Super-zoom cameras are a well established and popular sector of the digital camera market. They mark a boundary between pocket compact snapshot cameras and entry level digital SLRs, and offer a compromise between the convenience of the former and the capabilities of the latter. Most of the major manufacturers have products in this category, including of course Sony, which has a range of five super-zoom cameras in its H-series models. Today I'm taking a look at the Cyber-shot DSC-H9, an 8.1-megapixel camera with a 15x zoom lens, equivalent to 31-465mm. Until the announcement last week of the DSC-H50, the H9 was Sony's top-of-the-range super-zoom model.
In well-established products lines form tends to evolve to follow function, so it's not particularly surprising that a lot of cameras with similar specifications end up looking alike. The Sony DSC-H9 bears at least a superficial resemblance to a number of other super-zoom models. The overall design seems to have some strong influences from Konica-Minolta's Z series, and could represent what the Z series might have developed into had Konica-Minolta not abandoned the digital camera market. As for other manufacturer's models, the H9 bears comparison with the Fuji S8000fd (£172), the Olympus SP560UZ (£208), the Panasonic FZ18 (£229), and of course the Canon S5 IS (£233). The DSC-H9 is currently available for around £220, putting it mid-way up the price scale for an 8MP super-zoom.
The initial impression of the H9 is mixed. On the one hand it is a fairly large and imposing camera, measuring 109.5 x 83.4 x 85.7mm, and that big lens with its Carl Zeiss brand name certainly looks the part. The camera has a fairly large handgrip, and the body itself is quite thick, and it at least looks quite solid and businesslike. However on picking up the camera, it feels rather lighter and less solid than it looks, despite weighing in at a substantial 546g including battery, and it doesn't feel as well made as some rival models. The plastic body feels a bit thin in places, with a few worrying creaks when squeezed. The pop-up flash and battery/card hatch especially feel quite flimsy.