Canon SD1300 IS Review

Camera Reviews / Canon Cameras / Canon PowerShot i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
Lens: 4.00x zoom
(28-112mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
Extended ISO: 80 - 1600
Shutter: 1/1500 - 15 sec
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
(91 x 56 x 21 mm)
Weight: 4.9 oz (138 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $200
Availability: 02/2010
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon SD1300 IS specifications

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Imaging Resource rating

4.0 out of 5.0

Canon SD1300 IS Overview

by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 05/14/2010

The Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS design features a 12.1-megapixel sensor, and sensitivity ranges between ISO 80 and ISO 1,600 equivalents. A 4x optical zoom lens graces the Canon SD1300, equivalent to a range of 28mm to 112mm on a 35mm camera; a useful wide-angle to a moderate telephoto. Maximum aperture varies from f/2.8 to f/5.9 across the zoom range. Canon has included a true optical image stabilization system in the SD1300 IS, which combats blur from camera shake.

The Canon SD1300 IS lacks any form of optical or electronic viewfinder, with all interaction taking place through its rear-panel LCD display. The PowerShot SD1300's display measures 2.7 inches diagonally, and offers 230,000 dot resolution, which equates to roughly a 320 x 240 pixel array with three dots per color. LCD coverage is said to be approximately 100%. As well as still images at resolutions up to 4,000 x 3,000 pixels, the Canon SD1300 can record standard definition movie clips at either VGA (640 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240) resolution, with a rate of 30 frames per second in Motion JPEG AVI format, and including monaural audio.

Exposures are calculated using the Canon SD1300's evaluative metering system, which also offers center-weighted average and spot modes. No manual control over the look of images is provided, with the Canon PowerShot SD1300 instead providing a choice of Auto, Program Auto, and twelve scene modes. Seven white balance modes are available, including Auto, five presets, and manual. The PowerShot SD1300 IS has a seven mode flash strobe with a range of one to 13 feet at wide-angle, or 1.6 to 6.6 feet at telephoto.

The Canon PowerShot SD1300IS stores images and movies on Secure Digital, SDHC, or SDXC cards. Connectivity options include NTSC / PAL standard definition composite video and USB 2.0 High Speed data. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NB-6L lithium-ion rechargeable battery, rated as good for a battery life of 240 shots.

The Canon SD1300IS ships from late February 2010 in the US market, with a starting price of $200.


Canon SD1300 IS User Report

by Mike Pasini

Style and simplicity are the ELPH hallmarks, and the Canon SD1300 IS has plenty of style while simplifying the task of getting a nice snapshot. The sticker price is appealingly low at $200, too.

My relationship with the slick little ELPH was love at first sight. While I continued to find it charming as I took it around with me, I quickly ran into a few limitations. And while they aren't anything snapshooters should hold against it, enthusiasts might want to take note.

Bottom line, though, the Canon SD1300 will make a nice companion if you really don't want to worry about making any decisions except when to snap the shutter or start recording a video. You won't get those great shots of your star on the soccer field sharply focused while everyone else is a lovely blur, but you'll get photos that are very pleasing all the same.

The Canon SD1300 took some great close-ups, good outdoor shots, and surprisingly well-lit flash shots, all without any hints from me.

Look and Feel. The reason I fell in love with the Canon SD1300 at first sight was, well, it's just gorgeous. Canon sent a metallic blue (one might say cerulean) model. You can get it in black, silver, green, pink, or brown.

A black band breaks up the color shell on the side and top panels, hiding the Canon SD1300's AV/Out port above the strap eyelet on the right side and narrowing after the Shutter button on top to a thin band the continues down the left side. That leaves room for a larger-than-usual triangular Power button to the left of the Shutter/Zoom lever combination that was easy to find and use.

The usual PowerShot controls are all on the back panel next to a 2.7-inch LCD. And the Canon SD1300's battery/card compartment on the bottom sits next to a plastic tripod mount.

The front panel is smooth and flat with nothing but the slightly raised "Canon" to grab onto. Unlike the SD1200 IS, there's no optical viewfinder on the Canon SD1300. But I didn't miss it at all.

