Customer Review

234 of 240 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Camera, though a bit noisy, September 15, 2009
This review is from: Canon PowerShot SX120IS 10MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Images Stabilized Zoom and 3-inch LCD (Electronics)
My needs for a camera are as follows:
1) It needs to fit in my pocket
2) It needs to turn on quickly
3) It needs to shoot "decent enough" photos on auto mode
4) It needs to have enough options to tweak lighting settings.
5) It should have both good indoor and outdoor performance.
6) I'd like something that can do automatic exposure bracketing or otherwise support HDR photography.

I've gone through various cameras over the years, and have borrowed some others to mess around with, and until last week was using a Canon A620, which was a surprisingly good camera, capable of taking shots as good as a DSLR, especially when tweaked correctly. It also could do automatic exposure bracketing for HDR photography when using the CHDK firmware for it. Then I accidentally left my A620 on a bench on South Beach when visiting last week, and so I suddenly found myself in the market for a new camera.

I was seriously looking into the Fuji 200EXR and the Ricoh CX2 for the HDR photography mode, but they didn't have the tweakability settings I liked... the 200EXR was great except it always blew out the ISO levels to compensate for its limited image stabilization capabilities, which made auto mode shots almost always unacceptably grainy. I ended up settling on the SX120IS because it matches all my needs except for HDR photography. That, I'll hold off on until a new generation or two of HDR cameras has come and gone.

It has very good low-light performance, as long as you're willing to put up with a certain amount of graininess Indoors, with the curtains drawn and just a couple normal lamps lighting the living room, it was able to take quite decent photos at ISO200. Without a flash. The IS was quite helpful in this regard, and the only downside was that the image had a noticeable level of noise in it. This will bother some people. Myself - I'm happy that it doesn't do what most P&S cameras do, which is reduce the shutter speed to such a low level that everything blurs into nothingness. This is rather the opposite - quite crisp images with no blur, but you pay for it with a little bit of noise. I'm fine with that, really. I never carry a tripod, instead carrying it around in my pocket whenever I travel, and I like to be able to whip it out and photograph something on the spot, indoors or out.

The camera turns on quite quickly, and the auto mode does a generally decent job for taking those quick shots that would otherwise pass you by (the bird posing on the branch). The camera also has a the right amount of manual settings for tweaking your shots just the way you want them. (Another poster on here complained it was too complicated for him, and I suppose that could be a fair criticism, but for me it's the right level of complexity.) Like with my other Canon, it allows you to tweak ISO, aperture priority, time priority, or all three, as well as something the A620 couldn't do - a manual focus setting, which has been quite fun to play around with.

As far as all the vaunted features on this camera (auto face recognition, Digic 4, etc.), I didn't really notice it taking photos noticeably different from my A620. Image quality was about the same with the experimentation I did replicating several shots around the neighborhood. However, since I had no complaints about the A620, this is not a criticism. The one thing I do miss, though, is the flip out viewfinder. I much prefer a viewfinder that can flip around for self-portraits, or flip backwards to protect itself over the always-out LCD viewfinders which always get scratched up very quickly. But all of them are that way nowadays, so I am not really complaining that much about it.

All in all, a great camera.

Edit: After more experience with the camera (I've taken several thousand shots with this camera in different settings now), I have an update to this review.
1) The SD card is very inconveniently located under the unwieldy battery door - I much prefer separate memory card doors on my cameras, so I can pop it out and into a computer easily.

2) The smallish sensor size is not fully compensated for with the IS system. It has the noise of my previous camera at two ISO settings higher, and the auto mode tends to take shots in much higher ISO settings than needed, meaning you need to manually control the ISO mode most of the time, which is a minor annoyance.

3) The zoom lens on this camera rocks. Much better than most P&S camera zoom lenses. It makes a 100 yard shot look like it is 10 feet away, with no visible distortion or chromatic aberration. Macro shots also look very nice.

4) At first I was annoyed by the wheel on the back of the camera, since it would tend to move when trying to push up or down, but it does make browsing through lots of old photos a snap.

5) I've seen some people complaining about the fact that the SX120IS has a manual pop-up flash, whereas the higher level SX200IS model (which my father has, and I've used) automatically pops up the flash when you turn the camera on. However, believe me when I say that I greatly prefer the manual popup - it means you never take a flash photo when you don't want to. And flash sucks for a lot of shots since it wipes out depth in a photo and annoys people, like curators at museum. The camera knows the flash is disabled, and sets its properties accordingly. You can manually disable flash on other cameras, but if you set those cameras to auto mode, a lot of models will automatically re-enable the flash. With this camera, it'll never happen. I love it.

6) I don't quite like the form factor on the camera. It seems easier to drop than other Canons that I've used.

7) Being able to turn on auto-histograming and zebra highlighting over- and under-exposed parts of a photo on every shot out of the box is a very nice feature. I used to have to use CHDK to enable that on my older Canon.
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 19, 2010 6:30:45 PM PDT
JoLynn says:
can you elaborate on the manual focus feature? I notice in the manual it says to use a tripod? Is there a blurriness with this or does it work well?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2010 6:13:36 AM PDT
Nah, you don't need a tripod at all with this camera. The IS is very good, though like I said, it will blow the ISO up really high in order to stop blurring.

Manual focus works by turning it on (most modes have it disabled) and then using the ring thing on the back of the camera. It feels like adjusting the focus on a lens, except it's on the back of the camera. A live preview shows you the focus in a zoomed-in zone in the middle. It's great for macro shots especially, when you really want to pick out the spider or whatever and not have the camera autofocus on something else accidentally when you have a narrow depth of field.

Posted on Sep 9, 2010 10:38:42 AM PDT
I. Peters says:
Just wanted to say that I appreciated your thorough and hands-on review. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2010 3:22:36 PM PDT
Cool, thanks man. =)

Looking back at this review after using it for another year, I basically stand by everything. Its only real weakness is the small sensor size, otherwise it's an ideal device.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2010 3:44:28 PM PDT
I. Peters says:
Woman :-)

Posted on Nov 25, 2010 11:40:09 AM PST
Tina Thomas says:
Excellent review! This camera is discounted to $129 at Target and I was wondering if this camera would be suitable for videoing concerts? We have a problem with audio sounding distorted with our Canon Powershot A1000is. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2010 11:56:19 AM PST
I've done lots of video recording on it, it's quite fine, including the audio. Though specifically for concerts? I'm not sure any built-in mic is going to give you especially high quality.
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