Canon's IXUS snappers aren't just cameras -- they're style icons. But the 14.1-megapixel IXUS 130 is a highly practical day-to-day camera too, thanks to its 4x wide-angle zoom and 720p, high-definition movie mode. While it's far from the most expensive IXUS model in the range, it's surely one of the most desirable. It's available now for around £250.
Venus as a camera
Handling the 130 reminds us of those occasions when you pick up a pebble on the beach and spend ages turning it over and over in your hand. The 130's rounded contours, hard, tactile surface and weight and solidity are fascinating. This camera's physical form is so satisfying that you might hardly care whether it's any good or not. It's classic IXUS fare.
The 130 is also one of the most practical IXUS models. With rounded corners and a thickness of just 18mm, this camera slides in and out of any pocket or bag. There's nothing to snag on the lining or get hooked on the zip, and the exterior is so smooth, elegant and understated that it's practically a work of art.
The camera's actually rather good to use, too. There's no awkward spinning control dial on its rear -- Canon has opted instead for a much more straightforward four-way controller for setting the focus mode, EV compensation, flash mode and self-timer. The flush-mounted buttons are clearly labelled and work perfectly.
Optically, the 130 is a step-up from the average 3x compact zoom, sporting a 4x wide-angle zoom range that should cope with the vast majority of everyday snapping opportunities. It comes with Canon's new 'smart flash' system, too, which blends flash and ambient lighting very effectively for more natural-looking results.
If you want to shoot an HD movie rather than a still photograph, all you have to do is flick a little switch on the back of the 130. The 'smart shutter' modes will take a picture when your subject winks or smiles, or someone else enters the frame, and Canon's included its new 'miniature' and 'fish-eye' effects too.
The 130 is a truly beautiful little camera, but it does have flaws. No-one would expect professional image quality from a tiny camera, but the 130's 14.1-megapixel sensor might lead you to expect pictures that are better than average. You won't get them, however.
The 1/2.3-inch sensors used in today's compact cameras are just too small to deliver really impressive pictures, and continually hiking the megapixel count makes matters worse, not better, because the internal noise-reduction processing has to be ramped up too. The 130's images aren't bad, as long as you don't blow them up too much, but smudging of low-contrast detail soon becomes apparent, even at low ISO settings. The lens isn't that great, either, showing noticeable chromatic aberration and a loss of definition towards the edges of the picture.
Not everyone chooses a camera purely for image quality, or for the very latest innovations in imaging technology. Some just want a small, elegant and simple-to-use camera with real class, such as the Canon IXUS 130. Inside, it's an average sort of camera, but its exterior is so superbly styled and sculpted that you may not really care.
Edited by Charles Kloet