The Canon PowerShot S120 is an update to the S110, Canon's serious compact camera range. The latest model has a new star mode for astronomy shooting, a 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom and 9.4 fps continuous shooting. It is available for £389.99.
Canon PowerShot S120 Features
The Canon PowerShot S120 has a 12.1 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor and a 5x optical zoom, which is a 35mm equivalent of 24-120mm, that also has a fast f/1.8 aperture. To help reduce camera shake there is optical image stabilisation. Continuous shooting is available at 9.4 fps, although this is 12.1 fps for the first five shots.
The S120 comes with built-in Wi-Fi to allow you to connect to home wireless networks, smartphones, tablets, printers and PCS's for sharing, GPS tagging and printing of images. There is an auto shooting mode where the camera settings are automatically adjusted. There are a number of scene modes including Star Mode, Handheld HDR and Background Defocus. You can take pictures using full manual controls and RAW shooting is available as well. There camera also has a Neutral Density Filter.
Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD at 60fps, with stereo sound and optical zoom available during recording as well as Focus Peaking and Touch AF. Enhanced Dynamic Image Stabilisation compensates for user movements over 5 axes for steady movies.
The Canon PowerShot S120 is a pocketable camera with a metal body and rubberised square on the rear for your thumb to rest. There is a lens control ring which allows you to quickly adjust settings such as zoom, aperture, shutter speed, focus or ISO - there is a ring function on the button to choose which. At 3.0 inch, the touch screen is a good size, with an impressive 922k dot resolution and is great for selecting your focus point. The pop-up flash is activated with a switch on the side of the camera.
On the top of the camera is a mode dial, on / off button, zoom rocker and shutter release. Other buttons on the rear include menu, playback and movie record. There is also a d-pad with a function / set button in the middle as well as a rotating wheel. The d-pad also gives access to macro, exposure compensation and the flash. When in playback, the exposure compensation also activated the Wi-Fi.
The S120 has a simple menu system - to change picture settings you press the function button. Options here include white balance, light metering and drive mode, with the options available depending on which mode you are in. The rest of the settings are available via the menu button.
The Wi-Fi is easy to setup, just enter playback and press the Wi-Fi button. You then just need to follow the on screen instructions to connect the camera to a mobile device or PC for example. If you are connecting to a smartphone / tablet, ensure you have the free app installed before connecting.
Battery life is rated at a disappointing 200 shots according to CIPA test results. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot without Flash - JPEG
Shot to Shot without Flash - RAW
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
10.9 fps (for first 5 shots)
Continuous Shooting - RAW
Continuous Shooting - Flash
The continuous shooting modes all record in full resolution, we tested the flash speed using JPEG only.
Canon PowerShot S120 Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Canon PowerShot S120 Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Images have good colour reproduction and are well exposed, the S120 has taken a good picture even with the sun in shot. Portraits have decent skin tones, although there is a little red-eye when using the flash. The star mode has three options - star nightscape, star trails and star time-lapse movie. Results are impressive, particularly the star trail picture. The total exposure time for our example above was 60 minutes.
Canon PowerShot S120 Lens test images
Lens Performance - Detail is good throughout the zoom range, although if you use the ZoomPlus there is clearly a reduction in image quality. Purple fringing and chromatic aberration aren't an issue. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 3cm which allows for well detailed macro shots.
Canon PowerShot S120 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low and not at issue at ISO 80, 100, 200, 400 and 800. At ISO 1600 images become a little soft in places with detail lost in places at ISO 3200. Noise worsens at ISO 6400, there's less detail and images are very soft. The highest setting of ISO 12800 produces images of poor quality, there's lots of detail lost and this setting is best avoided where possible.
Canon PowerShot S120 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Under the incandescent lights the Auto White Balance (AWB) struggles a little, with a colour cast present in the image. The incandescent preset performs much better under the incandescent lights. The AWB performs well under the fluorescent lights, there is a slight colour cast when using the fluorescent preset.
Canon PowerShot S120 Digital filters
Digital Filters - The S120 has a number of creative modes such as fisheye and miniature. There are also a number of "My Colours" which can be used when in PSAM modes.
Video - Below is a video recorded in full 1080p HD. Quality is excellent and the Enhanced Dynamic Image Stabilisation does well at keeping videos steady. The example below also includes use of the optical zoom during recording.
The Canon PowerShot S120 is a steady upgrade of last year's S110, with a slightly faster aperture, faster continuous shooting and a higher resolution screen. This might not be enough to tempt S110 owners to upgrade, but the star trail feature does offer something unique and the results we achieved during testing are quite impressive.
There are some issues with battery life, it has a CIPA rating of just 200 shots and you're likely to see this reduce when using the Wi-Fi to share your images. The S120 also lacks GPS, but given the battery life, you probably would avoid using it anyway - you can use your smartphone instead to add GPS data.
Overall, the S120 packs a number of superb features and is a premium compact camera we are happy to highly recommend.
The Canon PowerShot S120 is a steady upgrade to the S110, with the new star mode being a particular highlight.
Canon PowerShot S120 Pros
Easy to take impressive star trail shots
Has built-in Wi-Fi
Fast continuous shooting
Good image quality
Fast f/1.8 aperture when shooting wide
Screen has an excellent resolution
Canon PowerShot S120 Cons
Poor battery life
No GPS built-in
No rubber hand grip