I found the camera to be practically unusable in just about all indoor situations no matter how well lit they were. You might just manage to grab a shot in a very brightly lit office environment but I’m guessing that most household lighting schemes wouldn’t cast enough light to allow for a reasonable photo to be taken. Even outdoors it was difficult to get a well-exposed image capture in anything less than bright conditions. This might not be an issue in California but it certainly was in the UK’s notoriously drab weather patterns. On the flipside of course comes the problem that in conditions bright enough to give good results, it becomes increasingly difficult to see the screen and frame your shot to begin with.
Despite the poor low-light performance, the well-exposed pictures that I did take showed that the camera was capable of doing a very good job at the higher settings. There was some vignetting present and images were a touch soft at the edges, but colours were fairly neutral and details were sharp and with strong contrast. (see below)
Image file sizes at a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 ranged from 731KB at “Best” to 237KB at “Good”. 731KB is quite large for a 1.3 megapixel image and shows that the “Best” setting uses very little compression. The “Good” setting however, while creating much smaller files also introduced compression artefacts into the final image and is best avoided under most circumstances. Incidentally, the smallest image size I captured was just 38.2KB for a 320 x 240 capture using the “Good” setting. Needless to say the image was good for little more than viewing on a PDA or perhaps a mobile phone screen. (see below)
The power and flexibility of the PocketPC means HP could have included all manner of interesting photo techniques, like exposure bracketing, real-time video effects, composition grid overlays, shutter speed information and more. Instead, it has managed to omit even the most rudimentary of functions. This is a shame as the iPAQ 4150 on which I tested this camera is one of the all-time great PDAs in my humble opinion, which makes it all the more difficult to have to talk down one of its most promising add-ons.
However, when you consider the situations where the camera will be used, most will probably involve shooting indoors. Whether it be the estate agent I mentioned earlier, impromptu product shots at trade shows, or weddings and birthdays, they’re all going to be dependant on the amount of light available and I’m guessing that there won’t be enough unless the events are happening outdoors. Add to that the weak macro aspect making close-ups not as close as you’d probably like, and you’re left with a camera that falls short of expectations.
HP has created a compact 1.3 megapixel camera capable of some pleasing results in the right environment, and then crippled it with poor, featureless software and almost non-existent low-light capability.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7