The Samsung HZ15W is one of only a few cameras with a 10x or greater zoom range packed into a body small enough to fit easily into most jacket pockets. This compact ultra-zoom design is great for anyone who want a relatively small camera but doesn't want to sacrifice zoom range. Samsung hasn't released official specifications for the HZ15W size and weight, but we expect it will be similar to the HZ10W, which weighs in at only 7.7 ounces.
The front of the Samsung HZ15W is dominated by the, relatively, large Schneider-Kreuznach 10x lens. To the left of the lens are an LED indicator and an autofocus assist lamp. Just above and to the left of them is the built-in flash and towards the far left you'll find a textured strip to help you grip the camera securely.
On the back of the Samsung HZ15W you'll find the 3-inch LCD display To the right of the display are a collection of controls, including a 4-way control, Fn, E and Playback buttons. Above these, at the top right of the back, is a rocker switch that can be used to adjust exposure compensation in automatic mode or make manual adjustments in manual modes.
Each side of the Samsung HZ15W houses a port, a difference from its predecessor, which had a port on only one side. On the right side is Samsung's proprietary data connector, while on the right you'll find the Mini-HDMI port.
The top of the Samsung HZ15W is finished in glossy grey. At the far left you'll find what is likely the speaker. Towards the center is the power button and to the right of that is the shutter button with zoom toggle surrounding it. Finally at the far right you'll find the mode dial.
The bottom of the Samsung HZ15W houses the tripod mount in the center, thankfully made of metal rather than plastic. To the left of that is a cover for the battery and memory card slots.
Like most point and shoot cameras the Samsung HZ15W does not have a viewfinder.
The LCD on the HZ15W is one place where Samsung has seen fit to upgrade the camera over its predecessor by increasing the size form 2.7 inches to a full 3 inches. This puts it on par with other competitors in this space. Unfortunately Samsung has not seen fit to share information about the screen resolution, the HZ10W had 230,000 dots.
The small flash on the Samsung HZ15W is located just above and to the left of the lens on the front of the camera. This positioning, rather close to the lens, means you can probably expect to run into some red-eye issues. There's also support for flash compensation between +/- 1.
The heart of the Samsung HZ15W is its 10x Schneider-Kreuznach lens, with a focal range that runs the gamut from an impressive wide angle of 24mm to a 240mm telephoto (35mm equivalent). This range offers users an enormous amount of flexibility in composing their shots. Although it's a bit less than the 12x zoom range found on some competitors, the 24mm wide angle is currently tops in this category, albeit Panasonic comes close with the 25mm lens on the ZS3. Less impressive is the maximum aperture of the lens at f/3.3 at the wide end and f/5.8 at the tele end. This is par for the course with ultra zooms like the HZ15W; packing that much range into such a small body you do have to make some sacrifices.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
Like most Samsung cameras the HZ15W uses their proprietary port for data connection, found on the left side of the camera. A new addition on the HZ15W, however, is the presence of a mini HDMI port found on the opposite side, which allows you to output the high definition video the camera is able to capture directly to your television.
The HZ15W's battery is found under a cover on the bottom of the camera, right next to the memory card slot. Samsung hasn't provided any information about how long they expect the battery to last.
The Samsung HZ15W handles standard SD and high capacity SDHC cards. The latter are currently available in sizes up to 32GB. the memory card slot is found on the bottom of the camera right next to the battery underneath a plastic cover.
Design & Appearance
The Samsung HZ15W's is a handsome camera, sporting a dark grey finish with grey metal highlights around the lens and on the top of the camera. It's not going to make a fashion statement, but you won't be embarrassed to pull it out of your pocket either. Oh, did we mention that it'll fit in your pocket, and it has a 10x optical zoom? That alone will make it sexy for many.
Size & Handling
The Samsung HZ15W is a very comfortable camera to hold and shoot with. Although it's small compared to other ultra-zooms, it's larger than most compacts. Samsung have thoughtfully added a bulge towards the right of the camera to give you more to hold onto, as well as putting a textured strip on the front to make sure your hand doesn't sleep. The positioning of the flash is of some concern, as you can see below it's pretty easy for those with larger hands to cover the flash up when holding the camera.
Unfortunately Samsung has not released official specifications for the Samsung HZ15W's size and weight, but we feel comfortable assuming that it will be similar to the HZ10W, which measured 4.13' x 2.42' x 1.44' and weighs in at 7.7 ounces. After holding the camera we can say it's very similar in size to its principal competitors the Canon SX200 IS and Panasonic ZS3. In fact it's a bit surprising how similar the form factor of these three cameras are. We imagine that it's because all the manufacturers are basically trying to pack similar components into a similar amount of space.
The Samsung HZ15W's menu system is clean and well organized. At the top you'll find tabs and below that you'll see all the options available in a simple list. Use up/down on the 4-way control to select an item and then press right to select form the available settings.
In addition to the standard menu the HZ15W also features Samsung's Function menu for quick access to important settings. This menu changes dynamically depending on the mode you're in. Available options include size, metering, focus, drive mode, ISO, white balance, and face detection.
Ease of Use
The Samsung HZ15W isn't as easy to pick up and use as less expensive point and shoot cameras. There's support for full manual mode here and enough buttons and knobs that you'll probably want to actually read the manual if you're not familiar with more advanced shooting features.
