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HP PhotoSmart 215

HP's entry-level model offers ease of use for beginning shooters.

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

PS215 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 3/10/2001

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: (418k)
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 215 had some difficulty interpreting the situation. The camera's automatic white balance produced a rather warm image, resulting in a yellowish tint in the model's shirt and orange skin tones. The blue flowers came out dark violet, as do the blue pants. (These blues are quite hard for many digicams to reproduce correctly, so we don't mark the 215 down as much for their treatment of the blues as we might otherwise.) Overall color is a bit undersaturated as well. Still, brightness isn't too bad, given that the 215 does not have an exposure compensation adjustment (most cameras require a noticeable exposure boost for this subject), and the highlight and shadow areas are well exposed. Resolution shows a moderate level of fine detail, with reasonably good sharpness. We also noticed a fair amount of "jaggies," or visible pixels, around sloping and diagonal lines throughout the image though. Shadow detail is somewhat limited, with a moderate amount of noise present.

Closer portrait: (389k)
This photo shows why we're partial to cameras with zoom lenses: Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in closeup shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting closeup people shots. The PhotoSmart 215 has a fixed focal length lens, set to a medium-wide focal length equivalent of 43mm. This results in some distortion, but not as bad as many single focal-length cameras with wider-angle lenses. White balance on this shot takes on a very cool, blue cast, causing the skin tones to appear more magenta. Resolution looks much better with this shot, with much more detail visible throughout the face and hair. The shadows are missing some color information, with splotchy-looking color transitions in the skin tones though. We also picked up a faint, vertical striping pattern in the shadows. Noise is again moderate in the shadows, and still present in the house siding.

Indoor Portrait, Flash: (324k)
The 215's built-in flash does a good job of illuminating the subject, but the camera's automatic white balance system produces an slightly color cast in response to the background incandescent lighting. Overall though, the color balance is pretty good, and actually better than we see in this shot with many higher-end cameras. Color saturation is somewhat low though. Though the greens and blues of the flowers are a little too dark, the remaining flowers and skin tones don't look to bad, color-wise. Again, we noticed jaggies and splotchy color transitions throughout the image. Flash intensity is good, though, and doesn't overpower the subject. Overall a pretty good performance.

Indoor portrait, no flash: (350k)
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 215's white balance system does a pretty good job, considering its complete automatic control. Overall color balance is just slightly magenta little magenta, and we noticed some greenish tints around some of the white highlights (strongest in the shirt and on the background wall). Color is also rather flat and undersaturated, and the blue flowers appear violet instead of royal blue. Again though, we have to rate the overall color as pretty good, given that many much higher-end cameras don't do nearly as well with this shot. Likewise, exposure is surprisingly good, as we're accustomed to adding significant positive exposure compensation on this shot, when testing cameras that offer an exposure compensation adjustment. Jaggies are again present, as are the odd color transitions, and noise is moderately high. Again, a surprisingly good performance overall.

House shot: (421k)
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 215 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster in the automatic (483k)white balance setting.

The 215's automatic white balance did a pretty good job with this shot. However, we noticed that the color balance shifted to a cooler, bluish tone with the other two images in the resolution series. (We saw this random color variation in several situations with the 215, apparently triggered by subjects with very strong highlights, as seen here in the bay window on the front of the house. Lower contrast subjects didn't seem to trigger the problem. We're not sure whether this is a generic problem with the 215 or just an issue with the particular unit we tested. We have a message into HP asking about this, but as of this writing hadn't heard back yet.) Probably our biggest criticism is that the image has a slight, milky haze overall. This is a tone range problem, which cleans up pretty easily with an "Auto Levels" operation in Photoshop(tm) as shown here.(364k) - An easy fix, but we doubt typical 215 owners will also have a $600 image editing program at their disposal. Artifacts and jaggies abound in this image, probably due to the large number of "organic" shapes Apart from the artifacts, resolution is pretty good though, with ample fine detail visible in the tree limbs above the roof and in the house front details. The entire left side of the image appears soft, but the remaining details are sharp enough. The roof shingles and shadows show a moderate amount of noise, and we barely detected the in-camera sharpening (visible as a tiny halo around the light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line). The table below shows our standard range of resolution and quality settings.

Resolution/Quality series
(421 k)
(422 k)
(97 k)

Far-Field Test (572k)
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.

This shot shows the problem we had with the 215's white balance system being "tricked" by very strong highlights. Our main shot here has a very warm cast while the shots taken at the lower quality settings had much color colors. 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 with the 215 is somewhat low (although not outside the range of what we'd expect from a 1.3 megapixel camera), though we can distinguish the tree branches against the sky and the stronger details of the house. The brick pattern is mostly visible, though blurred in areas. Details are reasonably crisp, though with jaggies present in all of the diagonal lines (stark pixels most visible in the white trim along the roof line). 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 215 has some trouble with the bright, white paint of the bay window, losing all of the trim detail. Alternatively, the shadow area of the porch is quite bright with a lot of detail, and you can even see fairly distinct reflections in the windows above the door. Noise in the roof shingles and shadow areas of the house is moderate, but doesn't detract from the overall image too much. The table below shows the full resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
(572 k)
(413 k)
(93 k)

Lens Zoom Range
We've received a number of requests from readers to show the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Though the 215 doesn't feature an optical zoom, we can show you the view at wide angle and with the 2x digital zoom enabled. As we noticed with the Far shot above, white balance changes from a very warm cast with the wide angle shot, to a very milky, blue cast with the digital telephoto shot. The 215's wide angle view is fairly large, with only a hint of barrel distortion visible in the image details. The 2x digital telephoto increases the noise level, and produces more artifacts in the image, though overall resolution looks surprisingly good.

