Canon PowerShot SX120 IS Review

The Canon SX120IS is the successor of the SX110IS model, which was released the year before and was itself an upgrade to the successful SX100IS model from 2007. Canon has once again increased the resolution somewhat, this time in comparison to the SX110IS. The sensor in the SX120 has been upgraded from nine megapixels to ten megapixels, but its size remains the same.

Key Specs

  • 10-megapixel CCD
  • 10x zoom lens (equivalent to a 36-360mm lens on a 35mm camera)
  • 4x digital zoom
  • LCD monitor with a size of 3 inches and PureColor.
  • Available exposure modes range from fully manual to fully automatic and include aperture and shutter priority in addition to 13 scene options.
  • Integrated lighting system with five different modes
  • memory card slots compatible with SD/SDHC/MMC/MMCplus, etc (128MB SD card is included)
  • Connection for computers through USB 2.0.
  • AV out
  • DC in
  • Made for use with AA batteries
  • Software compatible with Macs and PCs

The body of the Canon SX120 is almost exactly the same as that of its predecessor. The only discernible difference, other than the fact that the buttons are labeled differently, is that the print button that was previously located on the rear panel, to the top left of the LCD display, has been removed. As was the case with its forerunner, the Canon SX120IS has dimensions of 4.4 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches (111 x 70 x 45mm) and weighs in at 10.7 ounces (302g) including the battery and flash card. It won’t fit comfortably in your shirt pocket because of its size, but it isn’t an unreasonable amount of space either.

The Canon PowerShot SX120 has a ten-megapixel sensor and a ten-times optical zoom lens, giving it a focal length range that extends from a wide-angle equivalent of 36 millimeters to a practical telephoto equivalent of 360 millimeters. When shooting wide-angle, the maximum aperture is f/2.8, and when shooting telephoto, it is f/4.3. The “IS” in the SX120’s name gives away the fact that it maintains Canon’s Image Stabilization technology, which helps combat the effects of blur caused by camera shake. This is something that is especially crucial when working with longer focal lengths. This model does not include an optical viewfinder, which is not surprising given that it is a long-zoom camera. Images are framed and examined on a color LCD display that is 3 inches in size and has 230,000 pixels.

The image processor of the Canon SX120 represents the single most important improvement over its predecessor, the SX110. The former camera utilized a previous generation of Canon’s DIGIC processor, which has now been upgraded to the current specification and is currently found in the SX120. The introduction of DIGIC 4 processors into PowerShot cameras began in the previous year. These processors should bring about improvements in the areas of picture noise, autofocus, and autoexposure.

The Canon PowerShot SX120 IS provides users with not just a variety of scene modes and a Program auto mode, but also the option to manually regulate the shutter speed and/or aperture settings of the camera. Canon’s implementation of face detection is included, and the functionality of face detection is linked not only to the autofocus system but also to the exposure metering and white balance systems to ensure that portraits have the appropriate exposure. This is done so that the camera can accurately expose faces.

Very bright orange LED serves as the autofocus aid when working in low light conditions. Adjustments and customizations are available in a wide variety for photographers with more experience. These include a range of ISO sensitivities (from 80 to 1,600 equivalent), metering modes, autoexposure, and flash exposure locks, flash output control, white balance options, and image sharpness, contrast, and color options that can be adjusted.

When the ISO sensitivity is set to automatic, the PowerShot SX120 has a slightly enhanced flash range when compared to its predecessor, with a maximum reach of 13 feet when using the wide-angle setting and 8.2 feet when using the telephoto setting respectively.

Images may be stored on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCard media with the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS, including the more recent (and larger capacity) SDHC varieties of these media. The product package comes with a 128 MB SD card, which is large enough to save around 30 images at their original resolution and with the least amount of compression.

The Canon SX110IS, just like its predecessor, the SX110, is powered by a pair of AA batteries. These batteries might be alkaline, lithium, or NiMH rechargeable types. In the bundle of products that you have purchased, you will find a pair of disposable alkaline batteries.

