The camera market these days is swamped with a variety of cameras that serve different purposes, leaving consumers with plenty of choices to pick from. Most people do not opt for DSLR cameras because of the high price as well as the fact that they may be a bit difficult to use. That’s where super zooms come in; they do not offer the image quality or even the settings that are found on a DSLR, but they look awfully similar. However, this may not be feasible for travellers as they would want these zoom capabilities as well as the ability to tweak settings to a certain extent within a compact package.
The pop-up flash has a sturdy build
As far as travel compacts go, we’ve recently seen the launch of the Canon Powershot SX230HS as well as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20. Sony has just released the Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V travel compact, which has some pretty interesting attributes, including 16x optical zoom, a 16.2 megapixel sensor, 3D still image capturing, and full HD video recording, amongst others. Here’s a closer look at this point-and-shoot camera.
On Video: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
Design and Build Quality
The DSC-HX9V is a compact camera, but is a bit larger than other point-and-shoot compacts available in the market. That said, given all the features and functions loaded in this camera, it is quite slim. The camera sports a predominantly matte black finish, with a gun metal finish on the side and top. There is a rubberized hand grip, allowing you to shoot images easily with one hand. There is also a thumb grip on the back, making the camera easier to hold.
The lens on the front is slightly raised from the body, but still allows the camera to retain its compact size. The lens slides out easily and there no build issues noticed here. There is a large 3-inch screen at the back that flushes along the body. To the right of the screen are the buttons, which have a silver finish. The four-way navigational key acts as a jog dial as well as for scrolling between the different options. The dial is easy to turn, with very little resistance.
Many quck access options through the mode dial
To the top of the camera is the mode dial, the shutter release button that’s attached to the zoom rocker, a stereo speaker, on/off button and a custom button. These buttons are well spaced out and sturdy. The pop-up flash is located on the top right of the camera and can be deployed by activating the flash. The build quality of the flash is good. Concealed in a bay at the side is the mini HDMI port. The flap for this port is made of plastic and when closed, remains flush against the side. The camera uses a USB port for charging, so there is no need to remove the battery from its bay. The battery bay also houses the 4 GB memory card that comes bundled with the camera.
This is a stylish looking camera and though on the slightly bulky side, it can fit easily in a jeans or shirt pocket. The build quality is good and feels like it could definitely withstand a few knocks.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V, as mentioned earlier, is pretty loaded with features. It houses a 1/2.3-inch 16.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor with a BIONZ processor. Sony claims that by using this processing engine, the noise levels are reduced and the colour integrity is maintained. We will see if this holds true in the performance section. The processor is fast, allowing one to click images quickly for continuous shooting.
The images on the screen appear very detailed
One of the main features of this camera is the 16x optical zoom featured on Sony’s proprietary G lens. These lenses complement another feature of this camera, whereby the background defocuses while the subject in focus appears sharp. These lenses are also found on Sony’s Alpha range of DSLR cameras. The image stabilization, called Optical SteadyShot, helps in reducing blur when the zoom is set at its maximum. The ISO range is between 100 – 3200. In the Scene mode, there is a High ISO Sensitivity option that allows you to click images well in extremely dark environments. The camera lacks the aperture priority and shutter priority modes, but these settings can be adjusted through the manual mode.
The interface is pretty easy to operate and we found ourselves enjoying the ease of use a lot. Another feature we enjoyed was the camera’s 3D ability. There are three options. The first is the ability to view a 3D captured image on the camera as well as a 3D TV; the second is 3D sweep panorama; and the third is the ability to capture images in 3D to be viewed on a 3D TV. We had to tilt the camera to view 3D images on it.
Other features of this camera include full HD (1080p) video recording, a built-in GPS and compass as well as several scene modes, giving you the ability to capture images based on profiles such as soft-skin, fireworks, snow, sports, etc.
The performance of the Sony Cyber-shot HX9V was tested in a controlled environment as well as outdoors.
ISO sensitivity test
ISO Sensitivity Test
There is no aperture priority mode, so adjusting the settings manually was a bit of a task. At ISO 100, the image appeared devoid of any noise. Slight image noise and a bit of colour saturation started appearing vividly from ISO 800 onwards. Clicking images at these settings in a well lit area is possible. However, at ISO 1600, the image showed less noise as compared to the Canon Powershot SX230 HS. The highest ISO sensitivity on this camera is 3200 and at this setting, there was quite a lot of noise and it is recommended not to use it in a bright area.
Aperture priority test
Aperture Priority Test
The aperture is F/3.3 at its widest and F/8 at its narrowest. Unfortunatelym there is no other aperture setting available for this camera. The depth of field noticed with aperture set to F/3.3 in manual mode is noticeable as compared to F/8. If one wants to capture images that show the depth of field, the background defocus mode is also available.
The 16x zoom is one of the most interesting aspects of the camera. Even while shooting with zoom set at this setting, images appeared crisp thanks to the built in image stabilizer. There is no blur even with the zoom set to its maximum.
The images captured look vibrant enough out of the box for most users. However, you can tweak this through the settings. While testing the camera, we noticed that outdoor images captured really well and there was no colour fringing noticed. While capturing images indoors, there appeared to be a minimal amount of grain. We tried using the High ISO Sensitivity setting in a nearly pitch black environment. The image captured well and there was hardly any noise noticed. Using the camera in Auto mode was a breeze and the performance it delivered was stellar.
Outdoor images captured beautifully
The camera captures video at 1080p, and videos recorded at full HD playback with no issues whatsoever. There were no transition issues either when moving from a dark area to a bright one. The flash illuminates a distance of about 12 feet and it lights up the area well. Sony bundles a 960 mAh battery with this camera and the company rates it at around 300 shots. The overall performance is really good and we enjoyed using it.
Attractive looking travel compact
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is priced at Rs.16,990. This is a great camera and is priced competitively in the travel compact segment. It has really good zoom along with a neat 3D capture feature. The only thing we missed was the lack of aperture priority and shutter priority modes. Overall, this camera is ideal if your primary use is during get-togethers and parties because of its compact form factor. This is one of the best compact point-and-shoot cameras we have seen, and if manually adjusting aperture priority or shutter priority is not your thing, then this one should definitely be considered.
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