Check out an examination of photo quality from the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS, the company's budget-friendly 12x zoom compact powered by AA batteries.
The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS takes very good photos for its class, though like most compact cameras it's at its best below ISO 200. At ISO 400 there's a noticeable increase in noise and softness from noise reduction. (However, there's visible noise even at its lowest ISO.) Photos at higher ISOs are usable for smaller prints and the Web as long as you don't enlarge and heavily crop them. The increased noise at ISO 1600 does cause some faint yellow blotching.
The SX150 IS isn't a fast camera, but with practice you can get action shots with it. There are two main continuous shooting options: one with autofocus on every shot and one that sets focus and exposure with the first shot (pictured). The latter is faster, capturing at about 1 frame per second. The continuous with AF slows down to about 0.6fps. Add in a half-second shutter lag for the first shot and you'll have to be pretty good at anticipating action to get the shot you want.
The SX150's lens shows some slight barrel distortion at the wide end (top), but no signs of pincushioning with the lens extended (bottom). The lens has good center sharpness and is relatively consistent edge to edge. There is a fair amount fringing around high-contrast subjects, though.
Colors produced by the SX150 are generally excellent--bright, vivid, and fairly accurate in our lab tests. They lose some saturation at ISO 800 and above, but not nearly as much as I've seen from competing cameras. Exposure and white balance are very good.
The SX150 IS has several photo effect options with presets for subject and skin tone color as well as individual adjustments for contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue, and skin tone. If that's not enough, Canon also includes its Color Swap (for example, change all blue to yellow) and Color Accent (you can pick one highlight color and make everything else monochrome; pictured) features.
For those who are addicted to the photo filters from a favorite smartphone app, Canon includes several of its high-quality Creative Filters: Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect (pictured), Monochrome, Super Vivid, and Poster Effect.