Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V Digital Camera Review$349.99
Iterating in subtle ways over the HX7V, Sony's new Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V aims to be none other than the very best travel zoom camera currently on the market. And what we really appreciate about this model is that the company has dared to achieve this goal using little except pure image quality. Extra features and effects, while still present, don't stand out to the point of distraction and certainly aren't there to sell the camera. GPS is available if you want it, in-camera editing is simple and functional, but let's praise this model for its real strength: capturing gorgeous photos.
The first thing you'll notice when shooting with the HX9V is its ability to render sharp, fine details. Surfaces like cracked asphalt or the bark of a tree leap out at the viewer, creating a sense of presence that is usually reserved for more expensive models. Aiding this is the sensor's highly realistic representation of color, which reproduces subjects–especially human ones–accurately to how they appear in real life.
Operating the HX9V is largely free of frustration. Optical zoom is this camera's key feature and the precise zoom lever makes usage a breeze. Two levels of image stabilization don't just prevent blurry shots, they assist with framing as well. Advanced shooting features like burst mode and full manual control round out the package, and the menu interface is imperfect but solid overall.
We'd say the camera's most significant drawback is the technique used to reduce unwanted image noise. While it's true the HX9V aced our noise test, the way this camera's smoothing software gets rid of noise is decidedly angular and digitized. All compact cameras need noise reduction, some blur, others smudge, but the HX9V pixelates. Combined with the camera's tendency to "halo" edges, this can create an ugly rendering up close.
But on the whole, we respect Sony's prioritization of image quality over fluff, and regard their efforts as a resounding success. The DSC-HX9V is arguably the finest travel zoom on the market, and a great value even at the above-average price.