Hello, sorry to resurrect older thread with a wall of text and a bunch of photos, but I was surprised at people complaining about the sx130 IS. I've used numerous compacts, and this is my favourite one. I wanted to start by saying it is not a point and shoot. It is an ultrazoom compact, with a bunch of manual settings. Yes, it has an Auto mode, but as with most cameras, especially the more money you spend on a camera, I think Auto is an afterthought, and hardly results in better pictures.
First: turn off digital zoom. Always take photos at full resolution, so that the maximum amount of image detail is available to you when editing. You can always shrink it to a smaller size to display, after editing the photo.
Second: I might get some negative feedback for saying this, and I'm no pro, but I've been assured by numerous other photographers, including those pros that I've talked with, that adjusting a photo on a computer afterwards is just a fact of life with most digital cameras - even those cameras that cost many thousands of dollars don't mean you won't need to touch things up afterwards to get it looking how you want. Even if just to crop the photo for a better laid out scene.
My settings for pretty much every photo I take on the sx130 IS:
Evaluative spot metering
Fine quality Jpeg
handheld, with Continuous Image Stabilization on. (If on a Tripod - you MUST disable Image Stabilization, or it will make false readings and blur the image)
The only settings I ever change are these three:
Iso: usually 200 (or if there's less lighting, 400 or 800 until it clicks fast enough not to blur. If indoors, if 800 is still blurry, use Auto ISO. I never use the flash - it washes out all the interesting details and natural lighting.)
Lighting: Choose Sun or Cloudy for outdoors, or pick a light type if indoors.
For Macro: get as close as you can (1cm maximum) - or - take the photo using full optical zoom, from 1 meter or further away.
Here's some examples: The purple flowers were macro mode, the camera held only a few cm from the flower. They did not take up the entire image - I cropped them that way, from a full size image, later. The butterfly was taken at full optical zoom from more than a meter away. The butterfly only took up part of the image. Again, I cropped out the details that interested me from the larger image. Then on a computer, black levels were darkened, light levels were brightened. Using Lightroom, I slightly increased the sharpness, then decreased the resulting noise level. The result is clear, colorful, vibrant images, with a handheld compact camera.
They may not be perfect, but I would have no problem recommending this camera to other people.