After attaching the wrist strap, I just slipped it into the front pocket of my jeans and took off.

Controls. Tiny Power buttons are the bane of compact digicams but the Canon SD1300 IS sports an unusual triangular button. That makes the surface area a lot larger than usual. And because it's slightly raised as well, I had no trouble at all feeling for it to turn the camera on or off. Power buttons can be a real pain. This one was not.

And when you press its Power button, the Canon SD1300 starts up fast. I really didn't have to wait for the lens to pop out or the LCD to display what the lens was looking at. By the time I raised the camera up to my eyes, it was ready for action.

The Shutter button to the right of it is also generously sized and the Zoom lever around it is just where I like to find it. Zooming was smooth and fast, not jerky, so I was able to compose my shots without flicking the Zoom lever.

There is no Mode dial on the SD1300 IS. Instead, it uses a Mode switch in the top right corner of the back panel with three settings: Smart Auto, Still, and Video. Auto, as I explain below, doesn't let you change very many settings. Still does. And Video shoots movies.

To the left of the Mode switch is the Playback button. You press Playback to view the images stored on the SD card in the camera. If the camera is off when you press it, it will turn the camera on without extending the lens. That's very handy when you have the camera facing down on a table, say.

Even more handy, you can just press Playback to turn the camera off. But not if you entered Playback from a Recording mode. In that case, it just returns you to the Recording mode. It's something of a smart Playback button in that sense. The best part about the Canon SD1300 having a Playback button is that you can return to Record mode with a half-press on the Shutter button, which you can't do if Playback is an item on a Mode switch.

Below the navigator are the Display and Menu buttons. Display cycles through the display options and Menu takes you to the camera's setup options.

The LCD itself is 2.7 inches (rather than 3-inch LCD many compacts now use) with 230K dots. It's easily seen at an angle, so you can hold the SD1300 IS over your head and still have an idea of what the Canon SD1300 is looking at. It does pick up fingerprints on its antiglare surface but they cleaned up pretty quickly. I have to say I really didn't miss a 3-inch LCD.

Lens. What I did miss is a lens with a longer zoom range. The 4x zoom of the Canon SD1300 covers a 35mm equivalent range of 28mm to 110mm, a reasonable wide-angle to a moderate telephoto. But I found myself often shooting in the 4x digital zoom range, even for medium shots where the subject was just across the street.

The lens does enjoy Canon's optical image stabilization so camera shake isn't going to ruin the shot as often if you have to turn off the flash (in a museum, for example).

Maximum apertures range from f/2.8 at wide-angle to f/5.9 at telephoto. But you have no direct control over either aperture or shutter speed on the Canon SD1300 IS.

Our lab tests show blurring in the corners of the frame at wide-angle and the usual barrel distortion (although it wasn't very severe). Telephoto results were much sharper in the corner with no measurable distortion. The Canon SD1300's resolution was very high, surpassing 1,800 lines an inch both horizontally and vertically.

Modes. The Canon SD1300 offers a more simplified selection of Record modes than I recall on previous ELPHs. That simplification includes a smarter Auto mode, too.

Smart Auto is Canon's implementation of what others call intelligent Auto. But unlike other approaches, Smart Auto doesn't pick a Scene mode. Instead it evaluates the scene, setting the camera to one of 18 different presets, each of which is identified on the LCD with an icon and color scheme of its own.

So, for example, if the camera detects people in the scene, it considers whether the people are backlit in bright sun or backlit with blue skies. If the lighting is dark, it considers whether the camera is attached to a tripod (something it can presumably deduce from its image-stabilization motion sensors). The people icon, with or without a sun or moon, is displayed in three different colors depending on what conditions the camera discovered.

The same goes for landscapes (which can include a fourth color) and for close subjects.

In Smart Auto mode, the camera makes the exposure decisions (disabling EV Compensation, ISO, White Balance, etc.), but there are still a few you can set. Those include Flash (Auto or Off only), all Self-Timer settings, and Image Size.

Program remains an automatic mode (you can't directly affect the shutter speed or aperture, although you can change the ISO) but gives you control over most exposure decisions. EV Compensation, Focus mode, and full Flash options are all active on the four-way navigator. From the Func./Set button menu, ISO, White Balance, My Colors, Metering, Release Mode, and Image Size are available.

