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Sony DSC-H9 Operation

Operating the Sony DSC-H9 in any of its automatic modes is pretty simple. Working in Aperture, Shutter, or Manual modes requires you to acquaint yourself with the Wheel dial/Set button arrangement.

The Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main Record modes, and a button visible from both the rear and top panel accesses Playback mode. In all image capture modes, the DSC-H9 provides an onscreen LCD menu (activated by the Menu button), with a variety of options for adjusting image quality or capture options.

The four arrows of the arrow pad are used to scroll through menu options, while the button in the center of the pad functions as the OK button to confirm selections. When in Record mode, the arrows adjust Display, Flash, Self-timer, and Macro modes. In Aperture, Shutter, or Manual modes, turning the Wheel dial surrounding the Control dial allows you to select among ISO, shutter, aperture, and EV adjustments, and pressing the center Set button activates the selection so you can adjust it with the dial. When in Manual mode, information on the LCD to the right of these values tells you by how many EV units it thinks your exposure is off, up to plus or minus 2EV.

The Zoom control in the top right corner of the back panel adjusts both optical and digital zoom (when the latter is activated through the Setup menu). The extremely large LCD left little space for extra buttons for oft-changed functions, like ISO and EV, which is a shame. While Sony's menus used to be pretty straightforward, I've found the structure of their recent cameras to be unnecessarily complex. The Home button's value is lost on me. I would prefer all the menus to live under the main Menu button.

Record Mode Display
In record mode, the LCD monitor displays the subject with a fair amount of information, indicating approximate battery life remaining (graphically), flash mode, focus mode (macro or normal), autofocus mode setting, any currently-selected exposure compensation setting, ISO setting, the current size/quality setting, folder name, and number of images that can be stored on the remaining Memory Stick space at the current size/quality. It also warns when Super SteadyShot is off. Half-pressing the Shutter button causes the camera to display the shutter speed and aperture setting it has chosen for the current lighting conditions. Pressing the Display button once brightens the display, a second press adds a small live histogram display, pressing it again removes most of the information overlay, and pressing it a third time restores the default display. Pressing the Finder/LCD button right of the EVF switches between the LCD and EVF. A graphical representation of the Mode dial is overlaid briefly when the mode is changed, making it easier to change modes without looking at the dial.

Playback Mode Display
In Playback mode, the default image display shows the most recently captured image, with a modest information overlay. Pressing the display button once brightens the display, a second press adds the exposure information and a small histogram to the overlay, pressing it again removes the information overlay entirely, and pressing it a third time returns to the default view. Pressing the wide-angle side of the zoom lever takes you to a display showing images on the Memory Stick in groups of six small thumbnails. You can navigate a yellow outline cursor over these thumbnails by using the four arrow keys. Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom lever will bring the currently-selected image up full-screen. Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom lever when viewing an image full-size on the LCD screen will zoom in on the image in variable-sized increments up to a maximum magnification of 5x.


Sony DSC-H9 Modes and Menus

As mentioned above, the Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main Record modes. Record modes available are:

Automatic Mode: Indicated on the Mode dial with a green camera icon, this mode puts the camera in control over the exposure and everything except Macro, Image Size and Quality, Zoom, Flash, and the Self-Timer.

Program Mode: This mode is marked on the Mode dial with a "P." In this mode, the camera selects shutter speed and aperture, while you control all other exposure variables.

Shutter Priority Mode: Marked with an "S," this mode allows the user to control the shutter speed, from 30 seconds to 1/2,000 second.

Aperture Priority Mode: Marked with an "A," this mode gives user control of aperture, which varies based on zoom setting.

Manual Mode: This mode provides total control over the exposure, as you're able to select both aperture and shutter speed independently of each other.

Movie Mode: A filmstrip icon marks this mode on the Mode dial. In Movie mode, you can record moving images and monaural sound. Movies are recorded in MPEG1 format, up to a maximum clip size of 2GB. Resolution and quality choices are 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels, with Fine (30 frames per second) and Standard (16.6 frames per second) options in 640 x 480 mode. (320 x 230 pixel "Presentation" movies are captured at 8.3 frames per second.) Recording in 640 x 480 Fine mode is only available with a Memory Stick Pro Duo card. Optical zoom is supported while recording movies.

Scene Mode: Indicated on the Mode dial by "SCN" this mode puts the camera in Scene mode, which offers additional selections to the dedicated scene modes listed below, via the menu system. Selections available are Twilight, Beach, Snow and Fireworks.

Landscape: This scene mode is designed for taking landscapes shots, where the subject is distant. Focus is set at infinity and a smaller lens aperture is used to capture sharp details both near and far away.

Twilight Portrait: This scene mode is designed for taking shots of people at night. Flash is used, but shutter speed is reduced to let ambient lighting brighten the background as well. Use of a tripod is highly recommended to prevent blurring from camera movement.

Advanced Sports: This scene mode is designed for taking action shots. The camera attempts to track moving subjects with predictive autofocus while the shutter release is half-pressed.

Portrait: Designed for taking portrait shots, Portrait mode biases exposure toward wider apertures for sharp subjects isolated against a blurred background.

High ISO: This scene mode increases ISO sensitivity so that shots in poor light can be taken without a flash.

Record Menu: In Record mode, accessed by pressing the Playback button or changing the mode dial selection, pressing the Menu button allows you to access different controls of the camera.

Scene Menu: Five Scene modes are accessed by turning the Mode dial to High ISO, Portrait, Advanced Sports Shooting, Twilight Portrait, and Landscape. Four other Scene modes are available when you set the Mode dial to SCN. The menu looks like this (see above for descriptions):

Movie Menu: A filmstrip icon marks this mode on the Mode dial. In Movie mode, you can record moving images with sound. The menu looks like this:

Review Menu: A filmstrip icon marks this mode on the Mode dial. In Movie mode, you can record moving images with sound. The menu looks like this:

Home Menu: This "über-menu" is displayed whenever the Home button is pressed, and is supposed to give easy access to most camera settings at any time, in any mode. We thought it had too many levels and redundant settings, and thus overly complex.