Even more advanced users will run into some problems, however, particularly with the rocker switch that sits right under your thumb. In automatic mode this is an easy way to adjust exposure compensation, which works just fine. The problems arise when you go into full manual mode. If you're like us you'll spend several frustrating minutes trying to figure out how to switch the focus of the toggle from aperture control to shutter speed control. Turns out that pressing the Fn button once will allow you to toggle between the two using left/right on the d-pad. If you hit it again, it will take you to the function menu. This is not only unintuitive, but it also means you have to hit the Fn button twice to access all of the goodies in the Function menu.
The Samsung HZ15W has three auto modes, Auto, Smart Auto and Program modes. Each of these can be activated using the mode dial on top of the camera, with a nice on-screen indicator that tells you what the mode does. The short explanation is that Auto mode takes most decisions out of your hands, but doesn't get fancy with anything.
Smart Auto does try to get fancy, as it attempts to recognize the type of shot you're trying to take and picks the appropriate scene mode for you. Program mode takes aperture and shutter speed decisions out of your hands, but lets you adjust pretty much anything else.
Just like the HZ10W and most of its competitors the Samsung HZ15W supports 720p HD video recording at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 and 30 frames per second. One place where the HZ15W does differ from its predecessor is that you have a built-in Mini-HDMI port on this camera. This means you can output full HD video and audio to your television. You can also capture video at 640 x 480 and 320 x 240.
You can change drive settings in the Function menu, with four different high-speed shooting options: Continuous, High-Speed, Motion Capture and Auto Exposure Bracketing. Unfortunately Samsung has not released any information about the maximum frames per second you can expect from the camera, but we wouldn't expect anything too impressive.
Playback mode on the Samsung HZ15W is pretty standard. You enter playback by hitting the dedicated button just below and to the left of the 4-way controller. Once there you are greeted by a full-screen view of your latest photo. Use left/right the 4-way to move between photos and press up on the 4-way to toggle various display information for the photo. You can also zoom into the photo or zoom out to a thumbnail view using the zoom toggle. You're editing options are solid, you can rotate, resize, adjust color, fix red-eye and adjust brightness, saturation and contrast.
Custom Image Presets
The Samsung HZ15W offers a variety of scene modes, most of which are accessed by turning the mode dial to Scene and selecting the appropriate scene mode from the menu. The one scene mode that has found it's way onto the mode dial is Beauty Shot, for reasons that we can't explain. We were looking at a pre-production mode so this may change before release. When you have the mode dial switched to Scene you can select any of the following scene modes from the menu: Frame Guide, Night, Portrait, Children, Landscape, Close Up, Text, Sunset, Dawn, Backlight, Firework, Beach & Snow, Self-Shot, Food, and Cafe.
The Samsung HZ15W offers a full manual mode, although it does not offer separate Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority modes. It's nice to see a manual mode on the camera, but we have to say that we're not particularly happy with the method that Samsung has decided to implement to change between adjusting shutter speed and aperture. Toggling between the two is achieved by hitting the Function button and then pressing left/right on the d-pad. This seems clunky and it also means that all the other manual controls you might want to adjust like ISO, white balance, etc are two button presses away instead of one.
The Samsung HZ15W offers three different auto focus modes, whch can be changed the Function menu. Your options are Center AF, Selection AF, and Multi AF.
There's also a macro focus and manual focus on board. You toggle between the three types of focus by pressing down on the directional pad.
ISO can be adjusted via the Function menu and allows you to choose an ISO setting ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. With most point and shoot cameras you probably don't want to push the ISO much above 400 or 800, although we'll have to wait until we have the camera in our labs to find out exactly how bad things get at higher ISO.
White balance can be set in the Function menu. You can choose from Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent H, Fluorescent L, Tungsten, and a manual white balance mode.
The Samsung HZ15W offers three different metering modes: Spot, Center-Weighted and Multi. The metering mode can be set in the Function menu.
The Samsung HZ15W's range of shutter speeds in manual mode is 16 seconds to 1/1500, nothing overly impressive.
The Samsung HZ15W offers a fairly pedestrian maximum aperture of f/3.3 at the wide end and f/5.8 at the tele.
The Samsung HZ15W uses optical image stabilization to help steady your shots against camera shake, but also uses software adjustments to complement this. The optical image stabilization can be turned on/off in the main menu. If you do want to use both types of stabilization there's a Dual IS option on the mode dial. Frankly we'd stick with the optical image stabilization and make any software adjustments in your photo editing software.
Picture Quality & Size Options
The Samsung HZ15W takes photos at a maximum resolution of 12 megapixels. You can also choose 10, 9, 8, 5, 3 or 1 megapixels if you wish. The Samsung HZ15W's offers 3 quality options for images: Superfine, Fine and Normal.
The Samsung HZ15W offers a wide range of picture effects that you can access by pressing the E button just below and to the right of the 4-way control. You can choose from Vivid, Soft, Forest, Retro, Cool, Calm, and Classic. If you know what those means please write and let us know with a comment below, as we have no idea. You can also make manual adjustments to Color, Sharpness, Contrast and Saturation here.
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Alfredo Padilla is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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