It's hard work following up an Editors' Choice winning camera. The IXUS 130 IS has to contend with the 120 IS, which won our acclaim and accolade last year thanks to its stylish appearance and competent functionality. If you are looking for a sexy point-and-shoot, it's hard to go past the IXUS range; just make sure you don't lose it down your pants.
Design and features
Yes, this IXUS is really that small that losing it in one's pants is a distinct possibility, should your pockets be even a little larger than the norm. Measuring 56.1x92.2x17.8 mm and weighing just 114g, this is the thinnest IXUS yet (though that's what they keep saying with every iteration of the series). Sporting a similarly slim chassis to what we saw cladding the IXUS 120, the 130 has a few tweaks and quirks to keep the formula interesting. Rather than a dedicated zoom rocker around the shutter button, it is now a very small zoom lever sitting between the shutter and power button (which are both tiny, in order to fit on the camera).
You can't really tell in this picture, but it took a lot of effort to get the camera to stand up of its own accord. Thanks to the curvature of the base, the camera's centre of gravity is totally off when the lens is extended, meaning you will need to have a very delicate touch or a tripod rather than leave the camera perching on a table to take group shots. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia)
Given this camera's size, Canon's designers have shrunk everything at the back in order to make it all fit. The screen is a 2.7-inch LCD like its predecessor's, and the resolution remains relatively low at 230,000 dots. Available in black, silver or lurid pink, this is an attention-seeking camera first and foremost.
The top of the IXUS 130 shows the teensy-tiny buttons and zoom rocker. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia)
Megapixel count has reached 14.1 and the lens is the same as the 120; a 28mm wide-angle, with 4x optical zoom. So what sets this camera apart from the 120, apart from its itty-bitty body?
The changes are mostly incremental updates or token features that won't actually make that much of a difference to photos taken with the 120 IS. The 130 still has HD video recording at 720p, though it can now accept SDXC cards. Connectivity via HDMI and digital out is taken care of through the ports at the back of the camera, covered with a flap in the same material as the camera casing.
Other features are designed more for the point-and-shooters that this camera is targeted towards. There are things like Smart Shutter and, curiously, Wink Self Timer.
The fish-eye effect on the IXUS 130 IS. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia)
Effect filters, which seem to be spreading through the camera world like wildfire, appear here in guises such as fish-eye and miniature effect. Low light mode reduces the resolution to 3.5 megapixels in order to take a clear shot in dim lighting. Intelligent flash exposure adjusts the intensity of the flash and the camera's exposure according to ambient light situations, to help avoid that white, ghostly look of flash on skin tones.
The miniature effect on the IXUS 130 IS. As you can see the camera simply blurs the top and bottom portion of the image to achieve this effect, and it only really looks good when you're taking a picture from an elevated position such as this. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia)
Wink at me
In the myriad of detection modes in the 130 IS (including Smart Shutter, Face Self Timer) comes this curious mode called Wink Detection. Select this mode, press the shutter button to activate it, and point your camera at a twitching subject to take the photo. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. We tried it out on several unwitting subjects around our workplace to find that the camera detected a face but didn't do anything even with the most intense winking, facial contorting and generally peculiar countenances. We also can't figure out how this feature could possibly result in a good photo of anyone, as capturing a subject post-wink is about as flattering as smothering oneself in flour and walking through an automatic car wash.
The 130 starts up and takes its first shot within 1.9 seconds. Shutter lag measures 0.5 second, and in continuous shooting mode the 130 IS pushed out a near-limitless succession of shots, averaging just over 1 frame (1.15) per second. The camera is on-par with times from the 120 IS with the exception of start-up to first shot speed, whereby the 130 is slower.
Traditionally, we've applauded the IXUS series for its crisp photos and good colour rendition, so does the 130 follow suit?
Unfortunately, the answer is mostly no. There are a few saving graces for the camera, including good overall image colour, and saturation that delivered punchy colours, particularly in the red and green channels. Sharpness across the frame was relatively good too.
Inspecting images at full magnification (taken in adequate lighting, mind you), showed a fair amount of noise which we account to the sensor cramming in far too many megapixels for the lens and processor to adequately resolve. The 130 also had a tendency to blow out highlights, more so than the older cameras in the IXUS range. That said, casual and social photographers — arguably the target market for this camera — will find image quality acceptable at reduced magnification, particularly for web use.
Images taken at ISO levels above 400 were simply messy at full magnification, and we observed visible JPEG over-processing and noise as low as ISO 160 when using the camera on automatic settings.
(Credit: CNET Australia)
Canon still has not addressed one gripe that many photographers had with the previous IXUS cameras in this line; no optical zoom during video recording. It's digital zoom only, and the resulting quality is fairly poor. Video is recorded in MOV and despite the frame rate, movies display shuddering and a lack of sharpness as well as chromatic aberrations.
One frame from a video taken with the IXUS 130. Note the general lack of sharpness and blown out areas. (Credit: Alexandra Savvides/CNET Australia)
Casual shooters will find nothing wrong with the images from the IXUS 130 IS, but more astute photographers will find some troublesome noise and photo quality issues. Our advice? Pick up the much better 120 IS, even if it is a few millimetres thicker.