HP's Digital Desires

A Hewlett-Packard digital camera gets a makeover, and comes out with a whole lot more than just a pretty face.

Remember Hewlett-Packard's advertising blitz for digital photography last fall? The striking ads made going digital almost impossible to resist. But HP's unimaginative cameras didn't match the billing. Ironically, HP probably persuaded many folks to buy digital cameras — just not HP's.

One look at the new Photosmart R707, a revamp of last year's clunky 5-megapixel Photosmart 935, shows that HP has come to its senses. The 18-month makeover has created the foundation for a new generation of cameras HP hopes will spearhead a broader push into a crowded market. Besides that, it's real sexy.

"The R707 was about us starting with a clean sheet of paper," says David Ryan, HP's director of marketing for digital cameras. The most obvious result is the packaging. The R707 weighs in at about the same 8 ounces as the 935, but it's a lot leaner. While the 935 feels like a bulky, plastic toy, the R707's compact sturdiness comes off as mature and reassuring. Then HP designed a sleek body of stainless steel and black matte rubber. An indented pocket on the brushed-metal faceplate follows the line of your middle finger, and the soft polymer for the back was inspired by the material used for PDAs and BMW gearshift knobs.

HP also improved the camera's internal architecture, collaborating with Texas Instruments on a chip that could be used to parent future generations. For now, the R707 comes with features that let you fix in-camera what you'd otherwise do on a computer, such as bringing out objects from shadows and removing red eyes. You can even call up your own help desk. Even better, the R707 is priced at a modest $349.99. Better late than never, it's a true contender — an object that has finally caught up to the desire.

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