on August 1, 2011
I beat my brains out for the past month, trying to decide on a P&S camera to replace my Pentax DSLR. I've decided, rather late in life, to go with a small pocket camera to replace my bulky SLR and several lenses, including the huge camera bag I carried them around in. So I've been reading every review and scanning every consumer review site (such as Amazon's) searching for the perfect P&S camera. I even bought (and returned) two cameras that ultimately did not work for me. I agonized over the HX9V for a couple weeks before finally biting the bullet and ordering it. I'm extremely happy I did!
From the moment I opened the box I knew the HX9V was going to be a winner. Unlike the two cameras I returned, the size and handling of the HX9V was about perfect for me. The two I returned were simply too small to handle efficiently, even in my relatively small hands, but this one was ideal (for me) with a great grip and controls that seemed to fall right under my fingers. The build quality is excellent and I can find no flaw in fit and finish. I decided I wanted a mode dial on top, like my SLRs always had (the two I returned used the wheel on the back of the camera), and the HX9V has one, although it's a little difficult gripping it. So, in short, the HX9V first impression is supurb!
This camera does not come with an accessory battery charger (an omission I find rather annoying) so I ordered one, along with a couple spare batteries (the two batteries and the charger cost only $14.00, shipped). I charged the Sony battery in the camera, using the provided power adapter (again, a ridiculous system, since it ties up the camera during charging) and charged the two spares in the tiny little accessory charger. Everything was charged in a couple of hours and I was ready to put this little gem through it's paces.
Operationally, the camera exceeds all of my expectations. First, I've never owned such a long zoom and this thing is terrific, although I doubt I'll use the long end very often. Having used large SLR zooms most of my photographic life, where zooming was done manually, I found this zoom rather slow, a bit gravelly-feeling and hard to control precisely. It requires some getting used to, at least for me anyway, but I believe it will be fine.
Focusing is instantaneous and I experience no lag-time, unless shooting in modes that shoot and blend multiple images together. On those you get the obligatory "Processing" message and, frankly, I see no reason to consider that a negative. The camera is doing some truly sophisticated image blending. Shoot in a single image mode and it's operation is lightning fast. Oh, and did I mention the ability to shoot ten images a second? What a great feature when shooting my dog, Sammy, or a sports event (and yes, you will get the "Processing" message after firing off ten shots).
The Panorama feature is great, producing beautiful wide panoramic images. I've found it really difficult to get less than stellar panos. In other words, it's real hard to mess up!
Video is an area I've never explored before but, after seeing some of my random efforts on my HD TV, I'm completely dazzled by this camera's abilities. This is an area I intend to pursue further.
There are many more special features that I wont go into here but they're all great and very useful. As for the 3-D thing, I have no interest in that but many others will. I can't comment because I don't care about it.
Image quality! You read about it. You scan full-size images on dozens of websites. You pixel-peep endlessly, comparing images from Canon, Nikon, and Sony, until your head feels like it's going to explode. If you're an intelligent, sensible person you conclude that much of the hype you read around the internet is just that - hype! Every P&S camera out there has shortcomings in one area or another and none produce results like a good DSLR! After I came to that conclusion I felt more confortable ordering the Sony. I'm glad I did. I have no intention of blowing any of these images up to poster size. Most will never be printed and those that are will likely be "normal" print sizes. This camera produces excellent images! I have a relatively discerning eye after over fifty years of photography and I'll say again; the Sony HX9V produces excellent images!
The bottom-line is, this camera is chock full of cutting edge technology, with features that put it far out front of most other P&S cameras. It takes great images and the videos are extraordinary.
Mine is a keeper! It's going to be around for many years to come. In fact, it might outlast me, since I'm 73.
Update: April, 2012
Everything I said in the above review stands, in spades, after all these months. That said, I finally taught my wife how to use this camera a couple weeks ago and she took it to one of her DAR conventions. She returned two days later and downloaded several hundred images to her computer. Later, when I watched over her shoulder while she scanned them individually I realized they were all, I mean all, extremely soft, unlike my own results. She seemed happy with them but I knew otherwise so I asked her to go out in the yard with me and take a few shots. We did and I immediately saw her problem. She repeatedly composed the picture on the LCD screen and immediately snapped the shutter, without waiting for the camerea to complete focus. She had forgotten that she should depress the button halfway to allow the autofocus system to work properly. Well, long story longer, she did as I demonstrated and we reviewed the pictures on her computer.Voila! The shots were now sharp and clean. Funny thing was: she then looked at her efforts at the convention and said, "Oh! These are awful!" After this episode I'm convinced that many of the complaints about soft images is a result of "Operator Error." No offence but ain't that always the way.
By the way, there are several comments attached to this post, one by a fellow who doesn't own the camera and who obviously has an agenda. His first negative post even implied, in a smarmy, underhanded way, that my review is worthless because I once used Pentax cameras, ignoring the fact that Pentax has earned, over the years, an excellent reputation. He has gone on to point out certain professional reviews that are unfavorable to the camera, ignoring those that heap accolades on it. I frankly, could not care less about his opinions but I will bet that I've been shooting images for more years than he's been alive. Anyway, as I said in the review, it's my opinion, and can be ignored completely if one chooses to do so. If you own this fine camera, enjoy!
on June 15, 2011
From my personal experience in the last 2 weeks since I received Sony's HX9V camera:
Overall I am happy with my purchase and consider that Sony's camera is competitive compared with similar offerings available from other manufacturers (see below).
