Sony HX9v vs Canon 600D – DSLR gets beat by compact in video mode

49

Buy it now – Sony HX9v

This is what happens when you don’t overhaul your imaging chips for 3 years, Canon. The new Sony HX9v compact out-resolves the 600D’s video mode for resolution, and has 1080/60p. It is also a lot closer to a DSLR in terms of dynamic range than I expected it would be. It fits in my pocket and has a stabilised 24-380mm lens.

It has an image processor powerful enough to handle 43 megapixel panoramas in-camera as well, but that along with the incredible ACT stabiliser is something I’ll go into more detail on in the full review later.

The HX9v’s video mode is to compacts what the 5D Mark II’s video mode was to DSLRs.

Thought I am excited about it remember this is still a compact with a VERY small sensor and NOT a replacement for a DSLR. But what this footage highlights is just how good the HX9’s video is for a compact and the capabilities it offers that a DSLR just cannot do as well, like 1080/60p, pocketable 24-380mm optics, AF tracking and stealth.

I bought the Sony HX9v mainly because I wanted something more advanced than an iPhone for spontaneous urban photography – it had to be something pocketable, since my style is partly inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson – to capture the magic of a place and the soul of its people. To do that the best camera is the one you have on you and you need to capture moments within a blink of an eye, and you can’t do that if you’re half way through changing a lens or trying to nail a shallow depth of field.

I also bought it for the video mode, which is by far and way the most advanced currently seen on a compact camera. Never has such capability been contained in such a small imaging tool. The HX9v splits the GH2 and Canon DSLR 1080p on the starting grid, producing more detail than the 600D with less moire and aliasing. The HX9 comes close to matching the GH2 for resolution, and 1080/60p is a huge benefit over 24p since you can choose to give footage a dreamy slow-motion look or convert it to cinematic 24p or 25p. You have the choice!

It’s also a much better format for Twixtor 1000fps slow-mo since it gives the software more than twice the amount of frames to work with.

Here’s a funny thing – Henri Cartier-Bresson was known to cover up the shiny chrome parts of his Leica to make it more stealthy and less striking so he could capture people as they would be in reality not as they would behave in front of camera.

He also dumped his medium format for a smaller more versatile camera.

The tiny Sony HX9 has the same artistic advantage in this regard. This time over larger DSLRs. In fact it’s even less intimidating than a Leica rangefinder or mirrorless large sensor cameras like the Fuji X100 and Panasonic GF3.

HX9 Sample - Bikes

In video mode it is certainly easier to focus than a DSLR. Usually you want manual focus and a focus puller but sometimes you just want it easy. It has fast and reliable AF in video mode as well as live AF tracking whilst recording, which acts as a semi-manual focus assist. You can run & gun and capture spontaneous city life on it, film documentary style footage without having to concentrate 100% on actually nailing a sharp image, which is very difficult with a DSLR and spontaneous movement.

I find myself turning my attention almost 99% to the subject and image when using the HX9 whilst with a DSLR I am challenged with the rig, the follow focus, and generally nailing a very narrow focus – which is fine for narrative but not for vignettes of real-life or run and gun documentary.

Like any compact it can’t disobey the laws of physics, it’s small size and retractable 24-380mm lens require it to have a much smaller sensor than a DSLR or mirrorless system camera. The HX9 is an artistic tool for me, and I didn’t buy it to replace my DSLR for professional jobs. It can’t hold a candle to a large sensor in low light, and it’s lens is F3.3 at best, usually more like F4.5 at anything other than 24mm. It is however possible to get shallow depth of field in certain kinds of shots where the subject is close and the background far away and a deep depth of field is often more desirable than shallow. Shallow DOF is one style and a filmmaker should know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. It’s been overused recently in the DSLR community.

HX9 Sample - DDR apartment block

Unwisely Sony upped the megapixel count of the HX9 to 16MP from 10MP seen in the last generation HX5. Obviously they saw a decrease in sales and put it down to customers being put off by the low numbers on the box. It’s time these kind of customers educated themselves!!

