Canon S120 review

Pocket sized premium compact is packed with exciting features

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Our Verdict

The premium compact camera market is a crowded, but the S120 is one of the most solid performers you can buy. It's a good option for those who want top-notch image quality along with something that fits snugly in a pocket.


  • Full manual control
  • Raw format shooting
  • Touchscreen
  • Wi-Fi


  • Limited Wi-Fi options
  • Limited digital filter control
Scores in depth
Powershot S120
Powershot S120
Powershot S120
Powershot S120
Powershot S120

Canon generally releases its S range of premium compact cameras at the same time as it updates the G series, and it's no different this year with the introduction of the Canon PowerShot S120 to replace last year's Canon PowerShot S110.

As with its bigger sibling, much of the outward design of the S120 remains unchanged from its predecessor, but internally there have been some significant upgrades.

It is the first S series camera to feature a lens with an f/1.8 aperture. Its diminutive dimensions also make it the slimmest camera in the world to feature an f/1.8 optic. It's still a 5x optical zoom, starting at 24mm.

Canon PowerShot S120 review

It also shares the same new 12.1 million pixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor as the Canon G16. Although pixel count remains the same as its predecessor, the new design should produce better images. Canon's latest processor, Digic 6, is also found in both models.

The special thing about Digic 6 in these models is that not only should low light performance be greatly improved from previous models, but continuous shooting can offer something pretty exciting. The S120 can shoot at 9.4fps (JPEG only, no continuous autofocus) without a buffer. That means that it can shoot, in theory, until your card is full without stopping. You can also stop shooting and restart without any lag.

Canon says that the autofocus speed of the S120 has been improved by around 50%. As before, both models feature full-manual control and raw format shooting. The S120 also features a control ring around the lens.

Unlike the G16, the S120's 3 inch screen is touch-sensitive. Both of the new models now feature Wi-Fi connectivity, with GPS available if used in conjunction with your smart phone.

A new introduction for both models is Star Mode, which has been designed to help those wanting to shoot night time photographs. Canon says that it is so confident of the camera's low light capability that it wants to actively encourage photographers to use the cameras in the dark.

Star Mode is a fully automatic mode which deploys the best settings for capturing the night sky. It also has the ability to capture star trails and time-lapse movies within the camera itself, without the need for post production work.

Canon PowerShot S120 review

Background Defocus has also been added. This takes two images, one in focus and one out of focus, combining the results from the two automatically to produce a DSLR type shallow depth of field effect. HDR mode has been improved with new digital filters.

Manual focus peaking has been introduced on these new models for the first time in a Canon stills camera. We've seen this before on Canon video cameras and from other stills cameras manufacturers.

Full HD video recording is available at 60fps for smooth movies.

Whether the S120 is more appealing than the G16 will no doubt be down to personal taste on handling. As the two have very similar specifications, the S120 is worth considering if you're looking for something a little smaller but with fewer direct controls on the body. The S120 is also cheaper than the G16.

Tech Specs

Product TypeCompact Camera
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
Green CompliantYes
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Wireless LANYes
Effective Camera Resolution12.1 Megapixel
Wide AngleYes
Product FamilyPowerShot
HD Movie ModeYes
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD) Card, Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) Card, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC UHS-I), Secure Digital Extended Capacity (SDXC UHS-I)
Image StabilizationOptical
Optical Zoom5x
Digital Zoom4x
Brand NameCanon
FeaturesContinuous Shooting Mode, Live View, Orientation Sensor, Time Lapse Function, Smile Detection, Wink Detection, Face Detection
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Video FormatsMPEG-4 AVC, MP4, MPEG-2, H.264
Viewfinder TypeNo
Weight (Approximate)217 g
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityWEEE, RoHS, REACH, ErP
Image Sensor Size1/1.7" (7.60 mm x 5.70 mm)
Maximum Image Resolution4000 x 3000
Display Screen TypeLCD
Country of OriginJapan
Height59 mm
Width100.2 mm
Depth29 mm
Focal Length5.20 mm to 26 mm
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW
External FlashNo
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerCanon, Inc
Product ModelS120
Product NamePowerShot S120 Compact Camera
Product LinePowerShot
Exposure Control
  • Program AE
  • Shutter Priority AE
  • Aperture Priority AE
  • Manual
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part Number8407B012AA
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing InformationCanon PowerShot S120
Fast, connected, expert performance in your pocket

With a bright f/1.8 lens, HS system, fast continuous shooting up to 9.4fps*, refined ergonomics and Wi-Fi the PowerShot S120 puts superior performance in the pocket of serious photographers.

Package Contents
  • PowerShot S120 Compact Camera
  • Wrist Strap - WS-D11
  • Battery Pack NB-6LH
  • Battery Charger CB-2LYE
  • AC Cable
  • User Manual Kit
Limited Warranty1 Year