Canon Digital IXUS 120 IS Review

October 12, 2009 | Gavin Stoker |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3.5Mb.

There are some great new £299 pocket cameras around at the moment from all the major manufacturers, and with a very similar level of specification. So does the Canon do enough to justify the expense, and your patronage in the face of so many alternative options? Something looking this good on the outside must have a compromised performance, right?

Nobody is going to be expecting DSLR-like quality here and happily the IXUS 120 IS' combination of lens and sensor captures a good level of detail on a par with what you'd expect from a pocket snapper. If results are not the sharpest ever they're still more than merely usable.

Left on default settings colours are naturalistic, exposures are even, and with blue skies and plenty of early autumn sunshine around we were able to achieve some pleasing results without having to dive into the 'My colours' effects settings for added warmth or visual oomph.

Inevitably there is some slight evidence of pixel fringing between areas of high contrast, visible when zooming right into an image, but this is par for the course with this class of camera Canon is far from the worst offender. And in any event, most users wouldn't even notice - certainly not when printing out 6x4s or 8x10s.

In terms of low light performance, starting lower than most point and shoot compacts courtesy of an ISO 80 setting, the IXUS 120 IS does rather well, keeping noise at low levels until ISO 800 and delivering a relatively 'clean' shot also at ISO 1600 setting, albeit with an overall softening of detail. At top ISO 3200 setting - selected by tabbing through the scene modes - definition is beginning to ebb away, but it's comparable to results we've seen at ISO 1600 on lesser models, so still a setting worth having.

So, while pictures are obviously not match for those from bridge cameras nor DSLRs, for an undemanding yet style conscious audience wanting a very portable snapper, the IXUS 120 IS pretty much ticks all the boxes.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Canon Digital IXUS 120 IS. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon Digital IXUS 120 IS handled chromatic aberrations quite well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Canon Digital IXUS 120 IS allows you to focus on a subject that is 3cms away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Canon Powershot SX20 IS are Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Sync Speed and Red-eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (112mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (112mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Canon Powershot SX20 IS's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 800. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)