The point and shoot camera range for the most part is a war between Canon and Nikon. Which is not to say that nobody else produces a decent point and shoot (Panasonic's Lumix series, Sony's Cybershot series, etc. all have good models). Main thing about Canon and Nikon is that they both cover the gamut from the premium to the basic and everything in between.
Recommend this product?
While I have expertise in image processing and the science of optics (it's actually closely related to my profession), I'm not actually an expert in photography. More accurately, I've never even had much reason to really own a top-of-the-line camera, so I was only interested in getting something halfway decent and not particularly expensive. While I was trying to stay down low on the price, I didn't want to sacrifice at least a few features. Ultimately, for what I was looking for, it was between the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP2 and the Canon Powershot SX130. While the Panasonic won points for looks and the fact that it was more compact and convenient, ultimately, the overall difference in features on the SX130 got it my pick.
Among one of the great advantages of the SX130 is that it uses standard AA batteries. While it is unfortunate that the battery life is rather poor, there is one point worth noting about this. In the package, you get a pair of alkaline AA batteries -- I advise you not to use them. Put them in your TV remote or something, but not in this camera. Use NiMH rechargeables instead. The battery life is so-so with NiMH, but with alkalines, it is downright atrocious. A little bit of science for you here -- although alkaline batteries and NiMH rechargeables have roughly similar nominal capacities, alkalines can't handle high current loads. When exposed to a high current load (which is common in a digital camera), the delivery becomes less efficient and a lot of energy gets wasted as heat. NiMH batteries are less sensitive to this effect, so they do not change so much in capacity when the load is high. In this particular camera, using NiMH AAs means getting about 2.5x the battery life, which just barely brings it into the "adequate" range. On the plus side, if you're taking pictures indoors, you have the option of plugging in the AC adaptor and running on DC-in.
One of the features I didn't want to give up on was the ability to capture HD video. I didn't expect to be able to get 1080p at this price range, but at least 720p was something I wanted. The Canon does this, and it does capture quite good video. Certainly not as good as a dedicated top-quality camcorder, but better than most any point-and-shoot camera. Quite a few cameras are out there available to do 720p video, but it's often of poorer grade than the still photos, to say nothing of the fact that many other cameras disable numerous features while taking high-res video. The SX130 still maintains optical image stabilization and intelligent exposure and focus. Rarest of all, you still have access to optical zoom while taking video. Even high-end cameras don't do this because the motor noise of the zoom lens is picked up by the microphone, but the SX130 is sufficiently quiet that it's okay. And the zoom range is really good at 12x. Although it's not an ultracompact, this is still a reasonably compact camera when shut off, and getting better than 5x optical zoom in this price range is pretty darn good.
The picture quality itself is very good to say the least. In bright light, it's actually very good with automatic settings. In low light, the automatic settings will tend to favor high sensitivity and faster shutter speeds. This is obviously a preference towards being able to take pictures quickly on demand. High sensitivities and fast shutter speeds always means noisy images no matter how good the camera is. Noise at high sensitivities for this camera is pretty decent compared to other cameras I've seen, but the image sharpness is what drops off more severely with increasing sensitivity. If you need higher quality in low light, then it may be better to manually set things up for lower sensitivity and longer shutter times. One nice thing is that you can also take long exposures (up to 15 seconds) if you were so inclined. You do have full manual control if you really want it, which is something that even a few of Canon's other lines (e.g. the A series) don't have.
The flash has a pretty short range of about 10-12 feet. Canon says up to 15, but I think it's more like 10. Not great, but not much more than you should expect for a compact point-and-shoot. The pop-up flash is one you have to pop up by hand -- it's a simple cost-saver, I suppose. On a side note, I'm generally not that fond of the automatic white balance in medium light conditions. The incandescent white balance seems to work much better. Like most compact cameras the LCD screen on the back is pretty low res (230k pixels) and there is no optical viewfinder. The LCD screen is rather difficult to see in bright sunlight as most are, but it pretty much seems that those are the breaks.
Overall, though, if you're looking for something that is somewhere in between a compact point-and-shoot and an SLR... also something that is usable for beginners and gives advanced photographers a lot of flexibility with a lot of ease, then you can't do much better in terms of bang for the buck.
Read all comments (1)
Amount Paid (US$): 165
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts