The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is a compact superzoom with some muscular specs, including a 16.2-megapixel sensor and a lengthy, 16x zoom lens. It'll be out in April for around £340. We've just got our mitts on the HX9V, and here are our first impressions.
Anyone familiar with compact superzooms like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 or TZ10 will feel right at home with the HX9V. This chunky little snapper is light enough to carry around all day, weighing a modest 215g. Measuring 105 by 59 by 34mm, it's also slender enough to fit in a trouser pocket and still leave room for a mobile phone.
Along the right-hand side of the camera, there's a bulky slab of grip that'll ensure the HX9V doesn't slide out of your grasp. We found that the camera isn't uncomfortable to hold, despite being blocky. We were also impressed by the flash, which is housed in the top left corner of the camera, and pops up like a submarine periscope when needed.
We only have one minor gripe in terms of design, although a few more may emerge once we get the camera in for a full review. Our gripe is that the zoom rocker on top of the camera feels rather uncomfortable. It's small and pointy, so it could prove slightly painful for your fingertips, especially if you're shooting in cold conditions, as we were.
With a 16x optical zoom, the HX9V could be a decent choice if you often try to photograph
naked people in hotel rooms things from afar. The zoom mechanism seemed speedy enough, and we were pleased with the stability of images taken at the maximum zoom setting -- we didn't notice any blurring, which can be a problem with this type of camera.
We weren't playing with the final-version of the HX9V, so its image quality could change before the camera's released, but we were still impressed by the photos we took. They looked sharp and colourful. Still, in a camera of this price, anything less than genuinely spiffing image quality will invoke our ire.
The HX9V features plenty of gizmos. An 'intelligent auto' mode will automatically choose the right scene setting based on the shooting conditions. There's also a 'superior auto mode' that essentially adds a high-dynamic-range effect to your photos if you're shooting in low light. We found this mode did its job pleasingly quickly, and we didn't have to wait ages before we could take the next photo.
The camera's GPS tech will let you know where your photos were taken, and there's a 3-inch LCD display on the back of the camera. There's no viewfinder, but there is a dedicated video button for quickly capturing footage.
The HX9V can take 3D photos. As it doesn't have two lenses, you have to take two photos at different focus points, and then the camera will stitch them together into one photo. There are a variety of 3D shooting modes, including one that lets you take 3D panoramic shots, but you can't view photos in 3D on the camera itself -- you'll need to hook the HX9V up to a 3D-enabled telly or laptop and wear some dorky specs.
We're sceptical about whether these 3D features will produce anything worth donning daft glasses for. Nevertheless, we'll give the camera the full review treatment before we rule these features out.
If the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V can deliver when it comes to image quality, it could prove a worthy rival to the Lumix DMC-TZ20, the latest offering from the king of the compact-superzoom sector, Panasonic. Stay tuned for a full review.
Edited by Charles Kloet