Canon PowerShot S120 review

Like Sony with its newest cameras for 2014, Canon is also focusing on speed when it comes to its latest device. It’s claiming a new Digic 6 processor makes the 12.1 megapixel, 5x optical zoom Canon PowerShot S120 compact some 50% faster than its S110 predecessor. That pixel count may seem conservative for a camera that has a manufacturer’s suggested price of £449.99, but the S120 comes with both a larger 1/1.7-inch backlit CMOS sensor than your average snapshot plus a brighter maximum aperture lens at f/1.8. So Canon has opted for quality results in low light without flash rather than ramping up resolution. That said, as a fall back, a pop-up flash is neatly sunk into the top plate for manual activation via a side switch.

Offering a more portable version of Canon’s chunky G16 in some respects, what the S120 lacks because of its pocket size and slender dimensions is a proper handgrip, even if there is a padded thumb rest at the back to prevent it feeling too slippery in the palm. In addition the outer finish is similar to the shell you’d find on a mid range DSLR, such as Canon’s own EOS range, so subtly connecting the DNA of the two in the mind of the photographer. But another attraction, aside from greater power in a smaller camera body, is the lens control ring at the S120's front. Toggle this left or right to zoom in or out – there is also a separate zoom lever encircling the shutter release button – or customise its use to access a range of key camera functions instead of having to wade through screen menus to select.

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As a further bonus the camera’s 3-inch, high 922K-dot resolution LCD screen – our only means of framing and reviewing photos and video, as the pocket proportions means there is no room for additional eye-level viewfinder, like on Panasonic’s LF1 rival – is also a touch screen. Thus a flick of a finger and we were scrolling up or down through menu options as intuitively as on an iPad. Like most cameras with this facility, the 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.

Our chief recommendation as regards the PowerShot S120 is however is that here is a camera that delivers a sharp, rich image quality that belies its small proportions.

OUR VERDICT

For us the slightly more expensive Sony RX100 (original or Mark II version) still has the edge for quality overall if you’re looking for compact alternatives that will ape a DSLR’s quality without sacrificing portability. However for Canon users there is little about the S120 that’s found wanting.

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