Program mode is also how you access the Canon SD1300 IS's Scene modes. Those include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, and Underwater.

VGA movie. (Click to download 11MB AVI file.)

Movie mode captures 640 x 480 video at 30 frames per second or 320 x 240 at 30 fps for up to 60 minutes or 4GB per clip. You can use silent digital zoom and sound is recorded. SD Speed Class 4 or higher memory cards are recommended.

Menu. The Canon controls and menu system are comfortable to use once you learn how to play the game (which seems to change a little on each model). After you pick a Record mode, just hit the Function button to see your shooting options. Hit the Menu button for general camera setup options any time.

Storage & Battery. The Canon SD1300 IS supports SD cards in the following formats: SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMC Plus Card, HC MMC Plus Card. Class 4 or higher SDHC and SDXC cards are recommended for video capture.

A 4GB card will hold around 1,231 high resolution images at the highest quality level (a 3,084K file size). At the highest video settings, a 4GB card can hold 32 minutes, 26 seconds of action.

The Canon SD1300 is powered by a slim lithium-ion rechargeable battery (NB-6L). The battery is rated by Canon using CIPA standards for about 240 shots. A second battery will cost $59.99. An optional $70 AC adapter kit (ACK-DC40), which uses a dummy battery for the power connection, is also available.

Canon also sells a $240 waterproof case (WP-DC36) for the Canon SD1300 IS (which, I should point out, lacks any electronic technology, yet costs $40 more than the camera itself).

Shooting. The first thing I did with the Canon SD1300 was reset it to its factory settings. Then I immediately enabled i-Contrast. I don't know why Canon's default is to disable this feature, but one of the big problems with little cameras is blown highlights -- and that's just what i-Contrast prevents. It does a little more than that, preventing clipping in either the shadows or the highlights and bumping up the contrast on flat images when necessary. So it's good to have it on.

Then I took a few shots to get a sense of what the compact Canon SD1300 IS could do.

Among my first get-acquainted shots is the gallery shot of the light bulb. The afternoon light streaming in the from the window made the light bulb itself just a silhouette in the LCD preview but with the flash on, it was a different story.

The first thing that I noticed about the shot was that the white subject was not blown out by the flash -- despite being only about a foot away. You can easily detect the different whites of the porcelain fixture and the glass bulb.

And just to cover the bases, I took a shot of the empty garage to see how far the light would go at wide-angle and it lit the scene up without a problem.

That's good flash performance in a compact. I don't usually test flash but I suspect typical use will involve quite a bit of it. It's certainly up to the task. Note that at telephoto in full Auto mode, the flash's range is limited to about six feet at ISO 500, but that's not at all uncommon.

The next thing I tried with the Canon SD1300 was macro shooting. Being able to snap close-ups is one of the joys of digital photography. But it can often involve some tricky settings (like Macro or Super Macro or Digital Macro, which may or may not prevent any focal length setting other than wide-angle).

But the Canon SD1300 IS makes macro shooting as simple as using Smart Auto mode and moving the camera close to a subject. If focal length is a problem (typically you've zoomed in too far), the LCD will warn you and you can zoom back out and move the camera closer.

Otherwise, you can shoot macro in Program mode just by setting Macro as the focus mode using the Left arrow. The gallery has examples of a carpenter's pencil (which illustrates depth of field with a wide-open lens) and a couple of shots of a Kodak camera. The carpenter's pencil is f/2.9 and ISO 75 really shows how shallow depth of field can be (and still it's pretty good) -- but it would be no trouble to shoot at a higher ISO for more depth of field. There's room.

Red flowers are often a problem for small digicams, which tend to oversaturate the red channel. I took a shot of some red ground cover that stayed modestly red. I was sure I'd be blinded by fluorescing red petals but no, the Canon SD1300 handled it very well.

That went for a macro shot of some white ground cover (which was not blown out) and some poppies that also fall into the red spectrum.

