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HP PhotoSmart 618

HP's capable mid-level model offers 2.1 megapixels, an optical zoom lens, and ease-of-use.

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>

PhotoSmart 618 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 03/19/2001

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)


Outdoor portrait: (941k)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart 618 does a good job. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (928 k) and daylight (923 k) white balance settings, which produced similar, slightly warm results. We eventually settled on the daylight setting for our main series, as it produced the most natural skin tones. Color looks good throughout the image, though the blue flowers and pants have a greenish/yellowish tint from the warm color cast. These blues are hard for many digicams to reproduce correctly, often resulting in purplish tints. Other than a slight overall warm cast though, the 618 does a great job with these difficult hues. Resolution is moderately high, with a fair amount of fine detail visible throughout the image. Overall image sharpness is a little soft, but details are still reasonably crisp. We noticed that the details of the bright red flowers appear pixelated along the edges of the petals (common in digicams, particularly against blue backgrounds as here, against the blue flowers). The shadow areas show a fair amount of detail, with a low level of very small-grained noise, but the deepest shadows "plug up" pretty completely. Noise is also faintly present in the house siding. Our main image was taken with no exposure adjustment whatsoever, as even the smallest adjustment to +0.5 EV (941 k) seemed too bright. This is actually a good outcome, as most cameras require the us to fiddle with the exposure to get a good tonal balance on this shot. We also noticed that from +0.5 EV and up, the color cast cools significantly. Overall an excellent performance. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.5 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 551
F/ 6.4
(925 k)
0.5 EV
1/ 381
F/ 6.4
(941 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 273
F/ 6.4
(1135 k)
1.5 EV
1/ 196
F/ 6.4
(1094 k)



 
Closer portrait: (1062k)
The 618 does a good job with this closer, portrait shot, thanks to its 3x lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots.) We again shot with the daylight white balance setting, and again noticed a shift in color cast with different exposure compensation settings. With no exposure compensation (1062 k), the image is slightly cool and dim. Raising the exposure adjustment to +0.5 EV (843 k) brightens the image (a little too much) and produces a warmer cast. Overall, one criticism we have of the PhotoSmart 618 is that we'd really have preferred smaller exposure compensation steps: The 1/2 EV step size is just a bit too large to get the best results from a digicam. Resolution looks higher in this close-up shot, with more fine detail visible in the model's face and hair. The subtler surface texture of the house siding also becomes more apparent. Details are reasonably sharp, though again with a hint of softness. Noise remains moderately low and fine grained in the shadow areas, with trace amounts visible in the house siding. Our main shot was taken without any exposure adjustment at all. Though the image is a little dim, the +0.5 EV adjustment adds a little too much brightness. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.5 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 566
F/ 7.1
(1062 k)
0.5 EV
1/ 316
F/ 7.1
(843 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 280
F/ 7.1
(835 k)
1.5 EV
1/ 770
F/ 3.6
(908 k)



 
Indoor Portrait, Flash: (1014k)
The 618's built-in flash does a great job of illuminating the subject, without producing too strong of an orange cast from the background incandescent lighting. The orange cast is present, but is less intense than we've seen from other digicams. We initially shot with the flash in normal, "Forced On," mode with no exposure compensation (1108 k). This resulted in a reasonably bright image, with good color and a pretty accurate white value on the model's shirt. The shadow areas have a blue tint, and some orange tints are visible where the shirt is reflecting the incandescent lighting, but the image still looks good. One thing we liked about the 618 is that the exposure compensation control worked for flash exposures as well as non-flash ones. Increasing the exposure compensation to +0.5 (1072 k) and +1.0 EV (1035 k) brightens the exposure a fair amount, with noticeably more blue tints at the +0.5 EV setting. The +1.0 EV setting virtually eliminates the blue shadows on the white shirt, and produces a whiter, more even light on the model (though color begins to wash out in the flower bouquet). Next, we shot with the flash in the slow sync mode, which allows more ambient light into the image with a slower shutter speed. Again, we shot with no exposure compensation (1114 k), as well as +0.5 (1066 k) and +1.0 (1014 k) EV adjustments. With these longer exposures, the orange cast in the background lightens, and the overall scene lighting appears more even. While we didn't see a dramatic increase in brightness between each exposure adjustment as in the previous series, we did notice that the flash illumination retains its bluish cast. Color also looks good and less washed out than in the +1.0 EV shot with the normal flash setting. We chose the +1.0 EV slow sync flash shot for our main image (1014 k), which, despite the bluish tints, has the most natural appearance.


