Sony DSC-H9 Review
Sony DSC-H9 Design
Similar in style and design to the Sony DSC-H7 digital camera, the Sony DSC-H9 is compact, stylish, and ready to go anywhere, with a somewhat chunky body style similar to other long zoom digital cameras on the market. Its silvery metal body is big enough for easy control with either one hand or two. Measuring 2.5 x 3.03 x 5.62 inches (62 x 24 x 91 millimeters) and weighing 15.8 ounces (448 grams) with the batteries and memory card installed, the Sony H9 is not exactly pocketable, but it fits into larger coat pockets and small packs with ease. When not in use, the telescoping zoom lens retracts neatly inside the body, and a substantial lens cap is provided for very secure protection. (Like the H7, this cap is arguably one of the most substantial out in the market, with a mechanism that controls four spring-loaded retractable cap retention cams. The heft of the cap reminds me more of a manhole cover than a lens cap.) Despite the Sony H9's heft, it is well-balanced and easy to hold, though its protrusions are likely to snag a bit in a coat pocket, so I recommend a camera bag to give this camera the protection it deserves. You'll also need to consider the size of the lens hood, which takes up as much space as the camera itself.
The Sony DSC-H9 has a good grip up front and even includes a little groove in the front where your middle finger rests comfortably. The 15x, 5.2-78mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 31-465mm zoom on a 35mm camera) dominates the camera's left side (when held from the back), with a small and very bright orange lamp on the upper left of it, to help with focusing in low-light conditions. (This lamp also blinks less brightly when the self-timer is in use, flashing faster to let you know when the camera is about to snap the picture.) The flash is above the lens, concealed in a pop-up assembly.
With the lens hood attached, the Sony H9 is quite a bit bigger. The main component screws in, and the "petals" mount bayonet-style. Unfortunately, the lens hood blocks the flash when shooting at wide angle, but it should still be used at longer portrait distances, helping eliminate glare and lens flare. The camera also does not sit flush on a flat surface with the hood attached.
The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) has a small rubber cover that conceals the DC In jack. Behind this is one of the neckstrap eyelets.
The left side has a large plastic door that flips out toward the front and reveals the A/V / USB jack. The Night Shot switch can be found beneath the other neckstrap eyelet.
The camera's top panel includes a smattering of controls, including the Shutter button, Metering Mode and Burst/Bracketing buttons, and the Mode dial. To the left of the Mode dial are the Power button and five holes for the microphone. The Finder/LCD and Playback buttons are behind these, angled down toward the rear panel.
The Sony DSC-H9's rear panel holds the remaining camera controls and function buttons, along with a 3-inch color LCD monitor that swivels to face up or down, and an EVF (electronic viewfinder). The LCD reports a variety of camera and exposure settings, including the aperture and shutter speed settings (a nice bonus for those interested in how the camera will expose the image) and a four-stage battery gauge. The EVF is located above the LCD monitor, with a dioptric adjustment dial to the left of the eyepiece. The camera's Zoom control is in the upper right corner. Below that is the Menu button. Just below this is a relatively complicated arrangement, which includes a four-way Control pad, a set button in the middle, and a Wheel Dial surrounding the whole assembly. Each serves multiple functions, navigating onscreen menus scrolling between captured images in playback mode, or activating different camera functions (Flash, Display, Self-Timer, and Macro). Below and left of the Arrow pad is the Home button.
Finally, the Sony H9's flat bottom has the threaded metal tripod screw mount, a speaker for audio playback, and the shared Memory Stick/battery compartment with a door covering it. While most users of the H9 probably won't care, it is possible to change the batteries while the camera is mounted on most tripods.
Sony DSC-H9 External Controls
Shutter Button: Placed at an angle out on the grip's leading edge, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Metering Mode Button: Behind and to the left of the Shutter button, this button selects metering method, running through Multi point, Center point, and Spot options with each press.
Burst/Bracket Button: Selects among Burst and Exposure Bracketing. Burst mode can take up to 100 pictures in succession. Bracketing with take three images in a row and shift the EV in each picture.
Mode Dial: Perched high on the right side of the camera's top, this ribbed dial sets the camera's operating mode, offering Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Movie Recording, High Sensitivity, Portrait, Advanced Sports Shooting, Twilight Portrait, Landscape, and Scene.
Power Button: Located just left of the Mode dial on the camera's top panel, this well-recessed button turns the camera on and off.
Finder/LCD Button: Angled down toward the rear panel, this button switches the display between the 4-inch LCD and the electronic viewfinder.
Playback Button: To the right of the Finder/LCD button, this button puts the camera into Playback mode. If the DSC-H9 is off, this button will turn it on in Playback mode.
Zoom Control: Positioned in the top right corner of the rear panel, this two-way rocker button controls optical and digital zooms.
In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of a captured image, which can go as high as 5x. (Very handy for checking focus or the expressions on people's faces in group shots.) Also in Playback mode, the wide-angle end of the button activates the Index Display mode, which displays either six or 20 thumbnail images on the screen at one time. (Pressing the "W" end once pulls up the six-image display, and a second press pulls up the 20-image display.)
Menu Button: Below left of the Zoom control, this button brings up a minor menu that has different option in the Record and Playback modes.
Control Pad/Wheel Dial: Located in the lower right of the rear panel, this control cluster features four arrow buttons, each pointing in a different direction (up, down, left, and right), with a Set button in the middle. In all settings menus, these arrow keys navigate through menu options. Pressing the center button confirms selections.
In any record mode, the Up button controls the Display mode, cycling through darker, lighter, and histogram display. The Left arrow turns the Macro (close-up) mode on and off, and the Right arrow accesses the Flash Modes, including Auto, forced on, Slow Synchro, and forced off. The Down arrow accesses the Self-Timer modes.
In Playback mode, the Right and Left arrows scroll through captured images. When Playback zoom is enabled, all four arrows scroll around within the enlarged view, while pressing the center button returns to the normal, 1x display. In Manual mode, the four arrows can control aperture and shutter speed after the middle button is pressed.
The Wheel Dial lets you control the settings for whichever mode you are in, working in conjunction with the Set button.
Home Button: Lower left of the Control Pad, this button displays the settings menus for the different modes. Here you can adjust the settings of the camera, the memory card and the print options. This button brings up the same Home menu in any mode.
Diopter Adjustment Dial: Directly to the left of the electronic optical viewfinder, this dial is used to adjust the dioptric correction of the viewfinder, accommodating eyeglass wearers.
Night Shot Switch: Located on the left side of the camera, just below the neckstrap eyelet is the switch used to enable the H9's infrared Night Shot mode.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.