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Cameras That Polish Your Portrait

For years, people wanting to upgrade their own electronic image have had to work on it--writing a just-snarky-enough blog, pimping out a MySpace page, leaving witty comments on Evite. Now they can just press a button or two on a digital camera.

For today's column, I tried out two cameras that can make portraits look better than their real-life subjects: HP's Photosmart R937, which offers a "slimming mode," and Fuji's FinePix F50fd, which features a "portrait enhancer" mode to smooth away wrinkles.

As I wrote, these features don't work all the time or with all subjects. (Notice that in the sample photos on Fuji's site, the woman "benefiting" from the portrait-enhancer mode is too young to exhibit any noticeable wrinkles.) But creating a super-you has certainly gotten easier than it was before.

I hope you will use this power responsibly. Have you? Let me know in the comments.

After the jump, some extra details on each of these cameras:

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Fuji FinePix F50fd
The single best feature on this may be its support for cheap, widely available SD Cards, not just the pointless, proprietary xD-Picture Card format cooked up by Fuji and Olympus. As any good camera should, the F50fd provides optical image stabilization to steady your shots. It focuses on faces automatically and cleans up red-eye effects on its own--but also provides manual control of aperture and shutter speed, a feature not often found on cameras this compact.

On the other hand, the F50fd's controls badly need some simplification, as I noted in today's column. Its 12-megapixel resolution is ridiculous overkill, unless you use it as a substitute for a zoom lens (the 3x optical zoom doesn't reach too far). And its "IrSimple" infrared image transfer can beam over a picture in a hurry but only works with a few other Fuji models.

HP Photosmart R937
HP's cameras isn't that much bigger than Fuji's, but it feels considerably bulkier, thanks to its convex contours. It's much more of a point-and-shoot model, with few manual controls. It only includes six buttons, with most of its functions controlled through a touch-sensitive screen.

That display, at 3.6 inches across, is one of the biggest I've seen on a digital camera. (Both this and the Fuji dispense with optical viewfinders entirely.) Its 8-megapixel resolution is more appropriate for everyday use, though it still exceeds many people's needs. The R937 fixes red-eye effects and also offers a "pet-eye" fix that I didn't get a chance to test. But it only provides digital image stabilization, a cheaper, less effective alternative to optical systems that move the lens or sensor to compensate for any movement.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 11, 2007; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Pictures  
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Comments

What about some example photos? Can you post a photo of "regular" and "slimmed," "super-slimmed," and "that looks fake" please? Or show some funny examples where the background looks bad because of this effect? Thanks!

Posted by: josef | October 11, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I don't contest the right of manufacturers to produce these cameras, but I am that people are vain enough to digitally slim themselves down in their personal snapshots.

Posted by: William | October 11, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

(Correction of previous comment)

I don't contest the right of manufacturers to produce these cameras, but I am dismayed that people are vain enough to digitally slim themselves down in their personal snapshots.

Posted by: William | October 11, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

These things don't work!

http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com

Posted by: steve Ballmer | October 11, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

FSB, I think we've all figured out your blog's address by now. How about making some sort of meaningful comment while you're here?

Josef: That's an eminently reasonably request, one I should have thought of before I wrote this post! As a stopgap, here a few shots of my colleague Frank Ahrens:

The original shot

Slimmed

Slimmed more

Slimmed still further

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | October 11, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, Rob. That's very interesting. I like the way the contours of the light panels change. It looks like Frank starts off at WP in the regular shot and ends up on Star Trek with curved, swoopy lights overhead.

Maybe HP has it wrong. Instead of changing people's appearance, they should change the background. You could start off where you are, then you can select any background you want: Tahiti, Mt. Everest, on field at the Super Bowl, even the Moon!

Posted by: Josef | October 11, 2007 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Note how the arms start curving out in the slimmed pics. This would probably work better with a portrait shot taken farther away.

Posted by: BR | October 12, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

All Photoshop jockies have been doing this for friends for years, and wedding photoraphers are always asked for these 'services.' Which makes one wonder what future generations will think about we citizens of the early 21st Century: wow! We were all slim and blemish free! Also, Grandma and Grandpa sure look like crap in real llife, compared to the babes they were on their wedding day!

Posted by: Natural Ned | October 12, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

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