Look and Feel

The Canon SX120 is physically distinct from its predecessor, the Canon SX110, despite the clone-like similarities between the two models. The Print/Share button that was located on the back of the SX110 has been removed because it is not necessary, and the front finger grip now has a larger metal accent. Aside from that, they are an identical pair of twins.

This is not to suggest that I experienced the same feelings as them. When I pulled the Canon SX120 out of my pocket, for some reason, the flash would automatically activate and stay that way. I couldn’t figure out why. After the first day, I decided to quit doing that, and it was simple to do so due to the fact that the flash protrudes forward from the body shell.

Another modification that we found was that even if you remove the coin battery that maintains the clock running when you change the batteries in your Canon SX120, you won’t lose the time. This is because the time is stored separately from the coin battery (at least with AAs installed).

This opulent 3.0-inch LCD screen has 230K pixels, which is a good resolution but not quite as high as it might be. It’s possible that I’m becoming accustomed to higher-resolution LCDs, but being as how this one is identical to the one on the SX110, I can’t really complain about it.

The Canon SX120, much like its predecessor, is not a very compact camera. Canon has a long-standing practice of making its smaller cameras slightly on the bulky side. The flagship G11, as well as the G10 and G9 that came before it, is an excellent illustration of this. And the Canon SX120, much like its predecessor the Canon SX110, makes no attempt to shrink in size, despite the fact that I was able to fit it in the pocket of my shirt. Invest in an ELPH if you want something compact. When compared to the Canon SX120, however, an ELPH will need you to sacrifice a great deal of functionality.

The Canon SX120’s body is made of plastic and has rounded edges and corners. As a direct consequence of this, the grip may seem a little bit slick to certain people. On the rear, there is a wonderfully carved thumb grip, and on the front, there is a decent ledge that is highlighted with chrome for you to rest your other fingers. It never managed to get away from my grasp.

I wouldn’t call it hefty, but it does have a respectable amount of heaviness to it. When you hit the shutter button on a featherweight, the camera will frequently tremble, however the Canon SX120 does not have this issue.

The control arrangement hasn’t altered, so getting used to it won’t take long. The Mode dial is big and can be thumbed through with ease from the rear of the device. Additionally, the shutter button, which is surrounded by the zoom control, is extremely large and simple to locate. This time around, the Zoom control seemed to me to be set at an inappropriately high level (it could sit a bit lower than the Shutter button). There is room for improvement in the design of the Power button, which is a little rectangular inset located behind the Shutter button.

The LCD serves as your viewfinder and performs admirably even when exposed to direct sunlight. Fingermarks are visible because of the antiglare surface, however, they are simple to remove with a wipe of the cloth.


When it comes to the buttons, the functions they serve should be second nature to everyone who owns a Canon. On each new model, Canon is forced to alter the functionality of at least one button (where is Print/Share? ), but the standard order of buttons remains unchanged.

When you click the Menu button, a list of the most important settings will appear (Playback mode, for example, has a tab for its settings, another for the Print function, and the Setup tab). While you press the Function/Specify button, additional settings relevant to the mode you are now using are displayed (for instance, when you are in the Record mode, this is where you set the image size and quality, as well as the white balance and other settings). And finally, the functions that are utilized the most are handled by the buttons themselves (EV, for example, is on one of them).

This works effectively, but I can’t help but scratch my head whenever I see Canon playing the shell game by relocating functionality away from the menu system and onto the buttons. However, if you get the hang of it and figure out which ones are your favorites, you won’t forget them.

The Canon SX120 makes effective use of its buttons, which are the quickest and most straightforward method to accomplish everything.

The Control dial may be found to the right of the Function/Set button. You can go up, down, left, or right by pressing the appropriate side buttons on the navigator. These buttons are located on the top, bottom, left, and right sides, respectively. However, pressing the Up button also rotates the image when playing it back and adjusts the ISO value while recording. Down navigates among the various release options for the shutter. The right button cycles between the flash modes, and the left button cycles through the focusing modes.

