Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Review
by Howard Creech -  7/1/2010

The Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS updates the very popular SD1200 IS. Most of the differences between the two cameras are inconsequential - more cosmetic than substantive - with the exception of the disappearance of the SD1200 IS's optical viewfinder and the SD1300 IS's 33% more zoom and nifty new power button. The SD1300 IS is a nearly perfect choice for those who don't want to worry about making any decisions except when to trip the shutter or when to start/stop recording a video clip.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

Snap-shooters and casual users will love the diminutive SD1300 IS. Due to the limitations of a 4x zoom they probably won't be able to capture wildlife or active team sports, but colorful, sharply-focused, properly exposed T-ball shots and informal portraits of family and friends are a lead-pipe cinch.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

Canon's SD series digicams are all about compact style and operational simplicity. These little cameras have been consistently popular with consumers since the first digital ELPH (the S100) was introduced back in 2000 because they reliably deliver what consumers want in a digicam - an image capture device that makes great pictures, is easy to use, offers better-than-average performance, and is reasonably priced.

Canon is the most modular of the major digicam manufacturers and has an extensive catalog of consumer tested components (sensors, lenses, LCDs, etc.) to draw from when creating new models. This remarkable level of component interchangeability allows Canon's product development folks to create new digicam models easily, quickly, and cheaply by simply combining on-hand components in new ways. The SD1300 is a very good example of just how well this modular design philosophy works.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

The Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS (known as the Canon Digital IXUS 105 everywhere except North America) is an attractive little digital camera that looks and behaves very much like every other Canon SD series digicam ever manufactured; there is an unambiguous family resemblance. The chic little SD1300 IS is available in a plethora of stylish colors including blue, silver, pink, green, and brown. Canon's newest SD series ultra-compact digicam is a very well built little camera.

Fit and finish are impressive with good dust/moisture seals. The SD1300 IS is tough enough to go just about anywhere, plus it is smaller and lighter than its predecessors and features a simpler menu and easier operation. The SD1300 IS is a reasonably priced choice for someone looking for a compact, lightweight, responsive camera that is simple enough to appeal to a casual shooter, but provides (just) enough creative capability to appeal to a more demanding photographer.

Ergonomics and Controls
Back in the old days, photographers who wanted an ultra-compact camera bought a Riga Minox. Today's consumers have lots of mini-cam options and Canon's SD series is one of the best of those many alternatives. Canon is well known for making tiny cameras that produce dependably first-rate images with very little effort on the part of the photographer and the SD1300 IS continues that worthy tradition. The SD1300 IS is an attractive, ultra-compact point-and-shoot.

The SD1300 IS looks a lot like the SD1200 IS (and other members of Canon's SD tribe) but it's a bit lighter and marginally smaller than its predecessor. The SD1300 IS's pocket-sized metal alloy body conveys an aura of toughness and durability - the camera should easily stand up to the rigors of an active modern lifestyle, but the wrist strap should be used at all times - smooth contour cameras are easily dropped.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

The SD1300 IS's minimal user interface is uncomplicated and straightforward with reasonably sized and clearly marked buttons. The control array is classic Canon, meaning everything will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a PowerShot camera. Even digital camera newbies should be able to shoot decent images after a short familiarization run with the camera and a quick scan of the user's manual. The tiny on/off buttons on many ultra-compact digicams (especially for those of us with adult sized fingers) provide an enduring level of frustration - some (like the miniscule power button that graces the Nikon S8000) are so small that they sometimes require several pushes to get the camera booted up.

The SD1300 IS is actually smaller than most of its competition, but its new raised cursor-shaped power button is easier to access and noticeably larger than average. Because this new power button utilizes limited real estate more efficiently it doesn't require any extra space on the camera's top deck - so it provides a significant improvement over the typically tiny on/off button on the SD1200 IS. The SD1300 IS's shutter button is also fairly large and directly in front of the shutter button is a standard back-and-forth zoom tab. While the zoom tab is small, zooming from wide-angle to telephoto and back is fast, smooth, and fairly precise.