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (1006 k)
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting, and the 618's white balance system has a little trouble with this difficult light source. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (1008 k) and incandescent (976 k) white balance settings. The automatic setting resulted in a greenish cast, while the incandescent white balance setting produced a much warmer image with a sepia tint. A tough call, but overall we felt the automatic setting produced the more accurate image. (And a simple "auto levels" operation in Photoshop cleaned up the image wonderfully, as seen here, with surprisingly accurate colors for such a difficult lighting condition.) With both color casts we detected some purplish tints in the blue flowers. Skin tones look pretty good with the cooler color cast, though slightly pinkish and flat. (Skin tones were entirely too orange with the warmer color cast.) Resolution is moderately high, with reasonably sharp details. We noticed that the pink flower and the green leaves around it appear the sharpest in the image, presumably because this is where the camera focused. Noise level is moderate throughout the image, though with a reasonably small grain pattern, which gives the entire image a slightly hazy, milky effect. We shot our main image with a +0.5 EV exposure adjustment, to reduce the sepia cast of the zero exposure compensation image. The table below shows a range of exposures from zero to +1.5 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
1/ 18
F/ 2.5
(1014 k)
0.5 EV
1/ 12
F/ 2.5
(1006 k)
1.0 EV
1/ 9
F/ 2.5
(950 k)
1.5 EV
1/ 6
F/ 2.5
(885 k)



 
House shot: (1231k)
NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the 618 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster in the automatic (1082 k) white balance setting.

We shot samples of this image with the daylight (315 k), automatic (378 k), and fluorescent (322 k) white balance settings. The automatic and daylight settings produced warm images, with the daylight setting resulting in a slightly warmer cast. We tried shooting with the fluorescent setting, just to see how it would respond to our studio lighting. The resulting image had a very cool, bluish cast, but an almost accurate white value. Despite the warm cast, we went with the automatic setting for our main series because the overall color balance looked best. Resolution seems pretty good, with a fair amount of fine detail visible in the bricks and shrubbery, and in the tree limbs surrounding the house. Overall image sharpness is a little soft, with less than a pixel of a halo along the light and dark edges of the white roof trim as evidence to the in-camera sharpening. We also detected some corner softness in the image, at all four corners. Noise is moderately low in the roof shingles and shadow areas, but with a fine grain that gives the darker values a hazy look. The table below shows our standard range of resolution and quality settings.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(5669 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 54
F/ 2.4
(1231 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 54
F/ 2.4
(502 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 54
F/ 2.4
(302 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 54
F/ 2.4
(378 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 55
F/ 2.4
(169 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 54
F/ 2.4
(111 k)



 
 
Far-Field Test (1166k)
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

We shot this image with the automatic (106 k) and daylight (106 k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. Interestingly enough, the daylight setting appeared to overexpose the image, losing more detail in the white highlights. The automatic setting resulted in a much better looking exposure, with an accurate, though slightly cool, white value. This shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite range of fine detail in a natural scene like this, viewed from a distance. Resolution looks pretty good, with the stronger details of the tree branches around the house, as well as the bricks and house front details visible. The camera also picks up the faint details of the wooden fence behind the house (visible on the driveway side), particularly the differentiation between the fence boards. Overall image sharpness is slightly soft, a trait we noticed throughout our testing. We also judge a camera's dynamic range in this shot, comparing how well the camera holds detail in both the shadow and highlight areas. The 618 has some trouble with the bright, white paint of the bay window, losing all but the strongest details. Alternatively, the dark shadow area of the porch shows a reasonably high level of detail, with the brick pattern and some of the trim detail completely visible. Noise level remains moderate in the roof shingles and shadow areas of the house, again with a small, tight grain pattern (which produces a haze over the darker values in the image). The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(5669 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 536
F/ 5.6
(1166 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 532
F/ 5.6
(610 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 538
F/ 5.6
(281 k)
Small/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(1448 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 525
F/ 5.6
(293 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 525
F/ 5.6
(157 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 525
F/ 5.6
(100 k)



 
 
Lens Zoom Range
We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy to present you with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with the lens at full wide angle, the lens at full 3x telephoto, and at full telephoto with the 2x digital telephoto enabled. The 618's wide angle setting captures a very large field of view, with a small amount of barrel distortion along the curb of the street. Resolution is slightly less than in the Far shot, with a complete loss of detail in the white highlights. Resolution and sharpness increase with the 3x telephoto setting, making the stronger details of the bright, white bay window visible. The details of the shrubbery also appear much sharper. For some reason, we didn't manage a digital telephoto version of this shot, we'll reshoot if we have time...

