Reader Review: Canon S120

One of our readers shares his experiences with the Canon S120.

Canon S120 Review

The Canon S120 is a few years old now. When it came out, it was the most powerful entry in the S-series to date. In many respects, it was similar to those which came before, but it featured improvements to both speed and aperture. Additionally, its touch screen featured superior quality.

Camera technology has advanced rapidly over the past decade, so when my Kodak died on me a couple months ago, I thought maybe it was time to go back to Canon. In search of a good deal, I came across the S120 while researching options in my price range. It looked like a solid buy, so I gave it a try. It turned out to be well worth it.

Below, you can view the camera specs for the Canon S120. Continue on past the specifications, and I will share my experiences with you so you can decide whether the S120 might be a fit for your needs.


  • Effective megapixels: 12.1
  • Focal length: 5.2 (W) - 26.0 (T) mm
  • Digital zoom: 4.0x
  • Optical zoom: 5.0x
  • Focus range: 1.2 inches – 66 feet
  • Manual and autofocus available
  • Maximum aperture: f/1.8 (W), f/5.7 (T)
  • Shutter speed: 1-1/2500 sec.
  • Sensitivity: ISO 80-12800
  • SD memory card slot
  • Power options include Battery Pack NB-6LH or Compact Power Adapter CA-DC10
  • Store up to around 230 shots on the camera
  • Camera’s dimensions measure 3.94 x 2.32 x 1.14 in

A Camera Designed with Ease-of-Use in Mind

To start with, those in search of a compact camera should be happy with the S120. With its 3.94 x 2.32 x 1.14 in dimensions, it is small and lightweight enough that you can carry it in your pocket while you are out and about. Color options for the body include silver and black.

The most noteworthy feature on the front of the camera is a ring around the lens, referred to as the “Control Ring.” By twisting this ring, you can control camera settings. While this is feature was unique and surprising to me at first, I found it very intuitive and comfortable to use.

The top of the camera includes the On/Off button as well as a knob you can turn for different modes (pretty standard). On the back, you have a 3-inch LCD screen with beautiful 922-dot resolution. Next to it on the right are some additional controls, including buttons for the ring function, the menu and movie recording and playback.

Rear Screen of Canon S120

All told, the number of buttons has been kept to a minimum in order to maximize the LCD-screen size and keep camera operation as streamlined as possible. It didn’t take me long to figure out how to adjust most of the basic settings.

Capture Sharp, Beautiful Images in A Wide Variety of Environments

Speaking of settings, you have an excellent degree of control when you are shooting with the S120. The aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity on this camera are a step up from its immediate predecessor. You can shoot high-quality, sharp, clean photos even indoors or outside at night.

In fact, for those who enjoy astronomy photography, there are star shooting modes which you can use the capture the night sky in all of its splendour.

Noise is minimal at ISO 400, even in RAW format. Even at 800, it isn’t bad. You can shoot at up to ISO 12800, but image quality at that setting is pretty dodgy. I would say the effective limit is closer to 6400 if you are looking to retain a reasonable degree of sharpness.

Speaking of image clarity, the S120 has a great anti-shake feature. I have a slight tremor in my hands when I am using them (it’s been with me since childhood), and this makes a huge difference in the quality of my photos.

For shooting in high-contrast situations, shadow correction can be turned on or off. There is only a slight degree of chromatic aberration. There is also an HDR mode built right into the camera.

Photo Shoot Setup

Other shooting modes available include Handheld Night Scene, Snow, Underwater, Fireworks, Miniature Effect, Poster Effect, and more. A variety of photo effects can also be applied before you export your shots, including Sepia, Black & White, Neutral, Custom Color, and others.

Ideal for Social Sharing

When it comes time to transfer your photos off your camera, you have a number of options. Wi-Fi is integrated into the camera, so you can connect directly to your computer or mobile device and export your photos with the click of a button. You can even send them directly to Facebook or other social media sites to share with friends, family and the world. You can send them directly through email as well. For these reasons I think it is a great choice as a vlogging camera for YouTube videos.

Pros of the Canon S120:

  • Good image quality even in low light.
  • Compact, lightweight, and sturdy.
  • Easy-to-use controls on the front, top and back of the camera.
  • Full manual control over a wide range of settings.
  • Lots of post-processing effects available.
  • Fast and easy photo exporting through wi-fi.
  • The price has come down significantly for this camera, and it is now a great value.

Cons of the Canon S120:

  • The zoom range could be better.
  • This camera lacks an EVF.
  • The shot capacity is only 230, which is a bit restrictive. The battery runs out fast.

Conclusion: A Compact, Powerful Camera for a Great Price

When the Canon S120 hit the market a few years ago, it was considered an excellent camera, albeit an expensive one. Today, it no longer represents the cutting edge in photographic technology, but it remains a sophisticated, powerful camera with everything a casual or serious amateur photographer could ask for in a compact package.

Since the price has dropped over time, it is now a wonderful deal for the money as well. I have been very happy with the S120’s performance so far, and look forward to taking many more beautiful, clear shots with it over the years to come. I feel confident that if you decide to give it a try, you also will be very satisfied with your purchase.