Canon PowerShot SX130 IS Review

November 12, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS is a new 12 megapixel digital camera featuring a 12x zoom lens complete with optical image stabilizer. Successor to last year's SX120 model, the Canon SX130 IS offers a more versatile focal range of 28-336mm, 3 inch LCD screen, DIGIC 4 image processor, and Face Detection complete with Face Select & Track and Face Self-Timer modes. The SX130 IS has 28 shooting modes including Smart Auto and Easy Mode for complete beginners and full manual control for more experienced photographers. A high ISO setting of 1600, 720p HD movies with stereo sound, SDXC memory card support and power in the form of readily available AA batteries complete the SX130's headline specifications. The Canon Powershot SX130 IS is priced at £199 / $249.99 / €229.00 and is available now in black or silver.

Ease of Use

We reviewed the SX130's predecessor, the 10-megapixel, 10x zoom SX120 IS, in October 2009, and outwardly at least very little appears to have changed at first glance, apart from some subtle styling differences. There's the same tactile control layout with reasonably large buttons and dials to intentionally keep things family friendly, plus an identical 3 inch LCD screen on the rear, pop-up flash on top and large lens on the front. The lens is actually one of the few aspects of the SX130 IS to undergo any change, now offering a 12x zoom with a much more versatile wide-angle setting of 28mm, a big improvement on the SX120's 36mm optic. Less pleasing are the maximum apertures of f/3.4-5.6, respectable enough but slower then on the SX120.

Though like its forebear the SX130 IS is chunky compared with the average point and shoot, it is still smaller than the typical super-zoom or bridge camera pitched at enthusiasts, although the likes of the Panasonic DMC-TZ10 and Samsung WB650 are actually smaller whilst offering a bigger zoom. There are no higher-end features here such as a hotshoe for additional flash - merely one of the pop-up variety - while power is again provided by two standard alkaline AA batteries that slot into the base of the handgrip, as do the SD, SDHC and newly-supported SDXC memory cards. While these features are indicative of a budget model, so too is the mainly plastic build, though it's handily disguised by a matt black finish. Those two AAs also add weight and, as we found with the SX120, generally the camera feels substantial when gripped in the palm.

The front of the SX130 IS is dominated by that behemoth of a lens, the majority of which is hidden flush to the body when not in use, rapidly extending (in a couple of seconds) to maximum wideangle with a press of the slightly recessed but clearly labeled on/off button up top. On initial inspection the front of the SX130 and SX120 are identical, but look more closely and you'll see that the handgrip on the left now extends at a jaunty angle and tapers from wide to narrow, a redesign that offers more of a visual differentiation rather than any practical improvement. There's also a slightly more pronounced hump above the lens where the flash unit is, and slightly more chiselled edges. Two small holes indicate the built-in stereo microphone nestling top left and right of the lens, and over to the right-hand side of the lens we find the same rounded window housing the AF assist/self-timer lamp as found on the earlier SX120.

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Front Rear

While the above changes are largely cosmetic, when it comes to more practical considerations there's a more important omission. As on its predecessor there's no optical viewfinder or EVF - the space instead occupied by the built-in flash. Continuing around the slight curve of the handgrip we find a loop for attaching the supplied wrist strap and a sturdy pull-open plastic cover for the AV out, DC in and USB ports. On the right hand side of the SX130 IS is the same CR1220 battery port as featured on its predecessor.

The top of the SX130 is likewise virtually identical to its predecessor. The SX130 has the exact same user-friendly control grouping as the SX120, namely a shooting mode wheel, on/off button and shutter release button encircled by a zoom lever. The mode dial is almost flush with the top of the body, although fortunately the dial itself has enough of a ridged surround to be able to turn it decisively with your thumb, and there's a cutaway portion at the camera back to allow access. It has a stiff action with a distinct click, so you're highly unlikely to shoot past the setting you want in the heat of the moment.