- Wide angle lens and optical zoom (16x) are great: 24mm to 384mm in 35mm film equivalent
- Excellent clear display (3", 921k)
- Great panoramic mode - you sweep the camera around in one motion and it makes a single photo. You can sweep up and down too if the focal length doesn't change too much.
- Generally good photo quality for a pocket megazoom camera.
- Can easily fit in a jacket pocket or squeeze in a trouser one (camera is 4.2 x 1.4 x 2.4 inches ; 8.6 ounces)
- Video stabilizer is exceptionally good and quality is decent too
- GPS records your location
- Reasonably quick start-up for photo shooting - about 1 second
- Works fine with the 16 GB SDHC Class 10 card I have (I believe Class 6 works fine too)
- Auto backlight correction helps to get details with difficult lighting
- Background defocus mode can produce some dramatic results.
- Reasonable battery life - about 240 photos and some short videos.
- Slow to change between photo modes or video/photo mode - about 7 seconds - you may miss the moment!
- Colors can appear too saturated on the display
- Colors can also be a bit saturated on the photos, but using 'P' mode and 'natural' colors helps. Also, reducing color saturation in the 'P' mode can help reduce yellow color in low light.
- Photo review zoom in is slow to get going.
- GPS can be a bit slow to find you and it only gives lat/long info, not location name as some other GPS camera systems do.
- Flash can be a bit bright leading to overexposure if objects are close with a dark background. (also happened with my last 2 point and shoot digital cameras by other manufacturers). Slow sync flash can help, but camera needs to be held very steady to avoid blurring.
- Video start button is a bit small but works ok when you get used to it.
- Pop up flash can be annoying. You have to remember to hold the camera differently to avoid having your finger on top of it. Also, whenever you ask someone else to take an indoor photo, you have to warn them about the flash and how to hold the camera.
- Video is great but eats up your memory card! High quality fills 16 GB in less than 1 hr. Might be worth getting a second 16 GB card or a larger card if you plan to do much video in the high quality setting.
From reading reviews, alternatives compact ultra-zoom cameras I considered buying were:
- Canon PowerShot SX230 HS - high photo quality, 14x optical zoom, 3" 460k display, more manual controls, but it also has a pop-up flash, is a bit slow start on start-up and has a short battery life. Wide angle lens is 28mm equivalent, so not as wide as the HX9V's 24mm.
- Ricoh CX3 - High photo quality (not over-saturated tendencies like Sony, nor grainy tendencies like Panasonic), excellent macro mode, 10.7x optical zoom, 3" 920k display, 10 megapixel, but no manual controls and cannot zoom beyond 2.8x during filming.
- Panasonic ZS10 (or TZ20) - 16x optical zoom, 24mm equivalent wide-angle, quick start-up, 3" 460k display, GPS gives name of location, flash is not pop-up (good), but photo quality is average, battery life is not so good and worse with GPS on, the touch screen only does some functions while other have to be done with buttons in a strange mixture.
on April 26, 2011
I have been searching for a good, pocket-able travel zoom camera for a few months and have looked at a number of different models including the Fujifilm 550exr. I settled on the Sony for its specs and the reputation that Sony has for making state-of-the-art cameras. I have to say I have not been disappointed. I am most interested in the out-of-the-box image quality since I know that on most occasions my approach is to take a series of shots without too much fuss and let the camera do most of the work for me. This is certainly the case when I am traveling since I am usually trying to get the most of the experience I am having rather than focusing too much on tinkering with camera controls.
So I compared the images from the HX9V to a Sony NEX5 and to an older Panasonic. I used the IA settings on all three cameras. I have to say I was very pleased with the results. The HX9 gave consistently good images from its Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto modes that in some cases came close to the shots from the NEX5. Where it could not compete (and this makes perfect sense because of the different sizes of the image sensor) was in low light. Not that the HX9 didn't have pretty good low-light capability, but it just could not pull the shadow details of color clarity of the NEX5. What was always interesting to me in comparing the images was how sharp and crisp the images were from the HX9. Moving closer to the pixel level it was apparent that this came at the expense of overall smoothness of the image, particularly in shadows and at the edges where images elements came together. However, in many cases, the overall visual detail and contrasts in the shadow areas of pictures taken in daylight was surprisingly good and rivaled the NEX5 for clarity. Where things got a little ugly was in the shadow areas of images taken in low light. But overall, I was very impressed with the flexibility of the camera and how balanced the photos generally were.
So here is my check list of pros and cons:
- Stunning display with beautiful color and resolution
- very crisp images with vibrant color
- great zoom, good sharpness at all levels of zoom
- nice menu system, easy to use. Great display makes menus seem even better
- good controls (except for on/off button which is a little too flat/small)
- lots of fun and useful image and shooting options
- smooth and easy image scrolling in playback
- nice feel to body, very well constructed, scroll wheel and buttons have a quality feel
- nice options for multiple/burst shots of image to increase image fidelity/clarity
- a little chunky for a true pocket/travel camera
- don't like the in-camera charging method. What's the benefit in that?
