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Canon S120 vs Pentax MX-1

The Canon PowerShot S120 and the Pentax MX-1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2013 and January 2013. Both the S120 and the MX-1 are fixed lens compact cameras that are equipped with a 1/1.7-inch sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12 megapixels.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon S120
versus
Pentax MX-1
Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5
12 MP, 1/1.7" Sensor 12 MP, 1/1.7" Sensor
1080/60p Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 80-12,800 ISO 100-12,800
No viewfinder, LCD framing No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 3.0 LCD, 920k dots
Fixed touchscreen Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)
12.1 shutter flaps per second 1 shutter flaps per second
Lens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
230 shots per battery charge290 shots per battery charge
100 x 59 x 29 mm, 217 g 122 x 61 x 51 mm, 391 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot S120 and the Pentax MX-1? 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.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon S120 and the Pentax MX-1. 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.

Size Canon S120 vs Pentax MX-1
Compare S120 versus MX-1 top
Comparison S120 or MX-1 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax MX-1 is notably larger (26 percent) than the Canon S120. Moreover, the MX-1 is substantially heavier (80 percent) than the S120. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the S120 nor the MX-1 are weather-sealed.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon S120 100 mm 59 mm 29 mm 217 g 230 n Aug 2013 449 i
2.
 
Pentax MX-1 122 mm 61 mm 51 mm 391 g 290 n Jan 2013 499 i
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II 98 mm 58 mm 31 mm 206 g 235 n Jan 2017 529 i
4.
 
Canon G9 X 98 mm 58 mm 31 mm 209 g 220 n Oct 2015 529 i
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 116 mm 74 mm 66 mm 553 g 240 n Feb 2014 799 i
6.
 
Canon G16 109 mm 76 mm 40 mm 356 g 360 n Aug 2013 549 i
7.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799 i
8.
 
Canon G15 107 mm 76 mm 40 mm 352 g 350 n Sep 2012 499 i
9.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429 i
10.
 
Nikon P7800 119 mm 78 mm 50 mm 399 g 350 n Sep 2013 549 i
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2 113 mm 65 mm 48 mm 346 g 340 n Sep 2012 599 i
12.
 
Panasonic LF1 103 mm 62 mm 28 mm 192 g 250 n Apr 2013 499 i
13.
 
Panasonic LX7 111 mm 68 mm 46 mm 298 g 330 n Jul 2012 499 i
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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The S120 was somewhat cheaper (by 10 percent) than the MX-1 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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.

Both cameras under consideration feature a 1/1.7-inch sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 4.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the smaller-sensor digicams that favor affordability and compact design. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Canon S120 and Pentax MX-1 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 12 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the S120 and the MX-1 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the S120 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the MX-1, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

The Canon PowerShot S120 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Pentax MX-1 are ISO 100 to ISO 12800 (no boost).

S120 versus MX-1 MP

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. Of the two cameras under review, the S120 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the MX-1 (overall score 7 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 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.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon S120 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.311.9246 56
2.
 
Pentax MX-1 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/30p20.411.3208 49
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p21.912.5522 65
4.
 
Canon G9 X 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p21.512.3495 63
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 1.5-inch 13.0 4160 31201080/30p21.510.8581 58
6.
 
Canon G16 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60p21.011.7230 54
7.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.8644 60
8.
 
Canon G15 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/24p19.911.5165 46
9.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.2179 47
10.
 
Nikon P7800 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/30p21.211.7200 54
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2 1/1.7 11.8 3968 29761080/30p20.411.3216 49
12.
 
Panasonic LF1 1/1.7 12.0 4000 30001080/60i20.811.6211 52
13.
 
Panasonic LX7 1/1.7 10.0 3648 27361080/60p20.711.7147 50

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the S120 provides a higher frame rate than the MX-1. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The S120 and the MX-1 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon S120, the Pentax MX-1, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon S120none n 3.0 922 fixed Y 1/2000s 12.1 Y Y
2.
 
Pentax MX-1none n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/8000s 1.0 Y Y
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark IInone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 8.2 Y Y
4.
 
