At a press conference this afternoon, Samsung announced that the HZ compact ultrazoom concept we saw at Photokina would, in fact, be coming to market in the near term.
The new model, dubbed the HZ10W, takes on stalwarts from Canon and Panasonic in one of the most in-demand segments of the market – pocket-sized long-zoom cameras – with a 10x ultra-wide zoom lens and, perhaps even more importantly, manual exposure controls, all wrapped up in a body that measures a little more than four inches across. That's right, sports fans: aperture and shutter settings are back in your hands with the HZ10W, addressing one of the persistent gripes among serious shooters against the rival Panasonic TZ5.
The key to an ultrazoom's success is the huge range of coverage afforded by its lens. To this end, it looks from all indications like Samsung has decked the HZ10W out with some good glass. The optic is a Schneider unit with 24mm ultra-wide angle coverage at one end, and 240mm telephoto reach at the other.
This flexibility is coupled with plenty of resolution, courtesy of a 10.2 megapixel sensor, a large and bright 2.7 inch LCD, and full-res high-sensitivity shooting at up to ISO 1600. In addition to manual aperture and shutter control, a full slate of now-common auto technologies – face detection, blink detection, a Beauty Shot mode for evening skin tones, 13 scene presets, and a Smile Shot feature that automatically fires the shutter when subjects smile – also make an appearance in the HZ10W's menus.
Samsung also opted to go head to head with Panasonic in the HZ10W's video modes. The new model captures 720p (1080x720) HD video at 30 fps using the memory-saving H.264 compression algorithm. Quiet lens travel also means that the full range of the HZ10W's 10x zoom is enabled while recording video, as is the camera's optical image stabilization system.
We had some inkling that the production HZ would be big news, but as delivered, the HZ10W's wide-angle coverage in a compact, 10x lens is huge – further upping the camera's attractiveness for those looking to capture both sporting event action sequences and sweeping vacation vistas. On paper, at least, we like the HZ10W a lot: if the actual camera meets expectations, it should be a real asset in Samsung's efforts to gain a stronger foothold in the digicam space.
If you're itching to gets your hands on an HZ10W, you shouldn't have to wait long: Samsung plans to have the camera in stores before the end of the month. And with the HZ10W expected to come in some under its $300 MSRP, Samsung appears to have put together the most serious threat to the TZ5's dominance to date.
We have limited specs on the HZ10W at this point, but as soon as we know more, you'll know more. We'll also be posting an update from the press conference and a hands-on look at the new HZ a little later on, so keep an eye out for that.