Samsung HZ15W Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: August 13, 2009

Last Updated: December 24, 2009

The Samsung HZ15W ($299) is a compact, ultra zoom camera that's designed to compete with the likes of the Canon PowerShot SX200 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. It features a 12 Megapixel CCD, a 24 - 240 mm lens, optical image stabilization, a 3-inch LCD, and HD movie recording. The camera also has the usual point-and-shoot features, plus a nice selection of manual controls.

The HZ15W has as little brother, known as the HZ10W ($279). That camera has a 10 Megapixel sensor, a smaller LCD, and no HDMI port.

While recent Samsung cameras have all been well designed, they've disappointed in the image quality department. Will the HZ15W buck that trend? Find out now in our review!

The HZ15W is known as the WB550 in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The Samsung HZ15W has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find the following:

  • The 12.2 effective Megapixel HZ15W camera
  • SLB-10A rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Wrist strap
  • USB-to-AC adapter
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Samsung Master software
  • 17 page Quick Start manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

Like most cameras these days, the HZ15W has built-in memory, instead of having a memory card included in the box. Samsung put relatively little memory into the HZ15 (21MB to be exact), which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to buy a memory card, and fast. The HZ15 supports SD, SDHC, and MMCplus cards, though I'd stick to the first two for best results. I'd recommend a 2GB or greater card for use with the HZ15, and it wouldn't hurt if you spent a little extra on a high speed model.

The HZ15W uses the SLB-10A rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. This battery has 3.8 Wh of energy, which is fairly typical for a compact camera. Let's see how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS 280 shots NB-5L
Casio Exilim EX-H10 1000 shots NP-90
Fuji FinePix F70EXR 230 shots NP-50
Kodak EasyShare Z915 280 shots 2 x unknown NiMH
Olympus Stylus 9000 250 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 300 shots DMW-BCG10
Samsung HZ15W 280 shots SLB-10A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H20 290 shots NP-BG1

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The Casio Exilim EX-H10 pretty much spoils the party for the other cameras in the group, with its unbelievable 1000 shot/per charge battery life. If you take that camera out of the equation, then you'll find that the Samsung HZ15W's battery life is about average.

With the exception of the Kodak, all of the cameras in the above table use proprietary li-ion batteries. These batteries tend to be expensive (a spare will cost you at least $25), and you can't use something "off-the-shelf' in an emergency.

The HZ15's battery is charged inside the camera via the USB cable. You can connect it to a computer, or you can plug into a power outlet using an included USB-to-A/C adapter (which you can also use to power the camera instead of using a battery). It takes a rather lengthy three hours to fully charge the battery. While Samsung doesn't sell an external charger, I found some third-party models available online.

Samsung HZ15W in the hand

As with most compact cameras, there's a built-in lens cover on the HZ15, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.

There aren't too many accessories available for the Samsung HZ15W. Here's all I could find:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Remote control AD59-00164A $25 Take pictures without laying a hand on the camera; Model number may also be SRC-A5.
HDMI cable AD39-00160A ?? For connecting the camera to an HDTV; a generic cable will almost certainly be cheaper
Camera case AD69-01922A ?? Protect your camera from the elements with this leather case
* Prices were accurate when review was posted

I'm not sure how accurate those model numbers are. That's what Samsung lists in the manual, but I can't find them for sale anywhere. Good luck!

Samsung Master for Windows

Samsung includes their "Master" software with the HZ15W. This is a decent product for organizing and editing your photos, though it's for Windows only (Mac users can use iPhoto). After you've transferred images from the camera, you'll wind up on the screen pictured above. You get the usual thumbnail view on the right, with a file browser on the opposite side. From here you can print or e-mail your photos, view them in a slideshow, or do a side-by-side comparison.

Editing in Samsung Master

Double-click on one of the thumbnails and you'll end up on the edit screen pictured above. There are plenty of editing tools here, which include cropping, leveling, auto image quality enhancement, redeye removal, and much more. You can also create calendars or add virtual frames to your photos.

You're on your own when it comes to movie editing, as there are no such tools in Samsung Master.

The HZ15W won't win any awards for its documentation. The only printed thing you'll find in the box is a leaflet to get you up and running. For more details, you'll want to open up the full manual, which is included in PDF form on a CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals themselves is typical of those from major consumer electronics manufacturers -- average, at best. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your computer.