There seems to be an almost inexhaustible supply of new digital camera models available these days and photographers (at every experience level) have more choices than they've ever had before. At first glance, the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS appears to be a brand new P&S digicam, however, it is actually a pretty impressive collection of last year's imaging components in a shiny new package.
Canon is the most modular of the major digicam manufacturers and they have an extensive catalog of consumer tested components to draw from when creating new models. Re-utilizing proven components to create new digicam models allows Canon to skip the expensive R&D phase of product development and produce new models at bargain prices designed to entice consumers.
Canon's new SX150 IS budget compact ultrazoom is a DIGIC IV processor driven, 14 megapixel (1/ 2.3" CCD sensor) digital camera with a 12x (28mm-336mm equivalent) zoom, 720p at 30 fps HD video, a 3.0-inch (230k) LCD screen and a full complement of shooting modes including Smart Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and full Manual exposure. Canon also includes its "Intelligent IS" image stabilization system (first seen on the SX230 HS) which automatically selects the best option (based on matching the composition with the most effective IS mode for that type of image) from seven available IS options.
The Canon PowerShot SX150 IS is a fairly typical looking P&S digicam, so if you're looking to make a style statement, the SX150 IS is a bit too bulky and a little too heavy to be really cool. Fit and finish are first rate and all controls are logically placed and easily accessed by right handed shooters. The SX150 IS's polycarbonate body shell over a metal alloy frame construction seems tough enough for just about anything and the camera's weather/moisture and dust seals appear to be more than adequate.
One of the PowerShot SX150's strongest selling points (aside from the bargain price) is that it can capture beautiful JPEG images and HD video clips with very little effort on the part of the shooter while allowing neophyte photographers to stretch their wings as they learn more and simultaneously offering sufficient creative flexibility to appeal to more advanced photographers.
There are a couple of dark clouds on the SX150 IS's horizon that potential purchasers should consider. The SX150 is a complex, feature rich digicam with a long zoom - so it is (not unexpectedly) a profligate power user. I do a lot of shoot - review - delete and re-shoot, so my battery use is probably a bit heavier than most P&S digicam users, but the included AA batteries (a pair of Panasonic LR6 Alkaline AA's) only lasted long enough for the DCR test lab to run its standard array of tests, shoot product pictures for the review, and for one fairly short shooting session for me. A pair of cheap OTC Eveready "Gold" Alkalines purchased when the included batteries failed on me in the field got me through the rest of the afternoon and two longer shooting sessions and three short video clips before they bit the dust.
I bought a four pack of Energizer MAX Alkaline AA's (the World's first zero mercury AA alkalines for environmentally conscious shooters) and I will discuss their performance in my full review. Canon claims the SX150 is good for about 320 exposures with a pair of Canon NB-3AH (2500 mAh) NiMH rechargeables - I couldn't find any numbers for OTC Alkaline AAs, but I'm guessing (based on my experience with the camera) that it is less than 100 exposures. Heavy shooters will probably opt for re-chargeable NiMHs or more expensive Lithium AA's because standard alkaline AA's will be too expensive long term as a power source and should only be used as a last resort or when traveling.
I've only had the new Canon PowerShot SX150 IS for a few days, but in my opinion, it clearly qualifies as a "best buy" for budget conscious shutterbugs who want a lot of bang for their buck. I'll go into more detail in the full review, but so far, the SX150 IS would be an almost ideal first digital camera, an excellent choice as a primary family camera, and a very good choice for travelers who want an inexpensive, feature rich, dependable, and relatively inexpensive P&S digicam that draws its power from universally available AA batteries.
The SX150 can be found online for less than two hundred dollars (an acquaintance found one on Black Friday for $150). The bottom line is that bargain seeking consumers aren't really going to be able to get much more at this point in time for their camera buying dollars than what the SX150 IS provides.