Canon IXUS 185 Review

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Introduction

The Canon IXUS 185 is a new budget compact camera. The Canon 185 features a 20 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor and a 10x optical zoom lens which is equivalent to 28-224mm in 35mm terms, 720p movie recording, Wi-Fi connectivity, and Intelligent Image Stabilisation for stills and movies. The Canon IXUS 185 retails for £119.99 / €149.99.

Ease of Use

Having been selling digital IXUS cameras for the past 15 years – and at one time selling them in droves – Canon as a manufacturer has taken an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to 2017’s latest iteration of the long running series. Many might suggest the market has moved on – thanks to smartphone and tablet integrated cameras largely killing off the dedicated compact point-and-shoot category that the IXUS very much falls into. But, it appears this particular attractively stylish and slim-line camera family is still standing, with the IXUS 185 and its equally sibling 190 announced back in February this year. The former is the model we have on our test slab for today, in a maroon red-ish livery. Its headline features include a large-ish 20-megapixel effective resolution from a small-ish 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor.

So, what could convincingly entice someone to buy a digital IXUS in 2017? Well, if the manufacturer’s pitch is to be believed, the Canon IXUS 185 is not just about looking stylish (which it does) but having ‘fun’ with photography. Switch it on and this feels like a beginners’ model – the camera automatically operating in a dedicated ‘easy auto’ mode when you first switch it on, meaning there isn’t really anything one can do apart from point and shoot. We therefore quickly navigated our way to finding the Program mode on our own model, so we could exert some control over light sensitivity/ISO settings and the integral flashgun – i.e fire the latter when we wanted to, not just when the camera deemed flash was warranted, and then ‘compensate’ by bumping up the ISO if needed.

To be fair, even with Program shooting mode implemented, operation is still pretty much point-and-shoot all the way… even if the IXUS does have some creative shooting/digital filter options lurking within its menu screens if you want to get ever so slightly more hands on. Rather like a smartphone in other words. At least that means operation is a cinch, and any one more used to a camera phone than dedicated camera won’t be thrown.

Canon IXUS 185
Front of the Canon IXUS 185

Positively, the IXUS 185 also manages to squeeze an 8x optical zoom lens in, providing a 28-224mm equivalent focal range, despite the camera’s depth being only roughly the width of an adult finger. There’s the further option to digitally/artificially extend this reach to the equivalent of 16x if so desired – this simply runs on after the extremity of the 8x optical zoom has been reached.

‘Movies’ are offered here too, albeit at HD 1280×720 pixels quality – a fact this IXUS proudly displays via a logo on its top plate – as opposed to the now more common Full HD or 4K-video found in pricier options. At a manufacturer’s suggested £119.99 the cost of this model already felt fair, though inevitably most major UK retailers had dropped it lower and were selling the 185 at under £100 at the time of writing. It’s been a long time since we reviewed a digital camera under £100 and, it feels, a good while since any one of the major players actually made one.

Specification here is as basic as one might expect in this ‘beginner’ market segment. User selectable light sensitivity options range from ISO100 through ISO1600, though the Canon IXUS 185 will choose between a more restricted ISO100 to ISO800 range if left on auto setting. Thus, whilst one may avoid image noise/grain, it’s not always possible to avoid blur when shooting handheld. That said, we found the images the IXUS 185 delivered to be well exposed under normal daylight shooting conditions – if anything we found brighter conditions occasionally resulted in over exposure; luckily there is the option to dial down (or dial up) exposure settings within the camera’s function menu displayed at the left hand side of the screen, where the available range available to the photographer is +/- 2 EV. What did impress us is the camera’s ability to achieve well-defined macro shots as close as 1cm from a subject. Thus we were able to capture a bee collecting pollen from a flower, to give but one example, which might be beyond what most may assume a compact camera in this price range is capable of.

As we’ve come to expect from the IXUS family over the last decade plus, the design of the Canon IXUS 185 is sleek and minimalist in appearance, its glossy shell sitting comfortably in the palm of the hand. At the front we have the lens dominating proceedings, although in its dormant state it is retracted within the camera, with automatic lens cover slid shut. Top right of this is a familiar lozenge shaped window housing the built-in flash – its location meaning that we needed to be careful that a stray finger didn’t partially obscure it when holding the camera in both hands to take a shot. Flash settings run the usual gamut of auto, manual flash on/off, plus a further slow synchro setting and red eye reduction that needs to be separately implemented within the camera menus. Flash range is from 50cm to three metres.

Canon IXUS 185
Rear of the Canon IXUS 185

Top left of the lens is a small porthole housing the AF assist and self-timer lamp. And, in terms of features, that’s it for the camera front. It’s on the top plate that we discover the largest control – sensibly this is the shutter release button, which is encircled by a lever for operating the zoom. A raised lip at the front of the lever provides just enough of a purchase point for it to be operated by the forefinger, allowing a shot to subsequently be captured in one fluid movement.

