DCRP

2010 Budget Camera Shootout Review

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Digital ELPH

The PowerShot SD1300 is Canon's latest entry-level digital ELPH. I've long been a fan of these models, as they offer good photo quality and features in a compact, stylish body. The SD1300 doesn't go overboard in the gimmick department, instead offering a solid set of well-implemented basic features. The SD1300 is available in a rainbow of colors, including silver, brown, green, pink, and blue.

The PowerShot SD1300 is known as the IXUS 105 in some countries.

Basics

You'll find the following items inside the PowerShot SD1300's box:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot SD1300
  • NB-6L lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution
  • 35 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)

The SD1300 does not have built-in memory, nor does it come with a memory card. That means that you'll need to supply your own. The camera is compatible with a plethora of cards, including SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC, MMCplus, and HC MMCplus. I'd recommend sticking with an SD or SDHC card, with 2GB being more than adequate for most people. There's no need to spend extra money on a high speed card for the SD1300.

The camera uses the familiar NB-6L lithium-ion battery, which allows you to take a respectable 240 shots per charge. The battery is charged via an external charger in less than two hours.

Accessories for the SD1300 include an underwater case ($180), AC adapter (priced from $58), external slave flash (from $90), and numerous camera cases.

Canon continues to have one of the best software bundles on the market. The SD1300 comes with the following applications, all of which work on Macs and PCs:

  • CameraWindow: Transfers photos to your computer and
  • adjusts basic camera settings
  • Image/ZoomBrowser (Mac/Windows): A very good photo organizing and editing tool by bundled software standards. Editing tools include Auto Adjustment, redeye correction, color/brightness/sharpness adjustment, and movie editing. Photos can also be printed, e-mailed, uploaded to YouTube, or burned onto a CD or DVD.
  • PhotoStitch: Combines several photos into a single, panoramic image

The documentation scene isn't great. There's a printed "basic" manual in the box to get you started, but if you want more detail, you'll have to open up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is average: there are lots of confusing tables and "fine print" to wade through.

Look and Feel

The PowerShot SD1300 is a stylish and ultra-compact camera with a body constructed mostly of metal. Build quality is good for the most part, though the door over the battery/memory compartment is quite flimsy, and I'm never a fan of a plastic tripod mount. The camera's controls are logically laid out, though I found that my thumb rested on several buttons, which can lead to accidental setting changes if you're not careful. Speaking of being careful, it's very easy to block the flash with the fingers of your left hand, so watch out!

The SD1300 is available in blue, silver, pink, green, and brown.

The SD1300 features an F2.8-5.9, 4X optical zoom lens. The focal range of the lens is 5 - 20 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 112 mm. The SD1300 is one of only two cameras in this comparison to sport optical image stabilization, which makes sharp photos a lot more likely, especially in low light situations. The IS system can also be used to smooth out your movies.

To the upper-right of the lens is a built-in flash, which has a working range of 0.3 - 4.0 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto. That's about average for this group. Should you want more flash power, you can attach the external slave flash that Canon offers as an accessory. The SD1300 is the only camera in the group to offer a flash as an accessory.

Other items on the front of the camera include an AF-assist lamp and a monaural microphone.

On the back of the camera is a 2.7" LCD display with 230,000 pixels -- the same resolution as all the other cameras in this test. I found the screen to be sharp, bright, and easy to see in bright outdoor light. Low light visibility was among the best in the group.

As with all of the other cameras in this article, the PowerShot SD1300 lacks an optical viewfinder.

Buttons here are for entering playback mode or the menu system, and toggling the information displayed on the LCD on and off. The four-way controller allows easy access to exposure compensation, focus and flash settings, and the self-timer. The center button on the controller opens up the Function menu, which allows you to quickly adjust things like exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, image size/quality, and more.

On the top of the camera you'll find the power and shutter release buttons, the speaker, and the zoom controller. The zoom controller (which wraps around the shutter release) moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.4 seconds. I counted ten steps in the camera's 4X zoom range.