Wide Angle
Shutter: 1/ 548
Aperture: F4.8
(1122k)
3x Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 272
Aperture: F8
(1233k)
2x Digital Telephoto
Shutter: 1/ 308
Aperture: F8
(1060k)



 
 
Musicians Poster (847k)
The large amount of blue in this image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, and we noticed that the 618's automatic white balance system fell victim to the trap, producing a very warm cast overall. The warm cast gives the skin tones of each model an orange tint, and produces reddish tones in the blue background. The blue of the Oriental model's robe is nearly accurate, though greenish from the warm cast. Resolution looks good, with most the fine details of the bird wings and silver threads visible on the blue robe, though the fainter details of the smaller bird on the front of the model's shoulder are lost. The violin strings are reasonably sharp, with a small moire pattern visible at the top of the strings (many digicams produce moire patterns on these sharply defined strings). Despite a hint of softness throughout the image, the details of the flower garland and beaded necklaces also appear relatively sharp. Noise is moderate and mainly visible in the blue background (some of the noise may be in the actual poster itself). The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Fine
1/ 38
F/ 2.6
(1107 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 38
F/ 2.6
(557 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 38
F/ 2.6
(283 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 38
F/ 2.6
(269 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 39
F/ 2.6
(162 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 38
F/ 2.6
(89 k)



 
Macro Shot (1133k)
The 618 performs very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 1.47 x 1.11 inches (37.43 x 28.07mm). Detail and resolution both look great, with the intricate details of the brooch completely visible and fairly sharp. We can even see the tiny fibers of the paper of the gray background. Color balance is a little warm from the automatic white balance setting. Noise is very low, and only faintly visible in the gray background. The 618's built-in flash (903 k) does a good job of throttling down for the macro area, cooling the color balance slightly, but producing surprisingly even illumination throughout the image. The details of the dollar bill are crisper in the flash exposure, though the brooch and coin details soften slightly. Overall, the PhotoSmart 618 appears to be unusually well suited for macro photography!


"Davebox" Test Target (1043k)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (94 k) and daylight (94 k) white balance settings. We chose the automatic setting for our main series, as the daylight white balance produced a very warm, almost sepia, color cast. Color balance looks good with automatic white balance, and the mini resolution target has an accurate white value. The large color blocks appear nearly accurate, though the magenta and kelly green blocks appear slightly weak. The bright red color block shows a more distinct noise pattern than the rest of the color blocks, with a somewhat pixelated effect. The 618 clearly distinguishes the subtle difference between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart (a common problem area for many digicams), though it reproduces the black separator line with a reddish tint. The 618 also picks up the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart all the way up to the "B" range (another common problem area), though the color distinctions are somewhat faint. The tonal gradations of the smaller, vertical gray scales also look nice, but the darkest two blocks show no tone differentiation, blending into one value. The shadow area of the briquettes shows relatively little detail, showing the tendency to "plug" the shadows that we've noticed in some of our other test shots with the PhotoSmart 618. The white gauze area also shows nice detail: Although the highlights are very bright, all the detail there is well preserved. Some noise is visible in the black background, with a small, tight grain pattern that gives the entire image a slightly hazy look. Resolution seems about average overall, though the mini resolution target appears a little soft. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(5669 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.7
(1043 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 55
F/ 2.7
(503 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 55
F/ 2.7
(307 k)
Small/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(1448 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 55
F/ 2.7
(242 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 54
F/ 2.7
(163 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 55
F/ 2.7
(93 k)



 
Low-Light Tests
The 618 performs reasonably well in the low-light category, as we were able to obtain a bright, clear image only as low as one foot-candle (11 lux). The target was still visible at light levels from 1/2 to 1/16 of a foot-candle (5.5 to 0.67 lux), but with a strong orange cast and much higher noise levels. (You could arguably still use images at the 1/2 and 1/4 of a foot-candle light levels, despite the noise and color cast.) Noise level remains low from the one foot-candle light level and up, though it increases with each darker light level from 1/2 of a foot-candle on down, becoming moderately high at 1/16 of a foot-candle. (We direct readers to Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program, for a tool with an amazing ability to remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.) To put the 618's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so the camera should be able to handle most average nighttime city shots pretty well. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