- slight lag in zoom/review of in-camera images
- Extra sharpness of images comes at some cost to smoothness
on September 10, 2011
Background: I am an advanced amateur photographer. I have owned most of Canon/Nikon DSLRS in the last 10 years. I shoot with Full Frame Nikon D700, and have shot with Every Nikon DSLR except D3s. I have thousands of dollars invested in lenses. I also shoot with Canon 7D, and i have shot with every recent Canon DSLR including 5DM2. I have owned in excess of 30 point-and-shoot and bridge cameras over the last 10 years. I am also a pixel-peeper and I am very critical. So this is not a review from someone who has never shot with anything but a Canon elph. My current point-and-shoots are Panasonic ZS3 and LX3 and Sony TX1.
If you don't have a media pass, they will not let you in to concert arenas with DSLR gear in 99% of arenas/venues. But they will most of the time let you in with a smaller point-and-shoot. Many venues have a photography policy of "personal cameras with non-removable lenses' only.
The key to taking pictures from your seat at a concert are:
1) large zoom - unless you can afford front row seats
2) fast autofocus in low light - this one is big
3) good metering so the camera won't constantly blow out performers faces
4) shutter speed priority - don't even bother without it
5) decent battery life - or multiple batteries.
With that in mind, the last decent small point-and-shoot camera that could have been used for that purpose was PANASONIC ZS3 (TZ7 in Europe). While no manual mode, you can kinda work around the issue by being able to set a minimum shutter speed. Before it, it was Panasonic TZ5. I owned Panasonic TZ3, TZ5, and ZS3. As everyone know, after ZS3, all the subsequent models in that series sucked. In fact they have gotten worse and worse. Finally dpreview, dcresource, and other sites acknowledged it. You can read reviewed of the latest panasonics in that series - the image quality went to crap.
ZS3 was decent, but it did not have shutter priority mode, and its battery life wasn't great and its 25-300 zoom was probably good in 2009, but we are in 2011.
I've done extensive research including reading all the professional reviews, with paying specific attention to things I cared about, like autofocus speed at full tele, etc. It was between this Sony and Canon 230. Canon 230 has two key problems, one - slow autofocus in low light and small battery life. Canon point-and-shoots are known for slow autofocus; I once bought their heralded S95, and promptly returned it in couple of days, after it refused to autofocus in nightclub settings: I should have read the reviews on that point. Whats the point of good ISO performance if your camera cannot focus? Slow af or no af and your subject gets frustrated, or you lose a moment. Fast AF Speed is the key to many types of photography.
Imaging-resource reviews are helpful, as they actually test and check AF speeds at wide and tele and in low light. HX9 speeds are twice as fast as Canon SX230. I also knew going in that when looking at 100%, with Sony I will see smearing and all the other unpretty things; it would be like Pixel peeping Fuji FXX cameras. But with 16MP, I figured I won't need to pixel-peep that often, and if you don't at 100%, it is not bad.
I bought this camera and thoroughly tested it. I took it to a recent rock concert where I was sitting all the way in the back. I am happy the report that this camera is a little gem. Amazing!
Autofocus speed was superb at tele end. Ability to set a shutter speed in Manual Mode was super helpful. I setup the custom button as ISO which gave me a one button ISO access. I took 450 photos and 10 videos of lengths from 1 to 5 minutes. My battery only lost one out of three bars. That is 450 photos. Yes you may say that flash is not used in this type of photography. But using continuous autofocus depletes battery too, and I was still able to take 450 photos. Please note that I also did not turn on GPS. I know it depletes batteries. In fact, using GPS will deplete your cell phone too. I don't see a need for me to know exact longitude of where a particular photo was taken. I know where the photo was taken.
The photos came great, better than I usually would get with ZS3, and will less effort.
I also have used the camera at daylight but who cares about that, all point-and-shoots are great at daylight, it does not tell you anything. Abilities in low light, that is what separates boys from men.
Odd things about this camera:
1) no charger - like the Fuji F10/30/31 - you plug the camera in the wall to charge. I've heard third party chargers exist
2) no macro mode. that is the first time I've ever handled a camera that does not have a dedicated macro mode/scene/button. It does do macro, but it is automatic. It took me a while to figure it out as I was looking for it. It is odd
3) Going from one setting to another takes longer than in typical point-and-shoot. Like going from camera to play mode, or going from one setting to another. I knew it from the reviews beforehands.
4) I knocked off the star for Sony's handling of noise/digital artifacts when viewing at 100%. Canon does better. Or include RAW so I can deal with this myself in pp.
