Pocket sized digital snapshot cameras, which in a nutshell describes Canon's IXUS 130, are two-a-penny, so what makes this slim-line offering different? Well, for starters it is blessed with the same high-fashion looks that have come to embody the IXUS range, so that particular box is ticked.
Also very appealing is its price; at a current cost online of around £120 (a whopping drop down from its manufacturer's original asking price of £279) it won't cause a serious dent in your bank balance, even if its width and height are almost an exact match for a credit card. In these respects, it goes up against the likes of the Nikon Coolpix S5100 and, for sleekness, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T99.
Weighing just 133g with card and battery inserted it slips unobtrusively into the pocket of your jeans. As we'd expect of the IXUS range, which has always majored on style as much as features, the build quality is high and, as you'd expect, it comes in a choice of several body colours; silver, black, orange and pink. It may be small but it's sturdy when held in the palm.
Although you wouldn't deliberately drop or bash it, this metal-bodied IXUS feels like it could withstand the punishment of daily use, when most cameras around the £100+ mark feel distinctly plastic-y by comparison. If underwater photography takes your fancy, the WP-DC37 casing is available, though at just shy of £200 you may be better off buying a dedicated underwater/rugged compact.
Save for the lack of a touch screen and 3D shooting ability, the IXUS 130 would appear to incorporate most of the latest must haves. 14.1 megapixels are packed onto a relatively small 1/2.3-inch sensor and, while a 4x optical zoom lens equivalent to 28 – 112mm, is hardly in super zoom territory, it provides a very useful focal length range for everyday photography.
Other Canon regulars such as a swift response Digic 4 processor, blur-reducing optical image stabiliser and subject recognising (and setting optimising) Smart Auto with Scene Detection technology are also on board. Here the camera chooses from 22 presets to allow for pure point and shoot operation with minimal fuss. The camera's i-Contrast option can also be used to even out bring out detail in high contrast exposures, though in practice its results aren't that pronounced.
Subject tracking, a function now commonplace among digital compacts, additionally features, attempting to maintain correct focus and exposure for a moving subject. The optical image stabiliser helps to counteract any external hand wobble and resulting camera shake while Motion Detection Technology will auto adjust ISO to further aid blur-reduction. Rounding off the picture are face detection and automatic red eye detection and correction, the former possessing the ability to recognise up to a frankly ridiculous 35 faces in the same frame and to trigger the camera's shutter with a smile or a wink - useful for self portraiture.
It seems therefore Canon has packed more than you'd necessarily realise into the IXUS 130's diminutive frame. About the only thing we might hope for that's missing is options for completely manual shot taking. No matter how diminutive and consumer-oriented a camera, it's always nice to have the option.