Photos are not finely resolved at the per-pixel level because of the amount of noise reduction but the low light capabilities are dramatically improved from having such an effective stabiliser and Handheld Twilight mode. Things could have worse, but it could have been a low better if they’d kept megapixels at a sane level!

As you can see from the shots from inside a tunnel in the video, the HX9v’s dynamic range isn’t actually at that bad. It’s not quite as good as the DSLR in video mode, and it’s certainly quite far off in stills mode compared to the 600D and it doesn’t have raw. But I have my DSLR for that. The HX9 does have a slight tendency to overexpose as well, rather than protect highlights. It seems to enjoy lifting the gloom. That cheeriness can be toned down with the exposure compensation which handily is on it’s own button on top of the camera. That button is programmable and can be set to something else.

The camera has full manual control for stills but not for video but again I have my DSLR when that’s needed. The auto-mode is actually very intelligent and unlike the earlier compacts in video mode it doesn’t bat the exposure around constantly as you move the camera, it’s much more sensible and smooth with it. The AF tracking works well on detailed objects and people, and you can use it as a kind of manual focus mode for video by locking onto a part of the image of your choosing rather than letting the AF choose by itself. In manual stills mode you have proper control and even manual focus on a sliding scale from macro to infinity along with a magnified focus assist like the GH2.

There are some great Canon compacts that do 1080/24p but they don’t come close to offering all of what the HX9v does in one product. The SX230 is a nice try but it lacks the 920k LCD, 24mm wide angle, build quality, 60p and Sweep Panorama amongst other things. Sony’s Sweep Panorama can also be used to do ultra wide fish-eye shots when used in the vertical direction and the results are stunning, and of very high resolution. The Canon IXUS 220 is smaller and has a 24mm wide angle but it lacks the long lens and 60p of the HX9v – both necessary for attractive shallow DOF slow-mo videos.

Watch out for the full HX9 review soon and more footage including the handheld stabiliser stuff which is frankly mind-blowing.

HX9 Sample - German Motorcycle

Share.

About Author

British filmmaker and editor of EOSHD, Andrew works in Berlin on his own self funded filmmaking and video projects.

49 Comments

  1. Interesting comparison, that little P&S is definitely a contender for IQ. What Color Profile were you using on the 600D though? It appears to be a standard which is kind of unfair since it is extremely restrictive on the dynamic range.

  2. Faithful picture profile on the Canon. I wanted to do a fair like-for-like comparison. You can adjust the picture profile settings on the HX9 in terms of contrast, saturation, sharpness, etc. but I left those at default and put the Canon to faithful to save me the work of grading CineStyle. The Technicolor profile gives you more gradability but when you produce a punchy looking image from it you end up with the same amount of dynamic range as in Faithful or Standard. When you remove the grey mist you’re back to square one. It just gives you more choice in post over how you want to treat the footage, so that your picture profile isn’t baked in.

  3. reimaginecinema on

    wow, balls in your court canon. Canon could have made the 60d and 600d but I’m sure they didn’t want their lower end model kicking the butt of their 5d. However, I think as more cameras emerge Canon REALLY needs to step it up with the 5d mark iii and possibly switch it to a two year cycle. I wish more cameras would include an eos mount, I’ve got 6000 dollars worth of canon lenses, so I would only abandon ship if canon really pissed me off with the mark iii

  4. reimaginecinema on

    also, it kind of shows how crappy 5d is at resolving video resolution, video quality on a full frame sensor with a 135L should absolutely destroy this little handheld in quality…sheesh

  5. The 3-year cycle strategy is wrong because of speed of which modern mobile computing chips are improving. My iPhone is more powerful than the 5D Mark II’s CPU. That tells you something. I think they need to change it and do yearly updates.

  6. Great comparison! It was so odd the way the rain was removed from the low-light shots by the noise reduction, that’s not something I would’ve though of.