Nothing to see on this side of the camera. The lens is at the wide-angle position here.

On the other side you'll find the camera's single I/O port, which handles both USB and A/V output. It's protected by a plastic cover of average quality. Below that is where you'll attach the camera's wrist strap.

The lens as at full telephoto here.

Our tour of the PowerShot SD1300 ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount (boo!) and the battery/memory card compartment. The door that covers this compartment is very flimsy. You will not be able to get to what's inside this compartment when the camera is on a tripod, as well.

The included NB-6L lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Features

Function (shortcut) menu Main shooting menu

The PowerShot SD1300 IS has a relatively standard set of features for a point-and-shoot camera. You'll access them through direct buttons, the Function menu, or the main menu (both pictured above). The menus are attractive and easy to navigate, though there are no help screens available.

Some of the notable features on the PowerShot SD1300 include:

  • Smart Auto mode: a point-and-shoot mode which automatically picks a scene mode for you
  • Low light scene mode: lowers resolution to 2 Megapixel and boosts ISO as high as 6400 in order to get sharp photos in low light; features like this are never recommended due to poor image quality
  • Underwater scene mode: for use with optional waterproof case
  • Face detection: finds up to nine faces in the frame; while it was a little jumpy, the camera found five of the six faces in our test scene with ease
  • Face self-timer: waits until one more faced has entered the scene, and takes a photo two seconds later
  • Custom self-timer: lets you select the total number of shots (1 - 10) and the delay (0 - 30 secs) for the self-timer
  • Custom white balance: lets you use a white or gray card for accurate color in unusual lighting
  • Long exposure mode: allows you to select shutter speeds ranging from 1 to 15 seconds
  • i-Contrast: Improves overall image contrast, though the effect is very subtle
  • Digital redeye correction: the camera can remove redeye as a photo is taken, or later in playback mode
  • Jump display: quickly move through photos in playback mode by 10/100 images, by date, or by file type

The PowerShot SD1300 has a VGA movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound until the file size reaches 4GB or the recording time hits 1 hour (whichever comes first). You'll hit the file size limit first, in approximately 32 minutes. A QVGA (320 x 240) resolution is also available.

The optical zoom can not be operated while a movie is being recorded. The image stabilizer is available, however.

Here's a sample movie for you. Out of the six cameras that record VGA video, the SD1300's quality is above average.


Click to play movie (640 x 480, 30 frames/sec, 17.4 MB, AVI format)

Performance and Photo Quality

The PowerShot SD1300 IS starts up very quickly, taking just under a second to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. Autofocus speeds were good, but not spectacular. At wide-angle, it took the camera between 0.3 - 0.6 seconds to lock focus. At the telephoto end of the lens, expect to wait for between 0.6 and 1.0 seconds. The SD1300 focuses pretty well in low light, with focus times hovering around the one second mark.

I didn't find shutter lag to be a problem on the SD1300, even at slower shutter speeds. Shot-to-shot delays ranged from 2.5 seconds without the flash, to about 3 seconds with it. A photo can be deleted immediately after it is taken by pressing down on the four-way controller.

The SD1300 can shoot continuously at 0.9 frames/second until the memory card runs out of space. The LCD lags behind the action a bit, but since the frame rate is so slow in the first place, it's hard to imagine that most folks will be taking sports photos with this camera.

Now let's see how the SD1300's photo quality shapes up. You will be able to compare all of these test photos between the various cameras later in the review. For now, I'm just talking about the SD1300.

The PowerShot SD1300 did a good job with our macro test subject. Since the camera has custom white balance, it handled our studio lamps with relative ease, allowing for pleasing color. The subject has the smooth appearance that is a trademark of Canon's cameras. Noise is not a problem here. The minimum focus distance in macro mode on the SD1300 is 3 cm.

