Movie mode

Once at the vanguard of DSC movies Sony is now in danger of being left behind by companies such as Canon and Panasonic who both offer higher than VGA resolution clips on their latest models. The H9 - like most recent Cyber-shots - offers movie capture up to 640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second using its MPEG-VX setting. You need to use a Memory Stick PRO Duo if you want to shoot movies at the maximum size.

The movies are recorded in MPEG-1 format, which means they are small (much smaller than standard M-JPEG or AVI movies), but the small sizes come at a price. MPEG-1 movies use a much less efficient compression system than the more modern MPEG-4, which results in visible compression artefacts - take a look at the samples below and you'll see it's much worse in scenes shot at the wide end of the zoom with a lot of fine detail.

Overall quality using the fine setting is far from the best we've seen, but it isn't too bad (the compression artefacts can sometimes be quite obvious), and you can keep shooting until the card runs out (this will give you about 12.5 minutes on a 1GB card at the 640 x 480-pixel / 30fps setting). Using the 'normal' quality produces files with distractingly visible compression artefacts (and jerky motion thanks to the lower frame rate), and I'd avoid using it.

The focus system tends to hunt a little when shooting videos at the long end of the zoom, something you can only stop by switching to manual focus, which is a pain. Like the H5, the H9 allows you to zoom whilst filming though this does exacerbate the focus hunting.

As with stills recording you can choose the amount of information overlaid on the live preview image (though there's no histogram). There is an EV compensation (lighter or darker) control in the bottom right of the screen - and a focus mode control.
In movie mode you get a slightly more basic set of menus offering options for white balance, image stabilization and picture effects. You can also choose from one of three movie settings; 640 x 480 pixels/16.6 or 30 fps and 320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps.
In playback mode you get some basic controls for playing movies, allowing you to play, pause, rewind/cue. Nothing fancy.

Sample movies

640 x 480 pixels @ 25 fps
File size: 2.4MB
Duration: 6.2 secs

Standard Quality Mode with zooming

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 9.7MB
Duration: 7.24 secs

Fine Quality Mode

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)