Canon PowerShot SX150 – It’s in the details

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Ease of Use: / 5

Pricing: / 5

Video Quality: / 5

Photo Quality: / 5

Features: / 100

The Powershot SX150 is a mid-range compact camera from Canon. It’s the sort of camera that doesn’t immediately impress, but slowly grows on you as you use it more.

On the Outside:

The SX150’s body looks much better in the photos than it does in real life. The body is a bit bland and the silver plastic looks bit kitsch. The body does feel rugged though and well put together.

The top has a pop-up flash and a mode dial which reveals some Auto and scene modes, as well as some more manual modes. This camera is not aimed at beginners, but rather at intermediate photographers. There’s also a nicely positioned power button and the zoom dial around the Focus/Photo button.

Canon PowerShot SX150 Top

The front houses an extruded lens cover that holds the lens, as well as a bevel on the left side to help grip when handling the camera.

Canon PowerShot SX150

Canon PowerShot SX150

The back has a LCD screen and the typical buttons on the right, as well as a bevel at the top, next to the PLAY button, that again, helps with grip. The buttons felt solid and worked easily. The layout also made sense. This camera is more about functionality and ergonomics than looks. I prefer it that way.

The screen was a huge let down though. It had a much lower resolution than I expected and was less contrasty and less saturated than I would’ve liked.

Canon PowerShot SX150

Canon PowerShot SX150

When in Manual, Aperture Priority (Av) or Shutter Priority (Tv) modes, the settings were easy to manipulate. The one thing I think it lacked was manual focus though. This would have been a nice feature to have with the other manual settings.

On the Inside:

The menu system was easy to use with just the necessary details. No frilly bits. It isn’t a particularly good-looking menu system, but navigating it is very easy and it’s not difficult to set the camera up the way you want.

Working with the camera and changing things came quite easy and it just became easier as I spent more time with the camera. This really a simple camera to handle.

The PowerShot SX150 uses standard AA batteries, rather than a dedicated special battery. This means it’s easy to get replacement batteries for the camera, when you run out. The problem with this camera was that it just didn’t want to take any batteries. I inserted brand new batteries, which the camera rejected and only after charging 4 sets of my rechargeable batteries did the camera actually work, only to keep telling me that the battery was low. When that charge promptly ran out, it took another 3 charges to get a bunch of batteries to work with this camera. I hope that this is limited to just the unit that I used as it was EXTREMELY annoying.

The Output:

As mentioned before, the screen was the only part of the camera I did not like, and it didn’t really show how good focus on photos and video were. Scrolling through photos, they looked good, although the lack of detail on the screen didn’t reveal just how sharp.

When I opened up the photos on a big screen they looked very sharp. The photos had a good amount of contrast and colour reproduction was very accurate. Metering was also very good, as was white balance.

When I did some pixel peeping (zooming in to pixel level) I was astonished at just how much detail there was! Not quite DSLR amounts of detail just yet, but much more than I expected from a camera in this price-bracket. There is some artifacting, but nothing to scoff at.

I did pick up some chromatic aberrations (colour fringing on edges) on high contrast photos, which is very understandable with a 12x zoom, yet very well controlled for such a lens.

That 12x lens, although not perfect, does a good job. It zooms farther than I would have thought, and macro photos were very sharp with lots of detail.

This camera has two weaknesses though. The first is the lens. As much as it is an asset to the camera, it also hampers the image quality at its extremities. At its widest, the lens showed some vignetting as well as soft edges. At the long end of the zoom range, images became gradually softer with less detail. None of the above faults are very bad or pronounced though.

The second, and most prominent, is noise. Even at its lowest ISO’s, in bright light, there is noise visible in the photos. Not large amounts, but it is there. And at as low as ISO 800, the photos become basically useless. This was quite a shock, as Canon is generally known as being quite good at noise handling and low-light shooting.

Canon PowerShot SX150

Talking about low light, the camera also struggled to focus correctly in low light. In fact it was really bad. In the end the above shot was the closest I could get to properly focussing in very low light.

Video wasn’t as good as expected though. For a start, this camera only shoots at 1280×720 yet, shoots at a high bit-rate. Because of this, I was surprised at the lack of detail in the videos. All the videos looked very artificial and noise was quite pronounced in darker areas, to VERY noisy in shadow areas.

The Image Stabilisation worked quite well in video mode, doing a good job even at full zoom. You can hand-hold the camera and still get very decent looking videos. Zooming in and out was very smooth, with Canon limiting zoom speed and keeping things smooth. The only problem is that zooming is very audibly picked up by the camera’s microphone.


The PowerShot SX150 is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde camera. The camera produces wonderful photos with lots of detail and good contrast, accurate metering and white balance, but can be very noisy in lower light situations. Also, as good as the photos are the video doesn’t shine as bright. At only 1280×720 resolution the camera starts with a disadvantage and the lack of detail in the video doesn’t help it catch up.

At around R1900 this isn’t a very cheap camera, but it does produce very decent quality stills at this price point. If good quality video is also very important to you, then you’d have to look elsewhere.

Overall a decent budget super-zoom camera from Canon.


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