Canon IXUS 125 HS £229
15th Mar 2012 | 15:10
A 16.1MP snapper with face detection and 5x optical zoom
Overview and features
Earlier this year, Canon announced several new additions to its highly popular IXUS range of stylish, ultra-portable compact cameras.
The Canon IXUS 125 HS is priced as an entry-level model in the company's new lineup, yet its headline specifications are impressive.
Canon has given the IXUS 125 HS a range-topping 16.1MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor, as well the brand new Digic 5 processing chip. If Canon's claims are accurate, Digic 5 promises six times faster image processing and a 75 per cent reduction in image noise.
Add in the high-sensitivity (HS) capabilities of the Canon IXUS 125 HS's sensor and we have a camera that should deliver detailed images, with well-controlled image noise and good dynamic range.
Despite being contained in such a compact body, the Canon IXUS 125 HS contains a useful 5x optical zoom range equivalent to 24-120mm. This should give it the capacity to shoot decent group shot close-ups and extend to capture most distant subjects in detail.
A host of additional features are included to make the Canon IXUS 125 HS as simple as possible to use. The Smart Auto mode automatically selects the best camera settings from a selection of 58 presets, which should cover most shooting scenarios.
Priced at £230 in the UK or around $360 in the US, the Canon IXUS 125 HS costs around the same as fellow 16MP cameras the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX9V and Samsung MV800, and more than the 16MP Nikon Coolpix S6200 and Fuji FinePix F600 EXR.
The camera is capable of Full HD video recording at 24fps with optical zoom enabled. To avoid excessive camera shake when recording at the telephoto end of the zoom range, the 'Intelligent IS' optical image stabilisation is also active while in movie mode.
Viewing these recordings straight from the camera on an HD-ready television is possible through the inclusion of a mini HDMI connection.
Canon's Face ID face detection system is capable of registering up to 12 specific faces, and even their corresponding ages.
The camera can then use this information to adjust shooting settings appropriately, such as deactivating the flash when the pre-programmed face of a sleeping baby is detected.
Build and handling
In keeping with the fashion-conscious IXUS ethos, the Canon IXUS 125 HS is contained within a svelte metal body with colour options of red, turquoise, lime green, pink or silver.
Measuring just 93 x 57 x 20mm and weighing in at 135g ready to shoot, this is a camera that comfortably fits in a shirt pocket or clutch bag, ready for any occasion.
However, its compact dimensions combined with large 3-inch screen mean there's no space for a thumb grip, so shooting one-handed is a risky affair if not wearing the wrist strap.
Build quality has always been a strong aspect of the Canon IXUS range, and the 125 HS is no exception.
The metal housing feels solid and ready to survive everyday abuse, while a flexible rubber flap protects the HDMI and USB outputs.
Buttons are where you would expect to find them and include a large, dedicated video record button.
The rear panel controls are also recessed into the body, which protects them but makes the smaller buttons difficult to press without using a thumbnail.
Canon has maintained the same menu style and layout used in previous IXUS models such as the Canon IXUS 230 HS and Canon IXUS 1100 HS. This gives the user a clear and simple interface for controlling the camera's options and settings.
The 3-inch PureColor II G LCD is another element common to other IXUS family members. Its resolution of 460,000 dots is about average for this class of camera, and it's clear enough to be a good image preview display.
In Live View mode, the screen has excellent viewing angles. And while it is quite reflective, there's enough brightness and contrast for easy use under harsh lighting.
Because this is an entry-level compact camera targeted for point and shoot users, shooting options are somewhat limited. There are no options for manual control, and even traditional scene modes have been omitted from the features list.
Instead, the photographer is given the option of choosing between either a programmable auto mode or the full Smart Auto option that offers automatic scene detection and selects the most appropriate settings for each shot.
The Canon IXUS 125 HS is fast to start up and is ready for action in less than two seconds of pressing the power button. Focusing is also quick, accurate and difficult to fool in most conditions.
The 5x optical zoom (24-120mm equivalent) lens may not sound remarkable in comparison with some of its IXUS siblings, yet it does provide a 24mm wide angle equivalent that should be wide enough for good close-up group shots, plus adequate telephoto range for most scenarios.
Zooming between focal lengths is a smooth and accurate process, making it easy to achieve precise focal length adjustment.
There's very slight barrel distortion visible at the widest focal length, changing to an equally minor pincushion effect at maximum zoom. However, this distortion is only apparent on close scrutiny when shooting architecture or geometric shapes.
