The inexpensive R742 is a cinch to use, but its image quality could be better. Comes in silver, black, and dark blue.
At $150, the HP Photosmart R742 is an affordable 7-megapixel digital camera. It's available in a choice of three colors--silver, black, and dark blue--but you may also find it in other colors at some large retailers. For example, Best Buy offers a pale-blue version.
The camera is very easy to use, in part because it's so simple. The menus offer just a few options divided into categories for still capture, video recording, playback, and general camera settings. Expert photographers may find such basic features limiting, but novices should be happy leaving the R742 in its fully automatic mode or choosing from among the eight scene modes.
The R742 looks similar to many other compact point-and-shoot cameras (another in the Photosmart line is the R727, for example). A 2.5-inch LCD stretches across the back; although the camera lacks an optical viewfinder, this screen is clear enough for composing your shots in all but the brightest sunshine. The tough metal body looks like it can stand a few knocks, but the mode slider on our test model was a little loose--and seemed a tad flimsy.
The camera is very easy to use, in part because it's so simple. The menus offer just a few options divided into categories for still capture, video recording, playback, and general camera settings. Expert photographers may find this limiting, but novices should be happy leaving the R742 in its fully automatic mode or choosing from among the eight scene modes.
At this price, you don't get fancy features such as face detection for automatically focusing portraits. A single focus point in the center of the image means working the old-fashioned way when taking photos with off-center subjects: hold the shutter release halfway to focus and then compose your shot.
While shooting is almost too simple, you get plenty of in-camera editing features for working on your images. The camera lets you remove red-eye, crop and rotate, change color tones, and apply some simple borders. The built-in help system offers a few words of explanation for every operation, plus many pages of useful information on shooting with the camera. The unit also comes with HP's excellent Photosmart software for managing and editing your images. HP includes a two-piece charger for the lithium ion battery, which survived very well to complete 334 shots in our tests.
The R742 produced well-below-average results in PC World Test Center evaluations, however. Our shots were quite blurry, and we saw lots of distortion in fine details. But its battery life of 334 shots was about 16 percent better than the average for the compact cameras we tested in the same batch.
The HP Photosmart R742 makes an adequate choice for beginning photographers or those just wanting to capture the moment with a minimum of fuss, but you can get a much better camera for not much more money.