Design & Usability
The SX160 IS seems to have a more mature design than the SX150 or SX130, which befits its role as a bridge camera for novices transitioning to the hobbyist stage. One of the key differences here is the vertical front grip (it was oddly diagonal on the SX150), as well as a less cluttered control cluster. We think these two design elements make for a more user-friendly experience, if only slightly. The lack of a more substantial grip may be a concern for some users, but the slimmer design gives the SX160 excellent portability and accessibility when carried in a coat pocket.
Available in either black or white, the SX160 IS is sleek and more intuitive than previous models—which is saying something given Canon’s knack for simple menus and ergonomic button layouts. One of the more convenient features is the position of the exposure compensation button at the top-right of the manual controls. We also really liked the menu design—as we do on most Canon products. Everything just makes sense, from the fluid animation to the logic of the layout. It’s something both amateurs and experienced photographers can appreciate.
The SX160 IS offers just enough features to satisfy beginners looking to expand their knowledge of digital photography, though the manual exposure controls are a bit lacking. The aperture range of f/3.5 on the wide end to f/5.9 at full telephoto is pretty pedestrian, although the maximum shutter speed 1/3200sec is rather impressive for a $200 point-and-shoot (the otherwise superior SX500 can only hit 1/1600). On the other hand, we felt slightly mugged by the max ISO of 800, especially considering the SX150 had a ISO 1600 maximum. Furthermore, the autofocus speed was pretty slow, especially while zooming in and out.
Headlining specs aside, the SX160 IS has a pretty mundane array of features. The 16-megapixel sensor, image stabilizer, and 16x zoom work to ensure decent image quality, but there’s not a whole lot else that stands out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—after all, this camera is intended to fill a pretty boring position in the market. What’s most important about this camera, particularly as it relates to others in its class (like the Nikon Coolpix L610), is that despite its limited controls, it's still one of the most flexible cameras in its price bracket. In that regard, we’d recommend it—or really any PowerShot—as a solid starter camera.
For a price of just over $200, it’s hard not to recommend the SX160 IS to budding photographers. It’d make the perfect gift for a wet-eared enthusiast, but it could also function as a reliable travel camera—especially thanks to its use of ubiquitous AA batteries. There’s enough manual exposure control to allow a novice to learn, even if the ISO and aperture ranges are a bit restrictive. But everything about the SX160 comes back to the price... it's simply a great value.
The newly released CanonSX160 IS replaces the older SX150 as one of Canon’s affordable range of enthusiast point-and-shoots. New to the SX160 is an upgraded 16-megapixel CCD sesor (compared with the 14-megapixel unit in the SX150) and a longer 16x zoom lens. It’s still powered by two AA batteries and features a limited set of manual exposure controls, but the SX160—along with its predecessors—remains an affordable solution for beginner photographers.