So this is now officially my main point-and-shoot. It does everything a point-and-shoot should. It obviously won't replace my DSLRs, but it will accompany me often.
on May 29, 2011
I've been testing the camera for several days now, and whilst the features and technical aspects of the hx9V are great, I regret to say, I just couldn't get past the 'average' image quality. This was the deal breaker for me. Suffice it to say, it did not meet my total expectations; the camera was returned today. Pictures of buildings, people, grass, trees, landscape shots, for example, all look a bit washed out (at times look hazy and smudgy), almost like a watercolor effect. This is all due to Sony's aggressive NR software built into the camera, which has been noted by expert reviewers and actual owners of the HX9V. Buildings and flesh tones on caucasian skins, especially, look too smoothed out (aka over-processed appearance). Don't get me wrong, pictures do come out pretty sharp in good lighting but they lack the punch to make the images pop and don't really retain strong details. Pictures rather look flat and dull. Furthermore, the white balance and color rendition are not really accurate (i.e. color red looks too red and fake). Also beware when shooting pictures in the direction of the sun (not AT the sun), you will see the inevitable series of purple dots on your picture (i.e. building with the sun the backdrop). This is not a manufacturer defect I was told, rather the way the lens was made by Sony.
Burst speed is very impressive (one feature I'm really going to miss) but it comes at a sacrifice of having to wait several seconds before you can take another picture (longer if you always shoot at the highest 16 MP level). This can get annoying because you might miss that "money shot." Other positive features of the camera are the focusing speed (when you shoot in scene mode and choose action mode with high burst speed, the camera does an excellent job at freezing the moving subject in a series of shots - this will come very handy when shooting sporting events), panorama mode, background defocus mode, low light pictures (in good lighting; otherwise, expect to see a lot detail smudging and noise), and last but not least, the video. If you are really into shooting a lot of videos, then you can't go wrong with the Sony HX9V. The camera is well built, I have to admit. A bit thick and heavy but aesthetically it looks very nice.
FWIW: I ended up getting the Canon SX230, and I couldn't be happier with the decision. The video feature may not be as good as the Sony's, but image quality is more important to me.
The Sony DSC-HX9V is in many respects a truly remarkable camera. I've been using it for about three months now, and have had enough experience with it at this point to write up a short review that I hope will be helpful for others investigating this camera. Up front, I can sum up my feelings thus far by saying that the camera is a feature laden unit that cannot help but impress as regards the camera itself, but a couple of fairly significant issues are present that MAY make it become a second, not a first, choice amongst the many other cameras in its class.
The HX9V is superbly built. The unit is manufactured in Japan, and holding it and using it makes that distinction apparent. The camera is tightly crafted out of high quality metals and plastics, and there is not a squeak, loose part, or wobbly dial anywhere. The buttons, knobs, and dials work tightly and decidedly. There is no hint of anything but high quality, and the impression is that the camera will likely stay tight and working well over time. The body feels as though crafted out a block of metal.
Styling on the camera is also nice, if somewhat masculine, and the overall appearance is certainly eye-catching. The camera has a black color theme, with a semi-shiny black paint over alloy finish. A rubberized black grip is on the user's right of the camera. The tops and sides of the camera are finished with a very attractive, shiny, dark gray chromed finish. It's a beauty to look at.
As for controls and access panels, a larger single command dial on the top right controls the main setting modes, with an immediately adjacent zoom toggle. A pop-up flash is on the top left. The zoom lens housing protrudes a significant 4mm or so in the camera's front (this camera will fit it most pants pockets, but its chunkiness may make it difficult in some cases). The lens itself protrudes a significant amount on highest zoom setting (remember, this is a whopping 16x zoom lens). A HDMI port (a real one) is beneath a panel on the right. Underneath, a single door opens to gain access to both battery and flash card. On the back of the camera, a controller wheel is used to access functions, and a number of buttons, some customizable, populate both the top and the back of the camera.
The LCD screen on this camera is a real gem. At about 1 million pixels and 3 inches across, it vies with some of the leading DSLRs in screen quality (actually, to be more accurate, it is much BETTER than many DSLR's screens). The screen is a pleasure to use, and it will ruin you, too. Once you see what a screen can look like, many of your existing cameras -- even expensive ones -- will start to annoy you with their inferior displays. It is now an empirically demonstrable fact that most any camera can possess a screen like this, and if new cameras do not, they are using cost-cutting measures. Fingerprints, however, show easily on the screen, and cleaning it takes a little bit of effort.
The camera is generally comfortable in your hand, in spite of its somewhat chunky design and slightly heavy weight. The rubberized grip works very well, and a rubberized thumb grip on the back provides an extra gripping surface for the one-hand shoot style. A small wrist strap is supplied, and which works fine. (But I must again castigate ALL camera manufacturers who simply refuse to include a wrist strap without the small, plastic securing slider to secure the strap to the wrist: my Canon Powershot S80 came with one of these seven years ago, and it costs only one cent to make the plastic slide which securely fastens the camera to your wrist even if you drop the camera. It is inexcusable that this design is not standard on all wrist straps. See one from Olympus at Olympus 202315 Adjustable Wrist Strap (Black).)
Image quality is generally good, with the camera's strengths the ability to capture clean shots in low light and the image stabilization that seems to make even impossible shots sharp and in focus. Colors are rich and saturated. Outdoor shots can be a little overexposed at times, but the camera's computer-based scene recognition mode seems to know what to do at every turn. Macro shots are simply superb. Even though this camera does not have the F/2 or F/2.8 aperture of some of its competitors, the macro images this camera turns out are easily in league with even some DSLR's. This is truly a convergence device: it is more half camera and half computer than any I've seen yet.
Video mode is excellent, with the camera knocking out true HD movies that could have normally only been made with dedicated camcorders. There are four movie modes with differential quality, but they all look good, and the camera just excels at video.