The SD1300 IS's user interface is uncomplicated and quickly becomes intuitive. All controls are logically placed and easily accessed. The compass (four-way) switch and the FUNC button provide direct access to the SD1300 IS's most commonly changed/adjusted features and functions. The SD1300 IS doesn't feature a mode dial, instead it utilizes a sliding mode switch (located in the top right corner of the rear deck) to change shooting modes - the sliding mode switch is perfectly placed directly under where the shooter's right thumb naturally rests - providing not only easy access to the SD1300 IS's shooting modes, but also acting as a textured thumb grip. Immediately to the left of the Mode switch is the Playback/Review button making it easy to critically review pictures immediately after the image is captured.

Menus and Modes
The Canon PowerShot SD1300IS features a simplified, two-tab version of Canon's classic digicam menu system - The menu system (accessed via a dedicated button beneath the compass switch) is logical, easy to navigate, and dead simple - since the camera permits only minimal user input.

The SD1300 IS provides a very basic selection of shooting modes including Program, Smart Auto, a small selection (Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, and Underwater) of scene modes, and a video/movie mode. Here's a complete listing of the SD1300 IS's shooting modes:

Like many currently available point-and-shoots, the SD1300 IS doesn't provide an optical viewfinder, forcing users to utilize the LCD for all framing/composition, captured image review, and menu navigation chores. Most casual shooters (this digicam's target audience) don't use optical viewfinders and in some shooting scenarios (macro, festivals, events, portraits) it is quicker and easier to watch the decisive moment come together on the LCD screen than it is through the optical viewfinder.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

The SD1300 IS's predecessor, the SD1200 IS, featured an optical viewfinder and some users will be disappointed to see it disappear, but optical viewfinders are expensive and eliminating them brings down the per unit manufacturing cost - saving consumers money.

The SD1300 IS's 2.7-inch screen (230,000 pixel resolution) dominates the camera's rear deck. The SD1300 IS's TFT LCD screen is bright, hue accurate, impressively fluid, and automatically boosts gain (brightens) in dim/low light - and it displays almost 100 percent of the image frame. The SD1300 IS's LCD performs adequately for framing, composition, captured image review, and menu navigation - and the user-enabled grid display is a useful touch. However, like all LCDs, the SD1300 IS's LCD is subject to fading and glare in bright outdoor lighting. The SD1300 IS's LCD info/status display provides all information the camera's target audience is likely to need.

The SD1300 IS provides an impressive level of usability for such a tiny imaging device, but it doesn't allow much user input into the image capture process. That probably won't be much of a concern for this camera's target audience. Overall, Canon's newest SD model does a remarkably good job, as long as users keep its inherent limitations in mind.

Shooting Performance
Timing (speed) is a major consideration, second only to image quality in importance, when assessing digital camera performance. The SD1300 IS comes in right in the middle of the pack when compared to its competition, with the exception of the continuous shooting rate, where it comes in dead last.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix JZ500 0.01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 0.02
Canon PowerShot SD1300 0.02
Nikon Coolpix S8000 0.05

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Nikon Coolpix S8000 0.26
Canon PowerShot SD1300 0.36
Fujifilm FinePix JZ500 0.38
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 0.39

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 3 1.8 fps
Fujifilm FinePix JZ500 3 1.4 fps
Nikon Coolpix S8000 10 1.2 fps
Canon PowerShot SD1300 1.0 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" denote the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

In practical terms the SD1300 IS is competitive across the board since there actually isn't much difference between 0.01 hundredths of a second and 0.02 hundreds of a second.

