Customer Review

740 of 750 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Compact Zoom Choice, December 12, 2010
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This review is from: Canon PowerShot SX130IS 12.1 MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom with 3.0-Inch LCD (OLD MODEL) (Camera)
I'll start by saying that I'm a Canon fan. Three out of four of my current digital cameras, including both my DSLR's, are Canon. When I was looking to upgrade my compact zoom, this unit caught my eye for both its price point and its feature set. For a sub-$200 compact zoom, this camera definitely leads the pack.

Pros:
* 12 megapixel image capture
* Very good image quality
* Full 720P HD video capture
* Excellent low light performance for its class
* Excellent image stabilization capability
* Full manual control, including Av, Tv and full manual modes
* Great zoom range, especially at the wide end
* Excellent, fast and intuitive performance
* Reasonable battery performance with rechargables (a MUST!)
* Works with convenient AA batteries
* Excellent flash for its class
* Excellent color fidelity with no detectable image artifacts
* Fast continuous shooting for a compact camera
* Perfect size for a compact zoom, fits in a large pocket
* Fantastic price/performance ratio

Cons:
* No CCD cleaner that I've found
* No flash shoe for an external flash
* No external audio inputs for video capture
* 10 minute video capture limit
* No RAW image support
* Terrible support for HD video codec
* No optical/digital viewfinder / LCD display only
* My unit got a speck of dust inside the lens, creating a spot on images/video for awhile

It's been a couple years since I've purchased a camera and I was a bit surprised to see how far the feature sets have come, especially on the lower-end compacts. I've now put this camera through the paces in many different situations and overall, I'm very pleased with everything about it so far.

My criteria for this camera purchase was fairly simple. I wanted a compact zoom with decent optical range, AA battery support, excellent color fidelity, reasonable low light performance and a unit that provided full manual control. I'm an amateur/semi-pro photographer and I expect a lot from my cameras. After reviewing the options out there, this one was a clear winner.

First, I'll speak to the image quality and zoom. I've been very impressed with both its color fidelity and the overall image quality. Images are sharp and its ability to provide vivid color and great dynamic range within images is fantastic. With the unit's lack of RAW support, this was very important to me. At the low end of the zoom, there is a bit of the wide-angle effect...but I really appreciate how wide this camera is able to go. At the far end of the zoom, the optical quality is still great and I haven't detected any weak spots within the optical range. I've never been impressed with digital zoom, and I nearly always avoid it...but as is typical with digital zoom, you'll get artifacts at the furthest end of the spectrum. For a compact, the macro mode is also quite functional, allowing a very short focus range of less than 1/2" - and the 2" focus minimum for normal mode is also quite impressive.

Aperture performance was up to my expectations for a camera lens of this quality, if not even a little better than I expected. The range is from f/3.4 to f/8.0 in aperture priority mode, and I typically would want more on the far end, but as far as I'm concerned, this camera produces f/22 and above quality in landscapes. You're not going to get beautiful bokeh effects at the low end (f/3.4) but this is typical of compact cameras with inexpensive lenses. With that said, though, I was surprised to see any bokeh whatsoever...and it is possible to get a little.

Low light performance is important to me as this is one of my strongest interests in photography. Up to ISO800, there is very little noise in the captured images and I've found that my noise filters will clean up what little there is quite well. ISO1600 starts to introduce a fairly strong noise characteristic, but I expected as much. There is no ISO3200 support, but personally, I feel like this is a waste in a camera at this price point as there's no way you're going to get good performance at such extremes. The image stabilization works well, especially when you're right on the edge of needing a tripod. The camera features an auto focus assist beam, which is a welcome addition within a camera at this price point. Low-light video performance was quite good, although it does take a performance hit in the noise department...but I was still very impressed that it performs as well as it does by producing very watchable low-light video results.