However, the Control dial may also be spun, which makes navigating much quicker. When the Mode dial is in the Scene position, it functions in the most beneficial manner. The numerous Scene modes are displayed whenever the Control dial is turned in either direction. In Playback, you may fast go between the photos by spinning the wheel. This Canon PowerShot Control dial is somewhat rigid, making it more difficult to spin inadvertently in comparison to other Canon PowerShot dials (such as the excessively loose one on the Canon S90).

Two buttons are located just above the Control dial. One of these buttons may be used to turn the Face Detection feature on and off, while the other can adjust the exposure value. There are two additional buttons located below the Control dial. The first one navigates through the different Display modes, while the second one opens the Menu.

This is the most fundamental arrangement of the controls; nevertheless, the rear panel also has two more buttons that are important to note. Playback may be started by pressing the button that is located just above the control panel. However, due to its location very close to your thumb, entering Playback mode to review your photographs is a simple process regardless of whether the Canon SX120 is turned on or off. You may return to the Record mode by pressing the Playback button once again, as well as the Shutter button. The camera is turned off as playback begins, which is a lovely touch.


The main selling point of the Canon SX120 is the lens, which looks to be an identical version of the one found in the Canon SX110. When you’ve used a camera that has an optical range of 10x, you’ll find that cameras with optical ranges of 5x and 3x feel restrictive in comparison. It simply cannot be believed that you can get 10x zoom on a camera at this pricing. You can’t help but scratch your head when you realize that Canon has built its optical image stabilization right into the camera. Up and down while maintaining a cheerful demeanor.

The fact that a large piece of glass emerges from the body of the camera rather than something that looks like a misplaced contact lens is a welcome change.

With a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at wide-angle and f/4.3 at telephoto, the 10x zoom range provides coverage that is similar to 36mm to 360mm when shot with a 35mm camera. This intermediate wide-angle lens is quite quick, and it sacrifices very little depth of field in exchange for a reach of 360 millimeters.

As was the case with the SX110, enjoying macro focusing at wide-angle ranges from 0.4 inches to 1.6 feet is a lot of fun with this camera. One thing that digital cameras are capable of out of the box that DSLRs are not is macro photography; yet, many digital cameras make it difficult to take macro photos. The Canon SX120 is not suitable. There are going to be some days when you just photograph in macro.

Additionally, the PowerShot SX120 comes equipped with Canon’s optical image stabilization technology. In low light, you won’t need to resort to flash, and you’ll be able to assemble 360-degree scenes while holding the camera in your hands.

In order to produce a 10x zoom, Canon had to make certain concessions in terms of optical quality. The laboratory discovered that the corners had a blurring level that was quite high, although it did not extend very far into the screen. When viewed at the maximum telephoto setting, details were blurry in general. The pincushion distortion at telephoto was only barely obvious in certain shots, but the barrel distortion was around average and was visible while shooting at wide-angle. We also discovered that there was a minor amount of chromatic aberration at wide-angle, but that it significantly increased at telephoto lens lengths.


It is common for PowerShots to exclude manual shooting modes, which is one of the reasons why the Canon SX120’s inclusion of these modes is one of the finest features about this camera. Turning the Control dial allows you to make adjustments to the aperture or shutter speed while using a semi-automatic mode. In the Manual mode, where both the volume and the exposure value may be adjusted, the EV button switches between the two. It really couldn’t be much easier.

Use Tv (Time value) for manually setting the shutter speed (from 15 seconds to 1/2000 second), Av for manually setting the aperture (you can get to f/8.0 from wide-f/2.8 angle’s or telephoto’s f/4.3, a good range), and Manual for setting both the shutter speed and aperture manually greatly enhance the camera’s value to both beginners and those who know how to get what they want. Tv (Time value) is used for manually setting the shutter speed (from 15

Program AE, Auto, and Easy Shooting are the three different automated shooting settings. When using Program AE, you may change the combination of aperture and shutter speed by half-pressing the Shutter button and then pressing the EV button. Then, you can spin the Control dial to make the new combination without affecting the exposure. Although this is how Program AE is meant to operate, Canon very seldom allows you to make adjustments to the exposure that it suggests. It’s almost as if you’re back in the situation when you’re borrowing the automobile from your parents.