8fc
10EV
88lux
4fc
9EV
44lux
2fc
8EV
22lux
1fc
7EV
11lux
1/2fc
6EV
5.5lux
1/4fc
5EV
2.7lux
1/8fc
4EV
1.3lux
1/16fc
3EV
0.67lx
Click to see P61L00.JPG
988.3 KB
1
F2.4
Click to see P61L01.JPG
1,021.1 KB
2
F2.4
Click to see P61L02.JPG
960.3 KB
2
F2.4
Click to see P61L03.JPG
1,009.3 KB
4
F2.4
Click to see P61L04.JPG
970.3 KB
4
F2.4
Click to see P61L05.JPG
1,048.2 KB
4
F2.4
Click to see P61L06.JPG
930.6 KB
4
F2.4
Click to see P61L07.JPG
1,120.4 KB
4
F2.4



 
Flash Range Test
Hewlett-Packard estimates the 618's flash as effective from 0.98 to 18.0 feet (0.3 to 5.4m), which coincides with our test results. We found the 618's flash power brightest from eight to 13 feet from the target, with a decrease in intensity between the 13 and 14 foot distances. However, flash intensity remained fairly effective and at the same brightness level as far as 15 feet from the target. (Our studio isn't long enough to test Hewlett-Packard's claims of 18 feet.) Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 15 feet from the target.

8 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(1058 k)
9 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(1076 k)
10 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(1081 k)
11 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(1100 k)
12 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(804 k)
13 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(825 k)
14 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(753 k)
15 ft
1/ 125
F/ 4
(489 k)



 
ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (979k)
In our "laboratory" resolution test, the PhotoSmart 618 turned in only an average performance among two megapixel cameras, with resolution of about 600-650 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions. Beyond the absolute resolution figures, the image showed an overall softness that we observed in most of our other test shots. The detail is there, we suspect there's just a tad too little in-camera image sharpening being applied.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(5669 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 135
F/ 2.4
(979 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 138
F/ 2.4
(572 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 135
F/ 2.4
(285 k)
Small/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(1448 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 137
F/ 2.4
(238 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 135
F/ 2.4
(166 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 133
F/ 2.4
(103 k)


Resolution Series, Telephoto
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(366 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 59
F/ 3.7
(969 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 59
F/ 3.7
(566 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 59
F/ 3.7
(275 k)
Small/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(1448 k)
Small/Fine
1/ 58
F/ 3.7
(236 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 59
F/ 3.7
(164 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 59
F/ 3.7
(103 k)


Resolution Series, Digital Telephoto
Large/Uncompressed
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(1448 k)
Large/Fine
1/ 27
F/ 4
(296 k)
Large/Normal
1/ 26
F/ 4
(190 k)
Large/Economy
1/ 27
F/ 4
(137 k)

Small/Fine
1/ 27
F/ 4
(297 k)
Small/Normal
1/ 26
F/ 4
(191 k)
Small/Economy
1/ 27
F/ 4
(137 k)



 
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the 618's optical viewfinder to be a little tight, showing approximately 80.3 percent of the wide angle view at the 1,600 x 1,200 (321 k) resolution size, and approximately 80.5 percent of the image at the 800 x 600 (101 k) resolution size. The optical viewfinder remains tight at the telephoto setting as well, showing approximately 81.25 percent of the image area at the 1,600 x 1,200 (302 k) resolution size, and about 81.16 percent at the 800 x 600 (97 k) resolution size. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98.5 percent of the image area at wide angle (320 k), for both resolution sizes. However, the LCD's frame accuracy loosened (very) slightly at the telephoto end of the zoom range, showing approximately 98.4 percent of the image area at the 1,600 x 1,200 (292 k) resolution size, and about 98.16 percent at the 800 x 600 (110 k) resolution size. We say "loose" because the heavy black lines we use for measurement are just barely out of frame with the telephoto LCD shots. We determined the frame accuracy by measuring vertical line on the right side of the images, which is just barely cut off at the bottom of the frame. Given that we like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 618 still does a good job. (Just remember to frame a little extra into your telephoto shots when using the LCD monitor.) Flash distribution looks even at the telephoto setting, with a small hot spot near the center of the target. (Inconsequential, due to target reflection.) At the wide angle setting, flash distribution is brightest in the center of the target, falling off around the edges and corners.

Optical distortion on the 618 is about average at the wide angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto setting produced much better results, as we saw only a half pixel of pincushion distortion or less, which was too small to measure. Chromatic aberration is low, showing about a two pixels of faint coloration on each side of the black target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

 

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<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

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