Sony changed quite a few details, inside and out, between last year's H5 and this year's megazooms, the and DSC-H7. An f/2.7-4.5 31mm-465mm 15x supersedes the 12x zoom on last year's, and the resolution kicks up a notch from 7 to 8 megapixels. Say goodbye to AA batteries and hello to a proprietary lithium-ion.
The Sony Cyber-shot H7 is available for around £200.
Two features differentiate the H9 and H7: the H9 retains the same excellent 76mm (3-inch) flip-up LCD as the H5, while the H7 uses a fixed 64mm (2.5-inch) version, and the H9 includes Sony's NightShot infrared mode. They are otherwise identical.
The plastic body feels a bit cheap, and the grip -- a bit larger than the H5's -- could use more of a rubbery texture. Sony also "improves" upon the simple four-way-plus-set navigation controls of the H5 by adding a scroll wheel and now-Sony-standard Home and Menu buttons.
We love the scroll wheel, but it takes a little while to get used to the operation for adjusting shooting settings. You toggle between changing the particular setting and changing the settings values with the OK/Set button; the changeable option turns yellow. In theory, it's all very logical. But in the heat of the shoot, it requires a little too much thinking. Still, it makes sense, so it shouldn't take long to adapt.
After using several Sonys, we're still not thrilled with the Home button. When you press it, the first item it shows you is Shooting. When you select that, it displays the current mode dial setting and tells you to use the Menu button to change the current settings -- in other words, telling you that you've pressed the wrong button. If it's that confusing, perhaps it needs some restructuring.
On the other hand, you have to scroll over four categories and down a level to get to settings such as AF illuminator and AF mode, then down another level to change the flash-sync mode -- especially since you can get to these more easily via the Menu button. True, these aren't settings you want to change frequently, but why bury them quite so deeply and keep the useless info closer to the surface?