Timing & Performance

The H9's overall performance is roughly the same as the H2 and H5 that came before it. Although it's a little slower than some direct competitors when it comes to many basic camera operations - startup, power off, playback and so on, the H9 never feels slow in use (and we are talking about differences measured in 1/10ths of a second). Where it really matters - focus speed, shutter lag, shot-to-shot times (without flash) and so on - the H9 no worse than most super zoom cameras, and is a lot faster than many. The rather lackluster burst mode on the H5 has been beefed up a little, and now offers very nearly 2 frames per second for as many shots as you want.

Although a touch faster than its predecessors, the focus system feels like it could be faster at the long end of the zoom, as even in continuous AF mode the focus hunts every time you half-press the shutter. This means that you can be watching the live preview, everything is perfectly focused, and when you half press the shutter the focus moves in and out briefly - but quite dramatically - before settling exactly where it was before you did anything. The only saving grace is that the focus is - in good light - very fast anyway, and the hunting only really occurs at the extreme long end of the zoom; at wider angles the focus feels almost DSLR-like, it is so fast. In low light or at short subject distances the telephoto focus does get dramatically slower, but if this is the type of photography you're likely to be doing a lot of you really need an SLR.

The only other slightly disappointing results were fairly long shot-to-shot times with flash, especially if using the red-eye reduction mode.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on an 8MP JPEG image (approx. 2210 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card.

Action Details
Time, secs

Power: Off to Record

Power: Off to Play Image displayed 1.6
Power: Record to Off Lens retracted and all activity ceased 2.2
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens extended 2.2
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty, lens retracted ~0.5
Record Review Image displayed 1.0
Mode: Record to Play   1.3
Mode: Play to Record Lens already extended ~ 0.9
Mode: Play to Record Lens retracted ~ 2.2
Play: Magnify To full magnification (5x) ~ 4.4
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~ 0.2 *1
Play: Thumbnail view 2 x 3 thumbnails ~1.6 *2

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 31 to 465 mm (15 x) Hi Speed 2.1
Zoom from Wide to Tele 31 to 465 mm (15 x) Lo Speed 4.7
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~ 0.25 - 0.6 *3
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~ 0.5 - 1.1 *3
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~ 0.07
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) Electronic Viewfinder ~ 0.06
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~ 0.4
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~ 2.9
Shot to Shot Flash off (autofocus)
~ 1.3
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction off) 3.1 *4
Shot to Shot Flash on (red-eye reduction on) 6.0 *4
*1 Time to display low res thumbnail - to load the entire file (if you want to zoom in for example) takes around 0.6 seconds.
*2 3x4 thumbs takes another 0.8 seconds
*3 Focus can be very fast indeed, but varies widely depending on light levels, subject distance and subject type. There is little measurable difference in speed between the three area AF modes.
*4 In this test the subject distance is only 3 feet (0.9 m) - the recycle time will increase at greater subject distances, and if the batteries are running low (as long as 8 seconds)

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. Media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/160 sec during these tests.

The H9 has a single continuous (burst) mode that averages just under two frames per second (a distinct improvement on its predecessor), and there appears to be no practical limit on the number of shots per burst.

Image Type
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
8MP JPEG Continuous 1.9 fps 100+ ~ 1.6s pause
5MP JPEG Continuous 1.9 fps 100+ ~ 1.5s pause
3MP JPEG Continuous 1.9 fps 100+ ~ 1.5s pause

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 The H9 can shoot indefinitely (until the card is full or the battery exhausted) at any file size - there is a slight delay of around one and a half seconds after a burst whilst the last few images are written to the card.

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo card.

Image Type
Time to store

Time to display

File size *1
Images on a *2
1.0 GB Card
8MP JPEG ~1.3 ~0.6 *3 2,210 KB 312
5MP JPEG ~1.2  ~0.6 *3 1,700 KB 397
3MP JPEG ~1.2  ~0.5 *3 1,100 KB 637
0.3MP JPEG (VGA) ~0.9  ~0.5 *3 120 KB 6121

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.
*3 Time shown is to load the full image (thumbnails are displayed in around 0.2 secs)

With write speeds averaging around 1.7MB/s the H9 is no speed demon, but you'd never know as it is more than made up for by the large, fast buffer and small file sizes.