The Bottom Line
Simply put, the Cyber-shot WX9 is one of the best cameras you'll find in the sub-$200 price range right now, when you combine this camera's image quality, performance, design, video capabilities, and ease of use.
Few cameras in this price range excel in as many areas as the WX9. You might find some sub-$200 cameras that have a great design or that are easy to use, but finding one that can do everything well is pretty rare. It's a nice-looking camera, too, with a really sharp LCD screen.
Low light performance without the flash is a typical area where inexpensive cameras struggle, but the Cyber-shot WX9 is great in all types of light, with or without the flash.
Throw in the fact that you might be able to find the WX9 for less than $150 if you shop around a bit, and this camera is an easy choice as a five-star model.
The Cyber-shot WX9 shoots excellent photos, surpassing most other cameras in its price range in terms of image quality. Images are sharp and well exposed in fully automatic mode, and you even have some limited manual settings available in Program mode, such as white balance, ISO, and exposure value. The autofocus is accurate and sharp the majority of the time, regardless of the amount of lighting available.
The flash on the WX9 tends to fire a little more often than I'd like to see, as some such scenes have enough light already. This overuse of the flash sometimes causes glare spots on the subjects. Regardless, the WX9's low light performance is really good, working fast while creating well exposed images.
You'll find a 5X optical zoom lens with this camera, which isn't exceptionally large, but you will notice a little bit of camera shake at the maximum zoom, so be sure to steady yourself when using the zoom.
The WX9 has a couple of interesting special effect modes. One of the unique ones is called "background de-focus," in which the camera uses in-camera software on the image to blur the background, while leaving the subject sharply focused. This camera also has a 3D mode, in which the camera processes the image to create the effect. Fourteen different scene modes are available, too. Oddly, though, there aren't some of the basic special effect modes, like sepia.
I was a little disappointed that the WX9 doesn't offer more aspect ratios, as you only can shoot at the 4:3 and 16:9 ratios. Six different resolutions are available; again, I'd like to see more options. Sony did include three different movie resolutions, including full 1080p HD video.
Speaking of the WX9's video capabilities, you'll find outstanding movie quality. In addition, you can shoot still images while recording a movie, and it will not interrupt the video clip. The zoom lens is available while shooting movies, and it works smoothly. Just press the dedicated movie button to start and stop the video.
The overall performance times with this camera are good. Start-up is fast, and shutter lag is not noticeable the vast majority of the time. If you use burst mode, where you can shoot either two or 10 photos per second, you will have some delays after using it, as the camera processes the images.
Depending on the mode you're using, you may encounter some shot to shot delays. The intelligent auto "plus" mode, for example, automatically reduces noise and blur in photos, but, because it uses in-camera software to process the photo, you'll have some delays in this mode.
The WX9's on-screen menus are pretty easy to use, and, as a slight personal touch, you can select from any of three color schemes. The Cyber-shot WX9 doesn't have a mode dial, meaning you must select functions through the menus, so it's nice that the menus are so well organized. In addition, this camera includes three different ways of accessing help menus, related to the feature you're using, as well as an overall camera guide on the screen.
Sony also included an "easy" mode with this camera, which greatly minimizes the number of choices the user must make, including selecting either a "large" or "small" resolution. The WX9 is one of the easiest Sony cameras to use that I've seen.
The WX9 is an extremely small camera, with the lens just to the right of center, when viewing the camera from the front. The lens completely retracts when the camera is powered down, leaving the camera very thin.
The look of the Cyber-shot WX9 is pretty standard. The unit I reviewed was mostly black, with a little bit of silver trim. I liked the LCD on the WX9, as it is sharp, and Sony included five different brightness settings.
Sony included a sturdy three-way toggle switch with this camera, allowing you to switch between still image mode, movie mode, and panoramic mode, which means you won't have to worry about bumping a button and ending up in a mode you don't want to use.
The latches on the door for the battery and memory card is sturdy and tight. Oddly, the USB port has no latch covering it, but the HDMI slot does have a cover. When charging the battery for the WX9, you must charge it inside the camera, unfortunately, unless you spend a little extra later for a charger.