Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V Ken McMahon, August 2011
 
   
 

Sony Cyber-shot HX9V verdict

The Sony Cyber-shot HX9V is a 16.2 Megapixel pocket super-zoom with a 16x range, built-in GPS and 3in screen. The HX9V uses a newly designed 16 Megapixel back-illuminated Exmor R sensor. A big step up from the 10 Megapixel HX5 launched a year earlier, it provides the same 10fps burst shooting modes of the earlier model plus full HD 1080p50/60 movie recording.

The HX9V has two low light composite modes, and a new Superior Auto mode which combines scene recognition with composited multiple exposures to get the best results.

Other new features include background defocus, 3D shooting modes and a high resolution panoramic mode that produces huge 43 Megapixel images. It also has a built-in GPS and compass that tags photos with location and heading information and a range of exposure modes from fully manual to intelligent Auto with scene detection providing it with broad appeal.

Sony has had earlier successes in this market with the H20 and HX5 and it knows that, ultimately, it's a numbers game. Where it counts - zoom range, burst shooting speeds, HD movie resolution and screen size, the Cyber-shot HX9V equals, or betters the market leader - the Panasonic Lumix TZ20 / ZS10. It also manages to squeeze excellent quality images at low ISO sensitivies from its 16.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor. All of which adds up to a very strong challenge to Panasonic's dominance in this market.

   
 

 

Compared to Canon PowerShot SX230 HS

     
 
 
     
     

The Sony Cyber-shot HX9V is going to provide the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS with tough competition. Similarly priced, it outdoes the SX230 HS in a couple of key respects. First, there's the zoom range; at 16x the Cyber-shot HX9V's range is broader, but crucially, it starts at a super-wide 24mm compared with the SX230's 28mm. Then there's the sensor resolution; at 16 Megapixels the Cyber-shot produces bigger pictures for large screen display and big prints you can also crop to provide an effectively longer telephoto. Ordinarily I'd qualify this by pointing out the quality compromise involved, but the Cybershot HX9V actually matched the quality of the PowerShot SX230 HS in our outdoor resolution test at their lowest sensitivities. It couldn't match the SX230 HS for low light high ISO performance though.

While the Cyber-shot HX9V's screen has more dots than the SX230's, that's less significant than the proportions - the HX9V's 4:3 screen is better suited to stills, the SX230 HS's is better for HD movie recording. And those who are interested in a pocket super-zoom more for movies than stills might prefer the SX230 HS for its 1080p24 top quality mode, but the HX9V's 1080p50/60 mode, though it might lack the 'film' look, doesn't fall short in terms of quality.

The PowerShot SX230 HS is smaller, lighter and prettier, but its battery doesn't last as long. It has neat slow motion and miniature movie modes and some clever creative filters against the Cyber-Shot HX9V's full resolution hi speed continuous shooting and outstanding panoramic modes. But in terms of headline features most people are likely to be swayed on the basis of zoom range and screen proportions versus image quality and low light performance.

See our Canon PowerShot SX230 HS review for more details.

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix TZ20 / ZS10

     
 
 
     

Where it matters most, the Panasonic Lumix TZ20 and Sony Cyber-shot HX9V are very closely matched. Not only do they look very similar, they share the same lens zoom range and maximum aperture. Beyond that, though, there are some significant differences. Both models share the same sized screen, the Cyber-shot HX9V's is higher resolution, but that confers little advantage. Conversely the TZ20 / ZS10's touch-screen doesn't result in a better handling experience.

In low light, the Sony Cyber-shot HX9V can go to 3200 ISO at full resolution and it's image quality is better than the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10. Sony's hand-held Twilight and Anti Motion Blur composite scene modes measure up pretty well against the TZ20 / ZS10's Handheld Night Shot mode and the HX9V pushes the technology further, integrating composite shooting into its Superior Auto exposure mode. The HX9V doesn't provide the full range of PASM manual and semi auto exposure modes, though, and it's manual mode is limited to only two aperture settings, though for those looking for SLR-style depth of field there's the new Background Defocus mode.

The Cyber-shot HX9V has a superior best quality 1080p/50/60 video mode, but lacks anything like the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10's High Speed Movie mode. The Lumix also outshines the Cyber-shot HX9V when it comes to continuous shooting with slightly longer 10fps burst shooting plus a range of lower resolution options. Having said that, most people will be more than happy with the HX9V's 10-frame 10fps burst shooting.

Finally, there's image quality. It's a matter of record that the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10's image quality is less than stellar and that puts the Cyber-shot HX9V in the remarkable position of offering better quality images at higher resolution than the TZ20 / ZS10. All of which puts the Cyber-shot HX9V in a very commanding position. It's not all good news though. The HX9V's poor GPS performance coupled with it's lack of meaningful manual operation will score heavily against it in the minds of photo enthusiasts.

See our Panasonic Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 review for more details.


Compared to Nikon COOLPIX S9100

     
 
 
     

The COOLPIX S9100 has one clear advantage over both the Cyber-shot HX9V and the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 and that's its zoom range. Though marginally less wide, at 25mm its wide angle all but matches that of the other two models. At the telephoto end of the range it just keeps on going, maxing out at 450mm equivalent. Nikon's sensor shift image stabilisation has never been the equal of Sony and Canon Lens shift systems, but though this hinders the COOLPIX S9100's performance in low light conditions it does provide composite Night Landscape and HDR composite modes,

Both cameras share CMOS sensors, both also offer similar video options (in fact the Nikon has a wider range of slow motion settings). A major difference is that the COOLPIX is more of a consumer model, it lacks the manual exposure modes of the PowerShot Cyber-shot HX9V and will therefore appeal less to enthusiasts, but it's also light on special features despite the addition of an Easy Panorama mode. On the plus side this makes it a lot simpler to operate.

The COOLPIX S9100 lacks a GPS receiver, so if you're looking for a compact to take on your travels and record positional data with your photos and video, that rules it out. Finally, the COOLPIX S9100 looks and feels just a little bit budget. Appearences aren't everything, though, and a lot is down to personal preferences so, as always, I'd recommend you try these models out before making a purchasing decision.

See our upcoming Nikon COOLPIX S9100 review for more details.


Sony Cyber-shot HX9V final verdict

The Sony Cyber-shot HX9V was so obviously designed to compete head on with the Lumix TZ20 / ZS10 it's hard not to discuss it in terms of how it matches up to the market leader's flagship travel zoom. After all, if you're in the market for a compact super-zoom these two models are likely to be on, if not at the top of your shortlist. If you've read the preceding section you'll know that there's little to choose between these models on headline features and it's going to come down to extras - touch screen, panoramas, exposure modes, burst shooting and the like - as well as handling differences.

Looking at the Cyber-shot HX9V in its own right, it's a hugely capable compact that improves on earlier Cyber-shot pocket super-zooms in virtually every area with a much bigger zoom, higher resolution sensor, higher resolution video, higher resolution screen, better composite modes, better panoramic modes and, to top it off, excellent image quality. The one disappointing aspect of the HX9V is its GPS reception. Even when it's working well the HX9V provides only Lat and Long co-ordinates, but during the entire testing period our HX9V failed to achieve a position location even once. We hope to retest another model for the GPS functionality, but even with this aspect not working as advertised on our sample, the HX9V easily earns our recommended rating.

 

 



Good points
Great 16 Megapixel image quality
1080p50 HD video
Superior Auto composite modes
Hi Resolution panoramas

Bad points
Poor GPS performance (on test sample)
Only 2 apertures in Manual mode
Proprietary A/V port
Quality deteriorates quickly at high ISOs




Scores

(relative to 2011 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20

82%


   

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