Canon’s SX130 IS crams a 12x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation into a portable, compact body – and all for under £180. Is this mid-range zoom compact an ultimate bargain? What Digital Camera’s Canon SX130 IS review takes a look…
Canon PowerShot SX130IS review – Features
The Canon SX130 IS has an optically-stabilised 28mm wideangle 12x optical zoom lens – that’s the same as 28-336mm and provides a versatile range from the fairly wideangle to mid-tele zoom. The optical designation of this stabilisation system means that camera shake will be countered for not only the final captured frame but also in real-time while framing the image, which is considerably useful when using the zoom to its fuller potential.
The 12.1MP sensor provides high-resolution images and is capable of capturing with a sensitivity up to ISO 1600.
Full manual modes feature, as do a variety of scene and auto (plus Smart Auto) modes to make shooting easy whatever your level of capability. Even a 720p HD movie mode is quickly accessible from the mode dial for high definition moving image capture.
Canon PowerShot SX130IS review – Design
Although the SX130 isn’t a large camera, its 12x optical zoom lens does require a little extra body space to accommodate. At full extension the lens adds a further 5cms of protrusion from the front of the camera, but when stowed away fits fairly snugly into the body. Overall it’s a very fair playoff between body size and zoom capability that will prove attractive to many.
Rather than taking a rechargeable li-ion battery as many cameras do these days the SX130 IS comes with 2xAA batteries in the box that can be easily replaced when they fully depleat. This may not be to everyone’s tastes, though buying rechargeable AA batteries may prove a good solution for many.
In terms of design and layout the SX130 fits well into the rest of Canon’s PowerShot range: There’s a rear d-pad that can be used as a four-way directional button (for ISO, MF/Macro, Flash and Drive mode) as well as a rotational wheel to select through other options, the latter particularly useful for quick shutter or aperture value adjustments when in more advanced modes. Display and Menu buttons feature below the d-pad wheel, with Face Detection, Exposure Compensation and Playback buttons above.
Menu modes range from simple point and shoot with limited display notifications on screen, to the Easy mode which provides plain English explanations of various icons, through to manual modes which provide full aperture, shutter, flash, ISO and exposure information. It’s a well-qualified menu system for a variety of user levels and the centre Func Set button brings up a quick menu for easy adjustment of the main options.
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS review – Performance
In use the PowerShot SX130 has few negative points to speak of. The lens extends gracefully throughout the entirety of the focal range and focus is swift. A magnified zoom-in section on the screen assists in presenting the final focus before firing a shot too and that optical stabilisation is of significant assistance at longer zoom ranges.
Macro mode works reasonably close to subject (around 5cms from the lens when at the 28mm wideangle setting and in auto mode), though occasionally the focus will fail to pick out the subject and not provide substantial feedback to confirm this. It’s manual focus where things step up a notch however: using the rear wheel to spin through focus with an on screen meter, focusing on subjects almost touching the lens is possible.
The HD movie mode has the ability to zoom during recording – though will only extend at a much slower pace than when shooting still images.
The LCD on the rear is a 3:2 ratio which is great for stills shots and still provides a suitable area when capturing videos. Its 230k-dot resolution provides a reasonable resolution, though is outclassed by many higher resolution competitors.
The Canon SX130 is powered by 2xAA batteries rather than a rechargeable li-ion battery and this may be seen as a positive thing by some and a negative by others. Although the batteries last a reasonable amount of time, once they suddenly run out of juice it can be awkward to find a set of replacements. On the other hand, urban shooters won’t ever be too far from a convenience store to pick up some more and the savviest of users can buy into a rechargeable unit to keep a couple of sets on permanent recharge.
Image Quality & Value
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS review – Image Quality
Possibly the SX130 IS’s biggest downfall is its image quality when scrutinizing at close inspection.
The ISO range runs from ISO 80-1600 at full resolution. From ISO 400 the processing shows evidence of JPEG artifacts that can become rather obtrusive around subject edges, plus the detail begins to lack. ISO 800 is the last capable setting, though at this sensitivity images become softer and lack as much colour detail. ISO 1600 is rather disappointing – much softer, with prominent JPEG artifacts and muted colours. There is also no Raw shooting capability available. However colour noise is kept to a minimum throughout, though this is at the expense of detail.
Close inspection also reveals chromatic aberration causing green-edged shadows to appear around many objects.
Auto White Balance leans towards a slightly warm cast, though this only becomes an issue indoors under fluorescent lighting where the yellow colour of the light is very prominent.
For everyday images the Canon SX130 IS is more than capable, and for standard real-world application much of the above won’t be an issue. Using images at full size above ISO 200 may draw attention to many of these problems.
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS review – Value
There are other 12x optical zoom compacts on the market, but the SX130 IS undercuts many of these by price point. Comparable products see the Panasonic TZ10 available for around £225 or both Nikon’s S8000 or Sony’s HX5 offer 10x optical zoom for around £175 and £270 respectively. The SX130 IS doesn’t have the same build quality and is generally bulkier and less well finished, yet in terms of value the feature set is very strong.
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS review – Verdict
The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS is a very capable and affordable mid-range zoom compact camera. Its 12x optical zoom (28-336mm) lens with image stabilisation is great in use and having HD video is an extra bonus. The overall specification is top quality for the sub-£180 price point, though the final build quality and relatively bulky size may be deemed less attractive than some of the (more expensive) competition.
The overall image quality is a little bit of a let down when inspecting more closely, though the combination of lens capability and lower-ISO sensitivity can make for great day to day shots – just avoid the higher ISO settings.
12x zoom compacts tend to not come in at a more affordable price point and the SX130 is well laid out, easy to use and certainly comes recommended.