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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good color reproduction, some of the best automatic white balance we have seen
  • Good resolution performance, at least as good as the 'best of the rest' four megapixel
  • Accurate metering performance, processing makes good use of total dynamic range
  • Low noise levels even at ISO 200, although limited to that as maximum sensitivity
  • Eight times optical zoom lens means plenty framing of flexibility
  • Fairly good macro performance, zoom automatically limited in macro mode
  • Good flash performance, no noticeable color cast or exposure problems
  • Easy to use design, simple control layout
  • Large high resolution two inch LCD monitor
  • Good implementation of the 'Microdisplay' electronic viewfinder
  • AF assist lamp that appears to work at well at all focal lengths
  • Clear full text message display ('FOCUS TOO CLOSE' / 'FOCUS TOO FAR' etc.)
  • Automatic rotation of JPEG image in-camera (uses orientation sensor)


Conclusion - Cons

  • Jagged diagonals / poor demosaic algorithm
  • Some chromatic aberrations at or around maximum aperture
  • Dim LCD monitor difficult to see in outdoor situations
  • Few controls for shutterbugs, no control over image processing (tone, color, sharpness)
  • Half stop exposure compensation can be limiting
  • No manual exposure mode, no night scene exposure mode
  • ISO sensitivity limited to maximum ISO 200, although noise levels indicate capable of higher
  • Noticeably slow processing/write times, 14 seconds on the HP, 3 seconds on a Minolta F100
  • Odd bottom right corner vignetting at wide angle / wide open aperture
  • No manual focus


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the HP Photosmart: (4 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8
Features 5
Image quality 7
Lens / CCD combination 7
Ease of use 8
Value for money 7

The HP 850 is a flexible and easy to use offering, easy to learn controls, a big eight times optical zoom lens and a four megapixel sensor. HP are a company without a traditional photographic background, but that obviously isn't stopping them from progressing through the market with ever improved cameras and extended feature sets.

The 850 is capable of taking some very nice images, especially if you're shooting primarily for image reduction (web posting, galleries, email etc.) or for smaller prints. That said there's not getting away from the fact that HP still have some way to go in image processing, available feature set and component quality (that LCD monitor). Lets hope that HP can continue to improve.

Average

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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