Facebook Pixel Review Canon Powershot S120 Digital Camera

Review Canon Powershot S120 Digital Camera

Review Canon Powershot S120 Digital Camera

Canon S120 review Blk front 2

You could wonder at my bravado in reviewing this tiddler when all it seems to offer is a digicam with moderate specs and little else. Aah! But look further!

Features and Specs

Its story begins with Canon’s well-tried DIGIC 6 processor, along with a relatively large CMOS sensor. The maximum aperture is a generous, optically stabilized f/1.8, which does, quickly fall to f4 once you start zooming. However, it is the first S-series model to feature an f/1.8 lens and the 24mm wide end is extremely useful for tight interiors.

But the S120’s specs are well worth comparing to the highly regarded SX50 HS, which I reviewed a year ago, equipped with a powerful 50x optical zoom.

Canon S120 review Black Back

This one is a much less powerful beast optically, with a moderate 5x optical zoom, but it also has a larger CMOS sensor and a continuous shooting speed of up to 12fps. It’s also considerably smaller, more easily pocketable and easier to use.

Much like almost every camera offered in 2013, the S120 has inbuilt WiFi connectivity, so it can hook up directly to smart devices and social networks. Settings can be adjusted in a number of ways: through the dedicated control buttons, via the 7.5 cm touch screen or with the lens control ring. The camera also supports GPS tagging via a mobile, allowing location data to be added to shots using Canon’s dedicated app for smart phones/tablets.

Maximum image size is 4000×3000 pixels, leading to a final print size of 34x25cm print (13.4×9.8″) at 300 dpi.

Video can be shot in 1920×1080 Full HD quality MPEG4. If you shoot stills during a video record the latter stops.

A look around – physical features and controls

The camera is, as I have said, very pocketable and viewable, thanks to the 7.5cm LCD screen which does not, unfortunately, tilt. Oh well!

Top deck, at left is the tiny pop up flash; to the right is the power button and the shutter button that encircles the zoom lever; at the extreme right is the mode dial with positions for auto and hybrid auto shooting, P,A,S,M, custom settings, movie, camera effects (high dynamic range, fish eye, background defocus, mono etc) and scene effects (portraits, snow, starry skies, fireworks, time lapse etc).

You can adjust shutter speed or aperture — and manual — value by rolling the control dial to that setting (Tv, Av or M), then twirl a ring at the base of the lens. Simple! Just like a real camera!

There are plenty of people out there who will enjoy the easy access to the camera and scene effects offered by the camera and I wouldn’t mind betting there are plenty of newbie DSLR owners who still have no idea how to set the camera to handle these off-beat beat subjects.

The only flaw I found in the top deck layout was the difficulty of tapping the recessed power button. For the life of me, I can’t suggest an alternative arrangement!

Canon s120 review Ring Function

Rear: at top right is the familiar red video record button and, to its left, is a button titled Ring Function which gives direct access to such things as ISO, exposure compensation, manual focus, white balance correction, dynamic range and shadow correction. The latter takes the S120 into a totally different area, with access to high control of your picture making. Worth some study. Lower, we find the control dial with settings for exposure correction, macro shooting, flash and display options.

Canon S120 reiew Menu

Beneath the dial are found the replay and menu buttons, with the latter offering a fairly extensive extensive list of options. Noteworthy also is the on screen level indicator, and that’s about it.

Sample images from the Canon S120

Canon s120 review Centre screen 1

Canon S120 review Decorations 2

Canon S120 review Flowers 2

Canon S120 review Parking 2

Startup time

It took two seconds from power on the first shot, then about a second between shots.


There was a small amount of barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom but no problems at the telephoto end.

ISO Tests

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 100

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 400

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 800

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 1600

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 3200

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 6400

Canon PowerShot S120 ISO 12800

Noise begins to creep in at ISO 3200. By ISO 6400 noise is up a little more but what is really noticeable is the fall off in definition, both of which factors make shooting at ISO 12,800 a none event, compounded by some ugly pixel clumping at that setting.

Overall comments

  • Quality: average
  • Why you’d buy the camera: small; a surprisingly generous list of picture control options; nice wide 24mm wide end of the zoom
  • Why you wouldn’t: zoom is not long enough for sports photography
  • It’s not a big deal, but the S120 is one of the few digicams that let you replay your images by tapping that button — and not needing to fire up the power button first

If you’re still using a simple digicam but have higher ambitions, shoot-wise, this would make an ideal bridge camera to sharpen your camera skills before you leap into the fast running waters that encircle a DSLR!

Good gear!


  • Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels
  • Sensor: 15mm CMOS
  • Metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted, spot
  • Lens: f1.8-5.7/5.2-26mm (24-120mm as 35 SLR equivalent)
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual
  • Shutter Speed: 15″-1/2000 second
  • Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS Speed Class 1 compatible)
  • Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4000×3000 to 640×480
  • Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480
  • Continuous Shooting: 9fps
  • Viewfinder: 7.5cm LCD screen (922,000)
  • File Formats: RAW, JPEG, MPEG4
  • Colour Space: sRGB
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 12,800
  • Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV, WiFi, DC input
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • Dimensions: 100x59x29 WHDmm
  • Weight: 217 g (inc. battery, card)
  • Price: Approximately $400 see Amazon
  • Web: Canon.com

DPS Rating: 3

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Canon Powershot S120 Digital Camera
Author Rating

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

I need help with...