Overall, the Sony HX9V produces some of the best image quality we’ve seen in some while. Images are consistently crisp, sharp and punchy with pleasing colour and good levels of contrast.
Using the camera in either Program or Manual mode there are plenty of ways in which you can adjust the final look of your images. This includes choosing a Colour Mode from the following: Standard, Vivid, Real, Sepia and B&W. We preferred sticking with the Standard and Real settings, as both produced pleasing results, however the Vivid setting can help out on dull days or when your subject would benefit from a bit of a colour boost. In addition to the Colour Mode, it’s also possible to tinker with the Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness levels while using the camera in Program or Manual mode.
Although there aren’t as many processing options when the HX9V is used in Intelligent Auto or Superior Auto we found that both modes are able to produce consistently good images, that often display greater contrast and more tonality than images shot using Program or Manual mode. The image-blending abilities of Superior Auto are definitely helpful in low-light and high-contrast situations too.
Befitting its designation as a Sony G lens, we found the HX9’s optics produced some of the sharpest edges we’ve seen from a compact in recent months. Viewed at 100% and above fine detail does display that ‘painted-on’ effect that is so common to small-sensor compact cameras, however this really isn’t a problem when images are viewed at regular screen and print sizes, with images instead looking perfectly sharp and richly detailed.
The HX9V is an outstanding travel compact, albeit one with a somewhat premium price tag. It’s easy to use, feels great in the hand and delivers fantastic image quality – especially when used in Sony’s proprietary Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto shooting modes. The omission of Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority shooting modes along with the inability to record lossless Raw files is all a bit of a let-down given the price, but otherwise there is very little to moan about and plenty to like. Sony’s Sweep Panorama technology is the best there is for in-camera ultra wideangle imaging, while the HX9V’s HD movie capabilities are also class leading. However, there’s still no getting away from that £300 price tag. It’s undoubtedly a lot of money for a compact camera, so be sure to shop around before parting with any money.