Lastly, there are three 3D shooting modes. The 3D Sweep Panorama works just like the Intelligent Sweep, but creates both a normal panorama shot and one that can be viewed in 3D on a 3D-enabled HDTV. As you sweep the camera it shoots separate photos for the left and right eyes, which is how it's able to create 3D images with just one lens. The Sweep Multi Angle works similarly by taking 15 photos at different angles as you sweep across a scene. The camera then coverts those into one photo. By tilting the camera back and forth during playback, the camera's built-in gyro sensor displays the image in a 3D-like view on the camera's LCD. Finally, there's the 3D still image mode that quickly takes two shots, analyzes subject distance between foreground and background, and creates a single 3D photo. The results are OK, but there's definitely room for improvement. For example, the modes can't handle anything moving, so it's really just for landscapes or stationary subjects. Also, it's pretty easy to see the image slices that are stitched together. Still, if you were already planning to buy an ultracompact camera and have already started collecting 3D equipment, this is one more reason to pick up the WX9.
For its size and price, the WX9 is a fast performer. From off to first shot is 1.1 seconds with a shot-to-shot time of 1.7 seconds. Turning on the flash, though, slows the camera down to 3.8 seconds between shots. Its shutter lag--how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is good at 0.4 second in bright lighting and 0.7 second in dim conditions with less subject contrast. The camera's burst shooting mode is capable of up to 10fps, but in our more demanding test it averaged 7.7fps, which is still very good. However, this burst shooting sets focus and exposure with the first shot, and once you've fired, you're stuck waiting for the camera to save the photos, generally a second or two per photo.
Design is usually one of Sony's strong suits with its point-and-shoots, but it's one of this camera's few weaknesses. It's not that it's an ugly camera or it's too big and heavy; it's actually incredibly small for how powerful it is. And that's the problem: many of the controls are very small and several of them are flat and flush with the body, including the power button. Plus, the mode dial/directional pad is slightly frustrating to use and could accidentally move you out of your chosen shooting mode if you're not careful with your thumb.
There are a couple other design things to be aware of. For some of its 2011 Cyber-shots including the WX9 Sony switched to charging the camera battery in the camera via USB. You can charge it by connecting to a computer or the included wall adapter. However, it's a proprietary port on the camera so if you lose the cable, you'll have to buy one from Sony. Also, the battery life is a CIPA-rated 210 shots. If you're shooting a lot video, have the display brightness cranked up, or using a lot of the multishot modes or burst shooting, this will cut into your battery life. If you buy a backup battery you'll probably want to buy an external charger as well, or just plan ahead. Conclusions
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 is a sweet deal for the money. If you can, I recommend trying it out before you buy, though. The controls would keep me from buying this camera because it made it less enjoyable to use. If they don't bother you, however, it's an excellent camera.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test digital cameras.