If you like taking closeups, the HZ35W does pretty well in Macro mode. It's able to focus as close as 1.2 inches from a subject. Macro can be entered automatically in Smart Auto mode or set to it in Program or ASM modes. And as long as you can keep the ISO low, you'll get reasonably sharp results with good fine detail. If you like things even sharper, there's an in-camera slider for bumping it up as well as contrast and saturation.
Also on the Mode dial is Dual IS that uses the camera's optical image stabilization along with electronic image stabilization. Most manufacturers make this a menu option, so why Samsung continues to make this a full mode you have to enter is beyond me. The spot could be better filled with a user-selectable scene mode or custom shooting settings.
Lastly, there is a Movie mode capable of recording at resolutions up to 720p HD quality at 30 or 15 frames per second. You can also capture at VGA quality at 60fps. You do get use of the zoom lens while recording, but in completely quiet surroundings you will hear the movement of the lens and autofocus. If it bothers you, there is a menu option to shut off the mic while zooming. Those who want to get creative with their movies can use the camera's lens and photo effects while recording, too.
For a CCD-sensor-based compact megazoom, the Samsung HZ35W's shooting performance is very good; Sony's CMOS-sensor-based Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V is slightly faster overall, but handily beats in continuous shooting. The Samsung starts up and shoots in 1.9 seconds. Shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is average at 0.5 second in bright lighting, but is slightly above average in low light at 0.7 second. Its shot-to-shot time is about 2 seconds and adding flash to that extends that wait to 3.2 seconds. If you're in need of high-speed continuous shooting, this camera isn't for you; it averages only 0.9fps. Again, the shooting performance is very good for its class, but still, it's best suited for shots of still subjects and not fast-moving kids, pets, and athletes.
The HZ35W's photo quality is very good up to ISO 200. At these lower sensitivities subjects are relatively sharp with little to no visible noise when viewed at 100 percent. However, between ISO 100 and ISO 200, photos become softer, and by ISO 400 there's a noticeable decline with noise reduction smearing detail. Unless you're really picky about photo quality, the results with little or no cropping or enlarging are fine for 5x7-inch prints or smaller and Web use. At ISO 800, there's significant detail loss and start to pick up yellow blotches from noise. The results aren't unusable until ISO 1,600 because of smearing, noise, and color issues. Basically the HZ35W is like a lot of compact cameras: very good in bright light, but indoor and low-light photos are weaker.
Megazoom cameras generally have trouble resolving details when their lens is fully extended. The HZ35W's photos at its longest focal length are on par or slightly better than similar models, though. You will need a lot of light to keep the shutter speed fast and sensitivity below ISO 200, though, as the biggest aperture is f5.8 at the telephoto end. Samsung does an excellent job of controlling lens distortion, too, as there was no discernible barrel or pincushion distortion in my test shots. Also under control is the amount of purple fringing in high-contrast areas. The amount is negligible and only really visible at 100 percent. The lens is reasonably sharp, too, and there's no drop-off edge to edge or in the corners.
What earned this camera's photo quality some extra points is its color performance; the colors were accurate in our lab tests and bright, vivid, and pleasing in my test photos. Plus, Samsung gives you plenty of options for tweaking them. Exposure and white balance are very good, too. Although, typical of compact cameras, clipped highlights are common.
Video quality is OK, on par with good DVD video. Panning the camera too quickly or shooting moving subjects will result in judder. In these cases I recommend taking advantage of the smoother 60fps VGA option. There are stereo mics on top of the camera, but they aren't terribly sensitive, so you'll want to stand as close to your subjects as possible.
Overall the Samsung HZ35W is a pleasing compact megazoom, roundly improving on its predecessor, the HZ15W. That's not to say it's perfect. The implementation of the GPS needs fixing and getting at some of its features and shooting options is cumbersome, requiring too much menu navigation. Its photo quality isn't great above ISO 400, either. But if you're after a decent snapshot camera with an ultrawide-angle lens and a long zoom range in pocketable body (albeit a large pocket), the HZ35W is worth considering--especially if its price comes down a bit.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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