So, what's the problem? Well, for many people, there will be no problem. This is a camera that you turn out, point, and shoot, and, in the majority of the cases, you'll get a good, usable photo. Then, on to the next. Or, shoot a HD video. There is no denying that this camera can be a lot of fun for the shooter, and one that can turn out some impressive feats.
But there are, in my own mind, two issues on this camera that need to be mentioned, and that "rain on the parade." These are, one, the slow operational speed of the camera during shooting in the IA+ mode and, two, the image quality of SOME of the shots when viewed at anything other than on a computer screen. The truth is that, when one takes a shot on the HX9V in IA+ mode, there is a significant lag between the shot and the ability to take a second shot (shows the "processing ..." message), and, depending on the circumstances, the lag can be quite pronounced. So pronounced that you are not going to sit there and just bang off one shot after another, but, rather, will have to adopt a process where wait time is factored into all you photo taking. Perhaps this is not a problem for some people, but I can assure you that, for me, it is as annoying as it is distracting (that is, it breaks my train of thought while I am trying to shoot, because I can't move onto another shot, but instead, have to look down to the camera and wait until it tells me its ready for a next shot). The problem is not so present when shooting in the IA mode, which also does a great job, but if you want to use all that fancy Sony automatic layering in your shots (where the camera instantaneously takes six shots and them layers them together to remove noise), you'll have to contend with this. However, this is the price we pay for this sophisticated "convergence" feature (even Sony's DSLR's that use this same technology have the same issue.)
And as for image quality, yes, the shots are generally sharp and saturated. But there is a price to pay for the computer-based techniques the camera employs to achieve so many sharp shots under so many settings. You don't want to look too carefully at some of these shots (i.e., zooming them in to pixel-level viewing), because you may not necessarily like what you see. Some shots can also tend to be flat, and/or over processed looking. We can see that we are trading one fault for another. We generally get usable shots under most any condition, but the price can be seen in how some of these shots turn out. (There is no way to adjust noise reduction, and there is no RAW mode.)
So, do I like this camera, or not? I do. Very much. In fact, there is a lot about the camera I really like. But I also think that one needs to consider the issues surrounding it before selecting it, particularly when there are so many other fine alternatives available today. If you just want to knock out generally good shots under a wide variety of circumstances, and never "pixel peep," you'll be happy, unless the IA+ delays drive you crazy (which they may). If you are looking for more control and want to post process photos with software, you, too, may not be completely happy with the images (while, though, you may, at the same time, nevertheless be impressed by the camera's build and features). Finally, if you are interested in macro shooting, your results can be incredibly good. That's the best way I can sum it up.
Here's what I can see as Pros and Cons at this point, now that I've provided that preamble:
+ Huge feature set of computer-based functions
+ Extremely fast auto focus (nearly instantaneous in many settings)
+ Superior display screen with 1 million pixels (bright, colorful, and sharp)
+ Video quality that is startlingly (and I mean, ASTOUNDINGLY, SHOCKINGLY) good - almost rivals professional video cameras
+ Steady Shot works during VIDEO recording, as well as photo shooting
+ Generally good image quality under a wide range of shooting settings
+ Excellent macro performance that can rival DSLR's
+ Very good zoom range, from a very wide (24mm) to a high zoom
+ Sony "G" lens is optically very nice
+ Comfortable, secure gripping surfaces
+ High quality construction that one can feel and see
+ Uses either SDHC or Memory Stick cards
+ Gorgeous user interface with built-in help system
+ Dedicated movie button
+ Panoramic stich mode that works impressively well
+ Built-in GPS that can also be switched off, if desired
+ USB charging of batteries permits charging from a computer's USB port
+ Reasonable price point for what you get
- Delays/lags/pauses during shooting in IA+ may be a complete deal breaker, in spite of all other positives (although other reviewers point out this is a problem only in Superior Auto mode)
- Image quality, while generally good, does not always stand up to detailed scrutiny ("pixel peeping")
- Videos may not easily play on all computers (AVCHD format)
- A tad heavy and chunky for a travel zoom
- Battery life not great (you're going to need extra batteries, and they aren't cheap, either)
- Batteries are charged in-camera, and charging is slow, slow, slow (270 minutes for full charge)
- No external battery charger provided, and can be an expensive accessory (up to $60, retail)
- No RAW mode shooting
- On/off power button a bit difficult to engage
- Move record/stop button difficult to engage (and makes all your movies have a movement bump as you try to access the button)
- Limited Mac software support
So, is it a five star camera? It depends on the type of use you are. If you fall into the category of someone who wants generally good photos under a wide set of settings and never pixel peeps, you'll have here a camera that can meet that goal admirably, and you'll be able to get very good sets of photos that you'll be happy to view and share (assuming you can handle the lag between shots). If you need something that won't annoy you with performance lags, do a lot of post processing, or want lots of custom control over your shooting, the HX9V is not your camera. It's not that it is not a technical wonder -- it truly is -- but it's not likely going to work for you. I've owned many, many Sony cameras over the years (F707, F717, F828, R1, a33, and a host of Sony compacts) and I can say this camera shows Sony's commitment to moving the technology forward. But those caveats listed above may be deal breakers for you. Examine your needs carefully before you buy.
