Canon S120

Earlier this week I noticed that the Canon camera I had been thinking of getting, the S120, was on sale at Amazon so I ordered one. With their Prime service it arrived here quickly (actually quicker than I expected as OnTrac delivered on Saturday even though it was slated for delivery on Monday in the tracking info.

The features that drew me to this one were the Wi-Fi capability (so I can pull photos from the camera to my iPhone or Nexus 4 anywhere I am, even without a wifi based internet connection), the high speed lens (f/1.8) and the 1080p HD video. The only real negatives were the limited 5x zoom, and the relatively low pixel count compared to other similar offerings from other companies. But 12MP is still respectable, and the zoom is OK for most uses I will actually have for the camera. 


The Wi-Fi connectivity, or more specifically the ability to send photos to my smartphone while not at home so I can use them immediately if I want to, was one of the key things I was looking for in this camera. Either that, or it had to have proper support for an EyeFi card (our underwater Canon does not have EyeFi support, and while it works, you never really know what is happening, or when it is done).

The S120 though has joined my home Wi-Fi network, which allows it to transfer pictures and videos to both my iPhone and Nexus 4 (Android) phone with no problems at all. When out and about, the camera creates its own Wi-Fi network which both smartphones were able to join to get the photos. The only downside of this mode is that while they are connected to the camera, they are essentially offline for data. Not a big issue since it doesn’t take long to grab the photos/videos you need and disconnect again.

I have used a WPA2 Personal network, and open public network (without any captive portal) and the direct connection from both iOS and Android and it worked perfectly in all cases. Thanks to the touch screen on the camera, entering a key for secure networks is also pretty simple. It would have been nice if they had included access to Devicescape’s CVN in the camera too, then it would have been able to get online at places like the Korean restaurant we ate at the other night as well (the network that was available there had a click through agreement).

Social Uploading

Once configured in the Canon Image Gateway (CIG), you also have the option to upload to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr. Theoretically, you can also use YouTube, but I could not get that to authenticate with YouTube, and my first couple of attempts actually generated security alerts from the overly sensitive Google account activity monitor. Even after I approved the activity, subsequent attempts to login failed (and I even got a second alert that was automatically group in the ones I had accepted, but was still marked as prevented). I don’t know if YouTube has an OAuth option (if they don’t, they should fix that), but it looks as though CIG was trying to use direct login with credentials.

I linked to Flickr and Facebook (I might add Twitter later), and both seem to work. The UI is a little cumbersome for multiple image uploads, but you can select a group of images and the camera will upload them all. Oddly, I was able to enter a description for the Flickr upload, it was not able to add any text from the camera for the Facebook upload.

Bottom line for me here is that while it is nice to have this feature on the camera, I suspect the only one I will use is the Flickr upload (to make sure I have saved copies of all my photos while on trips for example). For FB, I almost always want to add some kind of description to the image, and often tag it too, so transferring to my phone and uploading from there seems like a better option.

Image Quality

I haven’t done very much detailed analysis of the image quality, but the shot on the right is one of the first I tried outdoors in good light. Overall I am impressed with it, though it is not as sharp as some of my better EOS 20D shots in similar conditions.

Here is a section of that image at full resolution:

The noise level in the sky is very good for a compact camera (and the S120 is very compact), but the tree is not quite as sharp in the details as I would have liked.

I have also tried a number of more challenging situations, both low light indoors and also fast moving sports shots, also indoor (a volleyball game). The relatively close food photos at the Korean place worked OK, at minimum zoom the f/1.8 helped with that. But the volleyball shots, at maximum zoom because I was not in the front row, were harder to get. In the end I resorted to manual ISO selection at 10,000, and that was getting good enough quality for online use (which is probably all I would expect from a camera this size in that scenario).

HD Video

My other requirement for this one was being able to shoot HD video. I am not a camcorder kind of person (I actually have a hard time viewing anything entirely through a camcorder screen), but I do like to get short clips of our toddler doing things that we can use to create year end summary “movies” to share with the family.

Up to now, that content has come from a mix of my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone and her old Canon point and shoot (not HD). The video side of things is actually where I thought the lack of zoom might hurt more, but it seems ok so far. I shot a few clips at the volleyball game and the camera well. The YouTube version though doesn’t do it justice (they have definitely reduced the quality compared to what I see playing the source clip locally).

There is also an option for slow motion videos. Have not had a chance to play much with that yet. Once I do, I’ll add a post about that feature. Since I am still using an iPhone 5, not the 5S, this is not something my phone can do, so having it in the camera was a nice option.


I am pleased with the camera overall. It is small enough to be carried all the time, yet it has many of the capabilities of my SLR with the lens I use most often. It is definitely not as fast though, so I need to think about capturing action shots or indoor non-flash shots a little more (for social sharing, bumping the ISO up manually works, but does give more grainy results that I probably wouldn’t want to print large).

The HD video capability is a definite advantage over my DSLR, although I guess I could address that by upgrading my DSLR body too.