Canon S120 vs SX1
The Canon PowerShot S120 and the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2013 and September 2008. Both the S120 and the SX1 are fixed lens compact cameras that are based on a 1/1.7-inch (S120) and a 1/2.3-inch (SX1) sensor. The S120 has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the SX1 provides 10 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot S120 and the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon S120 and the Canon SX1 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon SX1 is considerably larger (91 percent) than the Canon S120. Moreover, the SX1 is substantially heavier (183 percent) than the S120. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the S120 nor the SX1 are weather-sealed.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Canon S120||100 mm||59 mm||29 mm||217 g||230||n||Aug 2013||449|
|2.||Canon SX1||128 mm||88 mm||88 mm||615 g||..||n||Sep 2008||599|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||98 mm||58 mm||31 mm||206 g||235||n||Jan 2017||529|
|4.||Canon G9 X||98 mm||58 mm||31 mm||209 g||220||n||Oct 2015||529|
|5.||Canon G1 X Mark II||116 mm||74 mm||66 mm||553 g||240||n||Feb 2014||799|
|6.||Canon SX60||128 mm||93 mm||114 mm||650 g||340||n||Sep 2014||549|
|7.||Canon G16||109 mm||76 mm||40 mm||356 g||360||n||Aug 2013||549|
|8.||Canon G1 X||117 mm||81 mm||65 mm||534 g||250||n||Jan 2012||799|
|9.||Canon G15||107 mm||76 mm||40 mm||352 g||350||n||Sep 2012||499|
|10.||Canon SX50||123 mm||87 mm||106 mm||595 g||315||n||Sep 2012||429|
|11.||Canon G12||112 mm||76 mm||48 mm||401 g||370||n||Sep 2010||499|
|12.||Canon SX20||123 mm||88 mm||87 mm||600 g||..||n||Aug 2009||399|
|13.||Canon SX10||123 mm||88 mm||87 mm||600 g||..||n||Sep 2008||399|
|14.||Panasonic LF1||103 mm||62 mm||28 mm||192 g||250||n||Apr 2013||499|
|15.||Panasonic FZ200||125 mm||87 mm||110 mm||588 g||540||n||Jul 2012||599|
|16.||Panasonic LX7||111 mm||68 mm||46 mm||298 g||330||n||Jul 2012||499|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The S120 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the SX1, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon S120 features a 1/1.7-inch sensor and the Canon SX1 a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The sensor area in the SX1 is 35 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 4.5 and 5.6. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.
With 12MP, the S120 offers a higher resolution than the SX1 (10MP), but the S120 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 1.89μm versus 1.67μm for the SX1) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the S120 is a much more recent model (by 4 years and 11 months) than the SX1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX1 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Canon S120 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the S120 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon SX1 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon PowerShot S120 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS are ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-3200.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.9||12.5||522||65|
|4.||Canon G9 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.5||12.3||495||63|
|5.||Canon G1 X Mark II||1.5-inch||13.0||4160||3120||1080/30p||21.5||10.8||581||58|
|8.||Canon G1 X||1.5-inch||14.2||4352||3264||1080/24p||21.7||10.8||644||60|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the S120 provides a higher frame rate than the SX1. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the SX1 is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SX1 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the S120 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon S120 and Canon SX1 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||none||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||8.2||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon G9 X||none||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||6.0||Y||Y|
|5.||Canon G1 X Mark II||optional||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||5.2||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon G1 X||optical||n||3.0||922||Swivel||n||1/4000s||1.9||Y||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The S120 has a touchscreen, while the SX1 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Canon S120 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Both the S120 and the SX1 have zoom lenses built in. The S120 has a 24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 optic and the SX1 offers a 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the S120 provides a wider angle of view at the short end than the SX1, but less tele-photo reach at the long end. The S120 offers the faster maximum aperture.
The S120 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the SX1 uses SDHC cards. The S120 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the SX1 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon PowerShot S120 and Canon PowerShot SX1 IS and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon G9 X||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|5.||Canon G1 X Mark II||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|8.||Canon G1 X||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the S120 offers wifi support, while the SX1 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Both the S120 and the SX1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. Neither of the two has a direct successor, so they represent the end of the respective camera lines from Canon. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Canon S120 or the Canon SX1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot S120:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (12 vs 10MP) with a 10% higher linear resolution.
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.8") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12.1 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Better light gathering: Has a lens with a wider maximum aperture (f/1.8 vs f/2.8).
- Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
- More compact: Is smaller (100x59mm vs 128x88mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 398g or 65 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 11 months of technical progress since the SX1 launch.
Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX1 IS:
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/3200s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in September 2008).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the S120 is the clear winner of the match-up (20 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon S120 and the Canon SX1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom Camera and Best Superzoom Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S120 and the SX1 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Canon S120||..||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||449|
|2.||Canon SX1||..||+ +||+||..||3.5/5||Sep 2008||599|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||4/5||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||529|
|4.||Canon G9 X||3.5/5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2015||529|
|5.||Canon G1 X Mark II||3/5||+||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||799|
|6.||Canon SX60||3/5||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||549|
|7.||Canon G16||4/5||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||549|
|8.||Canon G1 X||5/5||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||799|
|9.||Canon G15||4/5||+||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||499|
|10.||Canon SX50||3/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||429|
|11.||Canon G12||4/5||+||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||499|
|12.||Canon SX20||..||+ +||73/100||..||4/5||Aug 2009||399|
|13.||Canon SX10||..||+ +||..||..||4/5||Sep 2008||399|
|14.||Panasonic LF1||3/5||+||..||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||499|
|15.||Panasonic FZ200||3/5||+ +||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2012||599|
|16.||Panasonic LX7||3/5||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2012||499|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon S120 vs Canon SX1
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon S120||Canon SX1|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Fixed lens compact camera|
|Camera Lens||24-120mm f/1.8-5.7||28-560mm f/2.8-5.7|
|Launch Date||August 2013||September 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 449||USD 599|
|Sensor Specs||Canon S120||Canon SX1|
|Sensor Format||1/1.7" Sensor||1/2.3" Sensor|
|Sensor Size||7.6 x 5.7 mm||6.17 x 4.55 mm|
|Sensor Area||43.32 mm2||28.0735 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||9.5 mm||7.7 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12 Megapixels||10 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4000 x 3000 pixels||3648 x 2736 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.89 μm||1.67 μm|
|Pixel Density||27.70 MP/cm2||35.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 3,200 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||56||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.3||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||246||..|
|Screen Specs||Canon S120||Canon SX1|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||202k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||2.8inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon S120||Canon SX1|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||12.1 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon S120||Canon SX1|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||YES HDMI|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon S120||Canon SX1|
100 x 59 x 29 mm
(3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in)
128 x 88 x 88 mm
(5.0 x 3.5 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||217 g (7.7 oz)||615 g (21.7 oz)|
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