Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 Review

The Sony DSC-WX9 is the best camera under $200 we have ever tested.
The Sony DSC-WX9 is the best camera under $200 we have ever tested.
The Sony DSC-WX9 is the best camera under $200 we have ever tested.

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

You’ve heard of 16-megapixel DSLRs—how about a 16.2MP point-and-shoot? That’s what Sony just introduced and the WX9 not only takes 4608 x 3456 pixel photos, but Full HD AVCHD videos which is a very unique combination. Let’s see if this is finally the “best of both worlds” device we’ve been searching for.

Features and Design

A quick glance at the DSC-WX9 with its Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 5x 25-125mm lens won’t leave you super impressed. Available in silver, red or black (our review sample), the camera has the classic Altoids tin shape, although it’s actually smaller and thinner than the candy carrier. Measuring 3.75 x 2.25 x .78 (WHD, in inches), it weighs 4.9 ounces fully loaded. In other words you can carry this around all day with your smartphone and still not be burdened. As a capture device, it’s so much better than an iPhone, iPad or Droid it’s ridiculous, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The camera has a nice matte surface which is fine but there’s too much text surrounding the lens and it could lose the “16.2 megapixels” nomenclature. Then again, there’s nothing on the surface to let you know how much firepower is inside. Also on the front is the flash and AF Assist/self-timer lamp.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9

The top has the shutter with surrounding zoom toggle, on/off button and two pinhole mics for stereo sound.

The 3-inch LCD on the back is another strength—it’s a 3-inch screen rated an excellent 920K pixels, a spec you’ll usually find on much more expensive cameras. It has very good contrast and black levels—you’ll like framing and reviewing your images since what you’ll see is very realistic. The screen does wipe out in direct sunshine, so this is a bit of a negative, therefore we’ll take perfection off the table. Unfortunately, adjusting screen brightness is buried several levels down in the menu system. How we wish manufacturers would make this important process more accessible. Naturally the LCD takes up most of the rear real estate but there are several key controls on the right. There’s a main mode switch to move between camera, panorama and movie recording. There’s also a red-dot button for quickly taking videos even if you’re not in movie mode. Below these two is a very cool circular controller with a center set/OK button. Just turn it and your shooting mode options appear on the right side of the screen so you can quickly pick the one you want.

Options here include Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, Background Defocus, Scene (14 options) and 3D. This is definitely an aim-and-forget camera, yet there is some panache. Intelligent Auto is like the Smart Auto found on most new digicams where the camera guesses the subject in front of it and makes the appropriate adjustments. We’ve found this works well in almost all instances and models. The WX9 takes it further with Superior Auto combined with HDR which takes 6 shots of your subject and quickly merges them to help cut down on noise and increase dynamic range. It slows things down a bit but the results are worth it. This is just one plus of the super-speedy CMOS chip; a 10 frames per second burst mode is another when you’re in Program. Going beyond the ordinary is the Background Defocus option that blurs the background while leaving your main subject in focus (it combines two frames to achieve this effect). With 3D you can grab stills shot in the MPO format viewable on a 3D HDTV. You can grab single 3D frames and 3D Sweep Panoramas as well when you’re in the Panorama mode. And finally you can shoot videos in the AVCHD format at 24 Mbps, better than many full-blown camcorders. Not bad for a $219 camera…

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9

The control wheel not only lets you browse through shooting options but by pressing the four corners you can adjust the flash, self-timer, burst mode and display to adjust how many icons you want to appear on the screen. The camera has grid lines to keep your horizons straight. Also on the back are buttons to access the menu, to delete files and go into playback mode.

On the right is a compartment for a mini HDMI cable, the eyelet for the wrist strap while on the bottom is a tripod mount and Sony’s proprietary output adaptor. This multi-connector used to drive us off the deep end as you needed a special Sony cable to watch stills and videos on your HDTV. Now with the mini HDMI out, this is a non-issue, praise be! While you still have to buy a mini HDMI cable, Sony supplies the special cable which also has a USB connector. You’ll use this to download stills/videos to your computer and it charges the battery when connected to a PC. It also connects to the AC adaptor since you have to charge the battery in-camera rather than with a separate plug-in charger. This is another of the WX9’s negatives since the battery lasts 210 shots–your camera will be out of action as it charges–there goes perfection again. In the battery compartment on the bottom is a combo slot for Memory Stick Pro-HG Duo or SDXC cards. We suggest 8GB high-speed editions as you’ll quickly fill your cards, given the AVCHD video, 16.2MP bursts, 3D stills and Sweep Panoramas.

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