HP – Photosmart 850 review

big, capable digital camera
Photo of HP – Photosmart 850
£380 + VAT

Somewhere in the depths of the huge HP corporation there is a team that desperately wants to develop a 35mm film camera. Instead they’ve been told to sort their act out and develop a digital camera fit for 2003, so here it is: the HP Photosmart 850, a digital camera that looks just like a traditional film camera. As a result it’s quite large at 120mm x 120mm x 85mm with the lens extended.

The specification includes some big numbers, including a 4.1 Megapixel resolution, 8x optical zoom, 7x digital zoom and a lens that is the 35mm equivalent of 37-300mm. In fact the specification actually says “Total 4.13 Megapixels (3.89 recorded Megapixels)” so let’s err on the side of caution and say it’s approximately 4 Megapixels.

HP has chosen to power the Photosmart 850 with four AA batteries (supplied), which is not a choice that we approve of, as one of the beauties of a digital camera is that it has no consumables to pay for. If a Li-Ion battery isn’t appropriate for some reason then at least give us four AA Ni-Cads and a charger. Anyway, the four batteries live in the part of the camera that looks like it should hold a roll of 35mm film.

The rest of the layout is conventional, with a decent-sized 50mm display and just enough buttons to navigate the set-up menu comfortably.

You’ll find the flash on top, where it pops up when you release a catch. This is hardly rocket science, but again it’s not quite what we want to see. A regular flash set in the front of the camera can respond to the auto setting as necessary. Perhaps it’s all a ploy to discourage us from using up those AA batteries.

Thankfully all this is mere quibbling, as the HP is very good indeed when it comes to taking photos, both indoors and outside. The colour balance is just right, the picture is sharp and clear, and that huge zoom range drags the subject just as close as you want. The most important thing is that the Photosmart 850 doesn’t add or remove any information; instead it takes the picture that is in front of you.

HP includes both a USB cable to connect to your PC and a USB Direct print cable, should you have an appropriate printer. That’s inevitable as HP is an imaging company, however we tend to find that pictures need a bit of editing before printing. The included HP Instant Share software helps you to send photos to your nearest and dearest over the Internet, although we trust that visitors to this site are au fait with e-mail and attachments and so likely to be able to manage on their own.

Company: HP

Contact: 08705 474747


Verdict
This is a relatively large digital camera that has an impressive specification to match its size and weight. It delivers excellent photos and offers fair value for money too. This is one to take on holiday with you, rather than, say, snapping away at the office party or down the pub.