Canon G9 Xnone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/2000s 6.0 Y Y
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIoptional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 5.2 Y Y
6.
 
Canon G16optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.2 Y Y
7.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
8.
 
Canon G15optical n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/4000s 2.1 Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
10.
 
Nikon P7800921 n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 8.0 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2optional n 3.0 920 tilting Y 1/2000s 5.0 Y Y
12.
 
Panasonic LF1200 n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 10.0 Y Y
13.
 
Panasonic LX7optional n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 11.0 Y Y

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The S120 has a touchscreen, while the MX-1 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 MX-1 have zoom lenses built in. The S120 has a 24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 optic and the MX-1 offers a 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the Canon provides a wider angle of view at the short end, as well as more tele-photo reach at the long end than the Pentax. Both cameras offer the same maximum aperture.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the S120 and the MX-1 write their files to SDXC cards. The S120 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the MX-1 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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Connectivity comparison

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 Pentax MX-1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon S120-stereomono--mini2.0Y--
2.
 
Pentax MX-1-stereomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon G9 X-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon G16Ystereomono--mini2.0Y--
7.
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon G15Ystereomono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Nikon P7800YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
11.
 
Olympus XZ-2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic LF1-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
13.
 
Panasonic LX7Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the S120 offers wifi support, while the MX-1 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.

Both the S120 and the MX-1 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 and Pentax. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Pentax websites.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Canon S120 better than the Pentax MX-1 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot S120:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
  • 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.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12.1 vs 1 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
  • Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
  • More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
  • More compact: Is smaller (100x59mm vs 122x61mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 174g or 45 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 modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 7 months after the MX-1).

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Arguments in favor of the Pentax MX-1:

  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (290 versus 230) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2013).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the S120 is the clear winner of the match-up (13 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. 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.

S120 13:04 MX-1

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon S120 and the Pentax MX-1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Travel-Zoom Camera listing 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the S120 or the MX-1 perform in practice. 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.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon S120..+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 449 i
2.
 
Pentax MX-13/5..74/1004/54/5 Jan 2013 499 i
3.
 
Canon G9 X Mark II4/5..75/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2017 529 i
4.
 
Canon G9 X3.5/5+ +..4.5/54.5/5 Oct 2015 529 i
5.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II3/5+77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799 i
6.
 
Canon G164/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2013 549 i
7.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799 i
8.
 
Canon G154/5+76/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 499 i
9.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429 i
10.
 
Nikon P78003/5....4/54.5/5 Sep 2013 549 i
11.
 
Olympus XZ-24/5+..4.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 599 i
12.
 
Panasonic LF13/5+..4/54.5/5 Apr 2013 499 i
13.
 
Panasonic LX73/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2012 499 i
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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Canon S120:
Check Ebay offers
Pentax MX-1:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon S120 vs Pentax MX-1

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens 24-120mm f/1.8-5.7 28-112mm f/1.8-2.5
    Launch Date August 2013 January 2013
    Launch Price USD 449 USD 499
    Sensor Specs Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/1.7" Sensor 1/1.7" Sensor
    Sensor Size 7.6 x 5.7 mm 7.6 x 5.7 mm
    Sensor Area 43.32 mm2 43.32 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 9.5 mm 9.5 mm
    Crop Factor 4.5x 4.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.89 μm 1.89 μm
    Pixel Density 27.70 MP/cm2 27.70 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
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 56 49
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.3 20.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.9 11.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 246 208
    Screen Specs Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen no Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus Peakingno Peaking Feature
    Continuous Shooting 12.1 shutter flaps/s 1 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inno Intervalometer
    Image StabilizationLens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I no
    Connectivity Specs Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
    External Flash no Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon S120 Pentax MX-1
    Battery Type NB-6LH D-LI106
    Battery Life (CIPA)230 shots per charge290 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 100 x 59 x 29 mm
    (3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in)
    122 x 61 x 51 mm
    (4.8 x 2.4 x 2.0 in)
    Camera Weight 217 g (7.7 oz) 391 g (13.8 oz)

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