    I’m on the hunt for a tiny B-cam for the EOS, especially for long-zoom and distant architecture shots. Does this have manual control of exposure in video mode? and is 60p the only option? (I hunted through the manual but couldn’t find those details…) 60p doesn’t chop-down mathematically into 25p, it’d be a shame to have to have to use inter-frame blending!

    Also, have you thought of doing a round-up of the video-mode of compacts with pros and cons?It could be logistically complex but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on a range of compacts!

  7. Ah, I found that it says you can shoot 50p or 60p, so I suppose it depends on your ‘version’. Grr I can’t seem to find details on manual control though…

  8. Yes tried it and considered it but the TZ series has lost it’s way. The image quality is just not where any more and video is interlaced 1080i – awful. The screen is half as good as the Sony’s 920k, and the live-view feed was ropey.

    1080/60p is a BIG difference to 1080/60i. Double the frame rate and conforms nicely to ‘real’ 24p.

  9. You are in luck mate, it’s 50p in PAL land. I have the PAL version and I am mentioning 60p such a lot since most of my readers are American. 60p doesn’t mathematically perfectly fit to 24p but it gives nice results and it’s the end result that’s important. Much better than doing 30p to 24p.

    Of course on the PAL model 50p goes to 25p even better. Good as a B-cam for those reasons you mention really… some handheld, some long shots, some extra cut-aways you can use in post on music videos that you might not have captured with an interchangeable lens. So in that respect the zoom is very useful and 50p is good for slow mo.

    It has semi-manual control in video mode but not as we know it :) It is a Sony after all. No compacts I have yet seen have manual control in video mode apart from an old Casio I used in Taiwan which did it. But that wasn’t much cop image-wise.

    You can adjust exposure compensation and choose a focus point which it fixates on with the AF tracking. That’s about it. But it does handle the image well without wild changes in exposure and focus.

  10. So what now canon will release a new product that is already behind because has been in development for 3 years, the next month it’ll be already surpassed and you should not expect a new processor in 3 years? BS! If I could use my “digital” canon lenses on other bodies without problems or paying $100+ for adapters I would have switched already.

  11. But you don’t say anything about the its bitrate. It uses a lower bitrate than Canon SD230, so less detail in compare to it.

    Am I wrong?

  12. Is it worth it to upgrade from a Panasonic TZ7? Battery time when using video? I get about 60 min on the TZ7.

  13. Is bitrate the new megapixels or something? You cannot take one number in isolation and quantify how good the compression is with it. The Canon DSLRs and their compacts have high bitrates because they have very basic encoders. They don’t predict frames and they waste a lot of space on the card. That’s why the 5D for example has a 12 minute clip length limit because it reaches the FAT limit of 2GB way before AVCHD.

    The difference between the HX9 @ 28Mbit and the SX230 @ 35Mbit would be tiny if the encoders were the same anyway. That the HX9 has a more advanced encoder with AVCHD b-frames makes the compression better than the SX230 with it’s more basic implementation of the AVC H.264 encoder at 35Mbit.

    So much misinfo out there it’s crazy!

  14. I just downloaded a baseball clip, the original .mts file and to say I’m impressed is an understatement. The picture looks tremendous and slows beautifully with Twixtor. I love the stabilisation I am seeing too on some of the clips. I think this camera IS the real game changer. It’s zoom is astounding and as a guerilla journo device it would be incredible. People are cottoning on to the DSLR as video and it’s still large when kitted out. This is compact and yet without hefty rigs can record astoundingly good footage that’s stable. Again I am so impressed with this. Thanks Andrew for pointing me in this direction. Wow we do live in interesting times!

  15. C’mon Andrew! How can you say that bitrate is not that much important. We all now that bitrate is important if you are dealing with the video.

    I think, H264 is not a space wasting codec. There are hundreds of engineers working for those japanese companies and the designing those codecs.