The overall feature set for a relatively inexpensive compact is just staggering to me. All of the basic features are there for a person who appreciates some creative control, including full Tv, Av and manual modes. The automatic modes are great for those times when I don't want to put effort in and P-mode (full auto, except for control over ISO) was an absolute necessity for me. The time-to-live is quick and from an off-state, I can capture an image in less than 3 seconds. I've tested some of the newer, fancier features and I have to say, they're quite impressive. The smile detection blew my mind because it actually worked! The ability to auto-shoot portraits when new people enter the scene is also pretty amazing to me. Blink detection? I would have never thought of that, but it's actually worked for me in a couple of cases. The HD-video is a great addition to my camera lineup and I've started playing with it fairly extensively. I have noticed a bit of discrepancy between the image stability on the LCD screen and the actual result in the produced video, but then again, if I wanted super-stable video, I'd use a tripod. There is a 10 minute limit to video capture, which could be a deal breaker for some, but for my purposes it's just fine. It picks up audio quite well, which was surprising to me - although you're not going to get movie studio quality out of the thing.

Physically speaking, the camera is very comfortable to hold and all of the buttons are conveniently placed. Anyone who's used a Canon camera will feel quite at home with it...and even if you're not, I wouldn't anticipate much difficulty. I haven't had any notable difficulty with the button placement, but have inadvertently turned off the camera when I was trying to capture a picture in a hurried situation. It's not exactly a sub-compact, but for a compact zoom, the size is perfect and exceeds my expectations. (It fits in a large pocket quite easily, but not well in smaller ones, such as most rear pockets.) The lens retraction is very nice and the lens portion only sticks out about 3/4" from the body when fully retracted.

Battery performance met my expectations, for the most part. The use of rechargeable batteries is a must for any digital camera - it's no secret that ALL digital cameras suck up a lot of juice. (This is WHY most of cameras use proprietary NiMH batteries!) For me, I'm fairly heavily invested into NiMH AA batteries, so it was very important for this purchase to support them. I don't get the rated performance, but I never trust those values and I can certainly squeak 200+ images out of a set of 2300mAh batteries, without flash usage. Video use does suck up the juice, but I've still been surprisingly impressed with its performance as I expected a lot less. I wouldn't really consider using standard alkaline batteries in a digital camera for all but a pinch situation and if you expect good performance on alkaline batteries, you're not going to get it. I did find the camera did not like a couple of my sets of 2700mAh batteries, and wouldn't even turn on...and while that bugged me, it wasn't a deal breaker as it does work with 90% of my batteries. A quality battery charger/tester goes a long way, as you won't get good performance if your batteries aren't up to snuff and aren't properly matched according to actual capacity.

I really only have a couple of complaints. Somehow my unit got a fairly large spec of dust inside the lens, and for awhile, all my images/video had a blurry spot on them - particularly in images with fairly strong light/midrange backgrounds. I'm a little concern about the seal and its ability to prevent dust from entering into the lens. Eventually, this speck of dust went away and my images are back to normal - but it's frustrating when you can't do anything about something like this. Additionally, the HD video codec that is used by this camera (H.264/Apple Quicktime MOV) is very frustrating to work with on a computer. It's just not well supported yet and takes a LONG time to open on my computer, even within Apple's quicktime application. (My machine is a quad-core 3.2Ghz proc, 4GB RAM...fast, for all intents and purposes - perhaps I have an issue with my computer's video codecs and I am willing to concede that possibility.) With that said though, I've found it best to convert it to a different format for editing...a step that I would rather avoid. These two issues prevented me from giving the product a full five-star rating.

Overall, though, I'm impressed with this camera and it fit the bill perfectly for me. I hope you've found this review helpful!
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Comments

Tracked by 4 customers

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 12, 2010 9:09:32 PM PST
S. Griggs says:
Really enjoyed your review. Very informative. Have you tried a higher class SD card? A faster card gave me better results in reading/loading the video files on the PC. It too is a quad core system. Class 4 is the slowest card in my collection, others are class 6's and two are class 10's. I noticed the first videos I took, using a standard SD card (class 2) took forever to load or even play smoothly, but faster cards did fine for me.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2010 4:31:01 PM PST
J. Whiteside says:
Thanks for the comments! Much appreciated. Just to clear up the confusion, I've been using class 10 cards in this camera and have no problems whatsoever with stutter, lag or HD video playback on the camera. The problem comes in when I transfer the video files to my computer and try to edit/play them. It is there, from a fast hard drive, where I have the long loading times and issues with video editing. (The class of card would not matter in this case.)

