The Canon IXUS 120 IS is an ultra-stylish compact camera equipped with a 12.1Mp CCD sensor and a 5mm wide angle lens (28mm effective) with a 4x optical zoom.
It comes with a brace of premium trimmings, including a Canon DiG!C 4 processor, optical image stabilisation, advanced Face Detection and a 720p HD video mode. While manual options are pretty thin on the ground, the Canon IXUS 120 IS excels as a point-and-shoot camera. It is capable of taking very impressive photos in almost any situation, though its superior optics come at a price - £299 to be exact.
Visually, the Canon IXUS 120 IS digital compact camera has a lot in common with its IXUS 100 IS predecessor. We were hard pressed telling one camera apart from the other, which is no bad thing - after all, the Canon IXUS 100 IS was one of the best looking cameras on the market. It's essentially a fashion accessory that happens to take photos.
Weighing in at 115g and measuring 89.5x54.9x20.0 mm, the Canon IXUS 120 IS is an excellent choice for photographers on the go. It's easily one of the smallest cameras we've ever tested (just like the IXUS 100 IS, you can slip it inside a cigarette box and still have enough room for your smokes). It's also dead sexy: the concave curvature and brushed metal casing belong in the manicured hands of a bored looking supermodel. We almost feel unworthy to touch it!
However, there is one small caveat: we noticed that our test model had a few visible scratches on it, so you may need to handle the Canon IXUS 120 IS with care. It ain't no Olympus Tough, that's for sure.
The Canon IXUS 120 IS's diminutive size comes at the expense of usability, but it's not as unwieldy as you might think. Like the Canon IXUS 100 IS, we occasionally struggled with the undersized zoom lever, but otherwise we found the interface to be very intuitive. Part of its success undoubtedly lies in the camera's scant manual offerings - you don't have to access the menu much, which means the directional pad rarely gets a workout.
As mentioned, the Canon IXUS 120 IS digital compact camera is a bit stingy when it comes to manual shooting. It allows you to adjust white balance, exposure, light metering and ISO, but that's basically your lot. On the plus side, the IXUS 120 IS's smart auto mode does a good job of adjusting camera settings on the fly.
We put the auto mode through its paces in a variety of environments and found it to be very quick on its toes, and there's 22 scene modes to choose from. In addition to old faithfuls like Beach and Fireworks, Canon has included a few interesting additions, including Aquarium (perfect for family Sea World jaunts) and Color Accent. This is an artsy Black & White mode that retains a single, third colour (a red rose in a B&W wedding photo, say).
Naturally, the Canon IXUS 120 IS acquits itself beautifully in the imaging stakes (were you expecting anything less from a premium Canon compact camera?) The IXUS 120 IS comes equipped with the same DIGIC 4 imaging processor as Canon's EOS 5D Mark II DSLR; a testament to its superb quality. Image sharpness and colour accuracy were both excellent in our tests, with plenty of detail in complex areas.
Our high contrast photos also stood up well, with purple fringing kept to a minimum. As with any compact camera, noise became prevalent at high ISO levels, with noticeable grain entering the picture at ISO 800 and above. Despite being billed as ‘wide angle', the IXUS 120 IS's 5mm lens isn't particularly suited to sprawling panoramas. That said, you should have no trouble fitting all your buddies into group shots. The lens' 4x optical zoom is an improvement over the IXUS 100 IS's 3x optical zoom, but it remains average compared to other cameras in this price range. (The Casio Exilim EX-H10 has a 10x optical zoom, for example.)
The Canon IXUS 120 IS digital compact camera also comes with a 720p video mode, which matched the very best of its competitors. While no substitute for a fully fledged camcorder (panning is especially problematic), it remains a useful and fun tool to have at your disposal. Handily, Canon has included a mini-HDMI output on the camera so you can enjoy your high-def movies directly from the Canon IXUS 120 IS.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>