Canon PowerShot SX130 IS review: Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

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The Good Excellent photo quality, features for its class; semimanual, manual shooting modes; uses AA-size batteries.

The Bad Slow shooting performance; bulky, heavy body.

The Bottom Line The budget-friendly Canon PowerShot SX130 IS is a solid, compact megazoom for those who prize creative control and photo quality more than fast shooting performance or a small, lightweight design.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 8

The PowerShot SX130 IS is one of Canon's three compact megazooms for 2010. It shares some of the same features as its linemate, the SX210 IS, mainly semimanual and manual shooting modes and 720p HD movie capture. However, that model has a longer, 14x zoom lens and a 14-megapixel CCD sensor to the SX130's 12x zoom and 12-megapixel CCD sensor. Then there's the PowerShot SD4500 IS, which is part of Canon's Digital Elph line and features a 10x zoom and a 10-megapixel CMOS sensor. Despite having the midrange specs of the three, the SX130 IS is the most basic and lowest priced. 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.

Key specs Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Price (MSRP) $249.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.5 x 2.9 x 1.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 10.9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 12x, f3.4-5.6, 28-336mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA-size (2; alkaline included), 130 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus, HC MMCplus cards
Bundled software ZoomBrowser EX 6.5/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); ImageBrowser 6.5/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac)

The SX130's design is basically unchanged from its predecessor, the SX120 IS. There are a couple styling changes, including a better front grip, and it now has stereo mics in front above the longer, wider lens, but it's still bulky and heavy, especially in comparison with competing compact megazooms. Part of the reason for its heft and dimensions is that it uses two AA-size batteries for power while other manufacturers have moved to rechargeable packs. Battery life is relatively short if you use alkaline batteries, though. You'll want to pick up some rechargeable NiMH batteries, which will triple the shot count from alkaline.

The controls on the back are pretty much the same as those on the SX120 IS, though the Playback button is now to the right of the thumbrest instead of the left. Face detection, display, menu, and exposure compensation buttons are above and below the navigational scroll wheel to the right of the 3-inch LCD. The screen gets adequately bright, though some may still find it difficult to see in direct sunlight. The navigational wheel surrounds a Func./Set button and has top, bottom, left, and right pressure points for ISO sensitivity, focus (manual, normal, and macro), flash, and timer. The wheel is responsive with tactile stops to it, so you will not easily overshoot what you're trying to select. Operation is overall easy to pick up, but even seasoned Canon users will want to examine the full manual included on the software disc bundled with the camera.

The batteries and memory card slot are in a compartment accessed through the bottom of the camera, secured by a locking door. That's good considering there's nothing holding the batteries in place. On the right side of the body under a small door is a USB/AV port for connecting to a computer or external display and a DC input if you want to power the camera with an optional adapter.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Easy, Program, Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority, Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Macro, Normal, Infinity, Manual
Macro 0.4 inch to 1.6 feet (Wide)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

If you're looking for a wide variety of shooting options, the SX130 IS will likely have plenty for you to experiment with. Among the many 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 this class offer.

For the SX130, Canon throws three of the more common scene-shooting modes (Portrait, Landscape, and Kids & Pets) on the actual Mode dial and keeps more specialized scene types (Low Light, Snow, Fireworks, Foliage, and Beach) under an SCN spot on the dial. Under SCN, too, are Canon's creative shooting modes like Color Swap, Color Accent, Miniature Effect, Fisheye Effect, and Super Vivid as well as its Smart Shutter option, which features a smile-activated shutter release in addition to Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera and the Face Detection option will wait till the camera detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well.

On the dial you'll also find Canon's reliable Smart Auto, which analyzes your subject and automatically selects an appropriate scene setting from 28 specially defined settings; an Easy mode for fully automatic shooting with no access to menus whatsoever; and a Movie mode for capturing clips at resolutions up to 720p HD and offering the ability to shoot using Color Swap, Color Accent, and Miniature Effect modes.

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.

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