Canon S120 vs Sony A77
The Canon PowerShot S120 and the Sony Alpha SLT-A77 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2013 and August 2011. The S120 is a fixed lens compact, while the A77 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/1.7-inch (S120) and an APS-C (A77) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 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 Sony Alpha SLT-A77? 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 Sony A77 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 size 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 Sony A77 is considerably larger (152 percent) than the Canon S120. It is noteworthy in this context that the A77 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 A77 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup.
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.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|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 P7800||119 mm||78 mm||50 mm||399 g||350||n||Sep 2013||549|
|11.||Panasonic LF1||103 mm||62 mm||28 mm||192 g||250||n||Apr 2013||499|
|12.||Panasonic LX7||111 mm||68 mm||46 mm||298 g||330||n||Jul 2012||499|
|13.||Pentax K-3||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||560||Y||Oct 2013||1,299|
|14.||Sony A6500||120 mm||67 mm||53 mm||453 g||350||Y||Oct 2016||1,399|
|15.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|16.||Sony A77 II||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||647 g||480||Y||May 2014||1,199|
|17.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 A77, 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 size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 Sony A77 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the A77 is 753 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 4.5 and 1.5. The sensor in the S120 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the A77 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 24MP, the A77 offers a higher resolution than the S120 (12MP), but the A77 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 1.89μm for the S120) due to its larger sensor. However, the S120 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 11 months) than the A77, 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 Sony A77 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A77 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 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 Sony Alpha SLT-A77 are ISO 100 to ISO 16000, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A77 offers substantially better image quality than the S120 (overall score 22 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.7 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.7 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|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|
|15.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|16.||Sony A77 II||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.5||12.7||1442||77|
|17.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.|
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, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60p).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A77 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k 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 Sony A77 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Canon S120||none||n||3.0 / 922||fixed||Y||1/2000s||12.1||Y||Y|
|2.||Sony A77||2359||Y||3.0 / 921||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||Y||Y|
|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 P7800||921||n||3.0 / 921||swivel||n||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
|11.||Panasonic LF1||200||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||10.0||Y||Y|
|12.||Panasonic LX7||optional||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y|
|13.||Pentax K-3||optical||Y||3.2 / 1037||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A6500||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/4000s||11.0||Y||Y|
|15.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A77 II||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||Y||Y|
|17.||Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The S120 has a touchscreen, while the A77 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.The A77 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the S120 does not have a selfie-screen.
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.
The S120 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A77 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.
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 Sony Alpha SLT-A77 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.||Sony A77||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||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 P7800||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Panasonic LF1||-||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|12.||Panasonic LX7||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Pentax K-3||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|14.||Sony A6500||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|15.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|16.||Sony A77 II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|17.||Sony A99||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the S120 offers wifi support, while the A77 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A77 (unlike the S120) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the A77 has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
Both the S120 and the A77 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The A77 was replaced by the Sony A77 II, 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 Sony websites.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon S120 and the Sony A77? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot S120:
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the A77 requires a separate lens.
- More compact: Is smaller (100x59mm vs 143x104mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter even though it comes with a built-in lens (unlike the A77).
- 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 11 months after the A77).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha SLT-A77:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 44%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (22 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.7 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.7 stops ISO advantage).
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- 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.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (470 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.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2011).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A77 is the clear winner of the contest (18 : 8 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 Sony A77 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 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 A77 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 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], 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.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||..||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|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 P7800||3/5||..||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||549|
|11.||Panasonic LF1||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||499|
|12.||Panasonic LX7||3/5||+ +||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2012||499|
|13.||Pentax K-3||4/5||..||..||83/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,299|
|14.||Sony A6500||5/5||+ +||3.5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2016||1,399|
|15.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||4/5||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|16.||Sony A77 II||4/5||..||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2014||1,199|
|17.||Sony A99||5/5||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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 Sony A77
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||Sony A77|
|Camera Type||Fixed lens compact camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||24-120mm f/1.8-5.7||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2013||August 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 449||USD 1,399|
|Sensor Specs||Canon S120||Sony A77|
|Sensor Format||1/1.7" Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||7.6 x 5.7 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||43.32 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||9.5 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4000 x 3000 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||1.89 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||27.70 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||80 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 16,000 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||Digic 6||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||56||78|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.3||24.0|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||13.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||246||801|
|Screen Specs||Canon S120||Sony A77|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||922k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon S120||Sony A77|
|Focus System||Contrast-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/2000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||12.1 shutter flaps/s||12 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||no Intervalometer|
|Image Stabilization||Lens-based stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon S120||Sony A77|
|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||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon S120||Sony A77|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||230 shots per charge||470 shots per charge|
100 x 59 x 29 mm
(3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in)
143 x 104 x 81 mm
(5.6 x 4.1 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||217 g (7.7 oz)||732 g (25.8 oz)|
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