Canon PowerShot G16 vs PowerShot S120 – Differences Comparison

August 22, 2013

In this article I we’ll take a look and compare the Canon PowerShot G16 and PowerShot S120 — both a premium compact cameras that offers a wide range of features for the serious photographer.  When most people move from conventional point-and-shoot digital cameras to shooting with mobile phone cameras, you might ask yourself what those premium compact still have to offer? — In this article we’ll compare those two cameras and find what makes those two cameras  unique among other cameras. Many enthusiast photographers might prefer going with the Micro Four Thirds rather than buying a camera with a fixed lens that limits your creative possibilities.

I will start with a short introduction to each camera and then we’ll continue with the comparison itself, where we’ll discuss the differences in more details.

Canon PowerShot G16

The G16 replaces the G15 that was announced on September 17th 2012.  The G16 looks virtually the same as its predecessor and unfortunately doesn’t employ many innovative change upon its predecessor as well. The G16 comes with the same 1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm) 12.1MP sensor but employs a new DIGIC 6 image processor. The G16 features the same 3-inch fixed LCD with the same resolution, and the optical viewfinder and the 28-140mm (equivalent) f/1.8-2.8 are all stayed the same as the G15.

Canon PowerShot G16 and G15 side by side

Canon PowerShot G16 and G15 side by side (via

With the PowerShot G16 Canon focused on improving the low-light capabilities over the previous model, rather than coming up with a completely new redefined model.   Let’s not forget that many photographers who bought the G15 have been probably waiting to upgrade their camera to a new better model — but with such small changes, one can ask himself whether to just keep his G15 or go with a more advanced camera instead (i.e. Micro Four Thirds). It’s worth mentioning that Canon told the press that it’s making only minor updates to those new models (S120 and G16), so consumers won’t expect any significant updates.

Canon also improved the shutter lag and the autofocus sped of the camera.  The camera itself has very good ergonomic design, with a nice grip to promote better handling. The camera features lots of controls, dials and button which gives you fast access to many commonly used functions. It also features a hot-shoe to attach any of Canon’s Speedlite flashes.

Below the movie recording button at the back of the camera you can find a new button just below it (“S” letter inside a square), which is a customizable function button that lets you apply a specific favorite function, so you can gain fast access to that particular function without navigating through menu settings.

Lets take a look at the differences between the G15 and the G16:

  • Almost same design, with slight changes to the Grip in the back and the hand grip at the front, button layout and shape
  • DIGIC 6 instead of DIGIC 5
  • G15 made of robust aluminum body
  • Much faster continuous shooting 12.2 fps vs 2.1 fps
  • 0.22 sec. vs 0.13 sec.  Shutter lag  improvement
  • 0.17 sec. vs 0.10 sec. Faster autofocus speed
  • More frame rate options for Full HD video recording, including 60 fps (60p progressive frames, not 60i) , 30 fps and Star Time-Lapse movie 15 fps mode but drops the 24p which is available on the G15
  • 2.2 mm wider and 0.2 mm thicker
  • New shortcut button (“S”) below the movie recording button
  • G16 drops the metering mode button
  • New EV compensation button
  • Shutter button now slightly smaller/flatter
  • Wheel dials have a different beveled design
  • MP4 for video recording
  • Built-in Wi-Fi IEEE802.11 b/g/n

Both cameras also have the same ISO range and virtually same battery life (+/- 10 frames).

The G16 was designed to appeal to enthusiast photographers. It comes with 1 fast f/1.8-2.8 5x optical zoom lens with Canon’s Intelligent optical image stabilization, has lots of controls and dial for fast access to popular functions and easy to control the camera settings while taking framing the shot without diving into the menu system. The camera now also features Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, which allows photographers to easily share your photos with friends by pairing your Canon PowerShot G16 with your Wi-Fi enabled mobile device, whether it’s a tablet or mobile phone.

The G16 features an HDR Scene mode that combines multiple images into one High Dynamic Range photo and the new “Start Shooting” modes will help you get some very impressive night sky images, including Star nightscapes, star trails and star time-lapse movies.

Enthusiasts will also appreciate the MF Peaking feature for the manual focus which outlines the subject that it’s in focus — helps you get a better view of the area that will be out of focus, which is essential when shooting with a fast aperture and in close range where the depth of field is very shallow. The G16 like the G15 features many shooting modes that will help you get amazing high-quality images even if you aren’t an experienced photographer.

