JoziFolk - images of everyday life in South Africa


Initial impressions of the Canon Ixus 145 for street photography

 A week or two ago, I wrote about switching to a point-and-shoot camera for street photography.
 I bought a cheap Canon Ixus 145 for R999 (approx US$85) and since then have taken it on a couple of outings to both good and rough areas. I can't say I know everything about it and am sure, with time, I'll discover more things to both like and dislike about it.
 In a nutshell, in the slightly paraphrased, immortal, words of Sally Field, "I like it! I really like it!"
 Make no mistake about it. The camera has weaknesses and limitations. More on those later. But it is capable of astonishing results when used within its capabilities and, because of it's size it is ALWAYS with me. I carry it in a small pouch attached to my belt. That fact alone, allowed me to grab a number of shots, I otherwise would not have got. I have a couple of very good DSLR and film cameras but the truth is, because of their size, they invariably are left at home. They are heavy and conspicuous.
 Some months ago I was lent a Fuji X100 camera for street photography. It is a wonderful piece of kit that produced images of breath-taking quality, much more compact than a DSLR, but still not pocketable. It too got mostly left at home, unless I undertook a specific street photography outing. And it was still conspicuous. When I raised it, people knew, I was taking a photograph, maybe of them.


 That is not always a problem but it does change the dynamic of the scene that initially captured your attention and was interesting enough to make you want to photograph it. Mostly, I prefer people not to know I am photographing them and the little, black, Canon Ixus, that is smaller than a pack of cigarettes, allows me to be invisible. People simply do not take any notice of me. My guess is, most think I am peering at a mobile phone screen and, those who realize I am taking a photograph, figure I'm just an old fart, tourist, a look I actively cultivate. I wear a golf cap and dress like an out-of-town hick, although my wife says she can't see anything different from the way I normally dress!
 The camera's size and the fact it is so inconspicuous, is undoubtedly its greatest strength. But that is not all. In ideal conditions, I have absolutely no doubt, its 16 Megapixel, 1/2.3 sensor will capture images that will produce beautiful, A3-sized, prints. And some of the included artistic filters are pretty cool, especially the "toy camera" effect.
 The lens is a 28mm - 224mm 35mm equivalent, that I use mostly at its widest setting. Shallow depth of field with a sensor this size? Forget it! But that does not bother me in the slightest, as I prefer to show how people relate to, or are affected by their surroundings. There is a "Portrait" setting but, my limited messing around with it, did not produce a particularly blurred background. Maybe there is something I am not doing properly but I simply have not bothered to explore further.

Dynamic Range

 In good, even, lighting, the results are impressive but the camera struggles when there is a large difference between light and dark areas in the scene. It easily blacks out dark zones and blows out highlights, if the dynamic range exceeds the capabilities of the tiny sensor. Using the built-in flash would help but immediately draw attention.
 I've learned to live with and accept that limitation. I've managed to mitigate it in some ways by reducing the exposure compensation by 2/3 of a stop and focussing on something in the frame that is the same distance as the subject but has the exposure value I seek. I lock on that, locking both exposure and focus, recompose and shoot. It's not always perfect but that's just the way it is and I can live with it.
 The tiny sensor also means noise can be a problem. ISO sensitivity is up to 1600 ISO but, in all honesty, I think if you're going to shoot in colour, 400 ISO is just about the limit. 800 ISO if you're going to convert to black and white.
 There are no doubt some who will wring their hands in horror but it's no different to what we had back in the days of film and we produced the goods for newspapers and magazines, so why not now?
 Beyond that, I don't really have any criticisms - and those listed above are, in fact, not criticisms. It'd be like dismissing a Leica M6 as useless because you can't fit a 500mm lens to it and photograph test rugby. Different tools for different jobs.
 And this is a good tool for this job!

Photograph taken with Canon Ixus

"Toy Camera" filter.

Photograph taken with Canon Ixus
Photograph taken with Canon Ixus
Photograph taken with Canon Ixus