Canon PowerShot SX150 IS Review
Performance and Image Quality
The SX150 IS is powered by two AA batteries (two AA alkalines are bundled with the camera), which contributes to its less-than-slender design. Using AA batteries is a mixed bag, though. On the one hand, AA's are readily available so you're never far from a power source. However, the SX150's battery life isn't great. At best, from batteries like the basic alkaline cells supplied with the camera, you can get around 100 shots but if you use the flash a lot and spend time viewing your images on the LCD, the batteries will be depleted sooner. As well as judicious use of the flash, and not spending too much time looking through your shots, changing image stabilization from continuous to Shoot Only and setting autofocus to single, helps slow battery drain too.
If you're looking for alternative power sources, Lithium AA batteries are great but expensive, but certain NiMH rechargeable batteries can offer more longevity than their alkaline counterparts. Look for types that offer 1800 mAh or more. The downside of using rechargable batteries is that they are 1.2 volts instead of the 1.5 volts found in standard alakline cells. This will most likely have an effect on the camera's battery meter, showing a lower charge level than is actually in the batteries. And in the worst case could cause the camera to shut down prematurely.
Regardless of what batteries you use, the SX150's isn't the quickest camera out of the gate. Start-up time is a little slow and shot-to-shot time can be sluggish, particularly when using the flash, which takes at least a couple of seconds (sometimes more like 4-5 seconds) to recycle. But at least the 'flash charging' message lets you know why you can't take another picture right away.
Continuous shooting measured less than half a frame per second at full resolution and although that's faster than single-shot mode, it's still pretty slow compared to other cameras in its class. Capture can speed up to about 3 frames per second in Low Light mode, but resolution drops to 2 megapixels. Face detection, however, was accurate and autofocus was fairly responsive in good light. Even more importantly, the camera's 'Intelligent' image stabilization generally works very well, and in everyday daylight shooting, camera-shake isn't an issue at all. Remember though that the best image stabilization system in the world can't correct for subject movement, so if you're capturing people or pets, try to keep your shutter speeds high.
The SX150 is capable of taking really nice pictures under the right conditions (this camera likes good light). Colors are natural but can be 'punched up' using one of the camera's color effects modes and exposures are generally well-balanced with the exception of bright highlights which can sometimes be clipped. Colored fringing around high-contrast scene elements is impressively low, although it's not totally absent, particularly at the edges of the frame.
The SX150 IS gives very nice image quality in macro mode, and as I'd expect from Canon's PowerShot line, exposure in flash photographs is good, too. Images straight from the camera are lovely and sharp in the center of the frame at all focal lengths but sharpness drops off slightly towards the edges, particularly at the telephoto end of the zoom. For small prints and web use, detail capture is perfectly adequate.
The biggest drawback to the SX150 when it comes to image quality is noise. Its ISO range starts at 80, and upon close inspection, we noticed minor noise even at ISO 100 in shadow areas. As the ISO sensitivity increases, so does noise and of course noise-reduction, which takes the edge off fine detail. Again, this isn't something that will bother you in small prints or web galleries, but if you want to get the best out of the SX150 IS, you should stick to its lower ISO sensitivity settings.
On the video side, the SX150's HD output is limited to 720p, with standard definition available at 640 x 480. You need to provide your own A/V cables, however and there's no HDMI port for HDTV connections. The zoom is operational during video capture but unless there's a lot of ambient sound, you're going to hear the lens movement. If it's windy, use the wind filter but don't expect miracles.
Video quality is good without being outstanding, and in video mode the SX150 IS is at its best in bright light. We didn't notice much rolling shutter effect but moiré was occasionally a problem when panning across vertical fences and railings. Sound capture from the built-in mic isn't bad, but the sound of the zoom mechanism is audible sometimes on the soundtracks of movies, depending on the level of background noise. On the plus side, you can zoom during movie recording, which hasn't always been the case from budget Canon compacts.
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