With echoes of more expensive cameras in the PowerShot range, yet less hard edged and threatening in appearance, the 12x optical zoom, 12.1 megapixel PowerShot SX130 IS comes across as an enthusiast's 'super zoom' that's been stripped back and simplified. The aim is a wider target audience and a more affordable price. It's nigh identical in cost to the Fujifilm FinePix S2800HD, which fields a broader 18x range, yet also feels like a 'baby' version of one of its maker's more serious propositions, such as the HS10.
The PowerShot SX130 IS replaces and succeeds the existing PowerShot SX120 IS model, and while it may not be the most svelte nor attractive option for anyone looking for a comparable 28mm-336mm focal range (in 35mm terms) within compact dimensions, Canon has price in its favour. Current online deals suggest the SX130 IS can be snapped up for a bargain £150, down from its manufacturer's equally reasonable £199 on launch. If a slimmer proposition does immediately appeal, look to the Panasonic Lumix TZ series or even Fuji's 15x zoom FinePix F300EXR for that.
This camera obviously has a family audience in mind as evidenced by an optimised setting for photographing children and pets being one of the 11 options on its ridged penny-sized shooting mode dial. It will particularly appeal to someone who wants a point and shoot camera with rather more scope in terms of lens reach than the 3x, 4x, or 5x optical zooms typically offered by pocket sized shooters for under £200. The 'IS' suffix here denotes image stabilisation, essential when shooting handheld at the telephoto end of the zoom. Canon has opted for the optical/lens shift variety rather than jiggling the actual sensor, which will provide you with a three stop advantage.
With a weight of 308g and thickened dimensions that provide a depth of 45.8mm, the SX310 IS is too much of a squeeze for a trouser pocket, and is best suited to the inner pocket of a winter coat or bag. The extra bulk is partly due to the camera being powered by two alkaline AA batteries, keeping costs down for Canon. They're best quickly replaced with rechargeables – Eneloops are your best bet.
The top mounted dial features the creative quartet of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting modes, alongside pre-optimised settings for getting the best out of portraits and landscapes and not one but two auto options (Smart Auto and 'Easy' auto). There's also the usual bundle of scene modes, including some funky digital effects filters to selectively warp and blur as desired, plus a video mode. Here High Definition movie clips are a maximum 1280x720 pixels at a respectable 30fps frame rate, up to 10 minutes in duration and, impressively, with stereo sound. There's no one-touch video record button, unfortunately, which might have extended ease of use even further. Unsurprisingly there's no HDMI output either, just regular AV output and USB 2.0 connectivity sharing a port under a side-mounted rubber flap.
For manual adjustments, pressing the top of the scroll wheel/dial and rotating it will adjust ISO, from 80 up to 1,600, while aperture and shutter speed adjustment comes courtesy the same dial used with different combinations of buttons. It works, but we're not major fans. It's always too easy to shoot past the setting you want, such is the wheel's responsiveness.