Canon Digital IXUS 130 Review
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The Canon Digital IXUS 130 (also known as the PowerShot SD1400 IS) is the slimmest ever IXUS / PowerShot digital camera. Measuring just 17.8mm at its thickest point, the 14 megapixel Canon 130 compact camera offers a 4x optical zoom lens with a 28mm wide-angle setting and Optical Image Stabilization, 2.7 inch LCD screen, 720p HD video with an HDMI output connection, Smart Auto mode with Scene Detection Technology, Smart Shutter mode and FaceSelf-Timer for easier portraits, and a useful Hints & Tips feature for beginners. Available in four colours - silver black, blue, pink or orange - the Canon Digital IXUS 130 is available now for £279.00 / $249.99.
Ease of Use
Ten years since their introduction, the latest incarnation of the IXUS camera range is also the slimmest ever, measuring a mere 17.8mm thick and weighing a feathery 133g. Successor to the diminutive IXUS 120 IS model, the new IXUS 130 similarly features a 4x optical zoom lens offering a focal range of 28-112mm complete with fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 and optical image stabilization, with three user selectable anti shake modes offered. From the beginning the IXUS family has been as much about fashion and form as internal feature set, so the Canon Digital IXUS 130 predictably comes with a choice of four different body colours, with the pink and orange options being rather garishly implemented. Our all-black review sample or the silver version are probably the best colours to opt for.
As with previous IXUS cameras, the 130 is positioned as an upmarket compact camera that users might aspire to owning, mixing a quality metal body with well-disguised plastic to winning effect, and going some way to justifying its premium price-tag. Despite the small form factor, Canon has provided an adequately large 2.7-inch, 230k dot resolution LCD screen at the rear of the 130 for composing and reviewing shots in the absence of a traditional viewfinder. The screen works well, though sunlight still proves an occasional nemesis.
In common with competitors the camera offers its own take on intelligent auto functionality as originally pioneered on Panasonic's Lumix compact range. Here it's named Smart Auto mode with Scene Detection technology, enabling users to simply point and shoot, the camera recognizing scenes and subjects from 22 different options, then adjusting its parameters accordingly so all the photographer has to do is fully depress the shutter release button to go on and take the shot. Further hand-holding features include face detection, auto red eye removal, blink detection - flagging up the fact that your subject has their eyes closed so you can take a replacement shot at the time - and the new Smart Shutter mode. This lets you take a picture simply by either winking or smiling at the camera, or when another person enters the frame. There are also useful 'hints and tips' prompts within the provided on-screen menus.
Built in motion detection technology purports to detect the movement of camera and subject, boosting ISO settings accordingly (up to ISO 1600 offered here) to help prevent blurred images. The Canon range staple feature of iContrast likewise makes an appearance to ensure images don't suffer from blown highlights or overly dark foreground detail when faced with tricky exposures. For those interested in close ups and still life photography, the camera's macro mode allows focus as close as 3cm from a subject - again more than adequate given the IXUS' intended audience of 'status seekers'. The new Servo AF/AE mode automatically tracks moving subjects and keeps both the focus and exposure locked until you decide to take the picture.
The Canon Digital IXUS 130 provides high definition video footage at 1280x720 pixels rather than full HD 1920x1080. Unusually though - and as with its 120 IS predecessor - there's a port for HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) provided alongside the regular USB/AV out port. It's not all good news though. The optical zoom isn't accessible when shooting movies, pressing its toggle switch will only effect an equivalent 4x digital zoom, the lens itself staying put. So by using it you're compromising on quality. Approximately 10 minutes of HD footage will fit on a 4GB card, frame rate a commendably smooth 30 frames per second (fps).
With the Digic 4 processor on board the Canon Digital IXUS 130 proves a zippy performer. With a press of the small, recessed top plate power button the camera readies itself for action in just under 1.5 seconds, writing images to optional SD / SDHC or the newer SDXC media cards in a tad under two, with, unusually, no internal capacity - however modest - to fall back on. Post-capture the screen momentarily freezes displaying the captured image. The camera takes a moment or two to determine focus exposure, AF point highlighted in green with a beep of affirmation when it has done so. So, neither particularly quick nor slow but perfectly adequate for its class.
At the front of the IXUS 130, as with its predecessor, the camera is an exercise in minimalism - metal surface silky smooth to the touch and lens barrel squirreled away within the body when inactive - whilst at the same time recalling the 'classic' IXUS design of the series' APS incarnation. Top right of the lens is a thin lozenge shaped sliver of a window housing the integral flash - its location meaning it's in danger of being obscured by a finger when holding the camera in both hands. To the left of the optic is a small porthole-shaped window housing the indicator light for the self-timer/AF assist lamp. Other than that the IXUS 130 maintains its 'clean' lines, with a gentle curve to the surface running from left to right, top to bottom.