The Function menu is limited to options for image size and quality when Auto is selected.

When Easy Shooting is selected, the camera is effectively locked (the Function menu is not accessible at all), making it ideal for giving the device to a toddler. You can zoom in and utilize the flash if the brightness is turned up, but other than that, you have no further options.

The Mode dial, which has some give to it, gives you access to a few Scene options that you may find yourself using regularly. These categories are referred to as Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, and Indoor, respectively.

Turning the Control Dial gives you access to a few more scene modes that are included within the Scene menu, which Canon refers to as the Special Scene menu. These scene modes include Foliage, Snow, Beach, Sunset, Fireworks, Aquarium, Night Scene, and ISO 3,200.

In conclusion, the SX110 features a Movie mode that is capable of recording movies with a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels at a frame rate of 30 frames per second (fps), an LP version of same mode that can record movies that are twice as long, and 320 by 240 at 30 fps. There is an option for digital zoom, and the front of the camera contains a tiny speaker that records mono audio. The microphone is located near the lens.

Storage & Battery

The 10-megapixel sensor produces images with the greatest size possible of 3,648 by 2,736 pixels. 749 high-quality photographs and 1,536 standard images may be stored on a card with 2 gigabytes of capacity.

The same card can only store a little more than a minute and a half of high-quality video at the maximum setting. However, a 2GB card can store 16 minutes and 47 seconds of video.

You have options available to you in terms of technology thanks to the fact that the Canon SX110 is powered by AA batteries. The most powerful lithiums are those that can only be used once and cannot be recharged. However, they are an excellent option if the majority of your photography is done around the holidays and just seldom during other times of the year. The alkalines that come standard with the camera are the least powerful choice available, having a rating of only 130 shots when measured according to CIPA standards (which take quite a few flash shots). Rechargeable Ni-MH batteries are somewhere in the middle of these two categories but are physically closer to lithium batteries. Using the CIPA testing procedures, they were given a rating of 370 shots.


Considering that this model retains the same lens as its predecessor, the key elements in determining the overall image quality are the sensor’s increased resolution and the DIGIC 4 processor.

In comparison to the 1/2.3-inch CCD utilized in the SX110 IS, which only had 9 megapixels, the 1/2.5-inch CCD sensor in the SX130 IS has 10 megapixels. The diagonal measurement of the 1/2.5-inch sensor is 7.182 millimeters, whereas the diagonal measurement of the 1/2.3-inch sensor is 7.70 millimeters. Therefore, cramming more pixels into a smaller space will result in an increase in the amount of noise.

When it comes to noise, the SX110 IS did not do very well. It showed noise suppression blurring of detail at ISO 200, grain at ISO 400, and loss of detail above ISO 800. However, because the Canon SX120 IS is equipped with a DIGIC 4 processor, chrominance noise is better reduced at all ISO settings, although luminance noise starts to become more noticeable at ISO 400.

Exposure is another area that the DIGIC 4 processor contributes. Even though it isn’t visible in the Exif header, we took all of the photos with the i-Contrast option set to Auto rather than of. This was done intentionally. We have a great deal of respect for Sony’s DRO and Nikon’s D-Lighting, and we promptly enabled them on our test cameras so that we could increase the dynamic range of those JPEGs. As a result, we decided that it was high time to put Canon’s i-Contrast into high gear.

Compare the gallery photos of the hydrant, fire alarm, and pen (a macro shot), as well as the zoom series, to get an idea of how the exposure capabilities of the SX120 IS have improved (which includes digital zoom).

