Sony keeps the rear panel of the P9 decidedly simple and uncluttered. A four-way rocker control, menu and display buttons, and zoom controls provide easy access to most basics for shooting and playback. Many cameras tend to misinterpret a press as a directional movement, but pressing the center of the four-way rocker on the P9 worked surprisingly well. However, we had a hard time locating the delete key and anti-red-eye switch among these controls--we're not sure why Sony buried the red-eye reduction setting in the setup menu. For the most part, though, understanding and navigating the P9's menu system is simple.
A small panel on the rear of the camera opens to reveal USB, power, and A/V ports. The battery and Memory Stick are housed in the side of the camera, so you won't have to worry about changing them when using a tripod.
|You access all connectors from the side.||The 1.1-inch LCD sometimes seems cramped.|
Given the size of the camera, the LCD is slightly smaller than those found on other, larger cameras, so the information on the display may be a little difficult to read.
Still, to Sony's credit, the P9's LCD is bright and clear, except under very low light; in which case, you'll have to depend on the AF Illuminator to view your subject. Sony equips the P9 with a feature set that provides convenience and control without overwhelming new shooters. For instance, if you like to share your images via e-mail, just choose E-mail from the menu. Then, choose to take an e-mail-ready image or resize an existing shot in-camera for a copy that's ready to send.
The sepia setting works particularly well, providing a warm tone without shifting to dark brown or orange.
In addition to shooting MPEG movies, the P9 even lets you cut unwanted scenes to save space and offers a couple of options for shooting multiple frames, including Multi Burst mode to quickly record 16 consecutive frames with a single shutter press. Sony suggests that this is a good way to "check your form in sports," and while we agree, we think that this feature can be used for some fun animation as well.
For more fun, Sony adds several special effects such as black-and-white, sepia, negative art, and solarize. The sepia setting works quite well and provides a warm tone without shifting to orange or dark brown.
The E-mail option resizes your pictures.
Though it lacks aperture- and shutter-priority modes, the P9 does let you adjust exposure and color via exposure compensation, ISO presets up to 400, four white-balance choices, spot metering, and multimetering. Focusing choices, including multifocus and center spot, are a nice bonus. All these functions are available only through the menus, so if you plan to use the advanced features frequently, you might want to stay away from the P9. An AF Illuminator works well to lock in focus and gauge exposure under low light conditions.
The P9's shot-to-shot time averages about four seconds when using flash at a midlevel resolution. Start-up time is about the same, and both are fine for normal shooting habits. We did, however, miss a few action shots because the camera's autofocus wasn't as quick as a flock of pigeons.
|A top-off charge of just less than an hour prepared the camera for the next day's shooting.||Input/output ports|
While our experience falls short of Sony's rated battery life, the battery lasts a reasonably long time; we were able to shoot more than 45 high-res images, play back a fair amount of them, and have power to spare.
Zooming in gets a little noisy; returning to wide angle is quieter, though autofocus lags behind a fraction of a beat. Given the camera's tiny optics, slight barreling and pincushioning at either extreme didn't surprise us, and in the end, they don't really distract from the images.
Overall, image quality ranks above average, with excellent detail and color balance. Though images taken in natural light tend to the cool side with a light-blue cast, the P9's surprisingly broad dynamic range delivers well-exposed highlights and shadows and rich blacks in silhouette shots. Chromatic aberrations, colored halos between light and dark areas, are rare.
The P9 produces sharp, well-exposed images.
Noise adds a grainy look to some images regardless of the ISO setting.
The P9 doesn't show fringing, even under the most trying conditions.