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Canon Powershot SX160 IS Review

Canon's latest AA powered compact camera features a 16x optical zoom lens and full manual controls. Find out how it performs in our review.

|  Canon Powershot SX160 IS in Compact Cameras
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Canon Powershot Sx160 Is (2)

The Canon Powershot SX160 is the latest pocket zoom from Canon in the long line of AA powered SX1x0 series, this model updates the 12x optical zoom SX150, with a 16x optical zoom lens, a 16 megapixel sensor as well as HDMI out.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Features

Canon Powershot Sx160 Is (3)

The Canon Powershot SX160 is described as family friendly, and takes two AA batteries. It features full manual controls, as well as an Auto mode, scene modes, and creative effects. The camera records 720p video, with stereo sound and allows the use of the optical zoom while recording. A focus assist lamp and pop up flash help in dark conditions, and built in optical image stabilisation adds to the cameras capabilities. The 16x optical zoom lens starts at 28mm wide-angle and zooms all the way to 448mm equivalent, with the option for 32x digital zoom called "ZoomPlus".

Canon Powershot Sx160 Is (4)

Key Features

  • 16 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 16x optical zoom lens, 28-448mm equivalent
  • Optical image stabilisation
  • 3 inch 230k dot screen
  • Manual controls, P/A/S/M
  • 720p video with stereo sound
  • ISO100 - 1600
  • Creative effects
  • 1cm macro mode, Manual Focus
  • Available in black, red or silver

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Handling

Canon Powershot Sx160 Is (5)

Handling - The plastic bodied camera feels well built with a slight grip on the front of the camera, and a raised dot area on the back for your thumb. The mode dial is well placed and the buttons on the back are large and easy to see and use. On top is the pop up flash that is activated with a physical button on the back, and to close you simply press the flash back down. The battery compartment features a lock to stop you accidentally opening it.

Canon Powershot Sx160 Is (7)

Menus – Built in hints and tips explains each option on the camera. Manual focus is available, as well as flash compensation, and the camera gives an overlay of the most common options making it easy to choose and change settings when you press the Func/Set button. The menu button lets you set additional photo and setup options. In playback there are also playback and print options. You can quickly set exposure compensation, ISO, focus, flash and self-timer using the buttons on the back of the camera making it even easier to set these options without having to go into any menus.

Canon Powershot Sx160 Is (6)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 140 shots according to Canon / CIPA test results using Alkaline batteries, or 380 shots with rechargeable Ni-Mh (2500mAh) batteries, we were able to take over 200 shots before the battery went flat using Alkaline batteries.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Canon SX160 IS
Sony RX100
Shutter Response
0.05 0.0
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.25 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
0.35 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.2 2.2
Shot to Shot without Flash 2.6 0.9
Shot to Shot with Flash 6.2 2.1
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
1.4s 7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 4.0s 1.6s
Continuous Shooting - RAW N/A 4fps (13 shots)

Focus and shutter response is very quick, but shot to shot and continous shooting is quite slow, becoming very slow if you are using the flash.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Sample Photos

Sample Photos - The portrait photo using the onboard flash shows excellent colour and very little to no red-eye in the photo. Exposure and colour is generally excellent in photos, although setting the exposure compensation to -0.3EV can help give images stronger saturation. Dynamic range can be expanded with the use of i-Contrast.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Lens test images

Lens Performance - Purple fringing and chromatic abberations are visible in areas of contrast such as tree branches against a bright sky. Detail is good into the corners at wide and telephoto settings, and the lens performs well with little to no barrel or pincushion distortion noticed. The most noticeable problem with image quality is due to noise, and noise in some of the outdoor shots in areas of shadow is a little higher than expected, at ISO200. Macro performance is impressive, with the camera focusing on subjects as close as 1cm away from the front of the lens.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - ISO100 shows low noise. At ISO200 and ISO400 noise starts to creep in, particularly in the darker shades. At ISO800 noise beings to remove detail from the image. ISO1600 is best avoided as detail and colour is lost. Above this, you need to be in one of the low light scene modes, where the image size is reduced to 4 megapixels and the ISO setting is increased if the camera feels the need.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a warm result under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving a much more nuetral result. AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting with the preset giving a slightly warmer result.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a number of colour effects that can be applied, as well as a number of digital effects, as shown above. The camera doesn't feature an automatic panoramic mode.

Video - Videos are recorded at 720p, with stereo sound and optical zoom. Wind cut is an option in the menus.

Value For Money

The Canon Powershot SX160 IS is available for £149 which makes it good value for money, it's up against the following cameras, shown below:

GE G100 Fujifilm FinePix F660 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25 Sony Cybershot HX10 Nikon Coolpix S9300
GE G100
15x optical zoom
Fujifilm FinePix F660, 15x optical zoom Panasonic Lumix TZ25, 16x optical zoom Sony Cybershot HX10, 16x optical zoom Nikon Coolpix S9300, 18x optical zoom
£96.00 £147.00 £169.00 £179.00 £195.00

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Verdict

The Canon Powershot SX160 IS features a 16x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation and has an easy to use mode dial with settings for beginners up to the more advanced with manual controls. The camera has a lot of external control with ISO shortcuts and large buttons, and with the addition of AA batteries it could make a great travel camera. Due to quite high noise at and above ISO200, it would be best used outdoors in good lighting, and the camera produces images with good colour, with excellent macro performance. The camera is decent value for money and whilst it has a few shortcomings such as speed of continuous shooting and slow flash recharge, if you're a little more patient in your photography then it could make a good choice.

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Pros

16x optical zoom lens
Improved design over previous model
Manual controls
AA batteries readily available
Excellent macro performance
Good colour and white balance performance

Canon Powershot SX160 IS Cons

Low resolution 3 inch screen
Lacks auto panoramic mode
Shorter battery life with Alkaline batteries
Noise performance above ISO200
Slow flash charge


Canon Powershot SX160 IS Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent28mm - 448mm
Optical Zoom16x
Image Sensor
Pixels16Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution230,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo Data
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/3200sec
Shutter speeds longest15sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 1600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting0.8fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundNo Data
Optical Zoom with VideoNo Data
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery Type2x Size-AA Alkaline or Ni-MH Batteries (NB-3AH)
Battery Life (CIPA rating)140shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Photographs taken using the Canon Powershot SX160 IS

lilliemistThe firemanunknown flowerHappinesssoldierCrowdbluefireCrook treeHorseTwin treeWater runningLong RoadBright sun

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25 Dec 2012 6:44AM
if you compare sx160 is with nikon coolpix L810,which one is better and more valuable?
16 Jan 2014 1:53AM
They both have 16MP processor for 1 / 2.3” sensor size (0.617x0.455cm)=0.281cm2, with Pickle density 16MP/0.281cm2=57MP/cm2. Amateur Pickle Quality should be less than 20MP/cm2 for professional’s quality starts at 5MP/cm2.

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