Five stars for the casual photographer who wants nice photos with little hassle. Four stars for most others.
Additional Comments (Three Months after the Initial Review, Above)
After using this camera for about three months, I can say without hesitation that the strengths of this camera is that it can knock out decent images in a wide variety of settings without too much user intervention. You have to make a "pledge" to yourself to not pixel-peep, because these images are often not going to be, at pixel-level, up to what you might expect from a DSLR, but its true that the images that come from this camera, when looked at full screen, can often be stunning. Another real strong point about this camera, and one that few people seem to be commenting about, is its macro capability. This camera will allow you to get within an inch or so of an abject, and then, if you are using the base of whatever the camera is sitting on (the table, the floor, etc.) as a "tripod," you can take macro shots that just are impossible to believe. (This would seem to really make this a grade camera for museum use, when you are trying to get shots of items behind glass, and at short distance). Finally, and this is what others ARE talking about, is the incredible video quality of this camera. Videos shot here at the highest 1080 60p or 1080 60i seem to come from a dedicated cam corder, and, to boot, the steady shot function works during video, making video you take while walking appear as though they are from a movie. Some may purchase this camera for video alone, so good is this function. In all, this is a generally amazing camera, and seems to be the first barrage in what Sony will be doing in the coming years as they apply their electronics expertise to the development of photographic cameras.
A Word on Batteries...
Sony in this camera employs their trademark "InfoLithium" technology, which provides battery level feedback on the screen to tell you how much charge is left on the battery. The battery that comes with the camera, the "NP-BG1" will show a visual indication of remaining battery charge. If you purchase the Sony replacement battery, the "NP-FG1", the batteyr will provide BOTH the visual indicator AND the estimated remaining time IN MINUTES. Very cool. However, if you purchase a non-Sony aftermarket battery, it will provide neither of these (at least, not accurately), and you'll just have to estimate yourself. For these reasons, I highly recommend the Sony NP-FG1. See it at: Sony NP-FG1 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack for Select Digital Cameras. Supplement it with one or two of the off-brand models just as a third and/of fourth battery in case you go through the first two during a shooting session.
on August 28, 2011
I got the HX9v as soon as it came out this spring. It's pretty much the perfect, top-notch pocket point-and-shoot. In fact, I carry it with me in my right-hand pocket at literally all times. I have taken several thousand photos with it so far, and several hours of video. I am very happy with my purchase.
The video is amazing, with many options, zooming while shooting, stereo sound, great auto focus, fantastic in low light. Keep in mind that for the highest quality setting, 1080p/60 fps AVCHD, if you want to view it on a Mac, you'll need to have the latest version of iMovie '11, running on at least the latest version of Snow Leopard (OS 10.6.8). Of course, you can now upload these .MTS files directly to the various on-line sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Google+/Picasa, and you can view them on your HDTV through the mini-HDMI out (which is great). But for saving and viewing on the Mac, the AVCHD modes introduce a couple of extra steps and are not simple drag-drop-and-play. If you don't have a Mac running the above specs, there are still some good workaround options out there. After a lot of searching I found "ClipWrap" to be the best option for dealing with these files. But overall, I can't say enough about just how fantastic the video on this camera is. I've been hundreds of feet away at a concert in the dark, and taken footage that makes it look like I'm sitting right in front of the performer in a well-lit space. With nice-quality stereo sound. And all of this often on "only" the best 1080 MOV setting, not even dialing it up to the top-notch AVCHD. It's amazing, really.
The 16x zoom is fast and very good. Things get a little noisy when you crop and zoom in on a shot that you took at maximum zoom (basically blowing up a shot to the center 1/9th of the frame after shooting at max zoom). But that's to be expected. 16x is fantastic and I use this feature every single day for nature shots - particularly birds.
There's also a very nice feature one turn of the dial from auto mode that mimics the shallow depth-of-field in DSLRs. It takes two shots, blurs one, and then stitches the two together so that the subject is crystal-clear but the background is nicely blurred. I have gotten some very nice shots of flowers and animals close up with this, though the subject does have to be pretty still for it to work right.
Speaking of flowers, the macro capabilities of the auto modes on this camera are FANTASTIC. Reason in itself to buy the camera. I can be on a walk, with my very big dog pulling in one hand. I'll see a very pretty flower and tell him to "wait" and "sit", while using my other hand to slide the camera out of my pocket and turn it on. I just hold the camera up close, click, slide it back into my pocket, and we're off again. Whole process takes maybe 2 seconds (unless I choose to take a couple of angles, etc.). This has been the case for nearly every one of my "local flowers", "Yosemite wildflowers", and "super macro" shots in my Flickr account taken with this camera (basically everything shot in the past few months). My Flickr handle is RobertCross1 if you'd like to check out any of my shots to see for yourself.
I generally don't use the in-camera panorama features. While they are certainly very good for what they are, you can get much better panoramic shots by shooting consecutive, overlapping stills and stitching them together in a software application like Photoshop Elements.
