Looking for a reasonably priced pocket camera for a gift or a weekend away? Then the Canon IXUS 115 HS should be right up your street. Little brother to the Canon IXUS 220 HS we reviewed the other week and £20 cheaper, it shares the same 12.1 megapixel resolution 1/2.3-inch sensor and knocks the zoom range down a notch to 4x. With a stylish, highly compact design, though, it's a great little all-rounder.
Said lens is equivalent to 28-112mm in 35mm film terms so isn't quite as wide as the 24mm on the 220 HS. The IXUS 115 HS does however boast a larger 3in 230k dot screen, compared with the 220 HS' 2.8-inches, that, given the camera's generally petite dimensions, swallows up most of the back. This is no bad thing, though it means that the few attendant buttons alongside it are on the small side, if well labelled. Equally good value competitors include Nikon's recently reviewed and likewise pocket sized Coolpix S3100.
With the maximum lens aperture a relatively bright f/2.8, it's a welcome surprise to find that also featured here is Full HD video shooting. This function even gets its own camcorder style red record button top right of the back plate. One press and you're instantly filming, even if you'd been taking a photo a second before. Do this and the screen display narrows to ape the films 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, black bands cropping it top and bottom. It's even more of a surprise to find video functionality twinned with mini HDMI output too, allowing users to directly hook up to an HD TV - if, that is, the optional cable is purchased. Otherwise standard AV and USB output share a port alongside.
The 'HS' camera suffix stands for High Sensitivity, with, aided and abetted by the sensor being of the backside-illuminated variety, while the ISO range top out at a maximum ISO3200. We also get a built-in flash as back up, though the window for it is very narrow and it has been placed at the top right hand corner of the faceplate, where fingers can inevitably stray in front. The mirrored lens surround is an attractive touch, and you can just about see your face in it if attempting self portraits.
This IXUS, like the rest of the Canon compact range, provides the ability to adjust colour tones via a function toolbar summoned up with a single button press, with vivid being particularly effective in adding a degree of dynamism when shooting natural landscapes. Via the same side panel Canon has provided access to a range of digital effects on the 115 HS that mirror those on its pricier 310 and 220 HS models.
Among these we get the usual fisheye and pinhole camera (or as Canon has it 'toy camera') style effects, plus a further super vivid setting denoted by a parrot icon. There's also our favourite of the increasingly ubiquitous miniature effect, which apes the result from a specialist tilt and shift lens, whereby it narrows the portion of the image in focus to give the illusion that you're looking at a photograph of a model rather than an actual real-life building. Images are recorded to SD, SDHC or SDHC memory card; there's no internal memory supplied with the camera - Canon seems to have stopped doing that a while back.
From the above it would appear that by making a purchase of the IXUS 115 HS, you will get a very fair return on your investment. But how does it handle in practice and what other features lurk beneath its unassuming exterior? Read on to find out...