On automatic settings, the HX9V produces bright, punchy and very nice-looking JPEG images. Thanks to the Exmor R sensor, it is also very good at low-light images, producing a crisp shot in most circumstances.
Like most of the 16-megapixel crop of cameras we've seen so far this year, it does over-process images slightly when observed at full magnification, but definitely not as badly as some of its competitors. In bright, contrasty situations, the automatic modes can blow out highlights to some degree.
The HX9V excels particularly with its built-in flash, which works beautifully when illuminating people in the foreground and maintaining a lit, but not overbearing, background. It produces natural-looking skin tones as well. Autofocus is quick and effective, while white balance is mostly accurate in automatic mode, with a tendency to produce slightly warm results (though not at all unpleasant) when shooting in low-light.
A visual demonstration of the 16x optical zoom. The top image is taken at the wide end, the bottom at the telephoto reach, with 100 per cent crop inset. (Credit: CBSi)
As for lens sharpness, the HX9V produces the best results at the centre of the frame, with some sharpness dropping off towards either side. The wide end (24mm) also produces a noticeable amount of distortion. Chromatic aberration, or fringing around high-contrast areas, can be noticed at full magnification, but does not affect image quality too much. At the telephoto end, images become very "crunchy"-looking as the sensor struggles to resolve the detail from the lens, and turns up the ISO to compensate for handshake.
Video quality is one of the real strengths of the HX9V, with a very clean image and clear sound thanks to the stereo microphones. You can use the full extent of the optical zoom when filming.
Exposure: 1/80, f/3.5, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/40, f/3.3, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/250, f/4.5, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/60, f/3.3, ISO 100
With a stack of great features that work as advertised, including a 16x optical zoom lens, the HX9V makes an ideal travel companion for those who enjoy life on the road.