With the plethora of affordable digital cameras available now, we have to wonder why HP is offering one without an optical zoom. Equipped with only a 7x digital zoom, this 4-megapixel camera doesn't cost much (about £100 online). However, sluggish performance and mediocre image quality overshadow the Photosmart M23's ease of use, attractive design and price. If you're in the market for an easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera, you're better off paying a few quid more or dropping to a 3-megapixel model and getting an optical zoom.
The HP Photosmart M23's attractive silver metal-and-plastic body is weatherproof to withstand splashes, although submerging it is out of the question. Sufficiently compact to fit in a trouser pocket, the camera weighs 175g with batteries and a memory card installed. However, its sliding lens cover, which protects the lens and powers the camera on and off, can be accidentally moved during normal carriage in a bag. If you're not careful, you could run down the batteries with such inadvertent power-ups.
Since the Photosmart M23 doesn't have an optical zoom, the lens does not protrude when you power the camera on. There's no optical viewfinder either, so the small 38mm (1.5-inch) LCD provides the only viewing option. The right rim of the LCD is home to most of the physical controls: buttons for selecting capture and playback, flash settings, automatic-exposure modes and the self-timer.
You have to go into the menu system to reach other settings on this camera, but it's logically organised and offers written descriptions of what each selection does. A whole menu section is devoted to shooting tips, information about the camera and other helpful information. The onscreen type is small, but if your eyesight is up to the task of reading it, you can leave the camera manual at home. Combined with the M23's simple physical layout, the help system makes this camera very easy to use.