As you can see the 812's overall design is "keep it simple", the camera is designed to look like a traditional 35 mm compact camera with a roughly central lens and rounded hand grip. Control layout is very straightforward, a power button on the top of the camera along with the mode dial (movie, self-timer, record) and shutter release. On the back of the camera are controls for flash and macro modes, zoom, display and a four way controller. The body material is plastic but the camera feels fairly solid and doesn't have any creaks or build quality issues.
Side by side
As you can see the 812 is a fairly small camera, approximately the same height and thickness as Kodak's DX4900 but more compact lengthways. Four megapixel compact cameras, from left to right: Canon PowerShot S40 ($650), HP 812 ($500), Kodak DX4900 ($400).
In your hand
In your hand the camera feels fairly well balanced and solid, you immediately know where the major controls are (as they've been positioned well). The arc cut-out of the hand grip (front) acts as a hook for your forefinger and improves the overall grip.
LCD Monitor / Viewfinder
The 812 has a 1.5" LCD monitor, this unit (or probably the way its driven) is one of the cameras major weaknesses. Indoors or in the shade it's fairly usable, but get outdoors and even worse in bright sunlight and it's almost completely unusable. I simply found it to be far too dark to be used as a live viewfinder outdoors.
Above the LCD monitor is a standard 'optical tunnel' style viewfinder. The top (green) LED indicates focus (blinks if bad, solid if good), the bottom (red) LED blinks to indicate self-timer or glows steady during movie recording.
Battery / SD Compartments
In the base of the 812 you will find a small battery compartment which accepts two AA batteries. My recommendation would be to get a combination set of four NiMH AA's and a charger, this way you've always got two spare batteries with you. If you buy the optional camera dock you can trickle charge batteries in the camera when it's plugged into the dock. One problem I did have with the 812 was that if you leave it without batteries for too long it will simply loose the date and time.
On the right side of the camera (from the back) is the SD slot, neat and simple it's a push-click insert and push-click eject type. Note that the 812 does not support the MMC storage type, only SD (I'm sure this will lead to some confusion).
The 812's lens is the same unit used on the Pentax Optio 430. It provides a 35 mm equivalent zoom range of 37 to 111 mm with a maximum aperture of F2.8 at wide angle and F4.8 at telephoto. The lens also features an automatic lens cover which closes over the front element after the lens retracts (at power off).
On the left side of the camera (from the back) is a small rubber flap which covers the USB connector and video out port. USB cables are supplied for connection to both a computer and directly to compatible HP printers.
If you purchase the optional camera dock these connectors are repeated on the dock itself.
The base of the camera is simple enough, on the left side is the battery compartment door which opens diagonally outwards. Just below this is the multifunction Camera Dock connector (see below) which is normally protected by a supplied rubber grommet (although it did drop out rather easily). The tripod mount is sadly not in line with the lens and neither is it in a good position for a steady grip on most tripod mounts (it's too close to the edge of the camera).
The optional c8881 Digital Camera Dock provides the 812 with a 'home' where you can simply drop the camera to both connect it directly to your computer and (trickle) charge batteries inside the camera. Connectors on the back of the dock are for connectivity to power, video out, USB to printer or USB to a computer. The dock comes with four AA NiMH batteries. The support structure on the top of the dock is referred to as the 'Dock Insert' and comes with the camera.
Retail Box Contents
- HP PhotoSmart 812 digital camera
- 16 MB Secure Digital Card
- 2 x AA Lithium batteries (non-rechargable)
- Wrist Strap
- USB cable
- USB host cable to printer
- Warranty Card
- Dock Insert
- Software CD-ROM
Optional HP Accessories
- HP PhotoSmart c8881 Digital Camera Dock
- Includes: AC adapter and 4 AA NiMH batteries
- HP AC Adapter c8882a (3.3V)
- HP Basic Digital Camera Starter Kit y1789a
- Includes: Charger, 4 AA NiMH batteries, camera bag