A versatile digicam with a 12x optical zoom lens, easy and advanced shooting modes and 720p HD video recording with stereo sound. The PowerShot SX130 IS replaces the PowerShot SX120 IS, providing the expected wide range of shooting modes, a stabilised zoom lens and support for AA batteries in an affordable body. The sensor is slightly larger in the SX130 IS and its resolution is increased to 12.1 megapixels. The zoom range is also extended from 10x to 12x, mainly at the wide-angle end and covers focal lengths equivalent to 28-336mm in 35mm format. . . [more]
The PowerShot SX130 IS replaces the PowerShot SX120 IS, providing the expected wide range of shooting modes, a stabilised zoom lens and support for AA batteries in an affordable body. The sensor is slightly larger in the SX130 IS and its resolution is increased to 12.1 megapixels. The zoom range is also extended from 10x to 12x, mainly at the wide-angle end and covers focal lengths equivalent to 28-336mm in 35mm format.
The longer lens adds 15 grams to the overall weight of the camera and requires the body to be slightly larger. However, the PowerShot SX130 IS remains quite compact for the features it provides.
Suitable for photographers at many different levels, the new model will be popular with travellers because it offers a lot for its modest price tag. There are easy modes for beginners and P, A, S and M modes for more knowledgeable photographers. It can also shoot High Definition (1280 x 720) video clips with stereo soundtracks.
Build and Ergonomics
The differences between the SX130 IS and its predecessor are mainly cosmetic - and relatively minor. On the front panel, the metal trim on the grip is slightly smaller and roughly triangular in shape instead of lozenge-shaped. Two tiny microphone holes are located just above the lens mounting on either side of the pop-up flash.
Front view of the PowerShot SX130 IS with the pop-up flash raised. (Source: Canon.)
The Play button on the rear panel has been moved to the right and a thumb rest has been added on its left hand side. The arrow pad surround is now flush with the rear panel instead of slightly raised and the control buttons are slightly different in shape from those on the SX120 IS.
Rear view of the PowerShot SX130 IS. (Source: Canon.)
The monitor is unchanged, with a 4:3 aspect ratio, 3-inch diagonal and relatively low resolution of 230,000 dots. The battery/card compartment is also the same and just as awkward to use.
The mode dial on the top panel carries settings for Auto, P, Tv, Av and M shooting modes plus the Canon's Easy Mode and pre-sets for Portrait, Landscape and Kids & Pets. The SCN setting accesses a sub-menu containing pre-sets for Smart Shutter, Low Light, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Colour Accent, Colour Swap, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Beach, Foliage, Snow and Fireworks shots. There's also a Movie mode.
The top panel also carries a seven-hole speaker grille on the left hand side of the flash housing. The flash has to be raised manually by inserting the tip of a fingernail under the front of the housing. (A message to this effect appears when flash is required in one of the auto modes.) It is also lowered manually by pressing the housing down.
The flash has a range of 50 cm to 3.3 metres at the widest lens position and 1.0 to 2.0 metres at the tele position. Flash output is adjustable across +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV increments.
Like the SX120 IS, the new model is equipped with Canon's Tru Capture technology and DiG!C 4 processor, both of which underpin the Intelligent Auto shooting mode, which includes Scene Detection, Face Detection, Motion Detection and Noise Reduction. Blink Detection is also included.
As in the previous model, the SX130 IS allows users to set shutter speeds up to 15 seconds in the TV shooting mode, which records at all image size and quality settings. The maximum sensitivity in most modes is ISO1600, although the new Low Light mode in the SCN sub-menu reduces image size to 1600 x 1200 pixels and boosts sensitivity to ISO 2500 to enable the camera to be hand-held in low-light conditions.
The SX130 IS also provides Smile Shutter, Face self-timer and Wink self-timer modes, in addition to the standard two- and ten-second delay settings. Selectable flash modes include the standard Auto, On, Slow Synchro and Off settings and Red Eye Reduction, which uses the AF-assist lamp, can be turned on in the camera menu.
In-camera Red Eye Correction can also be applied to flash shots post capture. The FE Lock lets users lock the flash exposure by pressing the +/- button. Safety FE prevents over-exposure by automatically changing camera settings to counteract over-bright flash light.
