BUILD AND DESIGN
The Canon SX150 IS replaces the SX130 IS which was very popular with casual shooters, landscape, travel, and nature photographers thanks to its relatively compact body and wide-angle to long telephoto zoom. The SX150 IS doesn’t deviate from that winning design. The Canon Powershot SX150 is a fairly typical looking and relatively compact P&S digicam. If you’re looking to make a style statement, the SX150 is a bit too bulky and a little too heavy to be really cool.
The PowerShot SX150 is available in no-nonsense black or bright exuberant red. Fit and finish are first rate and the its (polycarbonate body shell over metal alloy frame) construction seems tough enough for just about anything the target audience is likely to try. The weather/moisture and dust seals appear to be more than adequate for anything short of extended use in extreme environments.
Ergonomics and Controls
The camera’s control layout will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a Canon point-and-shoot. All controls are logically placed and easily accessed for right handed shooters, but some buttons are very small. The SX150’s compass switch (4-way control pad) provides direct access to the flash settings, ISO/Sensitivity settings, self-timer, and macro mode/focus options. Canon’s nifty “func” button offers direct access to WB, color options, metering options, image size, and movie mode resolution settings. The rotary jog dial that surrounds the compass switch can be used to quickly sort through saved images in review mode or to rapidly navigate the menu in all shooting modes.
The SX150 IS also provides a “one-touch” video capture button – simply frame your subject and push the red button – when you wish stop recording – push the red button once again. Finally, the SX150 IS provides a direct access button for the exposure compensation function which makes it easy for shooters to incrementally lighten or darken images to adjust for ambient light problems.
The control array seems a little busy, but it isn’t counter-intuitive and most users will have no difficulty using the camera’s controls. Like essentially all P&S digicams the SX150 IS will perform impressively in auto (point and shoot) mode, but this camera was designed to be used by photo enthusiasts too, so there are lots of creative options and an impressive level of individual input into the image making process.
Menus and Modes
The SX150 IS features the basic two-tab version of Canon’s classic point-and-shoot menu system. The SX150 IS’s menu system, like all Canon P&S digicam menus, is logical and easy to navigate.
The SX150 IS provides a comprehensive selection of shooting modes including:
- Easy Auto: Just Point and Shoot – no user input.
- Auto (Smart Auto): Automatic scene recognition mode that instantly compares what’s in front of the lens with an on-board image database and then matches that information with the subject’s distance from the camera, white balance, contrast, dynamic range, lighting and color to select the best scene mode for that specific shooting situation (just before the image is recorded). No user input except for flash on/off.
- Program: Auto exposure with limited user input (sensitivity, white balance, exposure compensation, etc.).
- Aperture priority: Users select the aperture and the camera selects an appropriate shutter speed.
- Shutter priority: Users select shutter speed and the camera selects an appropriate aperture.
- Manual: Users select all exposure parameters.
- Discreet: Automatically turns off the flash and all sounds for discreet use.
- Fish-Eye Effect: Digitally creates a circular “Fish-Eye” look.
- Scene: Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Low Light, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks; Creative Filters: Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, and Color Swap.
- Movie: The SX150 records HD video at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720p at 30 fps.
Like most currently available point-and-shoots, the SX150 doesn’t provide an optical viewfinder which obliges shooters to utilize the LCD monitor for all framing/composition, captured image review, and menu navigation chores. Most casual shooters (this camera’s target audience) don’t use optical viewfinders anyway and in some shooting scenarios it is actually quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the LCD screen than it is through an optical (or electronic) viewfinder.
The SX150 features the same outdated 3.0-inch (230k-dot) PureColor II LCD monitor that graced its predecessor. Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, and Pentax are now offering LCD viewfinders with double, triple, and even quadruple the resolution of the SX150’s slightly grainy 230,000 dot LCD monitor, but the cameras offering those higher resolution LCDs all cost more than the SX150.
The SX150’s TFT LCD display is fairly bright, hue (color) accurate, relatively fluid, automatically boosts gain in dim/low light, and covers approximately 100% of the image frame. The SX150’s LCD, like all LCD monitors, is subject to fading and glare/reflections, but Canon’s Quick-bright mode makes it easier to frame and compose your images in bright outdoor light.
The DCR test lab objectively measures LCD peak brightness and contrast ratios to assist our readers in making more informed digital camera purchasing decisions. A decent LCD contrast ratio should fall somewhere between 500:1 and 800:1. An LCD with a contrast ratio within that range should be bright enough to use the LCD screen for framing and composition in outdoor lighting and it should also provide a better sense of real world colors and contrast than would an LCD screen with a lower contrast ratio.
The SX150 weighs in on the lower end of that range at 584:1. Peak brightness for the SX150 (the panel’s output of an all-white screen at full brightness) is 421 nits and on the dark (black level luminance) side the measurement is 0.72 nits – for reference, anything higher than 500 nits is bright enough to be easily seen under bright outdoor light. The SX150 IS’s default info display provides all the data this camera’s target audience is likely to want or need.