Canon touts the low-light performance of the Canon SD1300 based on its optical image stabilization, high ISO, and noise suppression. Because the Canon SD1300 IS menu system requires you to press the Display button to find it, I didn't at first realize the camera had a Low Light Scene mode.

So how did they do with the dolls in their dark corner?

The doll sequence goes from Smart Auto (without flash) to Program Auto to Program at ISO 800 and at ISO 1,600, and finally Low Light. Oddly enough Smart Auto and Program Auto both set ISO 800 and f/5.5 but used different shutter speeds (1/8 and 1/4 second). Program Auto did a better job on exposure at 1/4 although the image stabilization wasn't able to prevent blur from camera shake. The ISO 800 shot confirms that while the ISO 1,600 shot manages the sharpest shot of the series with a 1/8 second shutter speed.

The Low Light shot is a special case, using a much smaller image size (only 1,200 x 1,600 pixels) with a 1/16 second shutter speed and an ISO of 4,726, according to the Exif header. There are also more credible values stored there, including an AutoISO of 800 and a BaseISO of 591. Color and detail are still weak, however.

So the Canon SD1300's low-light performance wasn't impressive, although you'll have to spend more to beat it.

When I took the Canon SD1300 IS on an outing to the de Young museum, I found myself composing beyond the telephoto focal length of the 4x zoom into the 4x digital zoom. Even just shooting across the street or across a reflecting pool, I had to use digital zoom.

But the digital zoom images actually hold up pretty well. They aren't quite as sharp, no, but the color is good and they do have sufficient detail to make good prints. The bronze hunter is a good example. I couldn't get that composition without 2.5x digital zoom but even the weeds look good.

Histogram. In Playback mode, one of several display options.

With a 12.1-megapixel sensor, looking at the full resolution image on your monitor can be deceiving. To judge sharpness, you should look at the image at half the size. To do that with the full-resolution image at your computer, scoot your chair back so it's twice as far away.

I did have trouble exposing the Gustave Doré's dark bronze sculpture with all the small figures. When the camera pointed north, the sky was blue. When it pointed south, the sky is white. The subject is dark, so I was concerned (even with i-Contrast enabled) about muddying up the shadows. And I knew no LCD was going to accurately portray the capture, so I relied on the histogram displayed on Review or in Playback mode to judge the exposure.

Detail. In Playback mode, another of several display options.

I found I really couldn't improve things with the Canon SD1300's EV Compensation. My best bet was simply to change how much of the frame was occupied with either the vase or the sky, lock the exposure by pressing the Shutter button halfway down and then recomposing. That yielded the results you see, which are a bit overexposed compared to the scene, but do hold onto the dark detail.

Shooting into the sun (which I do quite a bit) just wasn't a good idea with the Canon SD1300 IS.

Movie mode was pretty easy to use, too. There are really just two settings. One for your TV and one for the Web. I was disappointed that the TV quality is only standard video. We're living in the high definition era and it's nice to see those 16:9 TVs light up full frame with your video. It's even more fun to shoot since it's what you see at the movies. You might prefer Canon's SD1400 IS if that's important to you.

Look below for our analysis of the images and other aspects of the Canon SD1300, and all the way to the bottom for our conclusion. Bottom line, though, the Canon SD1300 is an easy choice in a pocket camera, because it has what most people want for quick, good quality photographs.


Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Lens Quality

Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft upper left corner
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Fairly sharp upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot SD1300's zoom is slightly soft in the corners, and this softness extends well into the frame. However, at telephoto, all four corners remain fairly sharp compared to the center of the frame.

Wide: Low barrel distortion; minimally noticeable
Tele: A small amount of barrel distortion, very slight

Geometric Distortion: There is surprisingly little barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.3%), and a small amount of barrel distortion (0.2%) at telephoto. The camera's deft processor is definitely at work here.

Wide: Bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is strong, with bright bluish-purplish pixels visible. At telephoto, some chromatic aberration is visible, but pixels aren't as bright or distracting and the overall effect is minimal.

Macro with Flash

Macro: The Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS' Macro mode captures sharp details at the center of the frame, though the corners and edges are blurry, with a small amount of chromatic aberration. Minimum coverage area is a mere 1.6 x 1.2 inches (41 x 30mm). The flash produced very uneven results due to its placement on the camera and the close range, so stick to external lighting for the best exposure at the closest macro setting.


Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS Image Quality

Color: Overall color is quite good, with only slight oversaturation in some reds and blues, and just a tiny bit of decreased saturation in bright yellows. Hue accuracy is also quite good, with only small shifts such as cyan toward blue and orange toward yellow (and some yellows toward green). Darker skin tones are pretty close, though a bit yellow, while lighter skin tones are just a shade pink. Good results here.


ISO: Noise and Detail: The Canon PowerShot SD1300 IS handles noise fairly well at the lower ISO settings, though by ISO 400, details are quite smudgy. ISOs 800 and 1,600 have a strong amount of luminance noise and visible noise suppression, but results are a little better than average. See Printed results below for more on how this affects printed images.

Wide: Bright
Tele: Also fairly bright
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows good, bright results at the rated wide-angle distance of 13 feet, though the camera increased ISO to 500 to achieve this. The telephoto test also showed bright results at its rated distance of 6.6 feet, though again, ISO is increased to 500. Given these results, the PowerShot SD1300 IS' flash will be sufficient in most situations, provided you stay within 9 feet or so and don't zoom more than midway.

Auto WB: Close, a hint warm
Incandescent WB: Too red
Manual WB: Very good

Incandescent: The Manual white balance setting produced the best overall results here, though the Auto mode wasn't too far off either (just a hint reddish). Incandescent, however, produced a strong red cast.

Printed: ISO 80 and 100 files produce good quality 13x19-inch prints. 16x21 was a little too large for these files, but just a little smaller makes them look just right.

ISO 200 shots are a little softer, requiring a size reduction to 11x14 inches.

ISO 400 files are usable printed at 11x14, though a little soft. Printing them at letter size (8.5x11) is better.

ISO 800 shots are soft but usable at 8x10. It's fairly subject-dependent, but fine detail looks better at 5x7.

ISO 1,600 shots are soft at 5x7, but look quite good at 4x6.

Overall printed performance is not quite as good as more expensive models, but for $200 the Canon SD1300 outperforms most other cameras at this price range. Getting a good quality 13x19-inch print from an inexpensive, no-nonsense digital camera is impressive, and when you can even get a good 4x6 from the camera's highest ISO setting it's a good, safe bet.


Canon SD1300 IS Performance

Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.53 second at wide angle and 0.58 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.073 second, slower than average, but still fast.

Cycle time: Cycle time is a little slower than average, capturing a frame every 2.2 seconds in single-shot mode. Canon rates the SD1300's continuous mode speed at 0.9 frames-per-second, but we didn't verify that.

Flash Recycle: The Canon PowerShot SD1300' flash recycles in a slightly slow 6.3 seconds after a full-power discharge.


In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

  • PowerShot SD1300 IS Digital ELPH camera
  • Lithium-ion Battery Pack NB-6L
  • Battery Charger CB-2LY
  • Wrist Strap WS-DC7
  • USB Interface Cable IFC-400PCU
  • AV Cable AVC-DC400
  • Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM


Canon SD1300 IS Conclusion

Canon's compact, automatic ELPH line has grown up a bit since last year. But it has matured in two pleasing ways. First, it's smaller (and, yes, lighter). Second, it's simpler than it has ever been to just take pictures. And Smart Auto extends that simplicity to a few more difficult scenarios. Menus and options are simpler too, with even the Scene modes cut back to a healthy, but minimal set.

The Canon SD1300 IS brings as 4x zoom with optical image stabilization and a 12.1-Mp sensor to the ELPH party in your choice of colored case at a very attractive price. It's quick and a pleasure to use. The only disappointments were in shooting into the sun, low light shooting, and video capture's lack of an HD setting. Contrast in outdoor scenes was a little too much for some of our subjects, but generally that's a good thing. Printed results were quite good, with every ISO setting producing good quality at a common print size, ranging from an impressive 13x19 inches at ISO 80 to a good 4x6-inch print at ISO 1,600.

Canon ELPHs continue to be almost certain Dave's Picks and the Canon SD1300 IS one of the more affordable.


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