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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 Review

Highs

  • Excellent 16MP stills
  • Outstanding AVCHD videos
  • Very good 3-inch LCD screen

Rating

Our Score 8.5
User Score 9

Lows

  • Digital noise at ISO 800 and above
  • No separate battery charger
  • LCD brightness adjustment buried too deep in menus
The Sony DSC-WX9 is the best camera under $200 we have ever tested.

What’s In The Box

Small camera, small box. You’ll find the camera, NP-BN1 battery, strap, USB AC adaptor, cable, 28-page manual (in English) and CD-ROM with Sony’s Picture Motion Browser software ver. 5.5.

Loading an 8GB card and with a charged battery in place, it was time do put the camera through its paces.

Performance and Use

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 is one of the first cameras with a new class of 16.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensors. This is not the same Exmor imager found in the company’s NEX and DSLR models. Those are much larger; here it’s the typical 1/2.3-inch dimension of a point-and-shoot. DigitalTrends.com readers know this size sensor has the potential for noisy images even at low ISOs (200-400). Anything higher is usually asking for trouble. In general, CMOS sensors combined with the right processors aren’t nearly as noisy in low light compared to CCDs other than the 10MP versions found in quality cameras like the Canon S95 or Panasonic LX5. CMOS chips are also much faster, letting the cameras perform more tricks including improved burst modes and enhancing dynamic range.

We used the WX9 over the course of several weeks taking it on a trip to Brooklyn’s Coney Island along with several other cameras we were testing, including a Nikon Coolpix S8100 and Canon PowerShot 300 HS. The camera also took a trip to Manhattan at night and the bucolic ‘burbs of New Jersey (don’t laugh; this was not Snooki land) as well as Washington D.C to catch the sights and early blooms of spring. Once finished, stills and videos were downloaded to the PC, 8×10 prints made, images enlarged 100%+ on the monitor and everything was checked out on a 55-inch Sony Bravia 3D EX720 HDTV.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 sample photo(Click on the image to view a larger version)

Before getting to the results, let’s state the DSC-WX9 is a fun, compact camera. Carrying it everywhere is a pleasure. The camera focuses quickly as it has a 9-point AF system, far more sophisticated than the usual 3 of a low-end point-and-shoot. We especially liked the wide-angle Zeiss lens. Even though you give up some range on the telephoto side, the camera really adds a nice perspective distortion to your shots. This is our viewpoint and you definitely should do your own eyes-on test before you buy. And even though it grabs 10 fps in Program, you can only take single images in Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto and these are relatively slow as the camera processes multiple frames. Don’t get us wrong—this is not pokey slow but it’s best for static subjects as the results are well worth the wait. Shooting videos is also a breeze although as with all cameras, the mics can pick up the sound of the zoom mechanism and make gentle breezes sound like the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Now on to the results…

We’re happy to report the digicam takes very high-quality stills—and the videos demolish any camera at the price. After all, it takes AVCHD movies at 24 Mbps, a far better codec than most other Full HD models on the market. They looked great on a 55-inch screen with fluid motion and accurate colors. Unfortunately, the stereo mics cannot handle even the gentlest breeze without distorting the sound. Guess we can’t have everything. Yet this is just a minor distraction compared to the fine photos you can take with this camera. Colorful Coney Island street signs looked great as did the classic red parachute jump. We took some Sweep Panoramas of the boardwalk and surrounding areas–the images were top notch. We’ve always liked this feature and it’s quite impressive on the big screen. Overall you’ll really like photos taken outdoors as the colors really pop—we’d say they compare to the more expensive Canon PowerShot 500 HS–and the WX9 costs almost $100 less. Most of our shots were taken at the highest resolution using Superior Auto. Optical Image Stabilization did a good job keeping images sharp.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 Sweep Panorama(Click on the image to view a larger version)

We have to give the Canon 300 HS/500 HS and Nikon S8100 (all newer CMOS cameras) better marks as far as digital noise is concerned. The Sony was good up to ISO 800 and had problems at 1600/3200 whereas the others controlled artifacts and kept the colors more accurate at those levels.

One area the Sony totally tops the competition is 3D. The WX9 not only takes 3D stills but 3D Sweep Panoramas as well. 3D stills can be viewed on any compatible 3D HDTV as they’re MPO files, but you can only see the “Sweeps” on a Sony 3D HDTV. We don’t think this should be the reason for buying a new 3D television but the effect is fairly decent with a reasonable amount of depth. It works best in bright light and doesn’t have the motion or sensation of the JVC GS-TD1 but that camcorder costs a cool $1,699, not $219! Also lagging behind is Background Defocus which simply cannot replicate the effects of a DSLR’s depth-of-field options.

Conclusion

The Sony DSC-WX9 is the best camera under $200 we have ever tested. Is it perfect—our dream two-in-one camera? Hardly but we’re getting there. As noted earlier, we had the $219 WX9 along with the $299 12MP Nikon S8100 and $249 12MP Canon 300 HS during one part of our trial. They’re not totally apples-to-apples comparisons but one’s within shouting distance, namely the Canon 300 HS which has a 5x 24-120mm zoom versus the 5x 25-125mm of the Sony. If we had to choose between the two, the Sony wins in a walk.

Highs:

  • Excellent 16MP stills
  • Outstanding AVCHD videos
  • Very good 3-inch LCD screen

Lows:

  • Digital noise at ISO 800 and above
  • No separate battery charger
  • LCD brightness adjustment buried too deep in menus

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