For an estimated retail price of $549.99, the G16 doesn’t come cheap. Some of you might be interested to also consider looking into mirrorless cameras or a DSLR camera, but you’ll pay with portability and an equivalent lens with that fast aperture will cost you more overall. For example, you can buy the Nikon D3200 with the 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 Nikkor Zoom lens for $546.95 on Amazon (price as of the time of writing).  In return, you get a much larger APS-C size sensor, much better image quality, great versatility being able to change lenses, much better optical viewfinder,  better battery life and being able to shoot photos with very shallow depth of field (depends on the lens used). The thing is that the G16 is not a pocket camera, so you’ll need to carry a camera bag anyway, same with the Nikon D3200.

You can see that the making a decision isn’t easy, and the G16 is a bridge camera that on one side will offer you better versatility with its zoom, faster burst, faster aperture lens, fast AF and better manual focus control compared to a mobile phone device — but on the other hand it behind DSLR and Compact System Cameras when it comes to image quality, low-light performance, AF speed, versatility and accessories and lens availability.

Having said all that, the G16 is a very good camera for those who don’t want to carry additional lenses, want an all-around high-performing compact (non pocketable though) zoom camera which they can use to share photos with their friends by pairing their G16 camera with their mobile phone. Also let’s not forget that you can use that Wi-Fi connectivity to get geolocation data from your phone and therefore automatically geotag your photos.

Canon PowerShot S120

The PowerShot S120 is the successor to the S110 which was announced on September 17, 2012.  The S120 features quite a few changes over its predecessor. In terms of external design, the S120 looks almost identical to the S110 with slight changes to the to the thumb grip, button design (more rounded, rather than flat) and top wheel dial now less prominent.

Canon PowerShot S120 and S110

Canon PowerShot S120 and S110 (via

The S120 is a compact camera, much smaller and slimmer than the G16, and it’s a charmer that you can definitely put in your pocket and take everywhere you go.  The PowerShot S120 features the same 12.1MP 1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm) sensor, same ISO range and same 24-120 mm 5x optical zoom lens. However, the new S120 now features a F1.8-5.7 lens instead of the S110′ F2.0-5.9 so it’s slightly faster. Like the G16, the S120 is also equipped with Canon’s latest DIGIC 6 image processor, can shoot up to 12.1 fps in burst mode (first six shots 12.1 fps, others are shot at 9.4 fps), built-in Wi-Fi, has the new Star mode, HDR scene mode and can record 1080p60 Full HD videos with stereo sound.

The Canon PowerShot S120 als gains a 922K-dots resolution for its 3-inch touch-sensitive display — The S1100 has a 3-inch 461K-dot touchscreen.

The PowerShot S120 estimated retail price is $449.99, which means it’s approximately $100 cheaper than the G16.  They will appeal to people who are searching for a high-end compact digital camera with a wide field of view, versatile zoom range, fast lens for low-light shooting with image stabilization, RAW support, Wi-Fi for sharing and geotagging and a touchscreen for easy operation of the camera.

Differences between S110 and S120:

  • DIGIC 6 image processor instead of DIGIC 5
  • Slight design changes, nothing significant though
  • Slightly faster lens
  • Faster continuous Shooting
  • Slightly better battery life (CIPA: 230 vs 200)
  • Slightly larger (1mm wider, 2mm thicker) and 19g heavier
  • Features time-lapse recording
  • Both 60p and 30p Full HD video recording, drops 24p
  • Shorter shooting time lag (0.25 sec. vs 0.13 sec.)
  • Faster AF time (0.20 sec. vs 0.10 sec.)
  • New background defocus mode (blur the background while keeping the subject sharp and in focus)
  • The new “Star Shooting” modes

*** to take advantage of the phone’s wireless data connectivity for sharing and GPS data embed functionality, you need to download Canon’s CameraWindow app to your mobile device (for iOS, for Android).

Which One Should You Buy?

Size Factor

The Canon PowerShot S120 and G16 have a lot in common but have their differences. The most obvious difference is the size of the camera. In the days where mobile phone cameras are everywhere, it’s hard to convince people to get a non-pocketable camera. The G16, unlike the S120, it’s a relatively large camera. To put things into perspective, take a look at the image below.

Canon G16 and G16 size comparison

Canon G16 and G16 size comparison (via

The Canon EOS 100D is the smallest DSLR camera available right now, and its far.. far from being pocketable. This where the S120 has a big advantage. You can carry the S120 in your pocket or in a small bag and take it everywhere you go — and this means more photos to share with your friends and family. The size of the camera, especially when we are dealing with compact cameras, is a significant factor for the target audience that those two cameras are aimed for.
Having a larger camera has some advantages of course. For example, the G16 feature an optical tunnel viewfinder, the S120 does not. The G16 features more buttons that are better spread apart for easy access to popular used functions. It’s easier to hold and steady the camera due to its larger grip and you also gain a hot-shoe on the G16, onto which you can attach an external Speedlite flash. Both cameras have a pop-up flash.