The SD1300 is one of the few cameras that was able to pull off the night shot correctly. You can thank the Long Shutter option for this, which lets you select slow shutter speeds, while still being able to adjust the ISO and white balance. I couldn't zoom in as much as I normally do, since the SD1300's focal range ends at 112 mm. Anyhow, the camera took in plenty of light, there is very little highlight clipping, and noise levels are low. There is some noticeable purple and cyan-colored fringing in a few places, but overall, a good performance.


With both anti-redeye measures turned on


Same photo after a trip through the redeye removal tool in playback mode

The PowerShot SD1300 takes a two-pronged approach to reducing redeye in your photos. If you choose, you can have it fire the flash a few times before the photo is actually taken (which shrinks the subject's pupils, which reduces the odds of redeye). You can also turn on a digital redeye removal tool that detects and removes this annoyance right as a photo is taken. I used both methods at the same time for my flash test shot and guess what -- still lots of redeye. What's strange is that the redeye removal tool in playback mode got rid of it perfectly!

There's mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the SD1300's 28 - 112 mm lens. Like most of the cameras in this group, you will have some corner blurring to contend with (see this example). I did not find vignetting (dark corners) to be a problem, though.

Above you can see our standard studio test scene. The crops below were taken at each sensitivity on the SD1300. You will be able to compare images from each camera on a single page in a little bit.


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The first three crops are nice and clean. At ISO 400 the image starts to turn a little fuzzy, and color saturation drops a bit. That said, it's still quite usable for small and medium sized prints. The ISO 800 image is pretty soft, and best reserved for desperate circumstances. I would pass on the ISO 1600 setting, as photos are lacking quite a bit of detail.

The SD1300's real world photos were very good, and probably the best out of the eight cameras I tested. Exposure was accurate though, like most compact cameras, the SD1300 does tend to clip highlights. Colors were pleasing, and photos were nice and sharp, save for the corners when the lens is at wide-angle. The camera doesn't go crazy with noise reduction, so the detail smudging that is present on several of the other cameras in the group isn't here. Noise levels are low through ISO 400 (in good light), though things soften up noticeably after that. Purple fringing levels were low.

You can see all of the PowerShot SD1300's real world photos in its photo gallery.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Digital ELPH is a very good entry-level digital camera. It doesn't go overboard with gimmicks (though it has its share), instead concentrating on the basics: a solid design, responsive performance and, of course, good photo quality. The SD1300 has a sleek, all-metal body that's well put together, save for the plastic tripod mount and battery/memory card door on its bottom. Its 4X, 28 - 112 mm lens isn't the widest or most powerful in its class, but it takes sharp photos (save for some corner blurring at wide-angle). The SD1300 is also one of two cameras in this comparison with optical image stabilization, which gives it a huge advantage over unstabilized cameras, for both stills and video. It has a bright and sharp 2.7" LCD with good outdoor and low light visibility. The SD1300 is the only camera to support an external flash (albeit a slave that attaches via the tripod mount), and like the Sony DSC-W330, supports an underwater case.

The SD1300 has a nice set of features, including a Smart Auto mode, which will select a scene mode for you. If you want manual controls, the camera lets you adjust slow shutter speeds (which is a big deal for night photos) and the white balance. The camera has a good face detection system, and the cool face self-timer feature makes sure that everyone ends up in the photo. While it doesn't record HD video, the SD1300 still takes nice looking VGA clips. One feature I don't like (that turned out to be very common): the full manual is on a CD-ROM, and once you load it up, it's not very user-friendly.

The SD1300 performs well, with an excellent startup time, decent focus times, and minimal shutter lag. The camera can shoot continuously at 0.9 frames/second until your memory card is full, which is average for the group. Battery life is also average. Photo quality is very solid, whether in terms of exposure, color, and sharpness. The only real weak spots were some corner blurring and highlight clipping, both of which are very common issues with compact cameras. The SD1300 has multiple ways to reduce redeye, and after using all of them, I was able to rid my test photo of this annoyance.

I can easily recommend the PowerShot SD1300 to those who want a solid, well-designed camera that won't put a hole in your wallet.

Buy it Now