Design wise, the curved edges, slender 17.8mm depth (making it the slimmest IXUS to date) plus sleek matt black finish of our review sample seem to suggest something special, even though, in combination, these elements actually make it very hard to get a firm grip on the camera. It feels as smooth as a beach pebble. A classic case of style edging ahead of substance perhaps, but we'd be fools to suggest a camera's looks don't heavily influence a purchase decision, and often count for more than mere words in a review.
Announced at the same time as the IXUS 105 and sharing many features, like that model the control layout is straightforward but unobtrusively implemented. Photos and video clips are composed and reviewed via its 2.7-inch, 270,000 pixel, LCD in the predictable absence of an optical viewfinder, which seems to work perfectly adequately under a range of lighting conditions. To maintain a minimalist appearance function buttons are mostly set level with the IXUS 130's body, save for the narrow rocker switch for the zoom on the top plate which stands just proud enough to enable fingertip operation.
Also slightly raised is the slider switch for alternating between the three shooting modes at the back: auto, plus program or video recording. The latter comes in High Def 1280x720 flavour and uses the stereo inbuilt microphone – no external mic option is available, unsurprisingly. While hardly class leading it's an improvement over the 105's standard def 640x480 pixels.
Pressing the 'Func set' button in program mode provides access to a plethora of image adjusting options presented on a toolbar down the left hand side of the screen; in auto mode you're limited to changing image recording size and compression level and that's it. The expanded toolbar allows for manual adjustment of white balance, ISO light sensitivity (here up to a modest ISO1600), Canon's 'My Colours' picture settings (vivid or neutral plus extended variants), drive mode (single shot or continuous burst) plus metering options (evaluative, centre weighted average, or spot). Furthermore, this toolbar allows users to drill down into alternative shooting mode options, such as optimised scene settings for portraits, kids and pets and the ilk, plus dedicated low light mode (with attendant pixel drop to three megapixels to limit image noise), various colour accent options and digital filter effects - more on which later.
It would have been even more helpful to have had a dedicated video record button presented somewhere on the IXUS 130's body, thus enabling recording to commence whichever mode had alternatively been selected at the time. But for the price (and size) again we really can't grumble too much about this omission.
A surprise here is finding an HDMI connection port (is this really likely to be more useful than a dedicated video button?) on the IXUS 130's small frame hidden under a plastic flap at the top right hand corner of its backplate for hooking the camera up to a flat panel TV. Less unexpectedly, the requisite lead is an optional extra, though cables for the standard AV out and USB 2.0 ports are provided. You also get a wrist strap along with a mains battery charger and plug.