This is my latest in a long line of Canon PowerShot cameras...and it may be my last. I've been hooked on the ease of use, yet versatility, of these cameras. But my last one died after only 1,800 pictures, and this new one is letting me down in a variety of ways. This camera is not all bad, but it certainly could be better.
First, let me say that what this camera does for the price is phenomenal. The lens on this camera is fantastic and I have taken some outright amazing shots of everything from nature, to action, to portrait shots. Many of these pictures are production quality, and about half of them were taken on point-and-click settings.
As with all Powershot cameras, the manual settings are easy to use, if not that clear to those who don't know what they mean. I enjoy using them for a variety of settings, but have also found that the automatic settings are improving more and more and manual settings are required less and less.
The biggest bonus this camera offers is its amazing image stabilized zoom lens. Some of the shots I've taken from 100 ft away look like I'm standing right in front of the person; the photos are crisp, clean, and clear. The zoom (10x optical) is surprisingly quick for a lens so large, and for the most part the pictures are well focused and do so quickly. Of course with any autofocus there are going to be blurry pictures, but with the SX120IS, most are clear.
Improved from previous Powershot cameras is the digital display, which is a much higher resolution than previous models. On older Powershots you couldn't really tell your picture was blurry (unless it was really blurry) until you downloaded it. This is not an issue on the SX120IS, for the most part, though I have downloaded one blurry picture which I had thought was fine on the display.
My last Powershot was ordered on the internet and when it came, I was sorely disappointed with the lightness of it and the cheapness of its construction. I was not at all surprised when it died relatively early as compared to its predecessors. I picked this camera up in store and was satisfied with the weight (not heavy, but substantial) and solidness of it. It feels like it will last longer and is a better piece of machinery.
I feel like what I've paid for in this camera is the lens (and its supporting software), everything else falls short.
My biggest gripe is battery life. This camera utterly consumes batteries, and as battery life gets low it has a difficult time powering up and moving the massive lens. When downloading pictures the camera operates off of battery power and does not automatically turn-off, but will stay on until the batteries are depleted. Different from Powershot cameras I've had in the past is that this camera operates on only two batteries, where-as previous versions were four. Four was considerably better and lasted longer.
When the batteries cannot powerup the lens, the camera throws a "Lens Error", which having two Powershot's die of lens errors, one at 8,600 pictures, and the other at 1,800 pictures, this is terrifying. But with fresh batteries the lens error goes away. A better warning would be "low battery". A nice thing is that you can actually pull the lens out to help the camera power-up in these situations.
The flash operates as a flash should, although it is off until turned on. It is not an automatic flash and the camera does, in my humble opinion, a bad job at letting the user know when the lighting is insufficient and requires a flash. I've used the flash less often than I should because I'm so used to it being automatic. I wonder if Canon may have designed this flash this way to somewhat combat battery consumption.
The power button is easier to use than on previous Powershots, and while this is nice for ease of use, I have accidentally turned the camera on once in its case, which cannot possibly be good for the lens mechanism. I've accidentally turned the camera on several times while holding it in my hand. The power button should be better protected.
Turning the camera on is slow in comparison to older models; shots that I believe I could have gotten with my last camera I miss with this camera, especially when the batteries are low (which happens a lot). Time between pictures and focus also suffer in low battery conditions, and are somewhat slower than I would like in normal operation.
This comes down to the fact that when you pay whatever you will pay for this camera, a large portion of that amount is for the lens, and so you're getting a considerably less capable platform and software than similarly priced cameras with less amazing lenses.
This SX120IS is an amazing camera with a lot of flaws. I don't think I would order this camera again, and would recommend someone spend more for a better camera than skimp on price for this camera. I would also look for a camera with a lens this size that operates on at least four batteries, if not an internal battery.
Overall I've been disappointed by this camera in a variety of ways, even though it has performed in various venues amazingly.
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Amount Paid (US$): 195
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Flexible Enough for Enthusiasts