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HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review

HP PhotoSmart 850 test

| HP PhotoSmart 850 in Compact Cameras

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 reviewWe've already had a look at one of HPs other recent Digital camera offerings, the Photosmart 812 and we weren't overly impressed. The new Photosmart 850 digital camera we're looking at here boasts a more impressive specification but shares many similarities to the 812.

HP Photosmart 850 main features

  • 3.92 effective megapixels
  • Fuji 8x optical zoom / 35mm equivalent: 37-300mm
  • 2" LCD
  • Shutter speeds 16sec to 1/200th sec
  • Average, Centre-weighted and spot metering
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • SD Card slot
  • ISO 100, 200
  • Uses four AA batteries
  • USB connection
  • Dimensions: 120x120x85mm (lens extended)
  • Weight: 388g
  • Price: Around £399

This type of compact digital camera with a big lens aren't as portable as the smaller 3x optical zoom lens type. Having said that, they're practically featherweight compared to the hassle of lugging a digital SLR and large lens around!

The Photosmart 850 has quite a cheap finish to it. The silver plastic casing is reasonably well put together, but can be marked easily.

The black grip is made from a rubbery material, as is the surround of the lens, making it easy to get a good hold of the camera.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review

The switches and buttons have an average feeling of quality to them, but overall the camera doesn't offer the quality finish of some of its rivals.

The user interface layout is very simple, with there being only three modes which you control using the switch around the shutter release button.

Without the lens extended, the camera is reasonably portable, but as you can see below, the 8x optical zoom lens takes up quite a lot of room when it's out.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review
HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review

Menu system

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review The general feel of this camera is simplicity and this is reflected in the lack of information shown on the LCD screen and viewfinder when framing a photograph in auto mode. With most rival cameras, information on the shutter speed, aperture and ISO would be displayed, which is going to be a great help to you in determining whether the shot will be blurred or sharp.
Record view  
HP Photosmart 850 review Using the four-way keypad on the back of the camera you can quickly flick through the photos you've taken. There is no histogram facility, which is often a great aid in checking whether a good exposure has been achieved.
Playback view  
HP Photosmart 850 review Again quite basic, the Setup menu allows you alter the following settings: Audio Record, Instant Review, Sounds, Eye Start (whether viewfinder automatically turns on), Date & Time, USB, TV, Language.
Setup menu  
HP Photosmart 850 review In the Capture menu you can alter: Exposure mode, White Balance (Auto, Sun, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual), AE Metering (Average, Centre-weighted, Spot), ISO Speed (Auto, 100, 200), Colour (Full colour, Black and white, Sepia), Resolution (1MP or 4MP), Compression (Good, better, best).
Capture menu  

Camera modes
Besides the three main modes of Still image capture, self-timer and video-capture there are a number of modes in the Exposure mode menu. These are:

  • Auto - Everything is automatically set for what the camera thinks will give the best results
  • Action - In this mode, the camera sets a higher shutter speed and ISO to freeze the action.
  • Landscape - Here, the camera uses the lowest apertures and ISO speeds possible.
  • Portrait - Wider apertures are used to blur the background and lower contrast is also applied.
  • Aperture Priority - Lets you select an aperture value and also shows the subsequent shutter speed.
  • Shutter Priority - Lets you select a shutter speed value and shows the subsequent aperture.

HP Instant Share
We covered the Instant Share software and technology in our HP Photosmart 812 review. HP have set out with the very commendable goal of making sharing photos easier. Their implementation of the theory works quite well, though many readers of this website will find features such as automatically emailing photos trivial or not of any use. This raises an important question as to what you expect your new digital camera to be capable of. Do you prefer ease of use and a simple camera menu interface or a more complex camera menu interface with lots of extra useful features? The HP Photosmart, with its HP Instant Share technology definitely leans towards the former of the two.

Viewfinder and LCD screen
HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review

The LCD on the 850 is a generous two inches and is fine to use. The Electronic Viewfinder is less impressive, looking quite cramped in comparison to some other electronic viewfinders I've used. The quality of it was also only average.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 reviewOn the left hand side of the camera, a piece of rubber covers the USB connection, video-out and power-in connectors. At the base of the camera there is a connector which is to sit on the camera charging/uploading base. HP are unusual, in that unlike almost every other digital camera manufacturer, they don't include a video-out cable in the box.


With a larger than average LCD display, plus an electronic viewfinder it's not too surprising that the 850's battery life isn't great. It is provided with four alkaline AA batteries, which aren't going to last at all long. A much more sensible type of battery to use with the 850 is the NiMH type which yield a much better performance.

Image quality
Left in automatic mode, the HP Photosmart 850 is capable of producing a high quality image, though unfortunately, not consistently. There are a number of issues that let it down, the white-balance automation isn't always accurate enough and although colours were well saturated there is still room left for improvement.

The Fuji lens HP have used helps matters considerably, and photos produced by the 850 do look sharp. However, it does seem the camera electronics are letting it down. There were problems with blue fringing in a number of shots and on several others the metering system didn't perform well.

In terms of resolution, it's the 850's saving grace with a slightly better than average level of detail being captured. All together, the 850 performed about as well as we'd expect a low-priced 8x zoom, four megapixel camera to.

Sample images

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review
The close up function of the HP PS 850 is about average for the price range it's in.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review
The crop below shows the 1:1 detail of the image above.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review
The camera is generally quite quick to react, though focussing speeds do slow things down sometimes.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review
The image to the right is a 1:1 crop of the furthest left box on the pavement. It shows the HP 850 is capable of capturing quite fine details. It also shows the chromatic aberrations we found present in a number of shots.

HP PhotoSmart 850 Digital Camera Review: HP Photosmart 850 review

The HP 850's simplicity of operation certainly won't be for everyone, but will no doubt attract many. For the more advanced photographer, who looks for a high level of control over his camera it may be a frustratingly simple camera to use. For the beginner who is looking to buy a simple to use camera, capable of producing good quality results, this is worth considering.

In summary the main positive points of the HP Photosmart 850 are:

Good zoom lens
High resolution
Easy to use
Photo sharing technology built-in

Negative points are:

Simple interface and functionality won't appeal to everyone
Chromatic aberrations are present on some images
Body scratches too easily
No video-out cable provided
xD card provided is too small

Discuss this review and other digital cameras here.
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