    I agree that HX9V is a great compact. But I am sure most of the videographers would choose SD230 if it would offer 1080p@60fps mode because of its higher bitrate. Even it would not offer 920k LCD.

    Yes bitrate is not new megapixels but it is a great little parameter evaluating the quality of the footage.

  16. C’mon Andrew! How can you say that bitrate is not that much important. We all now that bitrate is important if you are dealing with the video.

    I think, H264 is not a space wasting codec. There are hundreds of engineers working for those japanese companies and the designing those codecs.

    I agree that HX9V is a great compact. But I am sure most of the videographers would choose SD230 if it would offer 1080p@60fps mode because of its higher bitrate. Even it would not offer 920k LCD.

    Yes, bitrate is not new megapixels but it is a great little parameter evaluating the quality of the footage.

  17. I share your view 100%.

    Game-changer became a cliche but now in the case of this compact is true. Genuinely new functionality and a big step forward for compacts. I am loving mine, so much to try – 385mm telephoto video, stablised tracking shots, AF tracking experiments, slow-mo, Twixtor, the list goes on…

    It’s a creative dream of a compact.

  18. No need to post it twice :)

    You have ignored my point about codec specification. Bitrate is one part of it, there’s others. It’s a complex topic so I’ll give you another example…

    The original GH1’s image fell apart not since it ‘only’ had 17Mbps but because it lacked b-frames and other important encoding methods. It was a crude and basic implementation of AVCHD.

    Now the GH2 has 24Mbps but it also has 17Mbps, and yet the codec does not fall apart like the GH1 even at 17Mbps. Why is this? The answer is that the GH2 has b-frames and a more advanced implementation of AVCHD.

    Canon’s H.264 is the very most basic implementation of AVCHD there is. The core H.264 codec in a Quicktime wrapper. That is why they need a higher bitrate, to stop it falling apart. Ditto the DSLRs which are 44Mbit like the hacked GH1. It prevents problems but it is always desirable to have a more advanced encoding chip in the first place.

    H.264 can be encoded many different ways and bitrate is just one factor.

    So there you go.

  19. Fair Warning: I’m going to nitpick on defense of Canon, not because I think the 600D is better than the HX9v. I am extremely impressed with the HX9v, it’s now on my wish list thanks to this. But I feel the dynamic range comparison of this weren’t quite accurately portrayed and I would love to see how they would stand-up in a more scientific comparison.

    It appears in most the dynamic range tests that the HX9v is about 1/3-2/3 stops brighter all across the frame, I am guessing it’s just because the cameras expose with different emphasis on parts of the frame (I think Canon exposure is defaulted to be center-weighted), so despite them both thinking they are properly exposed, in reality they are different exposures.
    That being said, HX9v does still appear to have more range, but I think if they were both manually exposed to match brights, you would see a more accurate real world interpretation of dynamic range.

    On top of that, I am not a fan of the faithful or standard color profile, I think they are both too contrasty and punchy by nature. I think the Neutral default is actually more accurate, and I normally use that profile if I am looking to shoot without grading or CC. But Canon needed to appease those who want to just pick it up and shoot and have it look ‘cool’. The HX9v appears to have a more natural default by design so I think this would give the Canon a leg to stand on in a heads-up comparison like this.

    Now, I am still definitely a fan of the HX9v and looking forward to some hands on time with it. The image stabilization and sharpness look superb and any camera that does 1080p60 is a must have (I also love slo-mo). I just want a ’round two’ test of dynamic range to see how easily I could inter-cut it with Canon DSLRs, and a white balance test too if you decide to take on another comparison. :)

  20. I made sure to match the exposures on location but the LCDs are very misleading, and of course the Sony has no manual control so I couldn’t just match aperture, shutter speed, etc. The Canon turned out to be a little bit under.

    I will do another, although it’s quite something that a compact can even be compared to a DSLR in the first place. Of course there is a world of difference between the sensors, but the image processing in the compact is streets ahead, and the video mode of the Canon loses a huge amount of the sensor’s massive advantage over the HX9 due to this, mostly losing dynamic range and resolution.