With the camera taking a couple of seconds to get going from cold, once again the action of the optical zoom is smooth and steady, and best of all the audible mechanical buzz of the SX120's lens has been replaced by much quieter operation which really helps when shooting movies and using the zoom. With a half press of the shutter release button the SX130 is lightning fast in determining focus and exposure, while there's no noticeable shutter delay as you go on to take the shot. Operational speed is the same as before, with the same DIGIC 4 processor on-board - current SX120 IS owners would be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS Canon PowerShot SX130 IS


The Smart auto mode has been upgraded and now automatically chooses from 28 different scenes. Moving clockwise around the mode dial are the more creatively enticing settings of program auto, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual. The chosen mode is also shown as a virtual version on the screen, so you don't need to take your eye off your subject while making adjustments. Continuing clockwise we get a dedicated video mode, a selection of scene modes, including the four new 'creative modes', Fish-eye, Miniature, Poster and Super Vivid, plus fireworks, snow, aquarium and a Low Light ISO 3200 mode, a dedicated children and pets mode, a night scene mode, plus landscape and portrait settings and finally the no frills 'Easy mode', which turns the camera into a purely point-and shoot experience, perfect for complete beginners.

The SX130 IS now offers the advantage over some models of being able to shoot 720p HD video at 1280x720 pixels at 30fps. It boasts stereo sound courtesy of the microphones positioned either side of its lens, although sadly there's no dedicated button to activate the video feature whichever shooting mode you're in (you still have to turn the shooting mode dial). You can also take advantage of the 12x zoom during recording, although the operational speed is drastically slowed down to help prevent noise during recording, and you can use the Miniature Effect, Colour Accent and and Colour Swap creative filters to spice up your footage. Overall a big improvement on the SX120's video mode.

The handy auto red-eye correction feature is accessible via a flash settings option that's rather hidden away among the SX130's menu screens. Red eye reduction can also be turned on/off in capture mode by delving into the same menu; like the SX120 it's not included among the options accessed via the dedicated flash button at the rear, but at least here it's 'on' that handily appears to be the default setting rather than 'off'.

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Side Pop-Up Flash

Moving to the back of the SX130 IS, we find a 3-inch LCD with a rather disappointing resolution of 230k dots, identical to its predecessor's. Playback has its own button on the camera back, rather than squeezing in among the modes on the top dial. The display and menu buttons are located beneath the rather fiddly four-way control pad-come-command wheel that remains centre right of the LCD. As noted in our review of the SX120, when you come to access the options set at four points around the control pad/command wheel it's easy for your thumb to slip round to the adjacent setting. Being pre-aware of its liveliness, this time around it didn't irritate so much, but it's a little too easy to inadvertently change the wrong setting.

Ranged around the control dial, which additionally features a function set button at its centre, are a means of accessing ISO speed (Auto, Hi, ISO 80 to 1600), flash setting, self timer or continuous shooting, plus macro or manual focus – whereby users are presented with an enlarged central portion of the screen to check focus, its distance dialed in using the aforementioned wheel.

A press of 'menu' in capture mode brings up two folders on screen, one with shooting options and the second with more generic set-up features. A press of 'menu' in playback gives access to both image review plus print selection folders, while the third folder is the same set up menu. If you've used a Canon camera before, the menus will be immediately familiar: their design pretty basic but easy to navigate because of it. Mirroring these two buttons above the command wheel are a dedicated face detection button (on/off) and exposure compensation button (-/+ 2EV).

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Face Detection works well, with the DIGIC 4-powered system capable of recognising up to 35 faces in a scene and automatically adjusting the focus and exposure settings. Face Detection includes the Auto Red-Eye Correction, Face Detection AF/AE/FE, and Face Self-Timer technologies – the latter feature waits until it detects a new face in the frame before taking the shot. Face Select & Track allows a particular face to be tracked as they move around the frame, making sure that your chosen subject is always in focus and well-exposed.