Sensor and Image Processing
Image files can only be recorded as JPEGs and the camera supports four resolution settings with a 4:3 aspect ratio plus a Widescreen setting that records images at 3456 x 1944 pixel resolution. Two quality settings are available. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
4000 x 3000
2816 x 2112
1600 x 1200
640 x 480
4000 x 2248
Three quality options are provided for recording video clips: 1280 x 720 pixels, 640 x 480 pixels and 320 x 240 pixels, all of which are captured at 30 fps. The camera uses the widely-accepted MOV format with the H.264 compression for image data and Linear PCM (Stereo) for audio.
Users can apply Colour Accent and Colour Swap adjustments to video clips. The Miniature Effect setting can also be used and recordings in this mode - and also VGA clips - can be recorded at six frames/second, three frames/second and 1.5 frames/second for playback as slow-motion movies.
Recordings will stop when the file size reaches 4GB or after approximately 10 minutes in HD mode. SD Speed Class 4 or higher cards are recommended. Typical recording times on a 4GB card are shown in the table below.
Recording time on 4GB card
1280 x 720 pixels
20 minutes 43 seconds
640 x 480 pixels
43 minutes 43 seconds
320 x 240 pixels
1 hour 58 minutes 19 seconds
Playback and Software
Image playback is essentially unchanged from the PowerShot SX120 IS and is covered in the review of the previous model. The software bundle Canon's Digital Camera Solution applications Version 68.0. These include ZoomBrowser EX 6.6, for Windows and ImageBrowser 6.6 for Macintosh plus CameraWindow DC 8.3 and PhotoStitch 3.1 for both operating systems. An electronic version of the user manual in PDF format is also provided on the disk.
Our main gripe with the review camera was the viewing quality of the LCD monitor, which made scenes look flat and lacking in clarity. It proved very difficult to use in bright outdoor lighting and there was no viewfinder to overcome this problem so users are forced to 'point-and-guess'. Fortunately, these problems weren't reflected in test shots.
Autofocusing wasn't particularly fast and a shutter lag of 0.45 seconds meant grab shots were often unsharp. However, the stabilisation system was very effective, enabling us to get acceptably-sharp wide-angle shots with exposures down to 1/2 second.
Even when the differences in sensor resolution are accounted for, the new model has delivered a significant improvement in resolution over its predecessor in our Imatest tests. For several focal lengths, resolution was above expectations for a 12-megapixel camera. Edge softening was also relatively low at most focal lengths.
Best results were obtained at mid-range focal lengths with the widest lens apertures. However, resolution declined quite rapidly as the lens was stopped down. The graph below shows the results of our tests (which were limited in scope due to insufficient working space in our test set-up).
Resolution remained relatively high throughout up to ISO 400 but dropped sharply at ISO 800 and ISO 1600, even though the image size remains the same throughout the camera's ISO range. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Both long exposures and flash shots retained their detail up to ISO 400 but softening was apparent at the two highest ISO settings. The flash lacked enough power to illuminate our test target from a distance of about 1.5 metres at ISO 80 but provided adequate light for exposures at ISO 400.
Lateral chromatic aberration remained within the ‘low' band at almost all the focal length settings we tested in our Imatest tests. However, slight coloured fringing was visible in wide-angle shots taken under contrasty lighting, as shown in the example below.
5mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/159 second at f/3.4.
Crop from a section of the above image, enlarged to 100%, showing coloured fringing.
Imatest showed saturation to be slightly more elevated that we'd like in an advanced digicam, particularly for reds and purples. A few colour shifts were detected in cyan, yellow and, to a lesser degree, skin tones. Both were reflected in test shots. Digital zoom shots were slightly soft.
The test camera's auto white balance setting had the usual problems with incandescent lighting but delivered close-to-natural colours under fluorescent lighting. The pre-sets over-corrected marginally but manual measurement produced clean whites and accurate colours.
Some barrel distortion was obvious in shots taken with the widest focal length settings, although this had been largely corrected by around 12mm. Pincushion distortion began to be visible at around the 40mm focal length.
Backlit subjects were well-handled at wider focal length settings, although we noticed a decline in contrast when shooting at full tele zoom. It was also easy to force the lens to flare by pointing the camera towards a bright source of light.
Video quality was generally good, particularly at VGA resolution (which is surprising). HD clips displayed with plenty of detail on a television screen and movement was smoothly recorded. The review camera showed few of the AF and AE problems we identified with the Ixus 1000 - except in poorly-lit situations where focus tracking was less than perfect.
