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.(View larger.)
The SX130 IS isn't a fast camera, but with practice you can get some solid action shots with it. 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 with AF slows down to about 0.6fps. Add in a half second shutter lag for the first shot and you'll have to be pretty good at anticipating action to get the shot you want. (The top photo is a 100 percent crop of the bottom photo. View larger.)
Among the SX130's many shooting modes are shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and manual options. Available apertures include: f3.4, f4.0, f4.5, f5.0, f5.6, f6.3, f7.1, and f8.0. Availability is dependent on zoom position, though you do get the full range at the wide end. Shutter speeds go from 15 seconds down to 1/2,500 second, which is a better range than most cameras in its class offer.
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.
This is a demo of the SX130's 12x optical zoom power. On the top is the lens at its widest position; the bottom is at its longest. The image stabilization does an excellent job of keeping the effects of hand shake under control. The zoom can be used while shooting video, too, though it moves very slowly.
Canon keeps the barrel distortion in check with this wide-angle lens; there is some, but it's a livable amount (top). 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.
This is an example of Canon's i-Contrast feature that can be turned on while shooting or used after in playback. The left is without it, the right photo is with it applied. I recommend using it in playback; you have more control over the end result, and you aren't stuck with it if you don't like the results.