As you'd expect when up-ending the camera, the base of the SX130 features a plastic screw thread for a tripod and a compartment storing the two AAs and SD memory card, opened by flicking the substantial catch and pressuring it proud of the unit. Closing it is a little awkward however as you have to press down on the two AAs as you're sliding it shut.

Just like its predecessor, the SX130 IS is an evolutionary upgrade, falling into the same incremental yearly cycle that a lot of modern compact cameras seem to follow, with a wider-angle lens and HD movies with stereo sound and use of the optical zoom being the new standout highlights.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.

The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS produced images of good quality during the review period. The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS's main drawback in terms of image quality is noise, with ISO 400 showing some noise, blurring of detail and slight colour desaturation. The noise and loss of detail get progressively worse as you go from ISO 800 to the fastest 1600 setting.

The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS handled chromatic aberrations well with some limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 12 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and either require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you should increase the in-camera sharpening level.

The night photograph was very good, with the maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds allowing you to capture enough light for most situations. Macro performance is a stand-out highlight, allowing you to focus as close as 1cm away from the subject, although there is a lot of lens distortion and shadowing at such a close distance. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. Anti-shake works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Canon PowerShot SX130 IS. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS's 12x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with fairly limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Canon Powershot SX130 IS are Auto, On, Auto Red-eye Reduction, Slow Synchro and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (336mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (336mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Canon Powershot SX130 IS's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Canon Powershot SX130 IS has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length Anti-Shake Off (100% Crop) Anti-Shake On (100% Crop)
1/4th sec / 28mm
0.3 sec / 336mm

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon PowerShot SX130 IS camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 32.3Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Front of the Camera

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Front of the Camera / Flash raised

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Isometric View

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Rear of the Camera

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu


Canon PowerShot SX130 IS

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Top of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Bottom of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Side of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Side of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Front of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Front of the Camera
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Memory Card Slot
Canon PowerShot SX130 IS
Battery Compartment


The Canon PowerShot SX130 IS is a travel-zoom camera on a budget, offering enough features, performance and image quality to appeal to both beginners and serious photographers alike. It also addresses most of the concerns that we had about its predecessor and maintains an attractively competitive price, although the design is starting to look a little dated.

Outwardly virtually identical to its year-old predecessor, the SX130 IS is actually slightly cheaper than the previous model (in the UK at least) whilst offering a few significant improvements, most notably a 28mm wide-angle zoom that's much quieter than the SX120 IS, 720p video mode with stereo sound and full use of the 12x zoom (albeit at a glacial pace), easy operation for the inexperienced, and manual modes for those looking for a pocketable alternative to a DSLR.

The only areas of concern that haven't been addressed are the noisy images if you stray above ISO 400, perhaps forgivable given the increase from 10 to 12 megapixels, the tendency to eat up alkaline AAs in a couple of afternoons of shooting (make sure to use high-powered NiMHs), the slightly slower lens in terms of maximum apertures, and the low-resolution 230k dot 3 inch LCD which seems under-specified in 2010.

So the Canon PowerShot SX130 IS may not have all the bells and whistles, styling or cutting edge features of competitive models, but it undoubtedly offers fantastic value for money for such a big-brand camera, and is easily worthy of our Recommended award.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon PowerShot SX130 IS from around the web. »

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.
Read the full review » »

Announced in September 2010, the Canon PowerShot SX130 IS is a 12 Megapixel super-zoom with a stabilized 12x optical zoom and 3in screen. It replaces the PowerShot SX120 IS, which itself replaced the SX110 IS, both highly popular models. As well as a longer zoom range and an additional 2 Megapixels of resolution, the PowerShot SX130 IS adds 720p HD video recording and some new scene modes.
Read the full review »


