When it comes to its PowerShot SX series, Canon's attitude seems to be: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The PowerShot SX120 IS is the latest version of the company's 10x pocket superzoom and is nearly identical to its predecessors, the PowerShot SX110 IS and PowerShot SX100 IS.
The 10-megapixel SX120 has had a resolution bump, and uses Canon's Digic 4 image processor, which, along with enhanced battery life, adds advanced face- and motion-detection features and improved red-eye correction. It's not much of a step forward, adding only a small amount of new technology to 2008's SX110 for about the same price, £190. You get the same excellent photo quality, which is good, but ever-so-slightly slower performance.
Although it's bulkier than similarly featured models from Panasonic and Kodak, the SX120 will fit comfortably into a jacket pocket or uncomfortably into a jeans pocket. At 295g, it's not lightweight either. The optically stabilised 10x zoom lens and two AA-size batteries are responsible for most of its weight. The SX120 is large enough that it should be easy to hold securely, and, despite the body being slippery, the right-hand grip seems improved from that of its predecessors.
Encased in plastic, the SX120 nevertheless feels quite solid and sturdy. A door on the bottom covers an SDHC card slot and battery compartment. Unlike many AA-powered superzooms, the SX120 is powered by two rather than four batteries. Battery life feels relatively short. You'll want to pick up some rechargeable NiMH batteries, which will triple the shot count compared to alkalines.
The controls on the back are pretty much the same as those on the SX110. Face-detection, display, menu and exposure-compensation buttons sit above and below the navigational scroll wheel to the right of the 76mm (3-inch) LCD. The wheel surrounds a 'func/set' button and has top, bottom, left and right pressure points for ISO sensitivity, focus (manual, normal and macro), flash and timer. The wheel is a touch too responsive, but it's only really a problem in 'special scene' mode, as it's always activated for either changing scene types or exposure compensation. The PictBridge button that was relegated to the far left corner above the screen is gone, while a playback button sits between the right side of the LCD and the slight indent of a thumb rest.
Canon has put the more common scene-shooting modes (portrait, landscape, night snapshot, indoor, and kids and pets) on the actual mode dial and kept more specialised scene types (sunset, snow, fireworks, foliage, aquarium, beach and ISO 3,200) under an 'SCN' spot on the dial.