Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Review

December 7, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


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.

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Front Rear

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.

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Canon PowerShot SX150 IS


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'.

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Side Pop-Up Flash

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.

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
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.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3.5Mb.

The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS produced images of good quality during the review period. The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS's main drawback in terms of image quality is noise, with ISO 400 showing some noise, blurring of detail and slight colour desaturation. The noise and loss of detail get progressively worse as you go from ISO 800 to the fastest 1600 setting.

The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS handled chromatic aberrations well with some limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 14 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and either require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you should increase the in-camera sharpening level.

The night photograph was very good, with the maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds allowing you to capture enough light for most situations. Macro performance is a stand-out highlight, allowing you to focus as close as 1cm away from the subject, although there is a lot of lens distortion and shadowing at such a close distance. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. Anti-shake works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS's 12x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with fairly limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Canon Powershot SX150 IS are Auto, On, Auto Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchro and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (336mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (336mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Canon Powershot SX150 IS's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Canon Powershot SX150 IS has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length Anti-Shake Off (100% Crop) Anti-Shake On (100% Crop)
1/5th sec / 28mm
1/5th sec / 336mm

My Colors

The My Colors function menu option contains the now familiar range of colour options for tweaking the look of your images before shooting.








Positive Film


Lighter Skin Tone

Darker Skin Tone


Vivid Blue

Vivid Green


Vivid Red


Creative Filters

The new Creative Filters shooting mode contains 8 different options to help spice up your images.


Fish-eye Effect


Miniature Effect

Toy Camera Effect



Super Vivid



Color Accent


Color Swap


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 59.8Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Front of the Camera

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Front of the Camera / Flash raised

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Rear of the Camera

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed


Canon PowerShot SX150 IS

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Rear of the Camera / Function Menu
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Top of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Bottom of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Side of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Side of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Front of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Front of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Memory Card Slot
Canon PowerShot SX150 IS
Battery Compartment


The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS is very much a minor upgrade of last year's SX130 model, principally offering 2 additional megapixels, an improved image stabilisation system, a range of creative filters and a handy one-touch movie record button. Otherwise it's virtually identical to its capable predecessor, with an attractive price-tag but also a rather big and chunky design that's looking more and more out-dated as time goes on.

Areas of concern that still haven't been addressed from the SX130 are the noisy images if you stray above ISO 400, perhaps forgivable given the increase from 12 to 14 megapixels, the tendency to eat up alkaline AAs in a couple of afternoons of shooting (make sure to use high-powered NiMHs), the slow lens in terms of maximum apertures, and the low-resolution 230k dot 3 inch LCD which seems under-specified in 2011.

Otherwise the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS is a solid travel-zoom camera that certainly won't break the bank. It still doesn't have all the bells and whistles, styling or cutting edge features of competitive models, but it definitely offers proven ease-of-use and performance with a big-brand name, just enough to be deserving of our Recommended award for another year.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS from around the web. »

Canon traditionally updates its SX budget compact superzoom line every August/September, and 2011 sees the release of the £199 Canon PowerShot SX150 IS. The SX130 IS replacement is a case of evolution over revolution – not a bad thing, considering the great features and value the SX130 offered.
Read the full review » »

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.
Read the full review » »

The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS was released in August 2011 and has a 12x optical zoom lens. It is available in red, black and silver for £179.00, although there is currently £20 cash back available (as of 9th November 2011).
Read the full review »


Type 1/2.3 type CCD
Effective Pixels Approx. 14.1M
Colour Filter Type Primary Colour
Type DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology
Focal Length 5.0 - 60.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 - 336 mm)
Zoom Optical 12x. Digital Approx. 4x (with Digital Tele-Converter Approx. 1.7x or 2.1x and Safety Zoom¹). Combined Approx. 48x
Maximum f/number f/3.4 - f/5.6
Construction 11 elements in 9 groups (1 UD lens, 1 double-sided aspherical lens)
Image Stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), 4-stop, Intelligent IS
Type TTL
AF System/ Points Face Detection, 1-point AF (fixed to centre)
AF Modes Single, Continuous (only available in Smart Auto mode), Servo AF/AE¹, Tracking AF
AF Point Selection Size (Normal, Small)
AF Lock On/Off Selectable
AF Assist Beam Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 1 cm (W) from front of lens in macro
Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Centre)
AE Lock On/Off Selectable
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
Enhanced i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
ISO sensitivity* AUTO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Speed 1 - 1/2500 sec. (factory default)
15 - 1/2500 sec. (total range - varies by shooting mode)
Type TTL
Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Monitor 7.5 cm (3.0”) TFT, Approx. 230,000 dots
Coverage Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustable to one of five levels
Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro
Slow Sync Speed Yes. Fastest speed 1/2000 sec.
Red-Eye Reduction Yes
Flash Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments. Face Detection FE. Safety FE.
Flash Exposure Lock Yes
Manual Power Adjustment 3 levels with internal flash
Built-in Flash Range 50 cm - 3.0 m (W) / 1.0 m - 2.0 m (T)
External Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1,
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2
Modes Smart Auto (32 scenes detected), Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Easy, SCN (Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter (Smile, Wink Self-Timer, FaceSelf-Timer), Low Light (2.0MP), Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks), Creative Filters (Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap), Discreet, Movie
Modes in Movie Smart Auto (21 scenes detected), Standard, iFrame Movie, Program AE, Portrait, Landscape, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap
Photo Effects My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red)
Drive modes Single, Continuous, Continuous with AF, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 0.9 shots/sec. AF: Approx. 0.6 shots/sec. LV: Approx. 0.6 shots/sec.(until memory card becomes full)¹²
Image Size (L) 4320 x 3240, (M1) 3072 x 2304, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480, (W) 3744 x 2104. Resize in playback (M2, S, 320 x 240)
Compression Fine, Normal
Movies (HD) 1280 x 720, 30 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6fps, 3fps, 1.5 fps
iFrame Movie (HD)
Movie Length (HD) Up to 4 GB or 29 min. 59 sec.¹
(L) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour²
Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (stereo)]
Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
PictBridge Yes
Red-Eye Correction Yes, during shooting and playback
My Camera / My Menu Start-up image and camera sounds customisation
My Category Image tagging feature
Intelligent Orientation Sensor Yes
Histogram Yes
Playback zoom Approx. 2x - 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec., Custom
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Farsi, Hindi
Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Other 3.5 mm jack A/V output: unified type (PAL/NTSC, stereo)
PC & Macintosh Windows 7 / 7 SP1 / Vista SP2 / XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.5 - 10.6
Browsing & Printing ZoomBrowser EX / ImageBrowser
Other PhotoStitch, Movie Uploader for YouTube, CameraWindow
Batteries 2x Size-AA Alkaline or Ni-MH Batteries (NB-3AH) (Alkalines supplied)
Battery life Approx.110 shots (with supplied batteries)
Approx. 320 shots (with optional Canon NB-3AH batteries)
Approx. 420 min. playback (with supplied batteries)
Approx. 540 min. playback (with Canon NB-3AH batteries
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK800
Cases / Straps Soft Case DCC-750
Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1,
Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2
Power Supply & Battery Chargers AC Adapter Kit ACK800, Battery Charger Kit CBK4-300, Ni-MH Batteries NB-3AH
Operating Environment 0 - 40 °C¹, 10 - 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 113.3 x 73.2 x 45.8 mm
Weight Approx. 306 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)

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