Canon S120 review

Pocket sized premium compact is packed with exciting features

Canon PowerShot S120 review
The Canon PowerShot S120 has an f/1.8 aperture

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Canon has a lot more competition in the premium compact department than it previously had, so it seems to be pulling out all the stops to make its latest updates appealing to consumers.

We've been long time fans of the S range, and it seems like the improvements to the specifications have made it even better and a more worthy competitor to the very good Sony RX100 II.

Although it doesn't quite match the Sony in terms of image quality, it is smaller and available at a cheaper price point. It also has a touchscreen, so if you're a particular fan of those, it's also worth considering.

Image quality is excellent, especially in terms of low light performance thanks to that new Digic 6 processor. We're also particularly impressed by the fast continuous shooting speeds, which is very useful for shooting fast moving action.

The S120 perhaps represents a more complete package than its sibling camera the G16. It pairs the same sensor in a smaller body which is pocket friendly, while including enticing features such as Wi-Fi and a touchscreen. That said, if you're a traditionalist who prefers more buttons and dials to make changes, then the S120 may be just a little too sleek for you.

While it's good to see Canon keeping Wi-Fi on the S120, it's a shame that there's been no additional functions added since the S120, such as the ability to shoot remotely from a smartphone or tablet. That's something that's offered by other manufacturers, so it's a bit of a disappointment not to have it here. That said, the ability to share directly from the camera (admittedly once you've already set up a Canon Image Gateway account on a computer separately), is handy and quick if you're connected to a Wi-Fi network. The free Canon CW app is also useful for quickly grabbing shots from your camera if you need to share while you're out and about.

We liked

A nifty little performer, there's lots to like about the Canon S120, not least the excellent image quality. It's not quite on a par with the Sony RX100 II but it's not too far behind, which considering its smaller sensor is pretty impressive. It seems the Digic 6 processor is the key to high image quality here.

We disliked

It's about time Canon improved its digital filter offering, giving more choice and the ability to shoot with them while using raw format and keep full manual control. While it's nice to have a dedicated mode for filters, we can't help but feel like they could be more integrated into the camera for a better approach.

Final verdict

The premium compact camera market is a pretty crowded one now, but the S120 remains as 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 into a pocket. If you're not too bothered about lots of buttons and dials, this will also appeal to you.

If however, you'd prefer something a little chunkier, with a viewfinder, then have a look at the Powershot G16 if you want to stay firmly in the Canon camp. You may also want to consider the Panasonic LF1 and of course there's the oft referenced Sony RX100 II, if you have a larger budget to play with.

Amy Davies

Amy has been writing about cameras, photography and associated tech since 2009. Amy was once part of the photography testing team for Future Publishing working across TechRadar, Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N Photo and Photography Week. For her photography, she has won awards and has been exhibited. She often partakes in unusual projects - including one intense year where she used a different camera every single day. Amy is currently the Features Editor at Amateur Photographer magazine, and in her increasingly little spare time works across a number of high-profile publications including Wired, Stuff, Digital Camera World, Expert Reviews, and just a little off-tangent, PetsRadar.