Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Review
The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS is a 14.1 megapixel compact camera featuring a 12x zoom lens complete with optical image stabilizer. Successor to last year's SX130 model, the Canon SX150 IS offers a versatile focal range of 28-336mm, 3 inch LCD screen, DIGIC 4 image processor, Intelligent IS technology and Face Detection complete with Face Select & Track and Face Self-Timer modes. The SX150 IS has 32 shooting modes including Smart Auto and Easy Mode for complete beginners and full manual control for more experienced photographers. A high ISO setting of 1600, 720p HD movies with stereo sound, SDXC memory card support and power in the form of readily available AA batteries complete the SX150's headline specifications. The Canon Powershot SX150 IS is priced at £199 / $249.99 / €229.00 and is available now in red, black or silver.
Ease of Use
We reviewed the SX150's predecessor, the 12-megapixel SX130IS, back in November 2010, and outwardly at least very little appears to have changed at first glance, apart from some subtle styling differences and the introduction of a one-touch movie record button. There's the same tactile control layout with reasonably large buttons and dials to intentionally keep things family friendly, plus an identical 3 inch LCD screen on the rear, pop-up flash on top and large lens on the front. The lens is a 12x zoom with a versatile wide-angle setting of 28mm and telephoto reach of 336mm. A little less pleasing are the maximum apertures of f/3.4-5.6.
Although like its forebear the SX150 IS is chunky compared with the average point and shoot, it is still smaller than the typical super-zoom or bridge camera pitched at enthusiasts, although the likes of the Panasonic DMC-TZ20 and Samsung WB750 are actually smaller whilst offering a bigger zoom. There are no higher-end features here such as a hotshoe for additional flash - merely one of the pop-up variety - while power is again provided by two standard alkaline AA batteries that slot into the base of the handgrip, as do the SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. While these features are indicative of a budget model, so too is the mainly plastic build, though it's handily disguised by a matt finish that looks more expensive. Those two AAs also add weight and, as we found with the SX130, generally the camera feels substantial when gripped in the palm.
The front of the SX150 IS is dominated by that behemoth of a lens, the majority of which is hidden flush to the body when not in use, rapidly extending (in a couple of seconds) to maximum wideangle with a press of the slightly recessed but clearly labeled on/off button up top. The front of the SX150 and SX130 are identical. Two small holes indicate the built-in stereo microphone nestling top left and right of the lens, and over to the right-hand side of the lens we find the same rounded window housing the AF assist/self-timer lamp as found on the earlier SX130. The optically stabilized zoom provides a four stop advantage and works for both still images and movies, and there's no less than seven different modes of stabilisation (Normal, Panning, Macro, Dynamic, Powered, Dynamic Macro, and Tripod mode) that are automatically detected and applied by the camera.
As on its predecessor there's no optical viewfinder or EVF - the space instead occupied by the built-in flash. Continuing around the slight curve of the handgrip we find a loop for attaching the supplied wrist strap and a sturdy pull-open plastic cover for the AV Out and Digital ports. There are no controls on the right hand side of the SX150 IS.
The top of the SX150 is likewise virtually identical to its predecessor. The SX150 has the exact same user-friendly control grouping as the SX130, namely a shooting mode wheel, on/off button and shutter release button encircled by a zoom lever. The mode dial is almost flush with the top of the body, although fortunately the dial itself has enough of a ridged surround to be able to turn it decisively with your thumb, and there's a cutaway portion at the camera back to allow access. It has a stiff action with a distinct click, so you're highly unlikely to shoot past the setting you want in the heat of the moment.
With the camera taking a couple of seconds to get going from cold, once again the action of the optical zoom is smooth and steady, and best of all has a quiet operation which really helps when shooting movies and using the zoom. With a half press of the shutter release button the SX150 is lightning fast in determining focus and exposure, while there's no noticeable shutter delay as you go on to take the shot. Operational speed is the same as before, with the same DIGIC 4 processor on-board - current SX130 IS owners would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
The Smart auto mode has been upgraded and now automatically chooses from 32 different scenes for stills and 21 for movies. Moving clockwise around the mode dial are the more creatively enticing settings of program auto, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual. The chosen mode is also shown as a virtual version on the screen, so you don't need to take your eye off your subject while making adjustments. Continuing clockwise we get a dedicated video mode, the new Discreet and Creative Filters modes, a selection of scene modes, and finally the no frills 'Easy mode', which turns the camera into a purely point-and shoot experience, perfect for complete beginners. The new Creative Filters shooting mode contains 8 different options, including Fish-eye, Miniature and Toy Camera.
The SX150 IS can shoot 720p HD video at 1280x720 pixels at 30fps. It boasts stereo sound courtesy of the microphones positioned either side of its lens, and now there's a dedicated button on the rear of the camera to activate the video feature regardless of whichever shooting mode you're in (alongside the exposure compensation button (-/+ 2EV)). You can also take advantage of the 12x zoom during recording, although the operational speed is drastically slowed down to help prevent noise during recording, and you can use the Miniature Effect, Colour Accent and and Colour Swap creative filters to spice up your footage.
The handy auto red-eye correction feature is accessible via a flash settings option that's rather hidden away among the SX150's menu screens. Red eye reduction can also be turned on/off in capture mode by delving into the same menu; like the SX130 it's not included among the options accessed via the dedicated flash button at the rear, but at least here it's 'on' that handily appears to be the default setting rather than 'off'.
Moving to the back of the SX150 IS, we find a 3-inch LCD with a rather disappointing resolution of 230k dots, identical to its predecessor's. Playback has its own button on the camera back, rather than squeezing in among the modes on the top dial. The display and menu buttons are located beneath the chunkier four-way control pad-come-command wheel that remains centre right of the LCD.
Ranged around the control dial, which additionally features a function set button at its centre, are a means of accessing ISO speed (Auto, Hi, ISO 80 to 1600), flash setting, self timer or continuous shooting, plus macro or manual focus – whereby users are presented with an enlarged central portion of the screen to check focus, its distance dialed in using the aforementioned wheel.
A press of 'menu' in capture mode brings up two folders on screen, one with shooting options and the second with more generic set-up features. A press of 'menu' in playback gives access to both image review plus print selection folders, while the third folder is the same set up menu. If you've used a Canon camera before, the menus will be immediately familiar: their design pretty basic but easy to navigate because of it.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Face Detection works well, with the DIGIC 4-powered system capable of recognising up to 35 faces in a scene and automatically adjusting the focus and exposure settings. Face Detection includes the Auto Red-Eye Correction, Face Detection AF/AE/FE, and Face Self-Timer technologies – the latter feature waits until it detects a new face in the frame before taking the shot. Face Select & Track allows a particular face to be tracked as they move around the frame, making sure that your chosen subject is always in focus and well-exposed.
As you'd expect when up-ending the camera, the base of the SX150 features a plastic screw thread for a tripod and a compartment storing the two AAs and SD memory card, opened by flicking the substantial catch and pressuring it proud of the unit. Closing it is a little awkward however as you have to press down on the two AAs as you're sliding it shut.
Just like its predecessor, the SX150 IS is very much an evolutionary upgrade, falling into the same incremental yearly cycle that a lot of modern compact cameras seem to follow, with more megapixels, intelligent image stabilisation, creative filters and the one-touch movie button being the new standout highlights.