With a couple of pin pricks housing the Canon IXUS 185’s built-in microphone for recording video clips, and a separate speaker, for playing them back, the only other control on the top plate is the on/off power button. To differentiate it to newbies, or those feeling gingerly around on the top plate as their eyes are otherwise focused on their subject, this control is smaller than the shutter release and also slightly set into the metalwork – both helping to avoid accidental activation. Press it and the camera powers up quickly – our estimate is just under two seconds as the rear LCD screens blinks into life and the retracted zoom lens extends outward from the body to arrive at its widest-angle setting, ready for action.

With the right hand flank of the Canon IXUS 185 – if viewing it from the back – housing a lug for the attachment of a wrist strap, and said lug sunk within a rubber pad that can be peeled back to reveal a hidden joint AV out / USB port, the opposite side of the camera is clear of any features whatsoever. The back of the IXUS 185 is obviously its ‘business end’, housing the LCD screen for composing and reviewing stills and video. Given that this camera is a budget offering, it’s no surprise to find the screen isn’t a touch screen, and to be honest as said monitor is only 2.7-inches in size, sporting a so-so resolution of 230K dots yet with brightness adjustment on board too, that’s not a great loss.

Still, with 100% frame coverage provided, what you see is at least what you get, and resolution is sufficient to check whether your shot’s in focus, at least if you enlarge a portion to check – which means the crucial bit is sorted.

Canon IXUS 185
Top of the Canon IXUS 185

The Canon IXUS 185’s back plate function buttons, ranged to the right of the screen, are exactly as we’d have expected to find on any digital compact camera from a decade or so back. And so we get marginally recessed buttons for playback and video record too, with a circular four-sided control pad sitting just below – with the familiar function/set button located at its epicentre.

Beneath this are a menu button and one next to it for, curiously, implementing an auto zoom function for photographing people – press this and the camera’s lens will zoom in without the user physically having to activate the zoom lever on the top plate. This option isn’t available in Program mode however – but merely in the ‘Easy Auto’ shooting mode, i.e the mode the camera is in when you first power it up out of the box.

Hold down the upper edge of the control pad where it is marked ‘Auto’ however to cancel and you can quit this mode and go into regular auto settings, where you’ll find the more wider creatively ranging ‘Program’ mode selectable from the function menu displayed down the left hand side of the LCD screen.

Program mode lets us alter the metering setting – the choice here being evaluative, centre weighted or spot – along with the power to exert control over the likes of white balance, ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation (+/- 2EV in 1/3 increments), and focus modes (infinity, macro and ‘normal’ settings). We also get the option to alter the shooting mode from Program to a dedicated pre-optimised portrait mode, Low Light mode (whereby resolution drops to 5MP to limit image noise), monochrome mode, perspective warping fish eye effect, toy camera effect, ‘super vivid’/ extra saturation option, poster effect, fireworks plus long shutter setting – the latter being the one we deployed for our night time image examples (along with self timer mode, in order to prevent our pressing of the shutter release button otherwise introducing camera wobble and unintended blur).

Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185

Otherwise, with the Canon IXUS 185 stuck in Auto, all we’re left having control over is the aforementioned self-timer (choose from off, two or ten seconds), drive mode (i.e single shot or continuous shooting, the latter a hardly pulse racing 0.8 shots per second) and image resolution. Here we get the choice of ‘L’ or large files – i.e the maximum 20 megapixel resolution  – or of dropping down to 10 megapixel, 3 megapixel or 640×480 pixels VGA resolution options. The IXUS 185 interesting adds a further ‘widescreen’ option – effectively cropping the shot so it will more closely resemble the format of a widescreen TV set – should that be the way you plan to view your images later on a bigger screen. The last option on the left-of-screen function menu affords the exerting of control over video clips – and whether the user chooses to shoot in HD or drop down to VGA resolution…which is certainly a blast from the past!

Squeeze the shutter release button half way to line up a photograph and you’ll see a familiar green square pop up on screen detailing that the Canon IXUS 185 has found something to focus on – hopefully the subject intended. Press down fully to take the shot and, with the camera responding instantly, a 20 megapixel resolution JPEG is speedily committed to memory in, again, just under two seconds. We can’t really fault the IXUS 185’s response times. If a dedicated digital device that pares operation back to purely pointing and shooting is what you want, buy this camera and that’s what you’ll get. If you want a bigger zoom range but most of the features already described here, including ease of use, also seek out Canon’s diminutive PowerShot SX430 IS. It’s not as stylish, but it does feature a whopping focal range.

