The secret to great quality is attention to detail, and the IXUS 120 IS gets most of its details exactly right. The LCD monitor is sharp and bright with a superb anti-reflective surface and an exceptionally wide viewing angle of almost 180 degrees in all directions. It works well even outdoors in bright sunlight, assuming you can find some.
The 120 IS has Canon's recently revised function menu, and I have to say that it's absolutely superb. This is the way camera menus should be done; intuitive, responsive, and superbly easy to understand, with explanatory tool tips for every function. It even looks good, with a nice gradient shading effect and a clear readable font. The main menu is just as good; sensibly laid out and very easy to use. Again there is explanatory text for every function. There are several other manufacturers (cougholympuscough) who should take a look at Canon's menus and learn a few things.
As a point-and-click pocket compact the IXUS 120 IS doesn't have much in the way of creative manual control apart from colour adjustment, but it does have a wide range of useful automatic features. These include optical image stabilisation, a rare feature on a camera this small, but which works extremely well, allowing hand-held shooting at shutter speeds as low as 1/15th of a second. The IXUS 120 also has i-Contrast, which is supposed to boost shadow detail in high-contrast situations, but in fact all it seems to do is increase overall brightness, improving shadow detail but burning out highlights.
The video recording mode is about average for its class. It can shoot at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels (720p) and a frame rate of 30fps. Audio recoding is mono via an internal microphone, and as usual the optical zoom cannot be adjusted while recording. Clip length is limited to 10 minutes at maximum quality and resolution.