Whether you’re a photography enthusiast who regularly travels and likes to have a quality camera to hand without having to pack the DSLR, or someone who’s about to go on holiday and on the lookout for a small, practical compact with a big zoom, the travel compact market is currently awash with models tailor-made for exactly those purposes.
In recent months we’ve looked at a number of new-to-the-market travel compacts, including the Panasonic TZ20, Canon SX230HS and Fujifilm F550 to name but three. The HX9V we have here is Sony’s latest contribution to the genre.
Launched alongside the HX7 earlier this year, the HX9 is the bigger brother of the two and as such benefits from a longer zoom, but is otherwise identical to its smaller sibling. Together, the two models replace the highly-rated Sony HX5 that was released last year.
With a 30x zoom, 16.2MP Emore R sensor, fully manual controls, a 3-inch high-resolution LCD screen, Sony’s class-leading Sweep Panorama technology, Full HD movie capture with stereo sound, and built-in GPS functionality the HX9V certainly brings plenty to the table. But is it enough to see off the competition? Let’s take a closer look and find out…
The HX9V is built around a 1/2.3in Sony Exmor R CMOS sensor that offers an effective resolution of 16.2-megapixels. This is complimented by the latest generation Sony BIONZ image processor that allows the HX9V to shoot continuously at 10fps at full resolution – if only for 10 frames at a time.
Standard sensitivity runs from ISO 100 to 3200. There is a High Sensitivity option tucked away within the Scene mode menu that hints at an expanded setting, although used in this mode even in near pitch-black test conditions we weren’t able to push the camera beyond ISO 3200.
The 16x optical zoom is branded as a ‘Sony G lens’, which is the company’s highest optical designation and more commonly associated with expensive DSLR lenses designed for the Sony Alpha range. With its wide diameter it certainly looks and feels well made, although at full extension there is still a bit of play between the barrel extensions.
Used optically the zoom offers between 24mm and 384mm with a maximum aperture of f/3.3 (at 24mm) and f/5.9 (at 384mm). The reach of the zoom can be further extended to 64x using the Precison Digital Zoom or even to 115x using the Smart Zoom. However, as both of these options essentially rely on the camera taking a crop from the sensor and then magnifying it, images shot in this way display a marked loss of resolution, with images shot at the furthest extreme of 115x offering only VGA quality. Very much ‘emergency use only’ then.
Not to worry though, as the 16x offered by the optical zoom should cater for the overwhelming majority of situations. It’s also worth noting – especially if you’re fond of wideangle photography – that the 24mm setting is one of the widest on the market and puts the HX9V on the same footing as the Lumix TZ20, Fujifilm F550 EXR and Samsung WB650. By comparison, the Nikon P9100 starts at 25mm, while the widest the Canon SX 220HS can go is 28mm – in wideangle terms that’s actually quite a lot of difference.