Lastly, the base of the Canon IXUS 185 features a centrally positioned screw thread for attaching the camera to a tripod – we’d recommend an equally pocket-sized Gorillapod for this particular camera. Next to this, we have a slide-open-and-lift cover protecting the compartment shared by the camera’s battery and a slot for optional, but essential SD media card in whichever variety you choose. Battery life is good for 210 shots via the rechargeable lithium ion battery provided, which is fair if no great shakes obviously. We were able to use the camera over a period of a couple of days before the battery icon displayed on screen started showing a third depleted, which was fine for its class.

So far, so ‘so-so’. But what of the images the Canon IXUS 185 delivers? Do they single it out as a veritable pocket rocket, or cause it to fizzle out prematurely and fall short of target? Read on to discover more…

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 20 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.

With a large-ish 20 megapixel image resolution offered by a small-ish sensor, our concern with the Canon IXUS 185 is obviously always the potential for image noise to be introduced into a shot the higher we go up the ISO range. Fortunately for some, unfortunately for others, the camera’s maximum selectable ISO setting is a fairly bog standard ISO1600 – which witnesses the image quality at that setting visibly softened/degraded to limit/disguise noise. Therefore you probably and sensibly won’t want to stray higher than the ISO800 the camera, when left on auto, purposefully limits itself to.

Though it may not be ideal for handheld low light shooing – something we wouldn’t expect for its circa £100 asking price in any event – the Canon IXUS 185 does acquit itself more favourably when it comes to more common daylight lit scenes, the flash automatically firing (unless disabled by its user) if the image might otherwise be a little soft – and even when it appeared to this reviewer that there was light in abundance.

For the majority of its JPEG file output, images are warm and colourful, with the ability to boost saturation further in camera if so desired. OK, so thanks to that smaller sensor and lens they might not be the sharpest pictures we’ve even seen, and we’re losing some detail into the corners of the frames at times, as well as witnessing some pixel fringing between areas of high contrast, yet perfection is not what you can expect at this price. And, to be fair, the target audience for the IXUS 185 isn’t going to expecting the sort of definition they routinely see from their mirror-less cameras or DSLRs.

The IXUS 185 fits a particular segment in the market and has been engineered to meet a certain price point, no more no less. Its performance is therefore perfectly adequate overall, if not quite enough to set seasoned photographers’ pulses racing.

Noise

The Canon IXUS 185 only has five sensitivity settings at full resolution. Auto mode uses a range between ISO 100 and ISO 800, or you can switch to one of the creative shooting modes to manually select these settings.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon IXUS 185 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with purple and green fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

The close focusing of the Canon IXUS 185 at wide-angle is a mere 1cm. It does mean that there’s little light getting in when you do that and the edge definition drops off leaving around 50% of the image in focus.

Macro

Flash

The Canon IXUS 185′ flash has four modes: Auto, On, Off and Slow Synchro, plus a separate setting to enable or disable red-eye reduction. Whether this is active or not, the camera successfully avoids any trace of red-eye. Here are some portrait shots.

Flash On

Flash On – Red-eye Reduction

Night

The Canon IXUS 185’s maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, but sadly there’s no Bulb mode for even longer exposures. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1/2 second at ISO 800.

Night

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon IXUS 185 camera, which were all taken using the 20 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

5/10s · f/3.2 · ISO 800

1/500s · f/3.2 · ISO 100

1/200s · f/6.3 · ISO 250

1/200s · f/6.3 · ISO 125

1/500s · f/6.3 · ISO 500

1/250s · f/6.9 · ISO 400

Product Images

Canon IXUS 185
Front of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Front of the Canon IXUS 185 / Turned On
Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Rear of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Top of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Bottom of the Canon IXUS 185
 
Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Side of the Canon IXUS 185
Canon IXUS 185
Memory Card Slot
Canon IXUS 185
Battery Compartment

Specifications

Image Sensor
Type

1/2.3 type CCD

Effective Pixels

Approx. 20.0M 1

Effective / Total Pixels

Approx. 20.5M

Image Processor
Type

DIGIC 4+

Lens
Focal Length

5.0 – 40.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 224 mm)

Zoom

Optical 8x
ZoomPlus 16x
Digital approx. 4x
Combined approx. 32x 2

Maximum f/number

f/3.2 – f/6.9

Construction

8 elements in 7 groups (1 double-sided aspherical lens)

Image Stabilisation

Electronic type (Digital IS Mode)

Focusing
Type

TTL

AF System/ Points

AiAF (Face Detection / 9-point), 1-point AF (fixed to centre)

AF Modes

Single, Continuous, Servo AF/AE, Tracking AF 3

AF Assist Beam

Yes

Closest Focusing Distance

1 cm (W) from front of lens in Macro

Exposure Control
Metering modes

Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (centre)

Exposure Compensation

+/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments
i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction

ISO Sensitivity

AUTO, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
AUTO ISO: 100 – 800

Shutter
Speed

1 – 1/2000 s (Auto Mode)
15 – 1/2000 s (total range – varies by shooting mode)

