When buying a digital camera, the rule of thumb has been small size, small price, big features -- choose any two. With recent technological advances and price reductions, you can almost have all three at the same time. The Photosmart R817 is one of HP's recent efforts to cram its mix of image-enhancing technologies into an inexpensive, pocket-size camera. The 190g R817 has a 5.1-megapixel sensor, a mostly metal body and a bright 51mm (2-inch) LCD screen. It also has a 5x optical zoom, which is unusual in a camera this small.
Less impressively, it lacks an optical viewfinder (which can be a problem in bright sunlight), some of its photos are overly noisy, and the battery can take four to six hours to recharge. Despite its flaws, this camera would be a good choice for a beginner who wants to learn more about photography, because it can analyse your photos and offer context-sensitive advice. More experienced photographers will appreciate the HP Photosmart R817's manual controls.
Stylish and durable, the HP Photosmart R817's brushed-aluminium finish makes an immediate impression. The shiny metal looks terrific, though it does show fingerprints. A ribbed, leatherlike black strip along the top and the side makes it easy for your left hand to steady the camera. Rather than using a traditional two-button or rocker-style design for the zoom control, HP has created a crescent-shaped button that mirrors the shape of your thumb. Raised points at each end of the crescent let you feel the control without looking. It's a very functional design, though the raised points could irritate the skin after extended use.
Overall, the construction feels solid, with two exceptions. The cover for the retractable lens is flimsy. It could be pierced or broken if you place the camera in a bag or a pocket along with a pointed object. In addition, the cover for the battery and the SD card can be difficult to open and close. The cover is on the bottom of the camera, making the battery and the card inaccessible when the camera is mounted on a tripod.