Real-world dynamic range performance is impressive, with the exposure metering invariably striking a good balance between preserving highlight details and giving realistic shadow definition.
Chromatic aberration is visible in some high-contrast areas, but is only noticeable when pixel peeping.
The 16.1MP CMOS sensor provides a high level of detail that is sharpest in the centre of frame, although the lens still often maintains decent corner clarity.
Minor problems were evident in some landscape shots, where fine distance detail can sometimes appear slightly smeared, even at low ISO settings. It's difficult to determine what causes this, but the overall effect looks like the result of slightly overzealous noise reduction algorithms.
Nevertheless, this is a relatively minor issue that is unlikely to bother most users.
General high sensitivity (ISO) performance is very impressive, with the HS sensor virtually eliminating colour speckling in all but the highest sensitivity setting (ISO 3200).
Fine grain noise is still visible in shadow areas of low ISO daylight shots when viewing at full resolution, but this isn't distracting and is generally preferable to loosing detail as a result of extra noise suppression.
Our analysis shows that the IXUS 125 HS produces similar results for both signal to noise ratio and dynamic range as the Nikon Coolpix S8200. Dynamic range results across the sensitivity range are good showing the detail in the shadows and highlights can still be captured all the way up to ISO 3200.
Noise is equally handled well with the results at ISO 3200 coming in just above 30, showing that whilst noise is present in the images it is possible to capture a decent picture with detail in low light conditions.
As part of our image quality testing for the Canon IXUS 125 HS we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the IXUS 125 is capable of resolving up to around 22(line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
See a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 100, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 14 (see full image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG Signal to Noise Ratio
JPEG images from the Canon IXUS 125 HS compare closely with the Nikon Coolpix S8200 and although the Nikon does just have the edge the visual difference in noise levels between the two will be minimal.
JPEG dynamic range
This chart shows that the Canon IXUS 125 HS again compares closely to the Nikon Coolpix S8200, with the S8200 just having the lead at the lower sensitivities, but at the higher end of the sensitivity scale the IXUS 125 HS shows better handling of noise in low light conditions.
MACRO: The Canon IXUS 125 HS is capable of sharp, well-focused macro shots.
AUTO FOCUS: The auto focus system isn't easily tricked.
SOME GRAIN: Good detail and dynamic range, although slight grain is visible in the shadow areas of our sweet-toothed friend.
WIDE ANGLE: A 24mm wide angle is very useful.
QUICK LOCK: Auto focus is quick and accurate enough to snap most fleeting moments.
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 100 image. See the cropped (zoomed to 100%) versions below.
Noise and grain are suppressed impressively well throughout the Canon IXUS 125 HS's sensitivity range.
Only at the highest ISO 3200 setting is colour speckling evident, but is not especially problematic. Detail is slightly smoothed at ISO 1600 and 3200, but not to distracting levels.
The Canon IXUS 125 HS succeeds admirably well in producing great image quality at all ISO settings.
The Canon IXUS 125 HS's image quality is very good, especially given that cramming so many pixels onto a small sensor could have potential pitfalls. These are successfully minimised by the HS system and Digic 5 processing engine, which succeed in the goal of producing high image quality in difficult conditions.
Canon's efforts aren't quite perfect, however. There are small issues with a lack of fine detail in some shots, and the diminutive body size may frustrate less dextrous users.
It's important to note that those who may occasionally want to experiment with manual settings should look elsewhere. This is strictly a point and shoot camera aimed at those who want to snap and go.
Canon's blend of good picture quality, a brand new sensor and processing chip make for a satisfying mix. Plus a highly effective autofocus and exposure metering sit in such an attractive, solid design.
Image quality isn't quite enough to take the Canon IXUS 125 HS to the top of its class, and the omission of manual controls and scene modes restrict creative control.
It can be difficult to pack good optical performance, extensive features and practical usability into a camera as small as the Canon IXUS 125 HS. But Canon has indeed provided a compelling blend of attractive compactness, high image quality and enough features to satisfy its target market.
Featuring Canon's latest sensor and processing technologies, and producing high image quality in such a compact form, makes the Canon IXUS 125 HS an appealing package.
However, since it costs around £230/$360 and doesn't quite match the image quality of some of the class leaders, the Canon IXUS 125 HS falls slightly short of the value for money now offered by some established IXUS models.
Consequently we can't quite award the Canon IXUS 125 HS top marks, but this is still a very capable camera and is unlikely to disappoint.