Canon PowerShot S120 review: Little camera with a nice, big sensor that delivers

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Canon PowerShot S120 Compact Camera

The Canon PowerShot S120 compact camera shoots images at 12.1 megapixels—a pixel count that seems conservative for a $450 camera. But the PowerShot S120 comes with 1/1.7-inch backlit CMOS sensor that’s larger than the sensor found in your average point-and-shoot camera, plus a bright f/1.8 maximum aperture. Canon opted for quality results in low light without flash rather than ramping up resolution.

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In some respects, the PowerShot S120 seems like a more portable version of Canon’s chunky PowerShot G16 (4mice). Unlike the PowerShot G16, the slender PowerShot S120 lacks a proper handgrip, though it does have a padded thumb rest at the back to prevent it from being too slippery in the palm. The outer finish oif the camera is similar to the shell you’d find on a mid-range DSLR, such as Canon’s own EOS—subtly connecting the DNA of the two in the mind of the photographer.

Another attraction is the lens control ring at the front of the PowerShot S120. Toggle it left or right to zoom in or out, or customize it to access a range of key camera functions instead of having to wade through screen menus to select. The camera also has a separate zoom lever encircling the shutter release button. A pop-up flash is neatly sunk into the top plate for manual activation via a side switch.

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As a further bonus, the PowerShot S120’s 3-inch, high 922K-dot resolution LCD screen—the only means of framing and reviewing photos and video, since there is no eye-level viewfinder—is also a touch screen. A flick of a finger you scroll up or down through menu options as intuitively as on an iPad. Like most cameras with a touchscreen, the PowerShot S120 is also able to direct focus to a particular corner of your compositional frame by tapping that area on screen. Conventionally, we’d have to focus on our chosen aspect, and then recompose the frame, before taking the shot.

As for picture quality, the PowerShot S120 delivers a sharp, rich image that belies its small proportions.

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Bottom line

You’ll find many compact cameras that also have a wide range of DSLR-like features. While the PowerShot S120 isn’t as feature-filled as those cameras, its emphasis is on portability and image quality, and there is little about the PowerShot S120 that’s found wanting in those two areas.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Solid feel, high quality construction
    • Touch screen control
    • Customizable lens ring function


    • No handgrip
    • No eye level viewfinder
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