Wide Angle
2x Digital Telephoto

Musicians Poster (433k)
The large amount of blue in this image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, but the 215's automatic white balance system did a pretty good job handling the challenge. A milky effect is present throughout the image, and the color balance is slightly bluish, causing the skin tones to appear a little pale. The blue of the Oriental model's robe is a little dark, but close to accurate. Resolution looks good, with a surprising amount of detail visible on the bird wings and silver threads of the blue robe. Details also appear reasonably sharp, though the beaded necklaces and the hand of the African-American model are a little soft (in fact, the entire right side of the image appears soft). Jaggies are present and mostly noticeable in the diagonal lines of the instrument strings. We again noticed odd color transitions, particularly in the change in skin tones on the models' cheeks. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
(433 k)
(290 k)
(76 k)

Macro Shot (296k)
The 215 does a good job in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 3.22 x 2.41 inches (81.67 x 61.25mm). Detail and resolution look pretty good, though slightly soft. A little corner softness shows up on the left side of the image. Noise is low in the gray background, and we notice some moire patterns in the tiny details of the dollar bill. Color balance looks good throughout the image, though a touch magenta. The 215's built-in flash (315k) also does a pretty good job of throttling down for the macro area, and actually appears to sharpen the details slightly (perhaps through the use of a smaller lens aperture).

"Davebox" Test Target (364k)
The 215's automatic white balance system does a good job with this target, producing a nice white value on the mini-resolution target. Some magenta tints are visible, but aren't too bad overall. The large color blocks look undersaturated, something we've noticed throughout our testing of the camera, though the large red block is reasonably vibrant. We noticed a small halo around the outer edges of some of the brighter blocks, which seems to be a typical digicam response to the contrasting colors. The 215 just barely picks up the subtle difference between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart (a problem area for many digicams), oversaturating them slightly and losing the black separator line. The 215 also captures the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart all the way up to the "B" range, which is another common problem area for digicams. The tonal gradations of the smaller, vertical gray scales also look good, though the darkest two blocks are nearly inseparable. The shadow area of the briquettes shows good detail, with moderate noise, and the white gauze area shows a lot of detail as well (though with interesting color variations between the highlight and shadow areas). A moderately high noise level exists throughout the image, with highest visibility in the black background. The mini-resolution target is somewhat crisp, with visible moire patterns. The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series
(364 k)
(238 k)
(55 k)

Low-Light Tests
The 215 had some trouble in the low-light category, as you might expect, given its purely automatic exposure control and maximum exposure time of 1/3 of a second. We were only able to obtain a bright, clear image at a light level of eight foot-candles (88 lux). The camera produced a usable image at four foot-candles (44 lux). Images became progressively darker with the lower light levels, taking on a bluish color cast. To put the 215'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 night exposures will require the built-in flash. 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.

ISO 100 Click to see P21L00.JPG
283.1 KB
Click to see P21L01.JPG
286.4 KB
Click to see P21L02.JPG
261.1 KB
Click to see P21L03.JPG
239.4 KB
Click to see P21L04.JPG
245.0 KB
Click to see P21L05.JPG
178.5 KB
Click to see P21L06.JPG
201.0 KB
Click to see P21L07.JPG
134.8 KB

Flash Range Test
Hewlett-Packard estimates the 215's flash as effective from two to eight feet (0.6 to 2.5m). In our testing, we found the 215's flash still effective as far as 12 feet from the target, though with diminished intensity. The flash level was brightest at the eight foot distance, decreasing slightly with each additional foot of distance. (A sign that the "true" range was in fact about 8 feet.) Flash power decreased a good bit at the 10 foot mark, but brightened again at 11 feet. (?) From 12 feet on, the images took on a bluish color cast. We also noticed faint, horizontal striping in images shot from nine feet on. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft
(107 k)
9 ft
(107 k)
10 ft
(91 k)
11 ft
(118 k)
12 ft
(118 k)
13 ft
(115 k)
14 ft
(117 k)

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (359k)
The PhotoSmart 215's resolution wasn't terribly impressive in the "natural" subjects we tested it on, but it didn't do nearly as badly as it's performance on our "laboratory" test target would indicate. The laboratory test results are hard to call, given the number of image artifacts, extending even to very low spatial resolutions. Discernible detail is visible out to perhaps 550-600 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, but artifacts are quite evident beginning as early as 350 lines.

Resolution/Quality series
(359 k)
(329 k)
(67 k)

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the 215's optical viewfinder to be surprisingly accurate in terms of scale, although the final image was shifted down and to the right relative to what we saw in the viewfinder. The image was almost dead-on the right size, as we measured coverage at 99.5% of the final frame area, at both 1280 x 960 (160k) and 640 x 480 (422k) image sizes. (A note though: These numbers are subject to a lot of interpretation: The edges of the viewfinder frame were quite indistinct, as we could see a lot more of the subject if we moved our eye around a bit. Normally, we determine framing by the maximum extent of the target we can see, regardless of eye position. In the case of the 215's finder though, we ended up having to move our eye around quite a bit to do this. We thus ended up using it as we'd assume most users would, more or less guessing where the edges of the frame were. Surprisingly, the end result was unusually accurate.) Images framed with the optical viewfinder are also slanted just slightly toward the lower left corner. The LCD monitor showed approximately 91.45 percent accuracy at both 1280 x 960 (169k) and 640 x 480 (47k) resolution sizes, but very well centered. We generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the 215 does well in this respect, though the resulting images were again somewhat slanted toward the lower left corner. Flash distribution looks pretty good, with some falloff along the edges and in the corners. We also noticed light magenta and green tints on the target.

Optical distortion on the 215 is moderate, as we measured an approximate 0.43 percent barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only about a half a pixel of 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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