Canon S120 vs Nikon D4
The Canon PowerShot S120 and the Nikon D4 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2013 and January 2012. The S120 is a fixed lens compact, while the D4 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/1.7-inch (S120) and a full frame (D4) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 16.2 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 Nikon D4? 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 Nikon D4 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions 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 Nikon D4 is considerably larger (326 percent) than the Canon S120. It is noteworthy in this context that the D4 is splash and dust-proof, while the S120 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the S120 has a lens built in, whereas the D4 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D4 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
Concerning battery life, the S120 gets 230 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the D4 can take 2600 images on a single charge of its EN-EL18 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D4 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon S120||100 mm||59 mm||29 mm||217 g||230||n||Aug 2013||449|
|2.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|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 G16||109 mm||76 mm||40 mm||356 g||360||n||Aug 2013||549|
|7.||Canon G1 X||117 mm||81 mm||65 mm||534 g||250||n||Jan 2012||799|
|8.||Canon G15||107 mm||76 mm||40 mm||352 g||350||n||Sep 2012||499|
|9.||Canon SX50||123 mm||87 mm||106 mm||595 g||315||n||Sep 2012||429|
|10.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|11.||Nikon D4S||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|12.||Nikon Df||144 mm||110 mm||67 mm||760 g||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|13.||Nikon P7800||119 mm||78 mm||50 mm||399 g||350||n||Sep 2013||549|
|14.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|15.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|16.||Panasonic LF1||103 mm||62 mm||28 mm||192 g||250||n||Apr 2013||499|
|17.||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.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The S120 was launched at a lower price than the D4, despite having a lens built in. 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. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 Nikon D4 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D4 is 1900 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 4.5 and 1.0. The sensor in the S120 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D4 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 16.2MP, the D4 offers a higher resolution than the S120 (12MP), but the D4 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 7.29μm versus 1.89μm for the S120) due to its larger sensor. However, the S120 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 7 months) than the D4, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D4 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D4 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.4 inches or 62.6 x 41.7 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.3 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.8 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon S120 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 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 Nikon D4 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D4 offers substantially better image quality than the S120 (overall score 33 points higher). The advantage is based on 3.4 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 3.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|2.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|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|
|7.||Canon G1 X||1.5-inch||14.2||4352||3264||1080/24p||21.7||10.8||644||60|
|10.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|11.||Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|12.||Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|14.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|15.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. 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 D4. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D4 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the S120 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon S120 and Nikon D4 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Canon S120||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||Y||1/2000s||12.1||Y||Y|
|2.||Nikon D4||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|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|
|6.||Canon G16||optical||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.2||Y||Y|
|7.||Canon G1 X||optical||n||3.0 / 922||swivel||n||1/4000s||1.9||Y||Y|
|8.||Canon G15||optical||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/4000s||2.1||Y||Y|
|9.||Canon SX50||202||n||3.0 / 461||swivel||n||1/2000s||2.2||Y||Y|
|10.||Nikon D5||optical||Y||3.2 / 2359||fixed||Y||1/8000s||14.0||n||n|
|11.||Nikon D4S||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|12.||Nikon Df||optical||Y||3.2 / 921||fixed||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||n|
|13.||Nikon P7800||921||n||3.0 / 921||swivel||n||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
|14.||Nikon D3S||optical||Y||3.0 / 921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|15.||Nikon D3||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n|
|16.||Panasonic LF1||200||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||10.0||Y||Y|
|17.||Panasonic LX7||optional||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The S120 has one, while the D4 does not. While the built-in flash of the S120 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Canon S120 and the Nikon D4 both have 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.
The S120 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D4 uses Compact Flash or XQD cards. The D4 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the S120 only has one slot.
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 Nikon D4 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon S120||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|2.||Nikon D4||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||-||-||-|
|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||-|
|6.||Canon G16||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|7.||Canon G1 X||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon G15||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon SX50||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Nikon D5||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Nikon D4S||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Nikon Df||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon P7800||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Nikon D3S||Y||stereo / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Nikon D3||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Panasonic LF1||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|17.||Panasonic LX7||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the S120 offers wifi support, while the D4 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D4 (unlike the S120) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the S120 and the D4 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D4 was replaced by the Nikon D4S, while the S120 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon S120 better than the Nikon D4 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Canon PowerShot S120:
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D4 requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (100x59mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the D4).
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 7 months after the D4).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D4:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (16.2 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 18%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (33 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (3.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (3.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
- More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (2600 versus 230) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2012).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D4 is the clear winner of the contest (19 : 10 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 Nikon D4 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the S120 and the D4 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||4/5||..||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 G16||4/5||+||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||549|
|7.||Canon G1 X||5/5||+||..||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||799|
|8.||Canon G15||4/5||+||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||499|
|9.||Canon SX50||3/5||+ +||..||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||429|
|10.||Nikon D5||..||..||4/5||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|11.||Nikon D4S||5/5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|12.||Nikon Df||4/5||..||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|13.||Nikon P7800||3/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||549|
|14.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|15.||Nikon D3||..||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|16.||Panasonic LF1||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||499|
|17.||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 assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 1D Mark III vs Nikon D4
- Canon S120 vs Fujifilm X-A2
- Canon S120 vs Olympus E-500
- Canon S120 vs Panasonic FZ80
- Canon S120 vs Panasonic L10
- Canon S120 vs Pentax MX-1
- Canon S120 vs Sony RX100 IV
- Canon SX520 vs Nikon D4
- Canon T100 vs Nikon D4
- Nikon D4 vs Olympus E-450
- Nikon D4 vs Panasonic GH5s
- Nikon D4 vs Sony NEX-7
Specifications: Canon S120 vs Nikon D4
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||Nikon D4|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||24-120mm f/1.8-5.7||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2013||January 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 449||USD 5,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon S120||Nikon D4|
|Sensor Format||1/1.7" Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||7.6 x 5.7 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||43.32 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||9.5 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12 Megapixels||16.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4000 x 3000 pixels||4928 x 3280 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.89 μm||7.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||27.70 MP/cm2||1.88 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 12,800 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||Digic 6||EXPEED 3|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||56||89|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.3||24.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||13.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||246||2965|
|Screen Specs||Canon S120||Nikon D4|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon S120||Nikon D4|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||no Peaking Feature|
|Continuous Shooting||12.1 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or XQD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon S120||Nikon D4|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon S120||Nikon D4|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||230 shots per charge||2600 shots per charge|
100 x 59 x 29 mm
(3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in)
160 x 157 x 91 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.6 in)
|Camera Weight||217 g (7.7 oz)||1340 g (47.3 oz)|
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