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Canon PowerShot SX150 IS review: Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

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The Good The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS offers very good photo quality and features for its class, including semimanual and manual shooting modes, and it uses AA-size batteries.

The Bad The SX150 IS' shooting performance is miserable, as is its battery life, especially using alkaline batteries.

The Bottom Line If a long lens, AA batteries, and some creative control over your photos are what you're after, the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS is a good choice. That is, as long as you don't mind it being painfully slow.

6.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Image quality 8

Editors' note: Several of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS and the

Canon does little with the PowerShot SX150 IS to entice owners of its predecessor, the SX130 IS, to trade it in for the refresh. I regularly recommended the SX130 IS due to its use of AA batteries for power, its full manual to full auto shooting modes, and its large comfortable design that still squeezes into a pocket. The SX150 IS doesn't lose any of those features.

In fact, it seems to have all the same shooting modes (plus a Discreet mode that shuts off all noises and lights), the same 28mm wide-angle lens with 12x zoom, and the same 3-inch LCD. What's new is an Intelligent IS system that figures out what you're shooting and adjusts the image stabilization accordingly; a one-touch movie record button; and a resolution bump from 12 to 14 megapixels.

Key specs Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Price (MSRP) $249.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.5x2.9x1.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 10.8 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 12x, f3.4-5.6, 28-336mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,320x3,240pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA-size (2; alkaline included), 110 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software ZoomBrowser EX 6.8/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); ImageBrowser 6.8/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac)

No good really comes from the increased resolution; it seems you just get more image noise. That said, it still takes very good photos. Like most compact cameras in its class, the SX150 is at its best below ISO 200. At ISO 400 there's a noticeable increase in noise and softness from noise reduction. 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, though.

Colors produced by the SX130 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. (Read more about photo quality in the sample photo slideshow.)

For video quality, the SX130 is on par with an HD pocket video camera or smartphone. It's not stellar and won't replace a full-size camcorder, but video is certainly good enough for Web use or casual viewing on an HDTV. You do get use of the optical zoom while recording and the lens movement is very quiet so it barely gets picked up by the stereo mic. You will hear it in quieter scenes, though.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Easy, Program, Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority, Manual, Scene, Creative Filters, Discreet, Movie
Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Macro, Normal, Infinity, Manual
Macro 0.4 inch to 1.6 feet (Wide)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom (adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue and skin tone are available)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

The SX150 offers a wide variety of shooting options, giving you plenty to experiment with. Among the many modes are shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and manual options. Available apertures are f3.4, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0. Availability is dependent on zoom position, though you do get the full range at the wide end. Shutter speeds go from 15 seconds down to 1/2,500 second, which is a better range than most cameras in this class offer.

There are also 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) features. These are available for photos and movies, too.

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