  21. Agreed that it’s impressive that it’s even comparable! I’m also a firm believer that the growth in the portable and consumer tech will force them to make large jumps forward in the professional range.

    The irony is not lost on me that we are comparing 2 photo cameras at their capabilities in the video world. :p

    I’m just curious that if you could set the Canon for a 1/3 stop brighter, how well the 2 cameras could be intercut, the HX9v would make a valuable cheap tool to use when you are trying to get a certain shot that the DOF won’t allow you to get on a DSLR. I know I have run into moments in projects where I am stopping way down trying to get enough DOF to get 2 subjects in focus and not fully achieving the look. Then again, the new ability to digitally zoom with the 600D does alleviate that a bit. The Neutral profile will make the dynamic range a bit more comparable to more possibly intercut the two cameras.

  22. The small sensor does have it’s advantages. For a start the AF does a good job, and of course is not as critical as with a large sensor and fast lens. So for any shot I’d struggle to get focus with on a DSLR like at telephoto or an action shot, I’d switch to the HX9v.

    The dynamic range in the highlights blows out very suddenly on the HX9v but I find it hangs onto shadows very well if you exposure compensate. So I very often end up 1 or even 2ev down to protect the highlights, and it doesn’t hurt the darker areas too much.

    You can definitely intercut.

    Handheld with no rig it is better than a DSLR so if you need to look like a tourist at somewhere you’d normally not be able to take a video camera, or want to be more stealthy in sensitive public places like public transport, and attract less attention, the HX9 shines. People will assume you’re taking snapshots of a friend rather than filming an actor.

  23. Perry Morris Jr. on

    Great discussion guys! Bottom line for me is, its amazing to me that this $340.00 camera is better than my DVX100A.

  24. Hi again Perry welcome back. It therefore follows that a compact might be better in some ways than a Sony F3 in 5-10 years. Minus the manual controls of course :)

    The pace of tech at the moment is incredible.

  25. I didn’t know this, will check. It only has a CCD sensor though so it’s not fast enough to support 60p or 1080p. It has 720p only.

    The sensor is also a bit noisier than the Canon S95 and G12 judging buy the RAW stills.

  26. Dear Andrew
    Thanks for your recommendation and just bought one. I have both Mac and PC, which software can I use to edit the AVCHD movies and slow motion effect? It seems that iMovie is unable to upload AVCHD.
    Thanks
    Ranen

  27. I recommend Adobe Premiere CS5 for editing AVCHD, it does it natively. Alternatively you’ll need to convert the AVCHD files to ProRes or similar. I don’t recommend iMovie.

  28. Hi Andrew, this is Joe from the http://hx9v.blogspot.com blog

    Glad you like the HX9V so much and do your own testing and comparison.
    Reading through all the comments her some info.
    The V in the Sony cameras stands for GPS. In countries where GPS is not allowed they sell the models like HX5 etc instead of HX5V.
    Last as I checked Canon video they still used an extremely space wasting audio codec what gobbles up a good part of the bandwith.
    I also tested the Olympus SZ 30MR (link at my blog) and it is a pretty awful camera, but you can compare my findings for yourself.

    I also did some pixel level comparison with the Sony HX9V vs Panasonic ZS10 / TZ20 vs Canon SX220 / SX230 vs Nikon D7000 vs Sony A55 and NEX-5 vs Panasonic GH2 at my blog and the results were quite eye opening about actual resolution and quality captured.

    As to Canon vs Sony, I come from an A60 and S2IS and with these cameras Cannon was very leading in features and quality but since then there are mostly baby steps in evolution so this is why I ended up to replace these cameras with Sony models (HX1 and HX5V) and blog the max info out of these versatile pieces of engineering to fully understand the potential.

