The Canon Powershot SX130 IS is one of your cheaper options if you would like a digital camera with manual exposure controls.
Another feature that may well prove attractive to you is the 12x zoom lens. This gives you some extra zoom power in a digital camera that has a fairly compact body size.
The Powershot SX130 IS is also one of the few current models to run on power supplied by AA batteries.
113.3 x 73.2 x 45.8 mm
Why Buy The Canon Powershot SX130 IS
If you are looking for a few extra controls, some extra zoom and impressive picture quality you will find the Powershot SX130 IS hard to beat at this price point.
As I mentioned in the introduction the Powershot SX130 IS has a set of manual exposure controls. As well as fully manual operation you can switch to either aperture priority or shutter priority modes. These modes give you a level of control over the way your final photos will look, but also give you a helping hand in deciding on the optimum exposure settings.
The 12x zoom lens provides you with the ability to zoom in on more distant subjects. There are plenty of digital cameras around with much greater zoom power, but those tend to be much larger in size. Extra flexibility comes from the fact the lens is able to cope with wider scenes with its 28mm (35mm equivalent) minimum focal length.
For close up work the Powershot SX130 IS is able to focus from 1cm away from your subject. This sounds great, but be aware if you position the camera very close to your subject it can block out light from the shot.
Other advanced features you may wish to take advantage of include three different types of light metering; evaluative, centre weighted and spot. There is a custom white balance setting in addition to a number of preset white balance modes. Another creative control on offer to you is the range of shutter speeds. These range from a maximum 15 seconds to a minimum 1/2500 seconds. The minimum aperture is f/3.4 (wide angle) - f/5.6 (telephoto).
You may find the Powershot SX130 IS produces its best picture quality when you reduce the number of megapixels from the maximum 12 megapixels available. With this number of megapixels on offer you should have no problem producing A4 size prints.
Photos are composed via the 3 inch LCD screen. There is no viewfinder. I found the quality of the screen to be good without being outstanding.
To save on carrying a camcorder as well as your Powershot SX130 IS you have the option to shoot High Definition movies.
A couple of more gimmicky features included by Canon are a smile shutter and a wink self timer. The smile shutter works by automatically firing off a photo when the Powershot SX130 IS notices someone is smiling. The wink timer is activated when someone winks at the camera.
This camera has a little bit of weight to it. It feels solid in the hand. Looking at the Powershot SX130 IS from the front the most noticeable feature is the zoom lens. You will also see the flash unit that pops up on the top of the camera. The benefit of this is this is that it puts distance between the lens and the flash unit. This helps to reduce the possibility of any red eye in portrait shots you take with flash.
On the front there is a raised area on the right hand side. This helps you get a good grip of the camera and helps you to hold the camera steady when you are taking a photo.
One advantage of the larger physical size of the Powershot SX130 IS is that there is extra room on the back of the camera for placing your thumb. The size of the control buttons is larger than on small, pocket cameras. This helps to make operation less fiddly.
The main control dial sits on top of the camera. Along from that is the on / off button. Also on the top are the shutter button and a ring to control zooming in and out. The flash unit can be manually pulled up when required.
On the back of the camera are six buttons. These are to review photos you have taken, turn on face detection for portraits, adjust exposure compensation, access functions and confirm a setting, change the LCD display and access the menu. The exposure compensation button can be used to delete a photo when you place the camera in review mode.
There is also a selection wheel. This speeds up the process of selecting menu options. The top and bottom and left and right sections of the selection wheel also control individual functions. If you press one of these sections you gain access to changing ISO, flash settings, the self timer and focusing. In review mode you can rotate a picture.
Image Quality - See Sample Images Below
Outdoor Scenic Shot 1
One of the first things that strikes you with this camera is the edge to edge sharpness of the photos it takes. The fact the lens is larger than you find on pocket cameras can help with this. The Powershot SX130 IS handles the lightest areas of the shots well. Sun glare is minimised and overall the level of detail in the brightest areas of the shot is very good indeed. As with most digital cameras the darkest areas of the photos prove to be a little more challenging.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 2
For many digital cameras when the lens is zoomed out completely there is a loss of sharpness. In this instance the camera rises to the challenge and produces a photo with an impressive level of clarity. The sky takes on a smooth look as the Powershot SX130 IS manages to avoid any problems with pixilation.
The one small issue I have is that if you blow up the shot to near full size you can start to see a purple tinge in places. This is true around windows and doors, as well as along the tree line.
Outdoor Scenic Shot 3
Other brands routinely struggle to match the sharpness and clarity offered by Canon digital cameras. The Powershot SX130 IS upholds this reputation. It is not especially expensive when compared to top of the range models, but the sharpness of its photos is impressive. If you buy this camera you are also likely to be taken by the vivid colours it is capable of producing.
Just as with the previous wide angle shot the only issue I have is that there is a degree of purple fringing showing. This is common with cameras with extra zoom power. It is unlikely to be an issue if you are making smaller prints, but as you blow up print sizes you may find this problem kicks in. It can be cleaned up with packages such as Photoshop.
As with other test photos the level of sharpness is commendable. Very little of that sharpness is lost as you move away from the centre of the shot. In addition to the level of sharpness the Powershot SX130 IS has managed to bring out greater depth of colour than a lot of cameras manage. Sometimes the brickwork in this test shot can look washed out, but this is not the case here.
This is a fairly standard outdoor portrait. The level of detail is good. When it comes to colours they have a natural look to them. Skin tones are accurate and there is a touch of warmth in a shot taken on a chilly winter's day. To achieve that little extra warmth you can use a white balance setting of cloudy.
Indoor Portrait With Flash
Despite the use of flash there is still plenty of pink showing in the skin tones. This suggests that the Powershot SX130 IS is capable of tempering the amount of flash it uses to suit the available light. This means that flash should not wash out colours from your photos. Another plus point is the sharpness and detail showing in the shot.
Indoor Portrait Without Flash
The Powershot SX130 IS does a good job of keeping noise down when the light is less than perfect. Digital cameras find focusing in this level of light difficult and although this camera does fairly well this picture is not pin sharp. This suggests you are likely to need to revert to using flash almost as soon as light begins to dip.
With this camera you can get right up close to your subject. The downside of that is that the camera can struggle to produce a bright shot. This is true in this case. The close up shot could be a bit brighter. Sharpness is good, but there is a slight loss of focusing when you take a look at the pencils that are closest to the edge.
I like the colours the Powershot SX130 IS produces. They have a little extra zest compared to some cameras. I think this is helped by the fact that Canon digital camera tend to pack some extra brightness into the shots.
Noise levels compare well to other digital cameras in this class. Even in lower light and in shady areas noise is contained to acceptable levels.
Picture Quality Summary
Overall I have been very impressed with the quality of the pictures this camera can take. The standout point may be the sharpness of the shots, but the depth of colour is not far behind.
Points I Like
Sharp pictures - colours - manual exposure controls - value for money - HD movies
Where it Could Improve
A touch of purple fringing here and there - shutter delay - turn on time
There are plenty of similar cameras you can choose form. To be honest there is not a lot of difference between many of them. Each one offers you a combination of good picture quality and a fair selection of features. Compared to other digital cameras in this category the Canon Powershot SX130 IS may not offer quite the range of features that some cameras do, but I think this is reflected in the price. With this camera you get very good value for your money.