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Home arrow Digital Camera Reviews arrow Canon > arrow PowerShot SX120 IS
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS Digital Camera Review

canon091013.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker

 

In terms of design, the SX120 harks back to the days of the popular 35mm compact cameras. It looks slightly dated, or at least ‘traditional’ may be fairer to say, with its predominantly black, plastic body that would be considered chunky compared to the myriad of slim, streamlined units currently available (many from Canon themselves.)

Despite appearances however, the 10 megapixel SX120 is all digital and backed up by a solid 10x optical zoom lens and optical image stabiliser, which, for this price range ($399 RRP), is very generous indeed.

The two-tiered lens extends some 40-odd millimetres when at full 10x zoom and tucks neatly back into its position on camera when not in use.

Images taken at full zoom, especially when outdoors or when utilising the flash indoors, are certainly quite good overall. They maintain a decent level of sharpness, clarity and exposure, and composing shots at this distance is when users will see the optical image stabiliser really kick in.

Instead of shifting around as you do, the preview on screen holds position for an extra moment or two to help ensure the camera is as steady as possible for shooting in order to reduce the chances of blurred images.

For the most part, the image stabiliser does appear to help and the proof is in the pudding with crisp images created at full 10x zoom, which isn’t always achievable with other compact brands and models.

Digital zoom equivalent to 360mm focal length is also available on the SX120 and while images do develop a certain level of softness at this full extension, results are good overall but not great. Best to stick to optical zoom where possible to ensure the best results are achieved.

While at the telephoto end of things, the SX120 performs very well, the wide end at 36mm isn’t really all that wide when comparing to other units of its class and size, which are extending out to 28mm or even 24mm.

This means users will have to be prepared to take an extra step or two away from their subject in order to fit it all in frame, especially when taking group shots or shooting broad landscapes.

An ever-more-common list of bells and whistles are available on the SX120 including intelligent auto mode, face detection and selection, face tracking and self-timer, red-eye correct, blink detect, movie mode with sound (mono only), 13 preset scene modes (five available on the mode dial, the other eight available by internal menu) and easy mode, which automatically determines all of the cameras settings to make point-and-shoot operation a breeze.

Not so easy to use however was the card/battery compartment on the SX120’s underside. Users need to slide the release trigger in towards them while, with some force, pushing the whole hinged lid to the right.

Having to apply decent force in two directions simultaneously certainly makes the process quite difficult and to be frank, frustrating. Children and the elderly are unlikely to be able to operate the compartment at all.

Fortunately, once released the lid does hold its upright position well given the spring-loaded hinge used to keep it in place and as such, remains out of the way when users are removing the batteries or memory card.

‘Batteries?’ I hear you say. ‘Plural?’ Indeed the SX120 is powered by two regular AA batteries, as opposed to a dedicated Lithium-ion unit, which are far more common across the current digital camera market as they generally prove to hold more power and do so for longer.

It is advised that if they do not already own one, users should invest in a battery recharger unit and at least four good quality rechargeable batteries so that a spare set can be kept on hand ready to go at all times.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that it is better for the environment to re-use rechargeables than it is to constantly dispose of alkaline batteries.

Unlike Li-on battery operated cameras that always have a lock in place to prevent the battery falling out, the SX120 offers no such luxury. Couple that with the force required to open the latch itself and you may often find the batteries dangerously and inopportunely flinging out.

The flash unit of the SX120 must be manually raised if and when required, which can be difficult to get used to particularly for those who are accustomed to automatic flash firing on other compacts they have used or owned previously.

When used however, it does expose fairly accurately with a range of 50cm-4m when the lens is at its widest and 1m-2.5m when fully zoomed.

Not even in auto or easy modes will the flash automatically open, which can be surprising given these two modes are expected to be companions for point-and-shoot users who want to rely on the SX120 to produce quality images regardless of the conditions.

In many cases however, without the flash, there is simply not enough light to suffice for a decent photograph and unless the user consciously remembers to activate the flash unit, the captured moment will either be poor quality as a result of low light or missed completely because the user was concerning themselves more with the flash than with the moment at hand.

Noise levels are kept at a minimum at the lower end of the ISO spectrum (80, 100 and 200) but do become more obvious when moving upwards (to 400, 800 and 1600 ISO) and turn into what can only be described as a blotchy nightmare at ISO 3200 (scene mode.)

Canon’s Digic 4 image processor helps the SX120 produce consistently high quality images overall particularly when used outdoors and under natural lighting conditions.
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Having said that, image processing is a little on the slow slide, which directly effects shot-to-shot time pushing it out to between 3-4 seconds depending on the mode being used to shoot.

While the SX120 IS is not a compact camera without its flaws (good luck finding one that is) for the reasonable price you will pay, it does offer a solid package with both automatic, manual and semi-manual controls and some extra grunt in the zoom department.

As an overall unit, it may not impress the highly tech and gizmo-savvy, but for the regular punter looking for a compact camera that’s quite reliable and capable across a decent variety of situations, the SX120 IS is surely worth having a closer look at.

 

Appearance rating 3 stars
Functionality rating 3 stars
Image quality
3.5 stars
Lens quality
4 stars
View finder / LCD screen 3 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $399
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 10 Million mega pixels
Image Sizes 6 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] 36mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens -zoom tele [mm] 360mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens - Optical Zoom Yes, 10x
Resolution Settings From 640 x 480 to 3648 x 2736
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto (with Scene Detection), P (Program), Tv (Shutter Priority), Av (Aperture Priority), M (Manual), Easy, Portrait, Landscape, Night Snapshot, Kids and Pets, Indoor, Special Scene (Night Scene, Sunset, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, ISO 3200), Movie
Face Detection Yes, and Blink detection
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Focus Range [cm] 50cm - infinity (W) 1m - infinity (T)
Aperture Range f/2.8 - 8.0 (W) / f/4.3 - 8.0 (T)
Aperture Priority Yes
Macro Yes
Macro Range [cm] 1cm - 50cm (max. wide angle)
Shutter Speeds Auto, 15 - 1/2500 sec.
Shutter Priority No
ISO Auto6, High ISO Auto7, ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600
LCD Monitor 3.0 inch LCD monitor (approx 230,000 dots)
Viewfinder No
Flash Auto, on, off, Red Eye Correction, Red Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro, FE Lock, Safety FE
Hot Shoe No
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Flash, Custom
Self Timer Yes, Approx. 10 sec or 2 sec delay, or custom
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes
Storage Type SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus card, HC MMCplus card
Storage Included [Mb] -
Image / Audio Formats Exif 2.2 (JPEG), AVI (Image data: Motion JPEG; Audio data: WAVE (Monaural))
Connectivity USB 2.0 High-speed
Power Source AC Adaptor Kit ACK800 (contains CA-PS800)
Battery Options Size AA Alkaline battery (x2) or Size AA rechargeable NiMH battery (x2) NB4-300/NB4-200
Dimensions 110.6 x 70.4 x 44.7 mm (ex. protruding parts)
Weight Approx 245g

 

 

 
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