The HP 850 has a fairly unique appearance, the front is dominated by the large 8x optical zoom lens which is surrounded by a soft rubber ring (this doesn't move). The curves are stylish but progressive, the hand grip is large and has a nice rubber soft rubber coating. The front of the camera is distinctive because it doesn't have a viewfinder window, the only other objects on the front of the camera are the microphone and AF illuminator. The rear features a video camera style electronic viewfinder which contains a high resolution, sharp microdisplay (of the type used on the Minolta DiMAGE 7, but better).
Side by side
Beside Canon's new PowerShot G3 (four megapixel, four times optical zoom) you can see that the 850's body isn't that much bigger but that the lens is considerably larger (hardly surprising). Both styled differently but both modern looking in their own way.
In your hand
In your hand the 850 feels comfortable, primarily thanks to the chunky hand grip and fairly wide girth of the camera body. The soft rubber coating on the hand grip means that the camera always feels steady, the matching rubber ring around the lens barrel adds to the 'prosumer' feel of the camera. Balance is good with the batteries located in the hand grip.
The 850's large 2 inch LCD monitor is bright and fairly clear, HP haven't yet given us specifications on the pixel count but resolution seems fairly good.
Just like the 812 the 850's LCD monitor was no where near bright enough in outdoor situations, you very often found yourself giving up and going for the EVF. Pretty poor.
The 850 features a 'Microdisplay' Electronic Viewfinder with 76,800 pixels (320 x 240). This kind of display is fairly unique because it has the ability to reproduce full colour at each pixel (by quickly flickering red, green and blue output). This is the same type of display was first used on the Minolta DiMAGE 7, at which time we weren't too impressed with its performance. However, HP have managed to provide a better image, the viewfinder image is clear and bright and delivers respectable resolution. The rubber ring around the edge provides dioptre adjustment.
HP PhotoSmart 850 4MP Digital Camera
w/ 8x Optical Zoom