Shooting performance is fairly slow, which sadly is average for its class. From off to first shot takes about 2 seconds. The shot-to-shot times averaged 3 seconds without the flash while using the flash doubles that wait time. Shutter lag--the time from when the shutter release is pressed to when the image is captured--is a minimum of 0.6 second in bright lighting. Thankfully, it only jumps to 0.8 second in low light, but occasionally it felt longer. There are two main continuous shooting options: one with autofocus on every shot and one that sets focus and exposure with the first shot. The latter is faster, capturing at about 1 frame per second. The continuous option with AF slows down to about 0.6fps. Add in the shutter lag for the first shot and you'll have to be pretty good at anticipating action to get the shot you want.
The SX130 takes excellent photos for its class, though like most compact cameras, it's at its best below ISO 200. At ISO 400 there's a noticeable increase in noise and softness from noise reduction. Fine details can still be seen at full size right up to ISO 1,600, making photos usable at smaller sizes. The increased noise at ISO 1,600 does, however, cause some faint yellow blotching.
Colors produced by the SX130 are generally excellent--bright, vivid, and fairly accurate in our lab tests. They lose some saturation at ISO 800 and above, but not nearly as much as I've seen on competing cameras. Exposure and white balance are very good.
Canon keeps the barrel distortion in check with this wide-angle lens; there is some, but it's a livable amount. When fully extended, the lens exhibits nearly undetectable pincushioning, but not enough to be concerned with. Center sharpness is very good, and the lens stays consistent out to the sides and corners. It doesn't appear that Canon does much to help remove or reduce fringing in high-contrast areas of photos. Most megazoom cameras produce a lot of fringing, so it's not a surprise to see it from the SX130. You'll see it in larger prints or if you crop heavily. If you're able to look past it, generally don't view your photos at full size, or don't mind removing it with photo-editing software, then it's a nonissue.
Video quality is on par with an HD pocket video camera. It's not stellar and won't replace a full-size camcorder, but is certainly good enough for Web use or casual viewing on an HDTV. You do get use of the optical zoom while recording and the lens movement is very quiet so it doesn't get picked up by the stereo mic.
Last year's SX120 IS was a decent compact megazoom, but it had fewer features, slower performance, and a bulkier design than competing models. The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS catches up to the pack in features and is one, if not the only, readily available compact megazoom that takes AA-size batteries and has semimanual and manual shooting modes. Combined with a good price and excellent photo quality, it's definitely a front-runner in its class. The slow performance is the only significant thing that tarnishes the package.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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