On a budget model like the M22, which to be frank doesn’t have particularly good image quality to start with, the results when using the digital zoom are appalling. To be fair though the camera does at least give you some warning that this is happening. When you zoom in on your subject, rather than magnifying the view to full-screen size on the monitor it draws a small box in the centre of the scene and shades out the areas that will be outside the frame. This makes it even more difficult to frame the shot, and should discourage people from using this feature.
In terms of general performance the M22 is decidedly below average. Despite not having a zoom lens to extend, it still takes around 3.5 seconds to power up from a cold start. In daylight conditions with no flash, and at full resolution, it can manage a shot approximately every four seconds. If the flash is used this drops to a rate of one shot every 15 seconds, which is very slow indeed. There is no continuous shooting mode, but the M22 does have a half-way decent movie mode. It’s only capable of shooting in QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) resolutions, but it does so at a smooth 24 frames a second and can shoot until the card is full. On the subject of memory, the M22 has 16MB built in, enough for five images at full resolution.
The M22 does feature three clever features that are unique to HP cameras. The first is Adaptive Lighting Technology, which helps to capture details in highlight and shadow areas. It also has in-camera red-eye removal, which automatically detects the red-eye effect sometimes seen in flash shots and removes it. For a fuller description of these features, see my recent review of the HP R717.
Finally we come to image quality, and here’s where the bad news really starts. Even under ideal conditions on a bright sunny day the images lack definition and look massively over-processed. With the Adaptive Lighting turned off images look like they’ve been blurred and then sharpened again, edges are jagged and pixelated, whereas areas of colour lack any detail and look like they were painted on with a brush. Add the adaptive lighting into the mix and shadow areas fill up with random colour noise and artefacts. Use the digital zoom and all you are left with is vague shapes with no detail at all. Flash range is severely limited, and coverage does not reach into the corners of the frame. All in all, a very disappointing performance even considering the budget price.
The HP Photosmart M22 is a good concept that is let down badly by very inferior performance and picture quality. It is remarkably cheap, but even at under £85 it still isn’t good value for money. If you need weather resistance then there are better outdoor pursuits cameras available, such as the Pentax Optio WP and Olympus Mju 500, both of which have vastly superior performance.