Canon PowerShot S120 Review – The Canon PowerShot S120 is the latest model in an acclaimed series of advanced compacts, and is proof that high-end performance can come in small packages
Canon PowerShot S120 Review – Image Quality
The S120’s overall image quality is excellent, as one might expect from a camera costing over £400. In most respects it is very similar to the Canon G16, not too surprising since it uses the same sensor and processor.
Colour and White Balance
The S120’s overall image quality is superb, as one might expect from a camera costing over £400. In the standard My Colours mode, colour reproduction is slightly more saturated than strictly neutral, but the results are very pleasant, producing nice punchy pictures even in overcast lighting.
There are vivid and neutral settings that produce greater or lesser saturation, as well as sepia, monochrome and other more specialised settings, and the results are uniformly excellent. The S120 has a sophisticated variable white balance mode that can cope with multiple light sources within the same shot, and this works surprisingly well, cancelling colour tints from combined compact fluorescent and incandescent lighting.
Accurate exposure metering is something we take for granted with Canon cameras, and the S120 offers no unpleasant surprises. The multi-zone evaluative metering copes well with all types of lighting, especially when used in conjunction with the automatic face tracking AF.
Shooting JPEG format, dynamic range in the default auto mode is limited, but the DR Correction function brings out plenty of shadow detail, as does shooting in raw mode and hand-processing the results, and for really high contrast situations there is always the HDR option.
12.1 megapixels may not sound like much, when there are compact cameras out there offering over 20MP, but you’ll find that it’s par for the course when it comes to high-end compacts.
Sheer pixel resolution isn’t the only measure of photographic quality, and by limiting the sensor resolution Canon has ensured that the individual photocells on the sensor can be larger, capturing more light and providing more dynamic range and colour depth. Images are sufficient well detailed for large prints, and have excellent sharpness and contrast.
When it comes to high-ISO image noise, the S120 performs identically to its stablemate the G16. Up to 800 ISO images are virtually noise free. From 1600 ISO upward to 6400 noise becomes progressively more visible, and at the 12,800 ISO maximum setting the quality has reduced to the point where the image is pretty much unusable except at a very small size. The noise reduction system removes detail progressively, so the higher the ISO, the less detail.
The major photographic difference between the G16 and the S120 is the lens. The S120’s isn’t quite as good as the G16’s, but it’s not at all bad. Centre sharpness is excellent, and corner blurring is kept to a minimum except at maximum aperture. There is no visible chromatic aberration, but there is some purple fringing caused by sensor charge leakage in very-high contrast areas.