I also don't use the in-camera HDR feature. It just isn't very well implemented and produces pretty strange looking shots, even for HDR. If you want HDR photos, you can exposure bracket with three shots in very quick succession (as this thing shoots at 10fps, a tripod is not even generally needed for this, as long as you have a fairly still hand), at -1, 0, and +1. Not quite the range you'll get from a DSLR, but I've gotten some nice results putting them together in Photomatix.
As for the battery charging in the camera situation, you can easily buy an external charger and a second and/or third battery. Then charging the battery in the camera becomes a nice second option. Do a quick search here on Amazon. The one I got was an external charger and TWO extra batteries for a total of $11.16, and free shipping with Amazon Prime. They're third-party, but work great. In fact, they're better than the battery that came with the camera, as they actually show the time remaining next to the icon on the screen. They say "Fits Son. NP-BG1" on them.
The GPS is a nice feature. When shooting at home and around town, I keep it turned off, to save battery power. But it's good for road trips and hiking especially, when you're often shooting from a place along a trail that might not be marked on a map or easy to see in satellite view. It does take a bit for the GPS to reconnect every time you turn the camera back on, so not great for quick pull-it-out-of-your-pocket-and-shoot situations. But a nice thing to have.
As with any point-and-shoot, there's a tendency in the auto modes to overexpose a bit in bright daylight settings. Just be aware of this and make good use of the various manual settings "P" and the three "M" modes on the dial. Also, the "custom" button on the top can be set for various things, but I've got it by default on exposure compensation. So, if shooting in auto, I can make a couple of quick clicks to darken the scene until the sky goes from white to blue. The changed setting resets when you turn the camera off, but it is really good for quick changes on the fly. In manual shooting mode, however, the changes you make stay that way when you turn the camera off and on, which is great when you're out shooting a bunch of shots in similar light conditions.
As for color, it's generally great, but the reds do tend to get overblown a bit. Watch for that. If shooting something predominantly red, you may want to shift to the R "Real Color" setting. The default is standard, but there are "Vivid", "Real", "Sepia", "BW", etc. settings as well.
My wife's camera, the Panasonic Lumix ZS3, which I was using before I got my Sony, is a wonderful point-and-shoot, and it may have a bit of a better lens, as it doesn't have the reds issue, and never introduced geometrical distortion around the edges of the shot. The HX9v does do this a bit, but this is pretty standard for point-and-shoots, and is easily fixed in software in the very few instances where it becomes noticeable.
But we're talking real fine-tuning stuff here. In every other way, the HX9v blows away the Panasonic ZS3 (and ZS7 and ZS10, for that matter). I'd say that the daytime image qualilty still is top-notch, and low-light shooting is on a completely different level. I never, ever use the flash. The two auto modes are both fantastic. For most of my daytime shooting, I actually tend to stick with the regular auto (as opposed to the Superior Auto+) setting, as it is much, much faster. This is because it doesn't use the various multi-shot-and-stitch-together-in-the-camera features that are only in Auto+. In fact, in daylight settings, I don't want the chance of Auto+ selecting the HDR function and giving me a weird-looking shot. And regular auto also gives you the option for continuous shooting with two clicks of the wheel, which is unavailable in Auto+. It can do 10fps or 2fps at full size, which is AMAZING for a point-and-shoot. But unlike a DSLR, the buffer is small, so after 10 shots, it has to process and save to the card. I have a class 10 superfast card in it which speeds this up, but 10 still seems to be the limit of continuous shots per click-and-hold. So I usually have it set at 2fps, which can give me up to 5 seconds of dog running or bird flight motion shots.
Overall, a truly remarkable camera that was one of the best technology purchases I have ever made. I would highly recommend it.
There's a Flickr group devoted to this camera that you should check out. My most recent ten or so shots on there are very near the top of the pool, and they give you a good idea of the range of the camera, from 16x zoom mountain shots to low-light concert stills, to very close-up macro. Here's the link:
But if that gets disabled on Amazon, just do a search on Flickr for "HX9v". It'll be right there at the top. And here's a direct link to my Flickr photostream, if you want to poke around through what I've done with the camera. Basically anything done since early May 2011 (and each shot tells you which camera it was shot with right above the map). Keep in mind that Flickr is not the place for video (very poor compression with all kinds of artifacts - not representative of the camera), so don't even click on any of those. Here's the link:
Again, if that gets disabled, just do a Flickr search for RobertCross1, and you'll see my photos.
Good luck with your choice, and happy shooting!
on May 10, 2011
I've been through several point and shoot cameras trying to find the best fit for me, and I've settled on this Sony. I thought that I would pick the Panasonic DMC-ZS10 because it had everything that I wanted except for one fatal flaw: pictures in any condition but bright sunlight were very noisy. The Canon S95 is a great camera that takes superb pictures even in low light, but I wanted a 16x optical zoom and a 1080p movie mode.
All in all, the Sony HX9V fills the bill. The still photo quality is not as good as the Canon (it has some smearing of fine detail), but it's far better than the Panasonic. I love the 1080p video and the 10 frame per second burst mode. The zoom range, including wide angle, is great. Handheld Night Shot works very nicely to give good shots in dim light. The LCD display is terrific. The GPS is nice, but I won't use it much, and it's not as fast or accurate as the Panasonic. The Sony has a ton of features that will take me a while to explore. Having to charge the battery in camera is silly, but I can live with it. I considered the new Canon SX230, but I'm not fond of the wide angle LCD, and from what I've read, the video quality isn't as good.
