Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V at a glance:

  • 16.2-million-pixel, 1/2.3in Exmor R sensor
  • 16x zoom (24-384mm equivalent)
  • 3in, 921,600-dot LCD
  • Superior Auto
  • 3D shooting
  • Built-in GPS
  • Street price around £310

Travel compacts have become an important sector of the market for most manufacturers. Their size provides a portability that can’t be matched by compact system cameras, while still offering a degree of creative control. They also boast extensive zoom lenses, which make them suitable for a wide range of subjects from landscape to macro, or picking out distant details.

The Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is Sony’s current flagship model to occupy this niche, taking over from last year’s HX5V, and sits within the company’s high-performance range of compacts. The camera includes a wealth of recent Sony technologies, including Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Superior Auto and 3D shooting, as well as GPS and HD movie capture. It is both higher resolution and features a longer zoom than its predecessor, but it is against its current rivals from Canon, Panasonic and Samsung that it will really be judged.

Image: By holding down the shutter and panning across the scene in Intelligent Sweep Panorama mode, the HX9V produces a seamless 270° panorama

Features and build

At the heart of the HX9V is a 1/2.3in Exmor R CMOS sensor, now with 16.2 million effective pixels. Exmor R sensors were first introduced to Sony cameras in 2009 and use a back-illuminated design to allow increased sensitivity and reduced noise; this version, also shared by the Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V and HX7V, is the highest resolution of its type and size.

The sensor is paired up with a Bionz processor to offer an ISO range of 100-3200 and enough speed to provide the 10fps burst shooting and intelligent panorama controls. One disappointment is that images can only be saved in JPEG format, with no raw alternative.

The lens has a 16x zoom, which extends from a 24mm wide equivalent through to 384mm, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3-5.9 and a minimum aperture of f/8-14. SteadyShot optical stabilisation is built in, and macro focusing is available up to 5cm at its wide setting or 120cm at full zoom.

The shooting modes include a program setting and a fully manual mode but, strangely, no aperture or shutter priority. However, as only two apertures are ever available (minimum and maximum), the manual mode is easy to use.

On top of the scene modes and iAuto mode, the Superior Auto (iAuto+) mode recognises the type of shot, then takes a quick burst of images at differing exposures and combines the results to achieve higher quality and lower image noise. The dedicated background defocus mode maintains the maximum aperture and recommends your subject distance to optimise the effect.

Image: Superior Auto mode analyses the scene, then takes a burst of images at different exposures and combines the results for improved quality

There is also a range of 3D modes for panoramic, multi-shot and still images, which can be displayed on 3D-compatible TVs or computers but not on the camera itself. The 3D Still Image mode uses two exposures and combines them to simulate a 3D effect, so lacks the true movement of the panoramic feature.

In program or manual mode, the HX9V allows control over ISO, white balance (including manual adjustment), AF point selection, three metering options (spot, centreweighted and evaluative), and bracketing controls. Other focusing options include manual focus, face detection, and Smile Shutter, which fires the shutter automatically when the subject smiles.

The camera’s video shooting capabilities have also been upgraded from those in the HX5V, and offers full HD (1920×1080 pixels, 50i) with increased bit rate averaging 24Mb/s, compared to 17Mb/s on the HX5V at its highest setting. The HX9V also includes GPS data capture, which is embedded into the JPEG files and video for geotagging.

The body of the camera is small, stylish and rather simple in design. There are no extreme protrusions and, with the lens retracted, it fits easily into a trouser pocket. It is almost identical in looks to the HX5V, except for the new rubberised grip on the front and thumb position on the rear, and the location of the flash. While the flash was previously built into the front of the camera, it now pops out of the top-plate, sitting higher above the lens. On the rear, the 3in, 921,600-dot LCD takes up most of the space, with just four buttons, including a direct movie record button next to a four-way selection dial, which also offers rotation.

Although the HX9V uses the same battery as the HX5V, the power consumption has been optimised to improve its lifetime from 310 to 410 shots.


Images are bright and punchy straight from the camera, especially in the reds and greens. Levels of detail are impressive at ISO 100, scoring over 24 on our standard test chart. Detail is maintained as the ISO is increased and noise only starts to become noticeable at ISO 1600 and 3200.

In real-world scenes, however, noise reduction is present from ISO 400 when viewed at 100% and can cause a slight watercolour effect in some areas. In areas of high contrast, there are signs of purple fringing in the corners but not to any worrying degree. The overall picture quality remains high, and even shots taken at ISO 3200 are very pleasant to look at. The Superior Auto mode is adept at handling low-light scenes and maintains impressive amounts of detail.

White balance remains neutral under natural and tungsten light and, despite the options available, presents no need to stray from the auto setting. Metering delivers in a range of conditions and, while it can lose highlights in extreme conditions, it generally gives a fairly even range of tones. Intelligent Sweep Panorama is a smart and surprisingly useful feature but the 3D modes, though clever, seem unnecessary at present.

Resolution, noise & dynamic range:  These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a
resolution chart, captured with the lens set to its 100mm point. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.


The HX9V is a powerful compact but faces stiff competition from its cheaper rivals such as the Panasonic Lumix-DMC TZ20 and Canon PowerShot 230HS. But, for the extra money, the HX9V does offer an array of intelligent features, as well as a longer zoom lens and higher-resolution sensor.

The lack of manual options won’t suit everyone, but for those looking for a high-quality compact that will fit in your pocket, the HX9V is certainly worth considering.