I think it's quite possible I have a codec issue and I haven't done enough troubleshooting to positively determine whether this is the case. When I get around to it, I want to try some isolation testing with my laptop because I'm not sure that my assessment is a truly fair representation of the product or my own, personal issue. I hope that helps to clarify the issue.

Posted on Mar 19, 2011 5:24:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 19, 2011 5:28:35 AM PDT
Ralf G. says:
Concerning your cons "10 minute video capture limit" (only for HD videos) and "No RAW image support" you will certainly like to hear that both limits have been (or will soon be) cracked by the free CHDK software that unlocks several interesting features on already a lot of Canon camera models. Just check out the Wikipedia description and google it!

Some tips for other readers how to achieve some bokeh effect (blurry background) with compact cameras, even without manually adjusting the aperture:
- use the macro function, or
- use the tele zoom with a near-by subject and a distant background, or
- use the manual focus (Canon: "MF" button = manual focus / macro function / normal autofocus), optionally with "safety focus" (autofocus working within the manually chosen distance)
Here is an example of the third alternative from my German Amazon customer photos, shot with my little Canon PowerShot A590IS - the autofocus would have picked the grid instead of the birds behind it. (Sorry for the automatic low resolution of the Amazon uploads!)
http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/03/ciu/8a/8c/7207012912a008ee38e02210.L.jpg

The key point for battery performance on modern digital cameras is the required VOLTAGE LEVEL to operate the zoom motor and the big LCD monitor. Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries can keep up this level much longer than disposable batteries (only good as an emergency backup), and also longer than high quality NiMH rechargeables. Additionally they keep up almost all their power for several months when not in use!
The easiest & cheapest solution (if you don't have a good electronic charger yet) is the kit with 2 Eneloops and a small charger. If you are using more rechargeables also for other devices, this charger is reommendable: La Crosse Technology BC-700 Alpha Power Battery Charger

I'm absolutely clueless concerning videos (regarding your HD video codec issue on the computer), but just three questions that cross my mind:
- Do you know the firmware update to fix the video/audio offset bug for a certain series of the SX130IS? ( http://web.canon.jp/imaging/dcp/firm-e/pssx130is/index.html )
- Does it make a difference which player you are using, e.g. VLC / Windows Media Player / Real Player?
- Do you know the SUPER software, a powerful free tool for transcoding multimedia files into other formats?

Hoping to contribute some helpful pieces of information ...
Best regards from Germany, Ralf

PS: You are welcome to visit my amateur gallery with the aforesaid Canon PowerShot A590IS:
http://www.panoramio.com/user/3457203

Posted on Jun 6, 2011 12:49:25 PM PDT
D. J. Perez says:
I know I'm several months late, but, have you heard of CHDK? It's a type of temporary firmware hack that adds several functions. From their site: What is CHDK?

Canon Hack Development Kit;
Temporary - No permanent changes are made to the camera.
Experimental - No warranty. Read about the risks in the FAQ
Free - free to use and modify, released under the GPL.

Features

Professional control - RAW files, bracketing, full manual control over exposure, Zebra-Mode, Live histogram, Grids, etc.
Motion detection - Trigger exposure in response to motion, fast enough to catch lightning.
USB remote - Simple DIY remote allows you to control your camera remotely.
Scripting - Control CHDK and camera features using ubasic and Lua scripts. Enables time lapse, motion detection, advanced bracketing, and much more.

The main reasons I got this same camera were that 1 - It was a Canon, 2 - CHDK was available for it.
CHDK isn't finished for this camera, last I checked, there was a problem with the software and it wasn't fully complete and still had bugs, but what is available works great on my camera.
http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/SX130IS

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2011 1:51:58 PM PDT
J. Whiteside says:
I have heard of CHDK and am a huge fan. I run it on both my Rebels and it's a great add-on to increase the feature set of an otherwise stock Canon camera. For the Canon SX130IS, however, an alpha version is all that is available at this time. Some users have reported permanent damages with the alpha...so while it may work for you, I say no thanks until a beta or final release is put out. I periodically check back in on the development and as soon as a final release is out there, believe me, it will find a home with my camera! I anticipate it will eventually be released, but the development has been slow.

Also, thanks for your comments Ralf G. Helpful for sure!