Saturation appeared to be slightly lower in video clips than in still pictures, although colours remained bright and vibrant. The stereo soundtracks had acceptable presence and the audio with clips shot in windless conditions was reasonably clear. However, wind noise was recorded with most outdoor shots.
It took approximately 1.6 seconds to power up the test camera and shot-to-shot times averaged 2.3 seconds without flash and 5.6 seconds with flash. We measured an average capture lag of 0.45 seconds, which reduced to a consistent 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing.
Each image took an average of 2.7 seconds to process and it took just over five seconds to re-prime the flash. In the continuous shooting mode, the standard burst setting recorded ten high-resolution JPEGs in 9.4 seconds, while the continuous AF mode captured five shots in 4.6 seconds. Image processing appears to be on-the-fly as both bursts took roughly 2.9 seconds to process.
Video recording appeared to consume more battery power than shooting stills. The alkaline batteries supplied with the test camera displayed a low-power warning after we had taken about 50 still pictures and 19 video clips. However, we were subsequently able to take a further 116 still shots before the warning was displayed again.
Buy this camera if:
- You're looking for an affordable long-zoom digicam that can record 720p HD video clips.
- You want plenty of adjustable controls and effective image stabilisation.
- You're prepared to use sensitivity settings of ISO 400 and lower.
- You prefer cameras that use AA batteries.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You'd like a high-quality monitor.
- You want a camera with a viewfinder.
- You require raw file support.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/202 second at f/6.3.
60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/101 second at f/6.3.
Digital zoom. 60mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/403 second at f/6.3.
Close-up. 5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/807 second at f/5.
ISO 100, 15 second exposure at f/3.4; 7.2mm focal length.
ISO 400, 15 second exposure at f/4.5; 7.2mm focal length.
ISO 1600, 6 second exposure at f/4.95; 7.2mm focal length.
Flash exposure; 26.3mm focal length. ISO 400, 1/60 second at f/5.
Flash exposure; 26.3mm focal length. ISO 1600, 1/60 second at f/5.
Skin hues with flash: 22.4mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/5.
Open shade: 6.2mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/101 second at f/3.4.
20.8mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/101 second at f/4.5.
Flare: 6mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/1244 second at f/4.5.
9.2mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/1002 second at f/4.
60mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/202 second at f/5.6.
Still frame from HD video clip.
Still frame from VGA video clip.
Image sensor: 6.16 x 4.62 mm CCD sensor with million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective)
Lens: 5.0-60mm f/3.4-5.6 zoom lens (28-336mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 12x optical, 4x digital
Image formats: Stills - JPEG (Exif 2.3); Movies - MOV (Image Data: H.264; Audio Data: Linear PCM Stereo)
Image Sizes: Stills - 4000 x 3000, 2816 x 2112, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480, Widescreen 4000 x 2248; Movies - 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 (all at 30 fps)
Shutter speed range: 15 seconds to 1/4000 second
Self-timer: Approx. 10 sec or 2 sec delay, Custom
Image Stabilisation: Optical (Lens Shift Type), approx. 3 stops
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
Focus system/range: Contrast-based TTL autofocus with Face Detect AiAF and Centre modes plus manual focusing; range 5 cm to infinity; macro 1-50 cm
Exposure metering/control: TTL metering with Evaluative, Centre-weighted average, Spot modes; Program AE, AE Lock, Manual, Program Shift, Safety Shift
Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto (with Scene Detection), P, Tv, Av, M, Easy, Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Special Scene (Smart Shutter, Low Light, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Colour Accent, Colour Swap, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks); Movie
ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, on, off, Auto Red Eye Correction, Red Eye Reduction, Face Detect, Slow Synchro, FE Lock; range - 50 cm to 3.5 m
Sequence shooting: Approx. one frame/second
Storage Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC and MMC cards
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT LCD screen with 230,000 dots
Power supply: 2x AA batteries (Alkaline or NiMH)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 113.3 x 73.2 x 45.8 mm
Weight: Approx. 260 grams (without batteries and card)
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.0
- Ease of use: 8.5
- Autofocusing: 8.0
- Image quality: Stills - 8.5; Video - 8.5
- OVERALL: 8.5