Not only does the SD1300 IS bear a striking surface resemblance to the other members of the SD tribe, it utilizes essentially the same exposure system that made its predecessors popular with consumers. Exposure is automatically managed by the camera's 1/2.3 inch CCD sensor driven by Canon's touted DIGIC IV processor, which combines most primary camera functions (image interpolation and processing, auto exposure, white balance, JPEG compression, gain control, and power management) in one chip which improves efficiency and processing speed.

The SD1300 IS's default evaluative light measurement system is dependably accurate in most lighting - so casual shooters won't have to worry about metering. More experienced photographers can opt for either spot metering or center-weighted averaging metering for more demanding/creative compositions.

Like all ultra-compact digicams, the SD1300 IS's has some dynamic range (from deep shadows to bright highlights) shortcomings because the diminutive 1/2.3 inch CCD sensor just can't capture the full tonal range. The SD1300 IS's evaluative/default metering system is calibrated to preserve shadow detail at the expense of highlight detail and that built-in exposure bias results in occasional clipping (burnt out highlights).

The SD1300 IS features the same TTL contrast detection 9-point AiAF (Advanced Intelligent Auto Focus) plus 1-point center system as its predecessor. In all exposure modes the camera analyzes the scene in front of the lens and then calculates camera to subject distance to determine which of the 9 AF points is closest to the primary subject (closest subject priority) and then locks focus on that AF point. Users can also opt for the single AF point (center) setting for classic portraits or traditional landscapes. In low light, a focus assist beam helps illuminate the subject for more accurate focusing.

The SD1300 IS's tiny built-in flash provides only two options - Auto (flash on) or off. In Auto mode the flash system automatically controls selection of Slow Sync, Face Detection FE compensation, and Smart Flash Exposure. Users may (via the camera menu) opt for Red-Eye Reduction (on/off) or Red-Eye Reduction (on/off). Maximum flash range (according to Canon) is a bit less than 14 feet/4.2m. Flash recycle time is between 3.0 and 4.0 seconds. The Smart Flash Exposure mode adjusts flash exposure to match the subject and the shooting conditions - to avoid dark facial shadows in outdoor portraits and for more even lighting during macro shooting.

The SD1300 IS's optical image stabilization system reduces blur by quickly and precisely shifting a lens element in the zoom to compensate for minor camera movement. IS allows users to shoot at shutter speeds up to three f-stops slower than would have been possible without IS. Image stabilization can also be a very useful when shooting dimly lit indoor venues where flash is inappropriate. SD1300 IS users have four IS options - continuous IS, shoot only IS, Panning IS, and IS off.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

The SD1300 IS is powered by a proprietary Canon NB-6L lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Canon says a fully charged battery is good for approximately 240 exposures, which seems fairly accurate based on my use of the camera. The included plug-in style charger needs about two hours to charge the battery. A back-up NB-6L costs about sixty bucks. The Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS supports SD, SDHC, the SDXC formats.

Lens Performance
The SD1200 IS (which the SD1300 IS replaces) featured a 3x (35mm-105mm equivalent) zoom - the SD1300 IS is actually a bit smaller than its predecessor, but it sports a 4x zoom that starts at 28mm (equivalent) and ranges to 112mm (equivalent). Ultra-compact digicam zooms generally start at around (the equivalent of) 35mm, so a true wide angle (great for group shots in tight indoor venues and traditional landscapes) gives the SD1300 IS a slight edge over some of its competition. Although corners are noticeably soft at the wide angle setting, they are appreciably sharper at the telephoto end of the zoom.

Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS

The SD1300 IS's f/2.8 maximum aperture (at the wide angle end of the zoom range) is fast enough for almost anything this camera's target audience is likely to shoot, but the f/5.9 maximum aperture at the telephoto end of the zoom range is pretty slow - pretty much useless for anything other than shooting outdoors in decent light.

Zoom operation is fast, smooth, and fairly quiet, but this lens exhibits noticeable barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center) at the wide-angle end of the zoom (notice the architectural distortion and leaning phone pole in the demo photo) and very minor pin cushioning (straight lines bow in toward the center) at full telephoto. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is slightly higher than average, but well controlled. Colors are bold, bright, slightly over-saturated, and hue accurate, but native (default) contrast is a bit on the flat side.

