Hot on the heels of the DSLR-like NX10 unveiled at CES and last year's successful DualView point-and-shoot cameras, Samsung introduced a camera with the brightest, fastest lens we've seen in any recent point-and-shoot, a fast-shooting camera that looks to give Casio's High-Speed Exilim line a run for the money, and a high-definition pocket camcorder that out-specs most current models.
Samsung TL500: Look Out, Canon PowerShot G11
The highest-end announcement of the day is the 10-megapixel Samsung TL500, which sports an incredibly bright and fast f/1.8 lens as well as a very large sensor for a point-and-shoot camera.
The 0.59-inch CCD sensor in the TL500 is the same size as the sensor found in highly-rated advanced cameras such as the Canon PowerShot G11 and Canon PowerShot S90, and the f/1.8 aperture on the wide-angle end is larger than the aperture on either of those Canon cameras. That should translate to excellent low-light performance and the ability to shoot with very fast shutter speeds, as well as shooting photos with a very shallow depth-of-field when using the TL500.
What's more, the TL500 features an ultra-wide-angle 3x optical zoom lens, ranging from 24mm to 72mm and bolstered by dual optical/digital image stabilization; that 24mm on the wide-angle end offers more coverage than the PowerShot G11 and PowerShot S90.
One glaring omission is the lack of an optical viewfinder on the TL500, which is mitigated quite a bit by the inclusion of a 3-inch-diagonal, swiveling AMOLED screen. The TL500 also offers full manual controls, aperture priority, shutter priority, and RAW shooting capabilities, as well as a beginner-friendly Smart Auto mode.
In a nod to the Olympus Pen EP-2, the TL500 also has a horizonally scrolling control wheel for in-camera settings; unlike the Olympus, the TL500's adjustment wheel is on the front of the camera, where the shooter's index finger might rest on the grip.
The TL500 also records standard-definition (640-by-480) video at 30 frames per second.
Samsung TL350: Look Out, Casio High-Speed Cameras
The slick, 10-megapixel (CMOS) Samsung TL350 has a high-speed shooting mode that takes up to 10 full-resolution snapshots per second, as well as a video mode that captures 1000 frames per second at a highly-reduced resolution (138-by-78 pixels).
In normal video mode, the TL350 shoots 1080p video at 30fps, and also offers an HDMI-out port for viewing clips on an HDTV.
The TL350 has a 5x optical zoom lens that matches the TL500's reach on the wide-angle end: 24mm to 120mm. Full manual controls, aperture priority, shutter priority, Smart Auto mode, RAW shooting, dual optical/digital image stabilization, and a 3-inch AMOLED screen round out the TL350's bag of tricks.
Samsung HMX-U20 and HMX-U15: Look Out, Flip
Also coming in the Spring are two new pocket camcorders, both of which record 1080p high-definition video (H.264) at 30 frames per second. The Samsung HMX-U20 also offers a 3x optical zoom lens--a feature you rarely see on a pocket camcorder--and the ability to shoot 10-megapixel still images.
The slightly lower-end HMX-U15 lacks the optical zoom lens, but adds the ability to take 14-megapixel photos. The camcorders also have stereo mics on the front of their faceplates to record audio.
Both camcorders offer flip-out USB connectors and one-touch uploads to YouTube, as well as HDMI-out ports, SD/SDHC storage slots, digital image stabilization, and an angled grip that Samsung says reduces arm strain while shooting footage.
The U20 and U15 boast a time-lapse recording feature that lets the shooter combine several shots snapped at a fixed interval to create an instant time-lapse video.
Samsung AQ100 and SL605: Waterproof and Scratchproof, Respectively
Rounding out today's Samsung announcements are two ruggedized cameras, both with budget-friendly prices.
The waterproof Samsung AQ100 is rated to withstand underwater submersion down to 10 feet, and it offers a dedicated "Aqua mode" to optimize in-camera settings for underwater shooting.
Key specs include a 12-megapixel sensor, a 5x optical zoom lens with digital image stabilization, 720p video recording, and a 2.7-inch LCD screen. The scratch-resistant, 12-megapixel SL605 has a metal faceplate, rubberized buttons, and an anti-scratch coating that will keep it looking real smooth-like.
Its 5x optical zoom lens ranges from 27mm to 135mm, and it includes a flash-intensity adjusting "Smart Night" mode that Samsung says will eliminate blown-out low-light shots. A 2.7-inch LCD and standard-definition video recording are also in the mix.