Posted on Jun 17, 2011 2:50:42 PM PDT
Bakadeshi says:
Try installing the CCCP - Combined comunity codec pack - for better H264 codec support. Apple's quicktime codec just plain sucks on PC.

For editing purposes, you would do best to convert to a lossless file format for editing anyway, not only better performance, but you don't loose any quality during the editing stage when working with lossless. I suggest Huffyuv or Lagarith for this. Another option is to use the frameserver application called AVISynth (google it) to convert to lossless on the fly, this actually should perform fairly well on your PC setup, and saves the HD space necessary for the larger lossless files. Then once youve got the final output, use something like Mencoder or ffmpeg to reencode it back to H264 mkv or mp4 format. Although primarily for animated projects, the Guides and Faqs in the video quality section on animemusicvideos.org website and forums also deal with some live action, and may help you get the best quality out of your videos. doom.org is another good forum on video quality and encoding issues.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2011 7:14:48 PM PDT
J. Whiteside says:
Bakadeshi - that's basically what I do. I determine whether I want my final output to be HD or SD and convert the Apple MOV into a format that is more workable, but still retains the quality I want. I maintain the original video on redundant hard drives, just in case I want to do something with them later. Most of the time, I'll convert down to SD because it's a lot more fluid to work with in Sony Vegas and rendering is so much faster on my machine. If my final output is YouTube, I've found SD to be sufficient, as even their "HD" is not quite HD, given the compression. Thanks for the excellent tips, though!

Posted on Jul 28, 2011 3:24:25 PM PDT
Your very thorough review decided me on this particular canon rather than the super zoom (and significantly more pricey) SX30. I have great A650 that works fine in auto, but seems to have lost its auto-focus in P or any other mode. To give it its due, I have used this camera a LOT and it doesn't owe me anything. What I really need more info on were low light performance and battery life. I too much prefer AAs to proprietary rechargeables and it is so hard these days to find cameras that use AAs. Really annoying. You covered all the bases for me and provided sufficient detail that I could actually base my decision on a review from someone who actually knows what an f-stop and shutter speed are. I think I'm incapable of using only automatic mode on a camera ... I have to have more control than that. Thanks again.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 28, 2011 9:55:14 PM PDT
S. Griggs says:
Several people here have highly recommended the Sanyo Enyloop batteries. They hold a charge for a long time and have a more consistant even power. They have a capacity of 2000mAh.

I am pretty sure it's the large screen that is drawing more than usual power, which is what makes the regular batteries go so soon. Also if you have the auto focus set to continuous, this will use more power too. Keeping the flash up all the time will use more power since it charges up everytime a picture is taken, even when not needed. This is why I like the easy flip flash. It's quick to flip up when needed, no hard to find button to push. Having to charge up the flash also delays the timing of the shot, so keeping it down when you are sure it's not needed will help.

I went with a high capacity battery that has served me well going on three years now. I've been able to take a large number of pictures exceeding the camera manual's rating for rechargeable batteries. The brand is Ansmann AA's rated at 2850 mAh. I've used different brands and nothing has beat them in capacity yet. I use them only in my cameras and charge them up in a La Cross charger that is microprocessor controlled or the Ansmann charger that came with the batteries. From what I've read in several reviews, it's not good to charge batteries too fast unless they are specially made to do so. Fast charges means heat and heat is said to shorten the life of the battery. I also carry a back up set of Ansmann 2700 mAh AA's. To this day, they still charge slightly higher than their rated capacity when I test them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 29, 2011 5:07:22 PM PDT
So I bought the set of 4AA Enyloops and then to go with it, bought a package of 8 of the new super duper high capacity (rated at 2500) batteries. The Sanyo charger and 4 batteries was cheap enough and easily available ... none of the others cost any less. We live in an area that is sorely lacking in places to shop. We are, to put it simply, in the middle of nowhere ... so finding Ansmann stuff is possible only online and I couldn't. I figured the Enyloops would do for now. I also, per many peoples' suggestion, upgraded the memory cards to a 16 GB SDHC rated at 10. With a little luck, it'll all work out very nicely. Great that the price of memory in all forms has dropped so much in the last couple of years ... it cost me less for the 16 gig card than it would have for a 4 just a year or two ago. At least SOMETHING has gone down in price because our income sure hasn't gone up!
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