White Balance

Type

TTL

Settings

Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Light bulb, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom

LCD Monitor
Monitor

6.8 cm (2.7″) LCD (TFT), approx. 230,000 dots

Coverage

Approx. 100%

Brightness

Adjustable to one of five levels.
Quick-bright LCD available via holding INFO Button

Flash
Modes

Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro

Slow Sync Speed

Yes. Fastest speed 1/2000 s

Red-Eye Reduction

Yes

Flash Exposure Compensation

Face Detection FE

Built-in Flash Range

50 cm – 3.0 m (W) / 1.3 – 1.5 m (T)

External Flash

Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2

Shooting
Modes

Smart Auto (32 scenes detected), P, Portrait, FaceSelf-Timer, Low Light (5.0 MP), Digital IS, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Fireworks, Long Shutter
Easy Auto activated by default

Drive modes

Single, Continuous, Self-Timer

Continuous Shooting

Approx. 0.8 shots/s
Low Light Mode (5.0 MP): Approx. 2.2 shots/s
(all speeds are until memory card becomes full) 4, 5

RECORDING PIXELS / COMPRESSION
Image Size

4:3 – (L) 5152 x 3864, (M1) 3648 x 2736, (M2) 2048 x 1536, (S) 640 x 480
16:9/ W – (L) 5152 x 2896
Resize option available in playback

Compression

Fine

Movies

(HD) 1280 x 720, 25 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 29.97 fps

Movie Length

(HD) Up to 4 GB or 29 min 59 s 6

(L) up to 4 GB or 1 hour 7

File Types
Still Image Type

JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant

Movies

MOV [Video: H.264, Audio: MPEG4 AAC-LC (monaural)]

Other Features
Red-Eye Correction

Yes

Intelligent Orientation Sensor

Yes, with Auto Rotate

Histogram

Yes, during playback

Playback zoom

Approx. 2x – 10x

Self Timer

Approx. 2, 10 s or Custom

Menu Languages

English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Korean, Thai, Arabic, Romanian, Farsi, Hindi, Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Hebrew

Interface
Computer

Hi-Speed USB composite connector (Mini-B compatible)

Other

A/V output, composite connector (PAL/NTSC)

Memory Card
Type

SD, SDHC, SDXC

Supported Operating System
PC & Macintosh

Windows 10 / 8.1 / 8 / 7 SP1 8
Mac OS X 10.9 / 10.10 / 10.11 / 10.12

Software
Other

CameraWindow DC

Power Source
Batteries

Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-11L / NB-11LH (NB-11L battery and charger supplied)

Battery life

Approx. 210 shots
Eco Mode: Approx. 285 shots
Playback Mode: Approx. 240 min

Accessories
Cases / Straps

Soft Case DCC-1320
Soft Case DCC-1350
Soft Case DCC-1370

Flash

Canon High Power Flash HF-DC2

Power Supply & Battery Chargers

Battery Charger CB-2LFE / CB-2LDE
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-11L/ NB-11LH

Other

Canon AV Cable AVC-DC400
Interface cable IFC-400PCU

All data is based on Canon standard testing methods (according to CIPA Standards) except where indicated.

Subject to change without notice.

  1. Image processing may cause a decrease in the number of pixels.
  2. Depending on the image size selected.
  3. Some settings limit availability.
  4. Under conditions where the flash does not fire.
  5. Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
  6. The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: (HD) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 4 or above. (Full HD) 1920 x 1080 Speed Class 6 or above. (iFrame) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 6 or above.
  7. Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
  8. Software applications compatible with Windows 10 in Windows 10 Desktop Mode only

Conclusion

Canon’s pitch here is that this is a camera that you can carry with you everywhere you go. Um, just like a smartphone. That aside, the compact and stylish IXUS series’ selling points – namely those two points succinctly – haven’t really changed at all over nearly two decades of production. So either its manufacturer landed on a winning formula early, and it has proved to be continuously successful since, or the Canon IXUS 185 is scooping up possibly the last of diminishing returns in a compact camera market, largely cleared of any real competition. To take the positive view and standpoint, this 185 iteration remains a conveniently slender and diminutive pocket sized camera that is stylishly realised and keenly priced, at a penny shy of £120.

So whilst some may feel the IXUS’ one-time audience is nowadays satiated by the camera in its equally slim-line smartphone, it appears there is still a place for a good looking, simple to operate point and shoot in a contracted marketplace. With few if any real manual features to speak of, save the ones covered in the body of this review, the Canon IXUS 185 isn’t a back up camera for any enthusiast – it’s ideal for the digital beginner, meaning perhaps the extremes of the age ranges – either the younger or older user. Image quality is adequate, operation is simple, and the asking price is affordable. Add in a stylish design and just sometimes that is enough.

(photographyblog.com, https://goo.gl/ZOFbR2)

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