The Canon PowerShot S120
At Luxury Couple we looked for a great all-purpose camera without too many compromises and cut to the chase on our decision to save you days of indecision.
This isn’t a ‘just out of the box’ new product review but one about about a camera that’s taken a beating with us in the field, is currently available, and we think takes some beating.
Most modern cameras are full of sexy fiddly bits that you never actually use – so instead of evaluating every techy twinkle we boil it down to what’s good for us.
We’re now used to lugging around about twenty kilos of camera equipment in order to capture the highest quality images for our website and for commercial use. The alternative to date has been our i-phones, which offer stunning convenience and adequate quality for our Social Media feeds.
What was lacking is the facility to take images quickly in impromptu situations but still retain high quality.
We also realised that video would increasingly become important for our blog/review website and wanted to condense all of this into one camera – big ask!
There are literally hundreds of offerings from numerous manufacturers and it took us about three months to go through all the reviews before we distilled it down to what we were actually looking for.
The first real decision to make was what size camera we wanted.
This might sound back-to-front but with experience of cumbersome kit very much in our minds, it was important that the camera should be readily accessible (pocket sized), easy to use (Cherrie would be using it most of the time), fully automatic with manual overrides if required (speed of taking pictures would be of the essence, so endless adjustments would miss opportunities), excellent quality still and video capabilities.
Cherrie has never been naturally inclined to be a photographer, so we felt that if we could find something that wasn’t intrusive, didn’t require long set-up times and would, basically, be point and shoot in good quality – then we’d cracked it!
Many of the choices with best quality video tended to be video only (no real still capability) and were still surprisingly big if you really wanted to shove it into your jeans’ pocket.
Many of the stills cameras didn’t have good quality video (HD and format options) and were either cheap and nasty or not very well specified.
As we narrowed things down we decided that we wanted a) jeans’ pocket friendly, b) touch screen [so used to this with i-phone it seems almost archaic not to have it, although you do lose the eye-level finder as a result], c) Blue Tooth or Wi-Fi link [optional hands-free image transmission to phone or computer] and lastly an overriding, d) outstanding quality – both in build and imagery.
To cut a very long story short – we opted for the Canon PowerShot S120.
Given that Geoff is a committed Nikon man this was quite a departure!
We’ve now field tested it in Sri Lanka, Namibia and Portes de Soleil – so it’s been through desert, beach and snow; hot and cold.
Here are a couple of examples of both still quality:
…and video (click the link to see actual clarity of imagery):
The video was shot entirely on the Canon PowerShot S120 and other than editing sequences together is seen without enhancement, as it came from the camera.
Here are our pros and cons:
* Excellent quality video and still images (with options to vary file size, video format etc) Ace video results at 1080p and 60fps
* Robust, well made – has already survived being dropped!
* Very easy to use – (almost idiot-proof!)
* Fits a pocket easily and weighs next to nothing
* Battery power (which was heralded as the Achilles heel of this camera) is surprisingly good, with the recording going for an appreciable time after the somewhat misleading battery warning light flashes. We get a day’s shooting out of one battery (20+ ten-thirty second video sequences). We have purchased a spare Canon battery so that one is always charged in the separate charger provided. This is a bonus over those cameras whose fixed battery must be charged in-camera.
* With a 32Gb card in the camera there’s no need to keep changing SD cards over when you get carried away with video filming.
* ‘Tap’ focusing works well on the viewing screen.
* For nerds, the f1.8 lens lets bags of light in so low level light shooting is tons better than lesser lenses.
* There is a facility to combine an automatic pre-shot short video clip before you actually take a still so that you can keep a daily video diary sequence – sounds good but we inevitably want to video more than a couple of seconds and probably want to combine the clips in a different sequence – perhaps that’s just how we do things and it’ll seem a good idea for you?
* Excellent quality close-up and on mid-range zoom but extreme digital zoom (there are two forms, optical x5 and digital x10) loses quality quickly.
* Light weight and size makes it difficult to stabilise – especially in zoom, even with Image Stabilisation – which leads to wobbly images in video (a penalty for the low weight and small size that we demanded) unless you’re resting it on something.
* Size is too small for Geoff’s ham fists.
* Screen sometimes difficult to view in strong sunlight which means filming is ‘blind’ as there is no eye-level finder to compensate.
* The red ‘video record’ button is small and it’s not always immediately obvious if the camera is recording.
* WiFi is disappointingly fiddly and we’ve stopped using it!
* Selecting low-res, low file size (100Kb) images makes them too poor a quality to transmit to our website, which means we have to edit the larger file sizes down in Photoshop to retain quality rather than upload straight from camera – a step too far for convenience. You can shoot a variety of file sizes, including RAW.
* The instruction manual is a pain being online (as are many today) as it’s not always easy to bone up on something if you want it in a hurry and you’re in the middle of a desert! Our powers of retention for instruction minutiae are limited these days – so a simpler reference would be useful over and above the ‘point and shoot’ abbreviated printed instructions.
We’d award the Canon PowerShot S120 a 7 out of 10 based on the above but when all is said and done we’re really happy with it as a midway solution between bulk or basics and if its anything to go by, Cherrie is now happy to do a lot of the photography to supplement the more elaborate stuff that Geoff does!
Buy it now
Here’s a direct link if you’re interested in checking prices or purchasing the camera we’ve just reviewed.