R967for a couple of years now, and have to say it has held up really well compared to a lot of newer cameras on the market.
The build quality of this camera is apparent straight away, its weighty (but not too much so) metallic feel is reassuring in your hand, and all of the buttons feel well put together and again, sturdy. The outer case is made of stainless steel, and has withstood a few years use extremely well; it has been dropped on a couple of occasions, and the only evidence of this is a tiny dent. Overall the Construction of this model is quite impressive, and does look and feel every bit the 'expensive camera'.
The R967 is chock full of all the usual features and settings, such as adaptive lighting, exposure compensation, red eye removal, scene type selection (night shot, sport shot et cetera). The large 3" screen (which also doubles as the viewfinder) is clear and precise, and the brightness again can be adjusted to suit your needs, although in extreme light conditions outside this will still be difficult to see. Coming back to the red eye reduction, with this switched on, it will indeed remove/drasticly reduce the red eye effect in photos, but very occaisionally, it seems to create a strange effect on peoples eyes that makes them look like they have black holes on place of eyes, and this in turn means the picture is useless (unless of course you are going for the ghoulish eyeless look). There are 7 buttons on the top of the camera for instant access to funtions, these are: Flash mode, Focus, photosmart express (which I have never used, but gives you the option to quick print on a compatible printer), View/Take pictures (one touch operation to switch between the two), next is the power indicator light separating the on'off or power button. the last two buttons are the video mode button (so that you can record a video with sound) and the shutter release (or take the picture) button.
This camera is chock full of features, and one nice touch that I like is the advice option, where once a picture is taken, if you select 'advice', the camera will analyse the picture and composition, and then offer advice as to which settings need to be changed. This is a great feature for those of you (Ok, ok, ME!) that arent sure how to set up your caera to get the best results. the camera will happily snap away on Auto settings and produce some fine pictures, but I think to get the most out of it you should have a little tinker with the settings and admire your great, yet strange, results.
Zoom funions on the camera seem to be located just a little bit annoyingly next to the screen which means you will inevitably wobble the camera when trying to adjust it, but it isnt the end of the world.
***Ease of use***
If all you want is a reliable camera that takes good to great pictures, say for the family, then this is a definate contender even if it is a few years old now, as its 10 mega pixel quality, and automatic settings are easy enough for the most inept camera user to work out. You can quite happily point and shoot with this camera and turn up some pretty good results. Charging and downloading the pictures from the memory card (MMC or SD card) is done via a charging dock, and is a case of plugging the usb and mains adaptor in, and docking the camera. The software on board is compatible with windows media and will automatically start downloading any pics that you dont already have on the PC. As Andrei says: "Simples".
In my opinion, reliability comes down to the following things:
1) Battery life. The battery life of this camera from full charge is fair to good, as it depends how much time you want to spend tinkering with the pictures once you have taken them (e.g. making the image sepia, or black and white, or reviewing all the pictures you have taken again and again), it is also affected by the temperature, and will reduce if exposed to extreme heat. That all said, I usually get a full days snapping in before it starts to warn me that the battery is getting low, so on that fromnt i would say 4/5
2)Will it do what it says on the tin when you ask it to? Again, this is a simple a question as you can get, and this camera does indeed do what is asked of it nine times out of ten. There has been the odd occaision when I have taken a couple of pictures, then switched it off and back on, taken another, and then off and on again, and it has gotten equally as confused as im sure you are reading this now and given up for about 30 seconds to catch up. So as long as you dont try and confuse it by continuously turning it on and off, you should be fine.
The options on the camera allow for the user to set up two main components of the quality. Firstly the Image Quality (Mega Pixel count) which ranges from VGA, then 3MP, 6MP, and 10MP (which is best, but not always neccessary). The second factor it offers is compression which means the amount of memory space it allows for each image to take up on your memory card, this is based on a 5 star rating, with 5 stars being the least compression, and thus giving the best results, but taking up the most space.
I have taken some great pictures with this camera, and although it would never beat a full on SLR camera, I think it is more than capable of making the most amateur photographer look good.
When my better half bought this camera it was £249.99 including all of the bumf that is needed, e.g the docking station, and all leads, as well as a camera case, and wrist strap (reccommended!), and after a quick google it is available now for around the £200 mark, which really says a lot for a 3 year old camera in my eyes.
I was bought this for Christmas. I find it extremely easy to use and it takes brilliant photos. I use the automatic settings all the time as they are equally as good as setting everything manually - even on Macro. It is light and compact and fits into all of my handbags! The viewer on the back is larger than most other digital cameras so it is easy to see what you are taking photos of. All in all a very good camera for both beginner and practised photographer.