If you don't count the slog through the menus, the H9--and by extension, H7--delivers good speed for its class. Based on CNET Labs' test results, it wakes up and shoots in a reasonable 2.1 seconds, with a shutter lag of 0.6 and 1.3 seconds in bright and dim light, respectively. It can shoot consecutive single images 1.4 seconds apart, growing to a modest 2.9 seconds with flash enabled. Continuous shooting is fixed at about 2 frames per second (fps), regardless of image size, and can run for about 18 shots before it starts to slow. I was a bit disappointed by the surprisingly small electronic viewfinder. Sony's Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization, as ever, works very well.
Under the right circumstances, the photos look very good. Those include shooting at sensitivity settings of ISO 200 or lower, in bright sunlight. Thanks to the fast continuous shooting, solid stabilization and reliable center-point focus, the H9 delivered the best results I've had so far shooting dogs in the park. The EVF updates quickly enough to make it possible. The automatic white balance does a solid job, if a bit cool, and colors look bright and saturated.
As with other megazoom lenses, however, the Sony's displays some distortion and chromatic aberration (edge discoloration) on the sides of the photo, as well as purple fringing on high-contrast edges. In general, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS exhibits better sharpness both in the center and from side-to-side. As for shots at medium-to-high sensitivities, I suggest you avoid them. Despite boasting support for up to ISO 3200, The jump between ISO 200 and ISO 400 reveals serious detail loss and notable increase in artifacts. Though it produces better noise measurements than the S5 at the higher ISO settings, the Sony has more apparent image degradation.
For movie capture, Sony makes a slightly better trade-off than most between file size and movie quality. Though they're not quite as sharp, its 30fps VGA MPEG movies require about 1.3MB/sec of storage--far less than the Canon's 2MB/sec M-JPEG recordings. One disappointment here is the tiny microphone that records muted audio.
If you shoot primarily outdoors in daytime--especially sports, children and animals--and don't find the interface quite as crazy-making as I do, the H9 is a great choice. The approximately $100 difference in street prices between the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H7 and DSC-H9 makes your choice simple: if you can forgo the infrared and the flexible LCD, then buy the cheaper model.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)