The doll photographs taken with the Canon SX120 IS highlight the distinction between taking pictures in Program mode and taking pictures in Scene mode at an ISO setting of 3,200. In Program mode, we received a warning regarding possible camera shaking, which caused the exposure to be lowered to 1/9 and 1/7 of a second. Scene mode had maintained an exposure of roughly 1/30 of a second. However, we were equipped with picture stabilization, so we continued to shoot. On the other hand, the photos from the Program simply aren’t that crisp. At an ISO of 3,200, the Scene mode photographs maintained both their color and detail. Please take into account that the Light Value for these photographs was 2.6. (compared to 11.0 for the fire alarm in sunlight and 13.0 for the sunset).

The salt and pepper shakers contrast the Program setting with the Auto ISO setting to the Program setting with the 1,600 ISO setting. The detail is similar thanks to the fact that the latter’s Auto ISO could go as high as 409, which results in better color.

However, when the Canon SX120 IS is given free rein in bright sunshine, the camera’s sensitivity ranges from ISO 75 to just below ISO 150, maintaining a significant distance from ISO 400. Which ought to serve as a lesson for all of us. Even though you can only change the ISO to 80 and above, the Canon SX120 may be set to ISO 75 and a variety of points in between those levels.

The sunset scene option once more transformed a beautiful pastel sky into a blazing crimson sunset, significantly increasing the level of saturation. On the other hand, that’s sunset for you.

Nevertheless, I was perplexed as to why the DIGIC 4 did not adjust for the chromatic aberration (clearly visible on the hydrant, for example). Because of this, the Canon SX120 IS would have been a major improvement over the Canon SX110 IS, particularly in terms of its 10x range with macro.

Face recognition, exposure, and noise reduction appear to be the primary focuses of Canon’s approach to image processing, which appears to be more traditional in nature

The Canon PowerShot SX120 provides an excellent shooting experience overall and features a zoom that allows you to go where you want to go without having to get up and move around. It could have a setting wider than 36, but the SX120 is a fantastic pick if you’re looking for a nice, pocketable long zoom that goes all the way out to an eye-popping 360mm equivalent.

Image Quality

Throughout the course of our examination, the Canon PowerShot SX120 has generated photographs of satisfactory quality. The biggest shortcoming of the Canon PowerShot SX120 IS in terms of image quality is noise, with ISO 400 displaying some noise, blurring of detail, and moderate desaturation of color. As the ISO is increased, noise and loss of information become increasingly noticeable until you reach the highest possible value of 1600.

The Canon PowerShot SX120 has performed admirably in terms of handling chromatic aberrations, with only a few instances of purple fringing visible in conditions with strong contrast. The images captured with a resolution of 12 megapixels came out of the camera with a lackluster level of sharpness when the camera’s default sharpening setting was used. As a result, you will need to either perform additional sharpening in an application such as Adobe Photoshop or increase the level of in-camera sharpening.

The night shot turned out alright, with a maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds allowing you to catch sufficient light for the majority of scenarios; nevertheless, the final image appeared to have been very over-processed.

Even though there is a lot of lens distortion and shadows at such a short distance, the performance of the camera’s macro mode is a standout highlight, allowing you to focus as near as 1 centimeter away from the subject of your photograph.

The built-in flash did a fantastic job indoors, producing images free of red-eye and with enough exposure overall. When shooting in low-light settings with the camera held by hand or when utilizing the telephoto end of the zoom range, anti-shake performs really well.


Lag in the shutter: With full focusing, the camera has a shutter lag of 0.80 seconds at wide-angle and 0.93 seconds at maximum telephoto, which is about normal for a long zoom but slower than some of its more modern competitors. The prefocus shutter latency is only 0.066 seconds, which is significantly faster than normal.

The length of one cycle

In single-shot mode, the cycle time is a little bit slow, since it only captures a frame once every 2.07 seconds. Although Canon claims that the SX120 IS’s continuous mode can capture 1.3 frames per second, we were unable to verify this.

Recycle the flash

After a full-power discharge, the flash on the PowerShot SX120 IS takes 12 seconds to recycle, which is a significantly slower rate than the norm.