    As to the need of manual video mode, in all the extreme situation videos I captured with the HX5 there was never a situation where when watching the result I was thinking that any manual option would have resulted in a better clip except for white balance indoors but that has improved drastically in the HX9V.

  29. ercan, you are quite wrong.

    bitrate is basically quantity of memory that codec needs to put one second of video. bitrate depends very much on which codec, which settings you use and what kind of picture you encode. DVD has very high bitrate, but nobody uses DVDs now, because modern processors using modern algorythm can pac the same quality picture with less memory needed.

    I’m not a fan of Sony, at all, but if their new processor and codec modification can do better with less bitrate, it’s quite possible and quite plausible.

    please before writing such long meaningless letter, check some data first.

    cheers

  30. Thanks for linking here Joe. Enjoyed your site, the depth of the info is great. It is true Canon have been taking baby steps with just about every camera line recently which is why they’re being overtaken by Sony and Panasonic in terms of innovative features. Also there are signs Canon’s image quality is slipping behind as well. I’m thinking GH2 versus 60D, 7D, etc. at least in video mode, even at ISO 3200. If it wasn’t for the larger APS-C sensor in the Canon it would lose in RAW stills mode as well, meanwhile Sony’s NEX CMOS sensors have now caught up with Canon on low light performance, whereas 2 years ago there was a world of difference.

    Not sure why they are letting their standards slip, maybe complacency from continued strong sales and saving the best for big updates every 3 years?

  31. As an owner of the Sony HX9 and professional video cameras like the recent Canon XF100 and Sony EX1 I can say without doubt that there is no need to buy a consumer HD camcorder.

    This is the first pocket HD camcorder / camera combined that does a brilliant job in both fields. I also have the HX5 which is amazing but the HX9 adds better microphone positioning ( sound is still its weakest point ) and the amazing image stabilisation.

    I have a number of high end digital camcorders and cameras and when I feel like going out and actually enjoying myself at the same time as recording the event it is very difficult not to just take the HX9 knowing I’ll get great photos and video which everyone will think is excellent.

  32. Thanks for the great review! Amazing little camera it is. Just got one and fooled around with it.

    I like the ‘action IS’ although you still have to make smooth movements to avoid jerky stuff in your video. How many stops do you turn the EV down (in normal conditions) to make it look good? One or two? It’s a pity the HX9 doesn’t remember your last settings…

    I’m not a big fan of ‘auto-whitening’. But the HX9 gives you the possibility to turn ‘ISO’ on and choose you’re own colour-temperature, ‘daylight’ seems to fine in most normal conditions.

  33. I dig it. Great review. and I have done that exact thing with my T2i with a 24-105, security is just finally catching onto the fact that it’s a video camera.

  34. Just now finally found one at best buy! Gonna get charged this afternoon and can’t wait to try it out. Will be able to compare it to my gh1(7), gh2, and my panasonic sdt750 which also shoots 1080p60… Woohoo!

  35. Ok, got something up that I shot today.

    This is straight out of the camera with no CC. I shot it at 1080p60 and then edited in a 720p24 timeline so I could try out the slow motion. I’m really liking this little camera!

    http://www.vimeo.com/25151569

    Original files look fantastic, wish I could figure out a better setting for rendering to do them justice.

    Thanks for looking! This camera is a great deal!

  36. It’s impressive ! I’d be curious to see how it matches with gh2 ! I’ll try to get one by myself and do the test… Could be a good B-camera.

  37. Yes it is a good b-camera for the GH2, can intercut seamlessly. It’s close on resolution, not quite as detailed but you can’t tell the difference unless pixel peeping.

  38. All I have to say is $350.00.
    There is no argument. Anything you can say in defense of Canon probably isn’t even worth the hundreds of dollars difference.

  39. What are you using to transcode the MTS file from the Hx9v on a Mac? FCP X and iMovie 11 won’t import/convert and I tried a few free programs with no luck. End work flow if though FCP X mixed with GH2.

    Thanks,

Leave A Reply