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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.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 03/19/2001

Executive Overview
HP's PhotoSmart 618 packs a lot of features into a compact, 35mm-style body, with a nice range of exposure controls, including aperture- and shutter-priority modes; user selectable white balance, spot, average, and center-weighted metering; and exposure compensation. The 618 also offers two unique features we've come to love in HP cameras -- the JetSend infrared port for beaming images to other HP compatible products, and a proprietary Imaging Technology that maximizes color balance and file interpolation for better image processing. The 2.11-megapixel CCD and 30-bit color depth (10 bits per color) also contribute to the camera's exceptional image quality and color.

Measuring 5.0 x 2.8 x 2.2 inches (127.5 x 56.5 x 71.5mm) and weighing 14 ounces (400 grams) with the batteries, the PhotoSmart 618 is the perfect size for carrying in a large coat pocket or purse, and an attachable shoulder strap offers quick, on-the-spot shooting. The camera features more external controls than the entry level PhotoSmart 215 and 315 models, including a convenient Mode dial on top. The large 2-inch LCD monitor provides a limited information display, reporting camera readiness and various functions that are selected using the soft keys below the screen. The real-image optical viewfinder includes a diopter adjustment dial, a central autofocus target for lining up shots, and a high eyepoint to facilitate viewing for eyeglass wearers.

The high-quality Pentax 3x, 5.2-16.5mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 34-108mm lens on a 35mm camera), has an aperture range of f/2.4 to f/9.6, plus automatic or manual focusing from 1.64 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity in normal mode, and from 0.33 to 1.97 feet (0.1 to 0.6 meters) in Macro mode. A fixed-focus Infinity mode is ideal for landscape photography. In addition to the optical 3x zoom, the 618 also provides up to 2x digital enlargement, activated by zooming past the optical telephoto range. (Users should be aware that digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom, since the digital zoom is merely cropping and enlarging the center portion of the CCD. As a result, digitally enlarged images often result in higher image noise and/or softer resolution.)

The majority of the 618's exposure controls are accessed through the LCD menu system, with the exception of the Flash, Self-timer, Remote, and Macro and Infinity Focus modes. Exposure modes include Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Landscape, Portrait, and Action, with the Aperture and Shutter Priority modes allowing the user to select the appropriate exposure setting, while the camera chooses the best corresponding value to achieve a good exposure. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to four seconds, giving the 618 more low-light capabilities than the entry level models. The 618 also provides adjustable exposure compensation from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV) in one-half-step increments, plus Spot, Average, and Center-Weighted Metering options to help establish more accurate exposures based on specific lighting conditions.

White Balance settings include Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, and Fluorescent light sources, and the adjustable ISO feature can be set to Auto, 100, or 200 sensitivity equivalents (depending on exposure mode). A File Settings menu enables the user to select between JPEG and TIFF File Types; Good, Better, and Best Quality Level settings; 1/4 or Full Size Resolution; as well as Full Color, Black and White, and Sepia shooting options. The 618's built-in flash operates in seven modes (Auto, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On with Red-Eye Reduction, Forced Off, Night, and Night with Red-Eye Reduction), each controlled by the flash button on top of the camera.

The PhotoSmart also offers a Remote Control mode for use with the accompanying Infrared Remote Control. When the Remote mode is set, a three-second countdown is engaged by pressing the shutter button on the remote, a nice feature for taking group photos with the photographer in the picture. A 10-second self-timer is also available, triggered by a full press of the shutter button in Self-Timer mode. In addition to the standard single exposure mode, the 618 also offers Continuous shooting and Time-Lapse photography modes. Continuous shooting takes an unlimited series of images in rapid succession for as long as the shutter button is held down (or until the memory card runs out of space). In Time-Lapse mode, the camera takes a preset number of images at specified time intervals.

The 618 is capable of recording up to 45 seconds of sound to accompany each captured image or series of images (such as Continuous and Time-Lapse images), and an Image Stamp function can print text or logo watermarks on images, with a series of logos available from HP's website.

The 618 has two image viewing modes that are selected through the Mode dial: Playback and Review. The Playback mode provides information about each image in an overlay bar across the top of the screen, including the image number and the date and time it was recorded. The three soft keys underneath the LCD monitor are used to play and stop image slide shows, zoom in and out of an image for closer inspection, and "Collapse" or "Expand" groups or sequences of images stored on the CompactFlash card. (Collapsing a series of images makes only the first image visible in Playback or Review modes. Expanding the series makes all of the images in a group visible.) There is only one set of menus in Playback mode, these are the Play Settings. Slideshow allows the user to determine the content of a slideshow, the duration, whether the sound is on or off, and whether or not the slide show loops or stops after one play through. Playback rate can also be determined, and the video connection set to NTSC or Pal format.

In Review mode, the Edit menu allows you to delete images, link them together as groups, write-protect individual images, and categorize them by subject (Scenery, Vacation, Friends, etc.). A Print Order Form menu sets up images for DPOF printing, and a Transmit menu allows the user to send images via the 618's infrared port from Camera-to-Camera, when used with other HP Digita enabled digicams, and from Camera-to-Printer, when used with an HP JetSend enabled printer. Finally, a Find menu enables the user to search through stored images by Date or Category.

An NTSC video cable is provided to connect the camera to a television (PAL for European models), where images can be played back using all of the functions in the 618's Playback and Review menus. A USB cable is also supplied to connect the camera to a computer for downloading captured images.

The 618 is powered by four AA batteries, and a set of alkaline batteries accompanies the camera. You can also use lithium batteries, NiMH rechargeables, or the optional AC adapter. Hewlett-Packard offers a set of NiMH rechargeables, with a battery charger, as optional accessories.

Two software CDs supplied with the camera are loaded with HP's Photo Imaging software, a copy of the User's Guide, plus ArcSoft PhotoImpression and PhotoMontage software programs. HP's Photo Imaging software (for Windows only) provides minor editing, organizing, printing, and Web sharing utilities, while the Mac and Windows compatible ArcSoft PhotoImpression software provides similar image editing, organizing, and printing tools. ArcSoft's PhotoMontage (also dual platform) creates large images from mosaics of hundreds or thousands of smaller images.

We found the 618 to be an important addition to the HP PhotoSmart line, as it provides a wider range of exposure options than the 215 and 315 models, and slightly less sophisticated capabilities than the high-end 915 model. The camera's multi-talented infrared interface enables high-speed communication with HP compatible printers and cameras, and the extensive in-camera image sorting and categorizing capabilities are very useful tools for photographers who want to keep track of their images in an organized manner. Overall, we feel the PhotoSmart 618 is a worthy candidate for novice photographers who appreciate having automatic capabilities while they learn about various photographic functions, and room to "grow" into their cameras. Add the portable size and classic styling, and you have a well-rounded digicam with simple, point-and-shoot capabilities that can handle just about any situation.

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