The top plate of the Canon Digital IXUS 130 is similarly fuss free yet sophisticated. The controls are set into a lozenge-shaped strip that encircles the exterior of the camera so that almost none of the buttons actually protrude and spoil this IXUS' straight lines. Looking from the rear and starting on the left, there's a barely discernable pin prick housing the built-in microphone, a row of three small holes for the built-in speaker and a small on/off power button.
Next along is one of the biggest changes to the IXUS 130 for the previous model - the control for zooming the lens. Previously a spring loaded zoom lever with a small lip protruding to the front, the IXUS 130 now offers a small plastic lever which you push left to zoom out and right to zoom out. It's not as responsive or as precise as the zoom lever on the 120, and it's also raised above the top of the camera, spoiling the otherwise clean profile. Completing the top of the camera is an adequately sized shutter release button.
While the left hand side of the camera - if viewed from the back - is devoid of any features apart from small screws top and bottom, the right hand side adds merely a means of attaching a wrist strap. This again apes its predecessor in the 120 IS.
Things get slightly more interesting with an examination of the back plate, dominated as expected by that aforementioned 2.7-inch LCD monitor, which provides an image slightly on the warm side. There's no optical viewfinder as seen on some IXUS models. The rear controls themselves - though small - are still sufficiently large to ensure operation remains fluid. The top right hand corner of the IXUS 130's back plate features a clever incorporation of A/V out, USB and HDMI connections, in that the plastic cover protecting them forms part of the design, flipped open by your thumbnail and then clicked firmly back into place.
Beneath this is a three-notch slider switch for the Canon Digital IXUS 130's various shooting modes, easily operated by your thumbnail, that mirrors that provided on the previously released IXUS 120 camera. Running from top to bottom are the aforementioned 'smart' auto mode, regular program auto and, lastly, video mode. It's the only control on the camera back that isn't flush to the body. Neatly mirroring the shape and size of this control, and ranged to the left, is a familiar playback button, while below is a four way directional control pad for tabbing through menu options and captured images, with the familiar Canon function/set button at its centre.
Press the latter when in basic auto shooting mode and a minimal icon-led toolbar appears down the left hand side of the screen. Here you get the chance to change the image size and resolution and that's it. Flick the slider switch down a notch to the Program shooting mode, however, and many more user selectable options present themselves. You can tab down from program and select one of the camera's additional built-in scene modes. Each time one of the options - from portraits to kids and pets, fireworks, aquarium and ISO 3200 equivalent low light mode - is highlighted, a small box of text appears alongside instructing the user as to the benefits of and uses for the proposed settings. So there's nothing to confuse beginners here.
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Scene modes aside, also user selectable in program mode are the usual suspects: ISO settings (ISO 80-1600), white balance, drive mode (single shot or continuous shooting), metering (evaluative, centre weighted or spot), image size and quality, plus Canon's regular 'My Colors' modes that allow the user to switch to optimal settings for more vivid colour, neutral, sepia, black and white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, vivid green or vivid red and finally a custom colour setting that can be adjusted to the user's preference.
Returning to the control pad just below the mode switch, we find located at north, south, east and west points are, in that order, a means of adjusting exposure compensation (+/- 2EV), while next, at the bottom of the pad, is a means of deleting unwanted images, or selecting the self-timer options. The ability to choose from the flash settings (auto, on, slow synchro, off) and switch focus from infinity to macro (and back) complete the package. Beneath these, again features shared with the IXUS 120 IS, are a self-explanatory final pairing of buttons - marked 'display' (with a press turning off the shooting icons littering the screen) and 'menu' respectively.
Pressing the latter button brings up two folders on-screen - the first containing the shooting menu, the second the more general purpose set-up menu. The first folder offers ability to activate the digital zoom, call up grid lines or a 3:2 format ratio guide on screen, activate i-Contrast, image stabilisation modes (continuous, shoot only, active when panning, or off), plus face and blink detection. The second available folder contains the set up menu, offering the ability to tweak various sound and start up options - unlike previous generations of Digital IXUS, there's not a rather unnecessary separate menu folder for doing this - plus format the memory card in use. The more experienced user can also turn off the aforementioned 'hints and tips' speech bubbles if they prove too much as well as manually adjust the LCD brightness or reset all settings.
The base of the IXUS 130 features a metal screw thread for attaching it to a tripod, plus a sliding door protecting both the SD/SDHC/SDXC card port (with no internal memory to fall back on) and slender build rechargeable lithium-ion battery, good for an underwhelming but not disastrous 230 shots from a single charge - a fraction better than the IXUS 120 IS' 220 images.