Canon SD1300 Test Image

Here's a piece of advice for both casual shooters and photo enthusiasts alike who purchase an SD1300 IS - enable i-Contrast when you set your initial preferences - and leave it on full time. I don't understand why Canon chose to have i-Contrast off as the default, but a major image quality problem with auto exposure only ultra-compact digicams is blown highlights and blocked-up shadow areas, both of which i-Contrast helps to ameliorate.

Video Quality
The SD1300 IS's basic 30 fps VGA (640x480) movie mode won't compete with a video camera, but it will do nicely for generating e-mail video attachments for friends and family. Like many cameras, the SD1300 IS can't be zoomed while in video capture mode.

The video clip which accompanies this review was shot in a dimly lit room with the warm white fluourescent aquarium hood light as the only illumination. The SD1300 IS's Auto WB colors are accurate, although there is a very slight blue-ish cast.

Image Quality

Image files produced by Canon's point and shoots are optimized for the bold bright hues and slightly flat contrast that some veteran shooters refer to as Canon Color - the SD100 IS doesn't stray far from that "family" identity. Native colors (default Canon color interpolation) are bright, hue accurate, and natural-looking, but visibly over-saturated. Reds are a little warm, blues are a bit bright, and greens are more vibrant than those seen by the naked eye - purples tend toward blue.

Most casual shooters (the SD1300 IS's target audience) won't consider these minor variations as color faults. Although there is a slight tendency toward overexposure - outdoors in good light the SD1300 IS produces reliably well-exposed and almost noise-free images. Chromatic aberration is remarkably well controlled, but some very minor color fringing is present, especially in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds.

Images from the SD1300 IS are detailed and unexpectedly sharp. In bright contrasty lighting highlight detail was occasionally blown-out. Overall, the SD1300 IS's image quality is on the high side of average for cameras in this class.

The SD1300 IS provides users with an acceptable selection of white balance options, including Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Fluorescent H, and custom. Overall the SD1300 IS's Auto WB system does a pretty good job, but like all of Canon's consumer cameras, the auto setting produces colors that are noticeably warmer and brighter than real world colors.

Canon SD1300 Test Image
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

The SD1300 IS provides a reasonable range of sensitivity options, including Auto and user-set options for ISO 80 to 1600. ISO 80 and ISO 100 images are indistinguishable - both show bright colors, slightly soft native contrast, and very low noise levels. ISO 200 images were also very good, but with a little less snap. At the ISO 400 setting noise levels are noticeably higher and there's a (barely) perceptible loss of minor detail.

Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 80
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 80, 100% crop
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 100
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 200
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 400
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 800
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 1600
Canon SD1300 Test Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop

ISO 800 images are very noisy, but they should be OK for e-mail, facebook, and 3x5 inch or 4x6 inch prints. ISO 1600 images are way too noisy to be useful for anything other than record shots.

Additional Sample Images
Canon SD1300 Test Image Canon SD1300 Test Image
Canon SD1300 Test Image Canon SD1300 Test Image
Canon SD1300 Test Image Canon  SD1300 Test Image

For the past ten years, Canon's product development folks have been creating tiny feature-rich, high performance digital cameras that make taking photos a snap - no pun intended. The SD1300 IS is the latest addition to that distinguished product catalog. This little camera is an excellent choice for family photographers, casual photographers, and first time digital camera buyers who want a digicam that is small enough to be dropped in a pocket and taken along just about anywhere.

There really isn't a lot that is new or exciting about the SD1300 IS, but there isn't really anything to complain about, either. After two weeks of carrying the SD1300 IS around with me pretty much full time I believe that this digicam performs as well or better than all or most of the cameras in its class - and it does it for noticeably less than two hundred bucks.