Sony HX9v tested for run and gun by Johnnie Behiri

I’ve been wanting to get my hands on the Sony HX9v since it came out and now I’ve finally done it. I wanted to test if this modestly priced tool could be a legitimate alternative “B” camera in cases where I need one – especially when on assignment away from home.

On paper, the little video mode of the Sony is almost fully automated, but it caught my eye because of its high 1080 resolution and progressive frame rate (50p for PAL countries and 60p for NTSC). Also, I won’t deny that the ‘price was right’.

In a previous post on dslrnewsshooter Jeen De Vos showed a beautiful short piece demonstrating the power of this camera in professional hands. His demo was shot from a stable tripod and proved that in certain conditions it can deliver surprisingly good results. 

My aim was to test hand-held shooting, the optical stabilizer, the “follow focus” function and how good the slow motion is.

First, I had to find a solution for viewing the LCD during day light. I instinctively went for the Zacuto Z-finder to see if it fitted the little Sony. It does, sort of….the finder on a Zacuto Gorilla plate will seat a bit higher than the camera and about 1mm away from the screen. It was fine for the test. I could now have better camera stability by holding the Z-finder against my eye while gripping the camera and shooting.

Today in Vienna it was the ‘Rainbow parade’. It gave me the opportunity to go out and test the HX9v. Unfortunately the sky was very grey and the parade started late in the afternoon – so it became darker earlier. The consequence was that the video mode of the camera, which is only automatic, boosted the ISO and thus the noise – this affected the overall picture quality. Later it started to rain…that was the time to end the test since the camera is not weather sealed.

Shooting with the HX9v and Z-finder (Photo by Nino Leitner)

So how is it to film with this little camera? It is a mixture of fun and frustration…Fun, because it is so small and together with the Z-finder it is almost like the “ultimate run&gun” ENG-style camera (sure, I’m exaggerating, but look at the footage and see those amazing smooth, steady shots). Also, the zoom lens works a treat. Frustrating because there is no real control of anything. You can set where the exposure starts and assign the custom button on top of the camera to adjust the image brightness (+) or darkness (-), but you can’t lock the exposure.  If only there was a way to do this and lock focus this camera would have been a real jewel – but then what do you expect from a compact anyway?

Some of the scenes are a bit longer then I would normally edit. The reason is to show how the focusing holds. Footage (1080/50p) was converted with Cineform and dropped into an Adobe Premiere CS2 1080/25p timeline for the slow motion effect. No colour correction was done so you are able to see what came out of the camera.

Johnnie Behiri is a BBC freelance cameraman operating from Vienna, Austria.
When not working for the BBC, Johnnie films documentaries, commercials, music videos, and testimonial/marketing videos for other broadcasters and clients.

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