Canon PowerShot SX150 IS review: Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good

Average User Rating

3.5 stars 3 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Inexpensive; Sharp pictures; Great colours.

The Bad AA batteries; Some noise in deep blue.

The Bottom Line A very traditional camera, the £160 PowerShot SX150 IS is keenly priced, yet packed with the kind of filters and scene modes we would expect to find on a more expensive shooter. It's let down by the choice of battery format. Otherwise it's a great choice for digital photography beginners and anyone on a budget.

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This is one of the cheapest digital superzooms you can buy. Just £150 will bag you a 12x zoom and a 14.1-megapixel sensor. Add to that a clutch of creative digital filters and a smart auto-shooting mode, and the plain, chunky PowerShot SX150 IS looks very tempting indeed.

Features

The PowerShot SX150 IS has much in common features-wise with some far more expensive cameras in Canon's current line-up. As well as the regular auto mode in which we performed the majority of our tests, it has eight scene modes. There is a choice of creative filters, including toy camera, monochrome, colour swap and miniature effect, which mimics the results you'd get from using a tilt-shift lens to make your scene look like a model.

Canon PowerShot SX150 screen and features
The PowerShot SX150 IS shares features in common with more expensive cameras in Canon's range.

What it doesn't have is a back-illuminated charge coupled device (CCD) -- the digital camera's equivalent of film that converts light into electrical charges -- that increases the level of low-light captured in night sky photography, for example. Nor does it have the high-sensitivity features rolling out across the upper-end of the range. This is reflected in the lower price.

Shooting stills

Despite this, it demonstrated excellent dynamic range throughout our tests, balancing images with extremes of both highlight and shadow, minimising the amount of clipped detail at the upper end of the scale and retaining plenty of information at the lower end. This allowed us to apply minor tweaks to the fill light, recovery and exposure levels in post-production to bring out parts of the image that would otherwise have been lost. 

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS detail test
The PowerShot SX150 IS maintained an excellent level of detail in demanding lighting conditions, as seen in this image, where detail has been retained in the background despite the frame being dominated by a bright chrome ball (click image to enlarge).

It consistently made good use of available light to avoid either hiking the sensitivity -- and thus increasing noise in the image -- or calling on the flash, which in many situations would not have sufficient throw to illuminate the whole scene.

In complex shots with plenty of detail, such as the flower stall below, it maintained a good depth of field. Despite self-selecting an aperture of f/3.4, the stall remained in focus through three-quarters of the frame. There was no evidence of unduly heavy JPEG compression, which we might have expected to see in more complex areas of the image, such as the grass in the lower left corner. 

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS detail test
A good depth of field and sharp detail brought this shot to life (click image to enlarge).

There was, however, some fringing on the white paper price tags where the lens had failed to accurately focus each part of the spectrum on the same part of the sensor. In particular, the '8=' tag in the lower left, '7.50' in the upper-left quarter and '£3' in the centre of the frame all showed evidence of a pink fringe -- known as chromatic aberration -- on their top and left edges.

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS - evidence of some chromatic aberration
Examining the shot at close quarters revealed some evidence of minor fringing against strong contrasts.

This effect was evident in other images too, but in all cases it was minor and only visible on close inspection. We would not expect it to impact the quality of a printed image, or indeed any photo used at common web resolutions.

The PowerShot SX150 IS demonstrated excellent colour reproduction right across the visible spectrum. The market stall below features the full gamut of common tones, including man-made blue and red (the bag in the foreground) and natural hues in the vegetables. With white balance left to automatic, the PowerShot SX150 IS rendered each with great clarity, reproducing the colours accurately. 

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS colours test
There are plenty of tones in this image that were handled well by the PowerShot SX150 IS (click image to enlarge).

This performance wasn't limited to brightly coloured scenes either. When tasked with capturing a more muted, narrow palette, such as this archway stall, which is predominantly brown and fairly dark, it achieved a good result. It retained plenty of detail in the brickwork with a smooth, controlled transition in the shadow under the archway. 

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS muted colours test
The PowerShot SX150 IS did an excellent job of retaining detail in this darker image despite the limited colour palette (click image to enlarge).

To achieve this it increased its sensivitity to ISO 400 and reduced the shutter speed to 1/30 second. This resulted in a noticeably grainier result when zoomed to 100 per cent. This isn't unexpected at such middling sensitivities, but we were more concerned to see this grain also creeping in at ISO 100 in an otherwise well-lit scene.

In the below image of Southwark Cathedral, the sky exhibits considerable dappling where we would have expected to see a smooth, clean blue. When viewed full-screen rather than zoomed to 100 per cent it's not obvious. Even so, we would have expected to see much clearer, cleaner results.

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS noise in sky
The below image zoomed to 100 per cent shows some evidence of noise in the deep blues of the sky.
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS noise test
Despite it being exposed at just ISO 100 there was more-than-expected grain in the sky (click image to enlarge).

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Where to Buy

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Part Number: CNETCanon PowerShot SX150 IS

Typical Price: £150.00

See manufacturer website for availability.