Price (RRP): $799
Reviewer: Byer Gair
A few camera makers offer a viable alternative to the digital SLR by marketing fixed lens models with hyper-zooms. The concept is appealing: a single camera, no extra lens lenses to lug around, no chance of dirt contaminating the CCD when lenses are switched.
Looking and feeling very much like an SLR in style, speed grip at one edge and a turret finder on top, the H9 has an enjoyably large 7.5 cm LCD screen that pivots away from the camera body and tilts vertically by 180 degrees.
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSCH9 has a Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar that is a 15x optical zoom. Yes. 15x! As far as we know there is no DSLR that can offer a lens anywhere near that range! And don’t even ask the cost!
In 35 SLR terms the H9’s lens runs from 31 mm to 465 mm. While the wide end is not all that wide, the tele end of the zoom is something else and would really shine when you want to shoot closeups in sport, motor racing and distant scenery. The zoom is optically stabilised, thanks to Sony’s Super SteadyShot function.
There is quite a bit more to the story: the CCD can capture eight megapixels of image, with the largest size of 3264 x 2448 pixels large enough to make a 37 x 28 cm print, or, if you select the 16:9 widescreen option, the print can be 37 x 25 cm in dimension.
Widescreen stills? Yes! And not only can you print them out but view them on a top end high definition TV set. With the help of an optional component cable ($69) the camera can be connected to a 1920 x 1080 pixel HD TV so you can sit back and enjoy a true High Def quality slide show.
Aside from stills, the H9 will also shoot video, but at a reduced resolution of 640 x 480 at 30 fps in the old ratio of 4:3. Why not at the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and 16:9 screen ratio of HD? Good question! Maybe Sony wanted to quarantine its new range of HD camcorders from in-house competition!
In a departure for Sony, there is a face detection mode that assures correct exposure, focus and white balance in group shots having up to eight faces. This is more useful than you think and takes a lot of the hassle out of people photography.
Another plus for the already tech-packed camera is a continuous mode that will shoot 100 full res shots at a rate of 2.2 fps.
Test shots showed that the stabiliser works well, even with the lens at 15x. There was minimal optical distortion and picture quality was above average.
The H9 is an ideal bridge camera for use by operators varying in skill level: for the novice there’s an auto mode plus an array of scene modes that can cope with sports shooting, beach and snow scenes, low light and more. The more expert can fine tune exposure thanks to Program AE, shutter and aperture priority and manual modes.