A Cool Idea That Needs Polish
Canon PowerShot N
While just about every handheld camera sports a rectangular form, the PowerShot N is shaped like a square. Sizewise, it’s compact enough to slip into your back pocket although the touch-sensitive tilting display does add some thickness. The compact size also means that Canon went with a microSD card slot, instead of the ubiquitous SD card slot.
The PowerShot N’s 2.8-inch display is able to tilt up 90 degrees so as to allow you to shoot from the hip or at waist-level. The PowerShot N will cleverly adjust the orientation of the screen and the shot captured so there’s no need to tilt your head.
Due to the PowerShot N’s slim profile, the number of buttons on the camera is kept to a minimum. Sharing photographs can be done quickly with the Mobile Device Connect button that allows users to pair their smartphone or tablet with the camera via Canon’s CameraWindow app.
There’s no shutter button or zoom lever on the PowerShot N, but fret not as shooting is done with the two rings surrounding the lens barrel - the larger one is the zoom ring while the smaller ring is the shooting ring, which you press down on to trigger the shuter. The shutter ring is a little sensitive though, and can easily be triggered when trying to pre-focus by half-pressing. One way to work around this is by using the touchsensitive display to focus and fire a shot, similar to a smartphone. We’re not sure if this was an oversight on Canon’s part, but the shooting ring can only be pushed up or down when in landscape mode, so you will have to push the ring left or right when shooting in portrait mode.
There are no manual shooting modes, with the available options being Creative Shot, Smart Auto, Hybrid Auto, Program, and seven filters to shoot with. The mode that will probably interest users the most is Creative Shot mode. This unique mode takes six different versions of the scene when you snap a shot. One image will be the original while the other five will feature different compositions, color, and many other variables which are randomly adjusted. What you get pretty much depends on luck, making this an interesting and fun mode to shoot with.
Colors in images shot turned out nicely saturated, with the camera scoring 2000LPH (horizontal) by 1800LPH (vertical), pretty much on par with most compact cameras available today. You will see a bit of noise creeping in at ISO200, but it’s quite controlled and fortunately, the camera’s noise reduction doesn’t get too aggressive.
The PowerShot N’s battery life is rated for 200 shots, though the number of shots you get from the camera will be lower if you’re going to transfer images to your smartphone wirelessly every now and then.
Those who are used to handling a traditional compact will find the PowerShot N awkward due to its square shape, while the unconventional shooting ring involves some getting used to. The lack of manual shooting modes also makes the PowerShot N a camera aimed at the more entrylevel users.
When compared to a smartphone, the PowerShot N’s only real advantage lies in image quality. Apps like Instagram offer a great deal more filters for special effects, while the PowerShot N’s WiFi implementation involves far more steps than we’d like. Taking selfies isn’t easy, thanks to the awkward shutter ring, as well as how the tiltable display only moves 90 degrees upwards.
Last but not least, the PowerShot N’s asking price of $399 is a little tough to absorb, as you can just as easily pick up a competing compact camera that’s a great deal more usable for the same money, or just a little more.