February 26, 2009 Samsung Electronics seem to be busy-beavers of late, with new products landing on the shelves all over the place. Today I'm all 'oohs' and 'aahs' over the most recent offspring from their camera division - and not just because the camera body looks slightly Leica-esque!.

Just in time for PMA09 in March (The Photo Marketing Association's convention and trade show), Samsung have released the TL320 and HZ15W and they seem to be getting a pretty good reception all round. Both cameras are fairly minimalist, elegant designs and boast 12 megapixels, 24mm ultra-wide angle Schneider lenses and can record HD video at a resolution of 720p. Those specs on their own would seem pretty convincing, "but wait, there's more" as the TV salesman says. While the HZ15W features a 24-240mm equivalent, 10x optical zoom - described in the Samsung press-release as a 'mega-zoom' - the real chatter surrounds the TL320's three-Inch, 460,000-dot HVGA AMOLED screen. Yep, that's the same technology used in their big TVs and means less power, higher resolution, wider viewing angles and then some.

What's this AMOLED all about then?

AMOLED is short for "Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode" and the reasons for using it on a digital camera are many. The TL320's screen consumes less power, yet it offers a higher contrast ratio of 10,000:1, gives darker blacks, brighter colors and superior outdoor visibility (even in direct sunlight). As a welcome bonus, unlike FT-LCDs, the TL320's AMOLED screen can be viewed at any angle while maintaining the full color gamut. So, no more friends crowding over your shoulder or clawing at your camera to see your most recent Ansel Adams-ish masterpiece.

The TL320 and HZ15W features in a nutshell

OK I have to say one of my favorite features is the 'petrol gauge-style' dials on the top of the TL320 which indicate memory and battery levels. I know it's not a big thing, but I grew up in an old-school audiophile and classic-car household, and retro dials just make me feel fuzzy and warm all over.

Back to the serious stuff. The TL320's 24mm ultra-wide angle focal length Schneider incorporates a 5x optical zoom while the HZ15W boasts a powerful 10x version. Zooming while recording video is supported and they both record high-definition video at a resolution of 720p, and have HDMI connectivity (via a cradle). This means you can show off your videos and photos in High Def. on your HDTV. Both cameras also use the H.264 compression codec (H.264 simply means you get three times the recording length than you would with MJPEG video).

Samsung has also loaded the TL320 and HZ15W with both optical and digital image stabilization features and give the user the option of using optical image stabilization alone, or choosing 'Dual Image Stabilization', combining the benefits of optical and digital stabilization together.

Advanced features abound with both cameras with the TL320 giving a bit more flexibility. Aperture priority, shutter priority, full manual shooting, as well as Samsung's Advanced Picture Mode which gives users the ability to fine tune color tones before image capture by adjusting the color temperature from 2,800-10,000K. The HZ15W offers a variety of shooting modes including program AE or manual exposure.

For those of us who don't fancy fiddling, there's a suite of automatic controls on both cameras, including Smart Auto mode which automatically chooses from one of 11 scene modes. Face Detection, Blink Detection, Smile Shot, and Beauty Shot are all included as well. Beauty Shot is an interesting feature - especially for those of us with Celtic skin! - as it enhances and balance skin tones and removes blemishes (you'll never be reminded that your teenager was a zit-farm ever again!)

TL320 specifications

  • 12.2 mega-pixels
  • 5x optical zoom / Schneider lens
  • 3.0" hVGA AMOLED screen
  • Schneider - KREUZNACH lens
  • 720P HD movie resolution with HDMI connectivity (optional cradle req.)
  • Size: 97mm x 60mm x 21.8mm
  • Special Features

  • 24mm Ultra-Wide-Angle Schneider Lens
  • 5x Optical Zoom
  • 3.0" hVGA AMOLED (460K dots)
  • Dual Image Stabilization (Optical + Digital)
  • Full Manual Mode (A/S/M) supported
  • Advanced Picture Mode (manually adjust color tones)
  • High-Definition 720p Video With HDMI Connectivity
  • Smart Auto / Smart Album
  • Face Detection / Smile Shot / Blink Detection /
  • Beauty Shot / Self Portrait / Red-eye Fix
  • Frame Guide
  • Recycle Bin
  • Dual Analog Gauges (Memory Capacity / Battery Life)

* Specifications are subject to change without notice.

Available in black or silver, the TL320 will be available in May 2009 at an MSRP of USD$379.99

HZ15W specifications

  • 12.0 mega-pixels
  • 10x optical zoom / Schneider lens
  • 3.0" TFT-LCD (230k pixels)
  • Schneider Lens f = 4.2 ~ 42mm (35mm equivalent : 24~240mm)
  • 720P HD movie resolution
  • Size: 105 X 61.4 X 37.2 mm
  • Special Features

  • 24mm Ultra-Wide-Angle Schneider Lens
  • 10x Optical Zoom
  • High-Definition 720p Video With HDMI Connectivity
  • Dual Image Stabilization (Optical + Digital)
  • Smart Auto / Smart Album
  • Face Detection / Smile Shot / Blink Detection
  • Self Portrait / Beauty Shot / Red-eye Fix
  • Function Description, Photo Style Selector
  • Frame Guide
  • Recycle Bin
  • * Specifications are subject to change without notice.

    The Samsung HZ15W will be available in March 2009 at an MSRP of USD$329.99

    Matt H Kennedy

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