Canon IXUS 125 HS

Filled with some of Canon's latest technology and shooting modes, the IXUS 125 HS is a solid ultra-compact camera.

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Design and features

The Canon IXUS 125 HS doesn't look all that much different from its predecessor, the IXUS 115 HS, and that's because it's not. At least, not on the outside. On the inside is a new 16-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor and Digic 5 image processor. The latter is likely to thank for its improved photo quality — both outside and indoors — over the earlier model.

It also has a faster, wider and longer lens and low shutter lag, which is good news for anyone fed up with their smartphone's camera limitations, but still want something that's very pocketable and lightweight.

Despite all of its positive attributes, it's still a little too expensive. If you like the sound of its features and don't need to purchase till later this year, we would suggest waiting. But if you can't wait, then there's little not to like about the Canon IXUS 125 HS.

The mode switch has two spots: Smart Auto and everything else.
(Credit: CNET)

The overall design of the 125 HS doesn't change that much from the last generation. Instead of rounded corners, the body is more squared off, and the one-touch record button for movies is shifted closer to the bright, high-res 3-inch LCD, but it's otherwise the same. All of the controls are flat and flush with the body. It gives the camera a very smooth appearance, but using the four-way directional pad and centre Func/Set button can be a little difficult. Also, while I had no problems using them, the buttons, shooting-mode switch and zoom rocker are tiny, which might be a problem for some; it would be an excellent idea to lay hands on one before you buy it.

The zoom range is more about improving your framing than getting you closer to a distant subject. It goes from an ultra-wide-angle 24mm (top) out to 120mm, or a 5x zoom.
(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

Regardless of their shape and size, the controls are easy to master. The menu system can take some getting used to, depending on how quickly you can remember to hit the Func/Set button for shooting-mode specific settings and the Menu button for everything else. You also have the option to turn on a help system with hints and tips for choosing the appropriate settings or simply telling you what the shooting mode you're in is going to do.

For those who are addicted to the photo filters from a favorite smartphone app, Canon includes several of its high-quality Creative Filters. From top left to bottom right: Auto (no effect used), Toy Camera Effect, Soft, Monochrome, Super Vivid and Poster Effect. View this larger to get a better look at the differences.
(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

For connecting to a computer, monitor or HDTV, there are mini USB, A/V and HDMI outputs underneath a small door on the right-hand side of the body. The battery and memory card compartment is on the bottom under a non-locking door. The battery does not charge in camera, and the shot life is rated for only 170 shots, so you'll probably find yourself opening the compartment quite a bit if you shoot regularly. Keep in mind, too, that using zoom or burst shooting a lot, shooting full HD movies and keeping the screen brightness high will all cut into your battery life.

The 125 HS has a fairly large assortment of shooting options, but almost all of them are automatic modes, meaning that there's no full control over shutter speed and aperture. The shooting-mode switch on the camera's top has two options: one for Auto and one for all of its other modes. Canon pumped up its Smart Auto, which now recognises 58 predefined shooting situations. This includes Canon's new Face ID feature, which allows you to program the camera to recognise up to 12 faces that it will then prioritise for focus and exposure. In my anecdotal testing, it worked OK, but it's one of those features that most people probably won't bother to set up.

While the 125 HS is fairly easy to use, its flat buttons can be difficult to press.
(Credit: CNET)

Taking the camera off Smart Auto gives you access to a Program Auto mode, as well as all of the scene modes, creative effects modes and miniature effect and slow-motion video recording. However, they're laid out in one long list, so if you're the type to change modes frequently, then this can be a pain. Canon's Smart Shutter option is there, too; it includes a smile-activated shutter release and Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera, and the Face Detection option will wait till the camera detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well.


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9
    Canon IXUS 220 HS
    Canon IXUS 125 HS

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed

  • 7.7
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9
  • 3.2
    Canon IXUS 220 HS
  • 2.1
    Canon IXUS 125 HS

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Shooting performance from the 125 HS is mixed. It has low shutter lag, at 0.3 seconds in good lighting and 0.6 seconds in dimmer conditions. However, its shot-to-shot times are a little slow, at 2.2 seconds without flash and 3.6 seconds with flash. If you switch to continuous shooting, it can fire off 2.1 frames per second at full resolution, with focus and exposure set with the first shot. That might not be as fast as some of the competition, but this IXUS also doesn't make you wait while it stores photos till you can shoot again; you can just keep shooting. If you need something faster, it does have a high-speed burst mode that can capture at up to 5.8fps at a 4-megapixel resolution. The results are good enough for web use or small prints.

Image quality

Overall photo quality is very good to excellent for this class of camera. Yes, its 16-megapixel resolution is more about marketing than better photos, but unless you're a pixel peeper, then you should be satisfied with the 125 HS' results. Its photos are best suited for web use and prints up to 8x10, though under the right conditions prints as large as 33x48cm are possible. Like most point-and-shoot cameras, the more light you give the IXUS 125 HS, the better off your photos will be. However, it does well indoors, too — up to about ISO 800. Its high-ISO photos are OK, certainly better than even a really good smartphone camera, but they're very soft, and ISO 3200 is pretty much unusable.

(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

Colours are vivid and bright without looking unnatural. Exposure is generally good, but highlights do occasionally blow out. And, unlike other BSI CMOS cameras, Canon does not include an HDR (high dynamic range) option on this model to help with challenging lighting. See more images in our photo gallery.

If you like to shoot close-ups, the 110 HS can focus as close as 3 centimetres from your subject. This is a 100 per cent crop from the inset photo taken at ISO 100. Even at larger sizes and with heavy cropping, the photos are excellent for inspecting fine details.
(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

This is just to give you an idea of what the 110 HS is capable of at ISO 100 when photos are viewed at full size. The 16-megapixel resolution is more usable than most in this class, allowing you to enlarge and crop and still get quality good enough for web use and smaller prints. When viewed at full-screen size, her hair isn't as detailed and the individual strands look a little crunchy, so you probably wouldn't want to do larger prints.
(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

As with its photos, the video quality is noticeably improved from the 115 HS. Panning the camera will create some judder, and there is slight trailing on moving subjects, but the video is watchable on larger HDTVs and certainly at smaller sizes on a computer screen or mobile device. The optical zoom is now available while recording (the 100 HS only had digital zoom for movies), although you will hear it moving. If you like to share clips with your friends and family online, the 125 HS will outperform a smartphone. Along with full HD movies, the camera also records high-speed clips for slow-motion playback, as well as iFrame format video for easier editing and uploading.

Fringing in high-contrast areas is prevalent, but for the most part it's difficult to see at smaller sizes. This is a 100 per cent crop from the upper left corner of the inset photo.
(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)


It's a shame that cameras like the Canon IXUS 125 HS are losing to smartphones. It's understandable, but disappointing, nonetheless, because it's faster and takes better photos and full HD video. Even its creative effects are better quality than much of what you'd get from various mobile apps. If you're tired of your smartphone camera's lens and performance limitations, or are just looking for a better-than-basic snapshot camera, then definitely check it out.


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