Canon Powershot S120 review

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Canon Powershot S120 is a small compact camera made with emphasis on image quality. It is the fifth model in Canon’s S-series and shares many similarities with previous models. It still has the same image sensor as S100 and S110 as is the case with the lens (now it lets in slightly more light), but you get higher resolution LCD, 60p full HD video and fast 12fps burst for JPEG format. Since the introductions of the S90 these cameras had a lot of satisfied customers and I was curios to see how the latest S120 fares with modern competitors, especially since there are a lot of options today that did not exist in 2009 when the  S90 hit the shelves.


  • Announced: 2013.
  • Type: Advanced ultra-compact
  • Dimensions: 100 x 59 x 29 mm (3.94 x 2.32 x 1.14″)
  • Weight: 217g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm), 12 MP (4000 x 3000 pixels)
  • ISO range: 80 – 12800
  • Image stabilization: Yes (in the lens)
  • Dust and moisture protection: No
  • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash
  • Continuous shooting: 12 fps (JPEG), 2fps (RAW)
  • LCD screen: 3″, 922,000 dots, touch sensitive
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 @ 60/30p, 1280 x 720 @ 30p, 640 x 480 @ 30p
  • Connectors: mini USB 2.0, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi built-in


Build quality is relatively decent, but the type of plastic used on Canon Powershot S120 still looks a bit too cheap; S110 felt the same but three years old S100 had had the best materials on the outside, at least in my opinion. There is an excellent thumb rest on the back side so it is easy to hold this camera despite lilliputian dimensions. Back controls are big but the main control dial does not protrude enough and buttons on multi-way control inside the main dial have way too short travel. I often pressed some of the functions while just rotating the dial.


The lens has a 5x optical zoom what makes it a 24-120mm lens in 35mm equivalent. Wide angle has a large F/1.8 aperture but it falls down to F/5.7 at the maximum zoom. Optical image stabilization is built-in and it works quite good.

The lens is an average performer in my opinion. It is sharp wide open at wide angle at center but corners show a lot of blur. It also looses sharpness when zoomed in. Chromatic aberrations are clearly visible but they can be easily removed in post process.

The lens has a built-in ND filter usefull for long exposures.


LCD has a 3 inch diagonal and 922,000 dots. Image quality is very good, detailed and bright even in daylight. Viewing angles are excellent; the LCD can be seen from almost any angle. It has touch capability what is a great feature for focusing, browsing and zooming recorded photos. Multi-touch is supported. If you don’t like touch interface, it can be disabled.

There is no viewfinder or the option to attach one. Having in mind the size of the camera and target customers this cannot be taken as a draw-back.


Sensor used in S120 has 12 megapixels what is usual for Canon compact cameras in the last few years. It certainly helps to keep noise levels at reasonable levels and I don’t feel many users would benefit from higher resolution. 4:3 image ratio is native for this sensor, but you can select 16:9, 3:2, 1:1 and 4:5.

Image quality is reasonably good, but there are better performers today. For the price of S120 which is around $450 these days (May 2014) you can get an entry level mirrorless camera from Sony, Panasonic, Olympus or Samsung. Yes, these are all bigger cameras than S120, but they offer image sensors around 8 times in size and when combined even with kit lenses blow Canon S120 out of its socks in image quality. There is simply no comparison and most users will not mind having slightly bigger camera if it delivers higher image quality. Even Sony RX100 now retails for around $550 what is just slightly more expensive than S120 and still has larger sensor, better lens but is almost equal in size to S120.

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