In the Box

The following items may be found inside the retail package:

  • Digital camera Canon PowerShot SX120 IS
  • Strap for the wrist WS-800
  • 2 AA Alkaline batteries
  • AV cable AVC-DC400
  • IFC-400PCU stands for the interface cable
  • 128MB SD card
  • Compact Disc (CD)

Accessories That Come Highly Recommended

  • Rechargeable NiMH batteries
  • Memory card with a large capacity for SD or SDHC. (The pricing of 8GB is reasonable in comparison to its storage capacity in today’s market.)


Body typeCompact
Max resolution3648 x 2736
Other resolutions3648 x 2048, 2816 x 2112, 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480, 3456 x 1944
Image ratio w:h4:3, 3:2
Effective pixels10 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors10 megapixels
Sensor size1/2.5″ (5.744 x 4.308 mm)
Sensor typeCCD
ProcessorDigic 4
ISOAuto, 80 ,100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance presets5
Custom white balanceYes
Image stabilizationOptical
Uncompressed formatNo
JPEG quality levelsFine, Normal
Focal length (equiv.)36–360 mm
Optical zoom10×
Maximum apertureF2.8–4.3
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)SingleLive View
Digital zoomYes (4x)
Manual focusYes
Macro focus range1 cm (0.39″)
Articulated LCDFixed
Screen size3″
Screen dots230,000
Touch screenNo
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeNone
Minimum shutter speed15 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/2500 sec
Aperture priorityYes
Shutter priorityYes
Manual exposure modeYes
Subject / scene modesYes
Built-in flashYes (Pop-up)
Flash range3.00 m
External flashNo
Flash modesAuto, On, Off, Red-Eye, Slow Sync, Fill-in
Continuous drive0.9 fps
Self-timerYes (2 or 10 sec, Custom)
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpot
Exposure compensation±2 (at 1/3 EV steps)
Resolutions640 x 480 (30 fps), 320 x 240 (30 fps), 160 x 120 (15 fps)
FormatMotion JPEG
Storage typesSD, SDHC, MMC, MMCplus, HC MMCplus
Storage included128 MB SD card
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
Remote controlNo
Environmentally sealedNo
Battery description2 x AA batteries (NiMH recommended)
Weight (inc. batteries)285 g (0.63 lb / 10.05 oz)
Dimensions111 x 71 x 45 mm (4.37 x 2.8 x 1.77″)
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingNo

Final Verdict

If I were the type of person who always has a handbag or purse with me, I wouldn’t think twice about bringing my Canon PowerShot SX120 IS around with me wherever I go. I don’t carry purses, yet even when it’s warm out, I find myself reaching for a waist pack or a jacket so that I may have the Canon SX120 IS’s the company even though I don’t carry a handbag. The item is only a tad bit large to fit into pockets when the weather is beautiful; of course, coats are preferable.

But if you don’t mind taking it around with you and you’re not the type of person who wants to make a fashion statement with their camera, then you’ll be able to enjoy the Canon SX120 IS for what it is: a camera that is both highly competent and incredibly inexpensive. You will really adore the 10x zoom range that does not need you to forego the enjoyable experience of taking macro photographs. This should be mandated by law. You’ll discover every shooting mode imaginable, including all of the manual ones, right here (which includes a useful Aperture Priority mode for changing your depth of field).

Even though we are living in an HD era, the movie mode on the Canon SX120 IS is still only available in the normal definition. This is a clear indication that Canon is sliding behind its competitors in terms of innovation. But other than that, this dependable jewel has almost everything else covered. It is a Dave’s Pick because it makes photography enjoyable for first-time photographers while also providing something new and interesting for more experienced photographers to experiment with.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Good heft
  • Uses AA batteries
  • 10x zoom
Need Improvement
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Zoom is slow to start, and moves slowly
  • The wide end is only 36mm equivalent
  • Movie mode only records VGA, no HD

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