Sensor and drive
The S9500 employs a nine megapixel SuperCCD HR sensor measuring 1/1.6in and delivering 4:3 aspect ratio images with a maximum of 3488 x 2616 pixels. Unlike many SuperCCD sensors in the past, the S9500's doesn't employ any scaling - it really is a genuine nine megapixel sensor.
In total, six different resolution modes are available, including one with 3:2 aspect ratio images measuring 3696 x 2464 pixels. The largest nine megapixel images can be recorded with the choice of two JPEG compression levels or as RAW files; best quality JPEGs measure around 4.5MB each. Very basic RAW software is supplied, so for a more practical approach to processing you'll really need third-party software.
The S9500 sports slots for both xD and Compact Flash (Type I and II) memory cards. The UK package tested included a modest 16MB xD card to get you started, although this may vary depending on your region and the supplier's offer.
With the command dial set to video, you have the choice of recording in either VGA 640 x 480 resolution or QVGA 320 x 240, both at 30fps with sound. In VGA mode, the video was smooth and detailed, and consumed just over 1MB per second.
The S9500 starts up and is ready for action in about one second, which makes it noticeably slower than the 0.2s startup of the latest budget digital SLRs. That said during our test period we rarely found it limiting. Switching to Play mode takes just over two seconds to display the first image, and there's about a one second delay to go from one to the next (using best quality JPEGs). Thumbnails in playback appear almost instantly.
There are three continuous shooting options, one recording the first four images in sequence, the second recording the last four images in a sequence, and the third recording as many images as you have space for on the card.
Using the supplied xD card and the best quality JPEG mode we found the first two modes could take their four images in around 2.5s, giving a rate of 1.6fps. Switching to unlimited mode though reduced the speed to around 1fps, and strangely is only available in fully Auto mode.