With a 24x optical zoom lens, the Samsung HZ25W digital camera is the company's first megazoom model, with the most wide-ranging lens it has previously offered being the 15x zoom of the Pro815 some four years ago. These days, there's rather more competition in the long-zoom market, and the Samsung HZ25W goes head to head with cameras from Kodak, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus that are very similar in terms of feature set. Known as the Samsung WB5000 in some markets, the HZ25W has what looks to be the exact same 26 - 624mm equivalent, f/2.8 - 5.0 lens that previously featured in the Kodak Z980, Nikon P90 and Pentax X70. (The branding varies between manufacturers, with the X70 dubbing it a "Pentax Lens", the P90 a "Nikkor", and the Z980 and HZ25W opting for Schneider-Kreuznach's "Variogon" and "Varioplan" branding respectively.) The Olympus-branded lens of that company's competitor - the SP590 - has the same 26mm wide angle and f/2.8 - 5.0 aperture range, but adds a little more reach. The Olympus SP590's 676mm equivalent telephoto gives it a 26x zoom, the widest range of the group,.
All five cameras have twelve megapixel image sensors, with all yielding images up to a maximum of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels (bar the Olympus, which offers just a few pixels less in each direction). All five also offer sensor-shift image stabilization and an electronic viewfinder, with Samsung's 0.24-inch, 230,000 dot EVF matching the best offered by its rivals (note that Kodak and Olympus don't state a size or resolution for their EVF displays).The Samsung and Nikon cameras feature 230,000 dot 3.0-inch LCD displays, while Kodak's model has a slightly lower-res 3.0-inch panel, and the Pentax and Olympus cameras maintain the resolution but use slightly smaller 2.7-inch displays. Only Nikon has mounted the LCD on a tilt-swivel mechanism though, with Samsung's HZ25W following the norm by offering a fixed-position panel.
All five cameras offer face detection autofocusing capability, and some variation of Multi, Center-weighted and Spot metering. Likewise, all of these megazooms offer the ability to shoot not only in Program mode, but also with either Aperture- or Shutter-priority, as well as full Manual mode. Precise details on exposure variables vary from camera to camera, though. While all but the Olympus can shoot with ISO sensitivity to 6,400 equivalent at reduced resolutions of three megapixels or below, the Samsung HZ25W has the highest full-res sensitivity of ISO 3,200 equivalent. Nikon takes second place with ISO 2,000 max. at full res, and the remainder all stop at ISO 1,600. With a shutter speed range of 1/2000 to eight seconds, the Samsung HZ25W is bested at one end by the 1/4000 shutter speed of the Pentax, and at the other by the 15-16 second shutter speeds of the Kodak / Olympus. All five cameras offer built-in popup flash strobes, but the Kodak Z980 is unique in also offering a hot shoe, while the Olympus alone offers support for wireless flash strobes.
Samsung has opted for a combination of internal memory plus SD / SDHC card storage in the HZ25W. All of the competition bar Olympus' xD-card based camera also use internal memory plus SD / SDHC, and Samsung's inclusion of 40MB built-in strikes exactly the middle of the road, with 10-20MB more offered by Kodak and Nikon, while both Olympus and Pentax offer 10-20MB less. For still images, Samsung is unusual in offering a Raw file format in the HZ25W, something only Kodak matches; the remaining cameras all shoot only JPEGs. The Samsung HZ25W can also capture high-def 720p movie clips, as can the Kodak and Pentax cameras. Olympus and Nikon's cameras lag behind by offering only VGA standard-def video capability. Like the Kodak before it, Samsung has opted for a stereo microphone and H.264 (MPEG-4) compression, rather than the less sophisticated mono microphones and Motion JPEG compression of the rest of the group. For power, Samsung follows Nikon and Pentax's lead in using a proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable battery pack, instead of the four AA batteries chosen by Kodak and Olympus.
The Samsung HZ25W has MSRP pricing of $400, identical to all but Olympus' model which carries a $50 premium for its more powerful zoom lens. Availability for the Samsung HZ25W is set for October 2009.