Both cameras employ the same sensor size, same sensor resolution and same image processor. So at their heart they are both the same. The main difference is in the lens itself. The S120 features a wider 24mm lens, the G16 features a 28mm. This means that you can enjoy a wider field of view, which is great when shooting landscape shots, interior/indoor shots (e.g. Museums, churches, etc.) or taking a shot of a group of people.  On the other hand, the G16 has two advantages: first one is a long focal length at the tele-end (140 mm vs 120 mm), second the G16 has a much faster lens. At the widest angle both can shoot at F1.8, but at the tele-end, the G16 can shoot at a maximum aperture of F2.8, the S120 is much slower at F5.7.  This also means that the G16 has a larger lens and this result in the G16 being thicker than the S120.

This is in my opinion one of the most important differences between those two cameras. This makes the G16 a much better camera for low light shooting. The fact that you can shoot at such large aperture, even at 140mm f/2.8 — makes the G16 a much better camera for low-light photography. Considering the relatively small sensor size in those cameras (compare to CSC or DSLR), this is necessary to allow photographers to shoot at relatively lower ISO speed, but still get enough light to get a good exposure. Lower ISO of course means less noise, and this is very important for those types of cameras.

Canon S120 and Sony RX100 II compact digital cameras

Canon S120 and Sony RX100 II compact digital cameras size comparison (via

TIP: I also want to add that if you are searching for digital cameras with large sensor, you might want to take a look at some large-sensor compact cameras like the Sony RX100 II for example.  The RX100 II features a 1″ 13.2 x 8.8 mm sensor, larger than the 1/1.7″ (7.44 x 5.58 mm) found on both the G16 and the S120. Furthermore, the Sony RX100 II is almost identical in size. The RX100 II has aluminum chassis, has a 20.2 MP resolution, Wi-Fi + NFC up to ISO 25600, 28-100 mm f/1.8-4.9 lens, 1229K-dot 3-inch LCD (not touchscreen though) and 1080p60 video recording. So I recommend also to take a look at this camera as well, you might be convinced to get a large-sensor compact over the G16 and the S120.

Other differences

What other differences available between these two cameras:

  • G16 has faster maximum shutter speed 1/4000 sec. vs 1/2500 sec.
  • G16 has C1 and C2 custom modes available on the top wheel dial, S120 only has one (“C”)
  • G16 has better battery life (360 shots vs 230 shots) , including longer playback time (7 hours vs 4 hours)
  • S120 has a control ring which you can use to set the focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and other settings, very intuitive control
  • G16 have a hot-shoe connector (compatible with Canon Speedlite flashes and various EOS accessories)
  • G16 has a front dial like you have on DSLR cameras, which allows you to change the shooting parameters

Other than that, both have the same shooting modes, Hybrid Auto (4 seconds of video with a still image), Multi-aspect ratio and RAW format


The Canon PowerShot G16 and PowerShot S120 have very similar features, but they both have their differences as you can see in this comparison. I personally find the PowerShot S120 to be more to my liking due to its size. If I decide to go with a better camera, I would probably be looking at either a large-sensor compact or maybe an entry-level DSLR. This is of course only my opinion, you might decide otherwise.

The PowerShot G16 gain some improvements over the G15, but mostly in the low-light performance department. You can expect less noise in high-ISO, and can still enjoy shooting with a camera that offers plenty of manual control for the advanced photographer, as well as a superb auto mode for beginners. This is a great family camera that everyone can use and with just s short twist of a dial you can turn this camera from a completely automatic point-and-shoot camera to an advanced camera that will satisfy the advanced photographer needs.

A lot of questions that I get lately is whether or not one should be satisfied with what you get with a camera like the one on the Nokia Lumia 1020, or should buy an advanced digital camera in addition to his phone camera?

The G16 and S120 will provide you with a faster lens, bigger sensor, more buttons for fast access to favorite used functions, as well as 5x optical zoom that most mobile phones don’t provide.  We are leaving at times where phone cameras are becoming more advanced and already eclipse upon many of the current digital cameras available on the market. Conventional digital cameras might have advantages here and there, but most people don’t mind sacrificing that for convenience.  Those two cameras will provide you with very good image quality, plenty of manual control and much faster auto focus speed.  So while writing these lines, the PowerShot G15 and the PowerShot S120 still give some extra value for advanced photographers over what you can get with.. Let’s say.. The HTC UltraPixel camera and the Nokia PureView camera.

So if you are searching for an advanced point-and-shoot camera and don’t mind carrying two devices, those two premium compact zoom cameras are an excellent product to go for.

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