|Name||Compact camera: Canon PowerShot SX130 IS|
|At a glance:||Extreme 12x optical zoom,Fantastic image quality,Double the weight of the competition,Uses regular AA batteries|
|Summary:||Ultra-zoom in a compact but weighty body.|
When I found you could pick up a PowerShot – one of Canon’s “performance” range of digital compact cameras – within a $300-$400 price range, I jumped at the chance to review it.
The PowerShot SX130 IS (let’s just call it the SX130) is just small enough to be a compact camera. It’s not pocket-sized by my definition, though you could probably squeeze it into a pair of extremely baggy cargo pants. Loose jackets are probably fine too, if you don’t mind looking like you’re carrying a gun.
Weight-wise, the SX130 is quite heavy at 310 grams with battery, memory card and strap. Bulky for a compact camera, but pretty weightless in DSLR terms.
Not that you’ll get DSLR performance, but it certainly beats the average compact hands-down.
That bulkiness I was poking fun at for, oh, the last two paragraphs? Well, that did allow Canon to pack in a pretty damn nice 12x optical zoom lens, the equivalent of 28-336mm in 35mm film terms. Though the SX130 features the same 1/2.3-inch (7.7mm) sensor size as the other cameras on test, it puts the largest – and arguably best – lens in front of that tiny sensor.
Image quality is fantastic across the zoom range, from tight shots right out at 336mm to wide shots at 28mm. Images are crisp and clear, with very little noise and an amazing amount of detail. Colours are well represented, even under brilliant sunlight – skies tend to remain blue, rather than blanching out with over-exposure. Highly contrasted images have good dynamic range (detail in both the dark and light areas).
Performance in low light is excellent, even compared to the Panasonic Lumix FH3 with its significantly wider maximum aperture (f/2.8 instead of the SX130’s f/3.4). I must admit, however, that coaxing the best low-light results out of the Canon required use of full-manual settings.
That, without a doubt, is my favourite thing about the SX130; full manual control. I’m not talking about the watered-down “manual controls” you find on most digital compacts. No, I mean direct control over aperture and shutter speed, as you’d find on a film camera or a DSLR. The SX130 also boasts full manual focus, a feature I’ve only seen before on Ricoh’s excellent range of high-end compacts.
One oddity that some will love and others will hate is the SX130’s use of AA batteries instead of the usual ultra-lightweight Lithium-ion cell. You know what? I like it. For your $400 you do get a pair of rechargeable AA batteries and a charger.
If you run out of power midway through a day of sightseeing, miles from your hotel room, what’s going to be easier to find? A proprietary rechargeable battery that’s sold uncharged anyway, or a pair of disposable AAs to last you the rest of the day? Point made.
Altogether, Canon’s PowerShot SX130 IS offers a hell of a lot for a very reasonable price. If you don’t need true pocket-portability, this little brick is a great choice.