Expert Review of Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
The Canon Powershot SX130 IS is a new 12 megapixel digital camera featuring a 12x zoom lens complete with optical image stabilizer. Successor to last year’s SX120 model, the Canon SX130 IS offers a more versatile focal range of 28-336mm, 3 inch LCD screen, DIGIC 4 image processor, and Face Detection complete with Face Select & Track and Face Self-Timer modes. The SX130 IS has 28 shooting modes including Smart Auto and Easy Mode for complete beginners and full manual control for more experienced photographers. A high ISO setting of 1600, 720p HD movies with stereo sound, SDXC memory card support and power in the form of readily available AA batteries complete the SX130’s headline specifications. It's also a very good camera for those wanting more creative control than just about any competing model will give you and excellent photo quality for its class. Its shooting performance is the only thing that's lackluster here, but it's still on par with similarly priced models.
Design and Build Quality
The composite body is a bit longer and wider than something I'd consider easily shirt-pocket portable. You can get it into a shirt pocket, but you'll also know it's there. Body construction, fit and finish all appear in line with the camera's price point. The rectangular body features lots of rounded edges and blended surfaces, giving the camera a somewhat sleeker look than sharper-edged designs. There is a modest ridge incorporated into the right front of the body to facilitate a better grip. Two-handed shooters will need to use care in placing fingers on the left top front corner of the body so as to not block the focus assist lamp or one of the two microphones. All in all, the handgrip/thumb rest area provides a solid feel for one-handed shooters with the index finger falling nicely onto the shutter button. Control layout and design will be familiar to Canon compact users and fairly intuitive for everyone else. A mode dial, shutter button/zoom lever and on/off button sit atop the camera body; playback, face select, exposure compensation, Canon's traditional directional buttons/control dial/function and set control, and menu and display buttons take up the right rear.The new body is just a little larger, with dimensions of 4.5 x 2.9 x 1.8 inches (113 x 73 x 46mm), and weight has also increased a little to 11.1 ounces (314g) including battery and flash card.
Focus and Face Detection
Canon's implementation of face detection is included, and the face detection functionality is linked not only to the autofocus system, but also to the exposure metering and white balance systems to ensure correct exposure of portraits as well. When focusing in dim light, a very bright orange LED provides for AF-assist. For the more experienced photographer, there's a wide range of adjustments and customizations on hand, including a range of ISO sensitivities (from 80 to 1,600 equivalent), metering modes (Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Center spot, Face Detect AE), and white balance options (Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom). Compared to its predecessor, the Powershot SX130 offers slightly reduced flash range when the ISO sensitivity is under automatic control, with a maximum reach of 9.8 feet at wide-angle, or 8.2 feet at telephoto.
Lens and Image Stabilization
The Canon Powershot SX130 combines its 12-megapixel sensor with a more powerful 12x optical zoom lens, which offers the range from a useful 28mm wide-angle to a powerful 336mm telephoto setting. The increased reach at the wide-angle end comes at a price though -- maximum aperture varies from f/3.4 at wide-angle to f/5.6 at telephoto, noticeably less bright than the previous camera. As the "IS" in the SX130's name would suggest, it retains Canon's Image Stabilization technology, helping fight the effects of blur from camera shake particularly important at the longer focal lengths.
Screen and Menus
The Canon SX130's combination of a 3-inch LCD display, well-executed user-interface, and large text makes menu navigation a breeze. In Program mode, you can access most of your commonly used settings, including white balance, color modes, image size, image quality, drive mode, flash power, and metering, by pressing the Function/Set button at the center of the four-way controller. The scroll wheel makes getting back and forth simple, and you can press the shutter button at any time to jump back into shooting. There is a "Hints & Tips" function available in the camera menu which will provide a short written description of a scene mode or camera setting before you choose it.
The Canon Powershot SX130 IS stores images on Secure Digital or Multimedia Card media, including the latest higher capacity SDXC types. Like its predecessor the SX120, the Canon SX120IS runs on a pair of AA batteries - either alkaline, lithium, or NiMH rechargeable. A pair of alkaline disposables is included in the product bundle.
The Canon SX130 IS affords the photo enthusiast ample opportunity to experiment. There is a Program mode alongside full Manual mode, Aperture and Shutter priority modes, all accessible on the mode dial. You can set your shutter speed and/or aperture on the LCD simply by spinning the scroll wheel. For those looking for a "set and forget" experience, Canon's Smart Auto mode relies on 28 predefined shooting scenes to determine which is the best match for the scene in front of you. Or choose from Portrait, Landscape and Kids and Pets to match your scene. The Canon SX130 packs an additional 12 Scene modes (not counting the modes found on the Mode dial) including standbys such as Snow and Fireworks. There are also some fun image effects. Some are pretty interesting, like Fish-eye, but others, like Color Accent and Color Swap, are more noteworthy. When in Auto mode, the camera will sharply curtail your menu options. You'll lose access to exposure and all of the color modes addressed below. You will still be able to adjust image resolution and set the self-timer.
1/2.3in sensor design used here, as the enormous resolution usually boosts noise levels more than details. It’s almost impossible to avoid this problem in the current range of compact ultra-zoom cameras, though. The fully automatic modes limited the ISO speed to 800, and while this demanded a steady hand indoors, the resulting pictures were up to scratch. Though a combination of luminance noise and noise suppression efforts gradually decrease detail as the sensitivity increases.With the SX130 IS's Auto ISO setting selected, the camera has opted for an ISO400 equivalent setting to deliver a clean, clear and crisp image.
It offers great features and excellent quality photos. The 720p HD video is very clear. The ability to zoom from a wide angle 28mm to 12X or 336 mm while filming is a great feature. The camera is easy to hold and all controls are very easy to operate
The low battery indicator starts flashing when the batteries have reached ~45% capacity. A firmware upgrade might fix this. Don't use alkaline batteries with this camera: ~23 minutes of 720p HD video with alkaline verses 70 minutes with NiMH.