With two AA batteries loaded and SD card inserted, the SX130 IS feels reassuringly solid, despite the large amount of plastic in the build. Designer it isn't but the matt black finish and attractive chrome detailing manages to inject a modicum of style.
As ever, in order to deliver a compact that is as compact as possible, the handgrip on the SX130 IS has been compromised. Here we get a mirrored angled strip at the front - resembling a slash or tear in the camera's body work - into which fingernails, rather than actual fingers, can be tucked and which doesn’t have a rubber finish. It feels more sensible therefore to use both hands to steady and level the camera, though there's not a great deal of room between the LCD screen and the left hand edge of the camera to rest a thumb there.
Despite the bulging styling suggesting room to squeeze in an optical viewfinder, there isn't one on the SX130 IS. The ridge above the lens houses a pop up flash instead, which does have the bonus of reducing red-eye as the flash is further from the lens. The photographer is thus reliant on the fixed 3-inch, 230k-dot screen for framing and reviewing all images. We found this adequate for the purpose, but using the camera across several dull wintry days it gave the impression of our exposures being brighter than they actually were, once downloaded to the desktop.
The headline feature of that bigger than average zoom is controlled by a lever that encircles the shutter release button on the top plate, both of which are subtly angled forward so making for more comfortable operation when hand-holding the camera. Unlike some of its competitors, such as the 10x zoom Casio EX-H20G, the full extent of the lens reach can happily be utilised when recording video, to take in both wide angle and close up framing. We'll examine its performance in due course.
As mentioned in our introduction, we would have preferred to have seen a dedicated record button featured where the playback button is located top right of the camera back. As it is, video has to be first selected on the shooting mode dial and then recording begins and ends with subsequent presses of the shutter release button.
As noted, the main auto mode on the SX130 IS is in fact 'Smart Auto', whereby the camera compares the scene or subject before its lens with 28 on-board presets and selects the most appropriate to deliver optimal results. As we've found with past PowerShot and IXUs models, it works very well, and allows those who just want to concentrate on their subject matter rather than fiddling around with settings to be able to do so - and still get decent results. Other smart features include the camera adjusting flash intensity dependent on prevailing light conditions, and firing the shutter when detecting a smile or wink - useful for those family portraits.
Slightly gimmicky perhaps but fun nonetheless are the Canon's digital effects modes, which here include fisheye, miniature mode, Super Vivid option and retro feel Poster Effect.