For me, the Sony HX9V is a great all-in-one travel zoom camera that I can comfortably take anywhere and get good photos and great video. I'm very pleased.
on July 10, 2011
I cannot say enough good about this camera, i have owned many point and shoots over the years, from Olympus 2020's to many of the GREAT Panasonic models. This Sony packs in everything I need, in a small compact package. The shots are crystal clear, I can crop the heck out of them and stillcget sharp pictures, and the camers "intelligent" modes work very well.
I am not keen about the placement of the pop-up flash ( my left fingers seem to be holding the camera there on the upper part when it wants to pop up) and i think it would have been better placed on the front face of the camera, instead of om top as a pop-up. I can live with that though. Overall, this beats the bulky DSLR's any time in my book. We travel a lot, and i love to have a REAL powerful camera that I don't need to carry extra lenses for, and that fits in a fanny pack, while still allowing other items to be put in the pack as well.
Overall, just a very nice, small, and great camera for 98% of all your shooting needs.
PS - i bought a "class 10" 8GB SDHC memory card, and then tried out the "multi shot" mode where it can take many pictures in succession, and at FULL high resolution (16mp) this camera SMOKES!!! It rattled off 15 full high res pics before i could even blink an eye. I see this being great for action shots, so I can then go back and pull out the one I want from the group. VERY fast camera. NICE!
on July 27, 2011
I originally bought the HX7V back in May (which I reviewed and updated). I loved the HX7, but it was not without it's issues--most notably, over saturated pictures that had a strong red push to them and a tendency to oversaturate reds in general (in other words, cranberry color looks like cherry). The camera did not allow you to change the color or saturation levels. I still loved that camera and was ok with photoshopping the color issues. Unfortunately, the HX7v had the misfortune of meeting the pavement this weekend to my chagrin. Needless to say, these compact cameras are NOT ruggedized! If not fall the accident, I would have happily kept the HX7.
Since I needed a replacement camera I decided to give the Panasonic ZS10 a shot--since costco was giving a $70 instant rebate off their already discounted price. While the colors looked better on the panny, the pictures looked awful--like someone smeared vasoline on the lens. The video and pictures were soft, noisy and had a dearth of fine detail. I am not a pro-photographer by any means, but these pictures looked poor. I have had tiny canon elphs that took better pictures. Even my wife (who is not picky at all) thought there was something wrong with the IQ. I kept the zs10 for less than 24 hours.
Finally, I headed over to BB and picked up the HX9 expecting to get the same photo quality as the HX7, with a few extras thrown in for good measure. After shooting 200 pictures and a half hour of video--I am completely blown away. This camera is worth the extra $60.00 over the HX7. The IQ is superior right out of the box. Using the iAuto feature, images are still oversaturated (although less so than with the HX7 since the HX9 has a brighter lens). Sony has a thing with setting the IQ with high saturation and high contrast to give pictures a "vivid" effect as opposed to a natural look (they do this with their TV's too). Fortunately, the HX9 allows you to customize the image and even gives you a "Real" color mode to get you most of the way there. This alone makes the camera worth the extra money over the HX7V. With some tweaking of the color and saturation levels ( which you can do in camera), the images look perfect. Yes, you pixel peepers will find something to moan about if you are looking to crop and enlarge, but this is not suppose to be a DSLR. You can see smearing and excessive processing if you look at the pictures at 100% on a high quality computer monitor. That, for me at least, isn't a big deal. I care about how the pictures look in print. I printed out a 4x6, 5x8 and 8x10 images (the max my printer can handle) and they look fantastic. It's rare that I would print larger than an 8x10--so I am more than satisfied with the IQ to say the least.
The video is equally stunning with gorgeous image quality at full 1080p at 60fps (this is unheard of in any low priced camcorder, let along a p&s). To be clear, this is true 60fps 1080p, not 30fps 1080p with interpolation that doubles the frames (which is a trick some manufacturers use). This is evident in the 28mbps bitrate and, using software still capture software that allows me to click from frame to frame, it's quite obvious. Coupled with Sony's excellent optical image stabilization (best in the industry) and high quality G series lens, the HX9V better video than my $1200 Canon HG10 ( well, at least as good) in outdoor daytime lighting and in well lit rooms. In moderately lit rooms the video quality is still quite good although the colors are a bit less saturated. In low light, there is some noise, but the Canon was only slightly less noisy and the Sony performance in low light was impressive. In all cases, the video quality on the HX9 was noticeably better than the HX7V (which is still very good in its own right). I think this is attributable to the brighter lens on the HX9--f3.3 (HX9) versus f3.8 (HX7). Sound quality is also better on the HX9 versus the HX7, but both were more than adequate for their purpose. I think this can be attributed to the shift in location of the microphone condensers from the left side of the camera (hx7) to the middle (hx9).
If you are serious about buying the best p&s on the market that takes great stills (close, but not quite DSLR quality) and great video (truly impressive, leave your $1000 camcorder home quality) and has oodles of extra features, look no further. This is simply the best all around camera out there. The high praise from CNET and other professional reviewers is well warranted.