Canon PowerShot SX160 IS Overview
by Mike Tomkins
Posted: August 21, 2012
When we took a look at Canon's PowerShot SX150 IS last May, we found quite a bit to like, but not the camera's speed. Reviewer David Elrich referred to it as a case of the CCD tortoise versus the CMOS hare. That might change second time around, because Canon says it has addressed autofocus performance in the followup PowerShot SX160 IS. We don't yet know whether the other performance bugbear--burst shooting--has been address, but if it does then the hare may have a harder race on its hands.
The Canon SX160 IS' body, while gently restyled, is very similar to that of the SX150 in terms of size, weight, and overall control layout. The most notable difference is a sensible switch of the playback and movie record button positions, which should make for easier movie recording without fumbling.
Inside you'll find a sixteen megapixel, 1/2.3-inch image sensor. That's the same size used in the SX150, although resolution is ever so slightly higher. As we've noted, it's a CCD chip like that of the SX150, rather than the CMOS chips used in most Canon SX-series cameras since around 2010. The Canon SX160IS also retains the last-generation DIGIC 4 image processor from its predecessor. The use of a densely-packed CCD sensor and older processor make themselves felt when the rather narrow ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 800 equivalents, versus the much higher upper limits seen in many modern cameras.
An important change from its predecessor is the SX160's new lens, with a greater 16x optical zoom range. It starts from the same 28mm-equivalent wide angle, although the maximum aperture is even slightly dimmer than the earlier camera's, at f/3.5. The added range is all to be found at the telephoto end, which now reaches an impressive 448mm-equivalent, where the SX150 was limited to a 336mm telephoto. Maximum aperture at telephoto falls to f/5.9, and as you'd expect with a zoom this powerful, Canon includes its Intelligent IS image stabilization system.
The lens, says Canon, plays its part in the improved autofocus performance thanks to lighter lens elements, and a more powerful focus motor. Other changes that help in this area include a reworking of the operational sequence and autofocus algorithms, and a boost in the readout speed from the image sensor. Together, Canon says these changes will allow the PowerShot SX160IS to focus 22 percent faster, and trip the shutter a whopping 46% faster than its predecessor. (The company specs the autofocus time as 0.25 seconds, and the total shutter lag as 0.29 seconds, when focusing at wide angle in center-point focus mode with Program autoexposure, and a light value on the subject of Lv 13. We'll be interested to see how our lab testing bears this out.)
The Canon SX160 IS, like the earlier camera, lacks a viewfinder of any kind, and instead provides a relatively low-resolution 230,000 dot, three-inch LCD panel on which images and movies are framed and reviewed. As an affordable, entry-level model, the SX160 also forgoes any external flash provision, with only a built-in strobe. Unlike that of the SX150, the Canon SX160's flash now has a manual popup mechanism deployed with a button directly behind the strobe.
There are 32 scene types recognized by Smart Auto in the Canon PowerShot SX160IS, and it also supports high-definition video capture. Unfortunately, while the 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels) resolution is unchanged, the frame rate has fallen from 30 to 25 frames per second.
Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the newer SDHC and SDXC types. Power still comes courtesy of standard, easy-to-find AA batteries, just like in the SX150.
Available in red or black-bodied versions, the Canon PowerShot SX160 ships in the US market from September 2012, priced at around US$230.