Type 1/2.3 type CCD
Effective Pixels Approx. 12.1M
Effective / Total Pixels Primary Colour
Type DIGIC 4 with iSAPS technology
Focal Length 5.0 - 60.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 - 336 mm)
Zoom Optical 12x. Digital Approx. 4x (with Digital Tele-Converter Approx. 1.4x or 2.3x and Safety Zoom¹). Combined Approx. 40x
Maximum f/number f/3.4 - f/5.6
Construction 11 elements in 9 groups (1 UD lens, 1 double-sided aspherical lens)
Image Stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), 3-stop
Type TTL
AF System/ Points Face Detection, 1-point AF (fixed to centre or Face Select and Track)
AF Modes Single, Continuous, Servo AF¹
AF Point Selection Size (Normal, Small)
AF Lock On/Off Selectable
AF Assist Beam Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 1 cm (W) from front of lens in macro
Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre)
AE Lock On/Off Selectable
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
Enhanced i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
ISO sensitivity* AUTO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
Speed 1 - 1/2500 sec. (factory default)
15 - 1/2500 sec. (total range - varies by shooting mode)
Type TTL
Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Monitor 7.5 cm (3.0”) TFT, Approx. 230,000 dots
Coverage Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustable to one of five levels
Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off
Slow Sync Speed Yes. Fastest speed 1/2000 sec.
Red-Eye Reduction Yes
Flash Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments. Face Detection FE. Safety FE.
Flash Exposure Lock Yes
Manual Power Adjustment 3 levels with internal flash
Built-in Flash Range 50 cm - 3.0 m (W) / 1.0 m - 2.0 m (T)
External Flash Canon High Power Flash HF-DC1
Modes Auto*, Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, Easy, Portrait, Landscape, Kids & Pets, SCN (Smart Shutter (Smile, Wink Self-Timer, FaceSelf-Timer), Low Light (2.0MP), Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks), Movie
*with Scene Detection Technology and Motion Detection Technology
Photo Effects My Colors (My Colors Off, Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color)
Drive modes Single, Continuous, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 1.0 shots/sec.¹ AF: Approx. 0.6 shots/sec.¹ (until memory card becomes full)²
Image Size (L) 4000 x 3000, (M1) 2816 x 2112, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480, (W) 4000 x 2248.
Resize in playback (M2, S, 320 x 240)
Compression Fine, Normal
Movies (HD) 1280 x 720, 30 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps, (M) 320 x 240, 30 fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6fps, 3fps, 1.5 fps
Movie Length (HD) Up to 4 GB or 10 min. 00 sec.¹
(L and M) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour²
Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (stereo)]
Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
PictBridge Yes
Red-Eye Correction Yes, during shooting and playback
My Camera / My Menu Start-up image and camera sounds customisation
My Category Image tagging feature
Intelligent Orientation Sensor Yes
Histogram Yes
Playback Zoom Approx. 2x - 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec. or Custom
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Farsi
Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Other A/V output, stereo dedicated connector (PAL/NTSC)
Type SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, HCMMCplus
PC & Macintosh Windows 7/ Vista SP1-2/ XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.4 - 10.6
Browsing & Printing ZoomBrowser EX / ImageBrowser
Other PhotoStitch
Batteries 2x Size-AA Alkaline or Ni-MH Batteries (NB-3AH) (Alkalines supplied)
Battery life Approx.130 shots (with supplied batteries)
Approx. 370 shots (with optional Canon NB-3AH batteries)
Approx. 420 min. playback (with supplied batteries)
Approx. 540 min. playback (with Canon NB-3AH batteries)
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC Adapter Kit ACK800
Cases / Straps Soft Case DCC-750
Flash High Power Flash HF-DC1
Power Supply & Battery Chargers AC Adapter Kit ACK800, Battery Charger Kit CBK4-300, Ni-MH Batteries NB-3AH
Operating Environment 0 - 40 °C¹, 10 - 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 113.3 x 73.2 x 45.8 mm
Weight Approx. 308g (including battery/batteries and memory card)

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