Canon PowerShot N - A New Direction

Launch SRP: S$399

Introduction, Design and Handling

Introduction

With smartphones invading the digital compact camera space, it’s an especially tough fight for the compact camera segment. With many manufacturers pushing for advanced compacts that features manual controls and better image quality, Canon has also opted to explore other avenues with the PowerShot N.

First introduced in January at CES 2013 and then demoed locally in April for media like HardwareZone, the PowerShot N features a unique design that encourages shooting from the hip (you can literally do this) or from practically any other angle such as diagonally, horizontally and even high or low angles. Additionally, it aims to make sharing your images online a much easier process by pairing with a mobile device. So has Canon spawned a new compact camera niche or is the PowerShot N a step in the wrong direction? Let's take a quick look at its specs before we relate our experience:-

Specifications of the Canon PowerShot N
  Canon PowerShot N
Launch SRP
  • From S$399
Effective pixels
  • 12.1MP
Sensor
  • 1/2.3-inch CMOS
Lens
  • 5.0 - 40.0 mm
  • (35mm film equivalent: 28 - 224 mm)
ISO rating
  • ISO80 – ISO6400
Zoom ratio
  • 8x optical zoom
Aperture range
  • f/3.0 - f/9.0 (W), f/5.9 - f/18 (T)
Shutter speed
  • 1 - 1/2000sec.
Specialty Shooting Modes
  • Auto, Hybrid Auto, P, Creative Shot, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome, Super Slow Motion Movie
Metering
  • Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Display
  • 2.8-inch, 461,000-dot LCD
Battery
  • Battery Pack NB-9L
Dimensions
  • 78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3mm
Weight
  • 195g (including the battery and memory card)

 

Design and Handling

Whatever design preconceptions you have of a standard point-and-shoot will be shaken with the PowerShot N. It sports a square shape so both right and left-handed users will have no issues with handling the camera. The camera is compact enough to slip into your back pocket, though the touch-sensitive tilting display does add some thickness to the PowerShot N. Take note that the PowerShot N only accepts microSD cards due to its small size, so if you have an existing collection of SD cards, they can’t be used with this camera. Fortunately, microSD is also often used with smartphones, so most people wouldn't really mind this storage media.

Speaking of the display, 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. You can even flip the camera upside down so that the display faces you when you snap overhead shots. The PowerShot N will cleverly adjust the orientation of the screen and the shot captured so there’s no need to tilt your head. Unfortunately the display does not swing out sideways so this does limit its overall usability/versatility that Canon likes to tout.

With its compact shape, there’s no buttons on the top panel of the camera. Instead, power button is located on the left profile while the playback and a Mobile Device Connect buttons are on the right profile of the camera. Above these two buttons is a switch that allows users to toggle between the normal shooting mode and the Creative Shot mode (more about this later).

You can share your photographs quickly with the Mobile Device Connect button that allows users to pair their smartphone or tablet with the camera via Canon’s CameraWindow app. While the process is quick and straightforward, it does require users to understand how the pairing process works and how to go about it.

So how do you shoot with the PowerShot N seeing that there’s no shutter button? The PowerShot N comes with two rings surrounding the lens barrel - the larger one is the zoom ring while the smaller ring is the shooting ring. The traditional shutter button has been scrapped in favor of a shooting ring on the PowerShot N, but does this make shooting easier? In our practical use, we found this approach works fine most of the time as the shutter ring is always within reach and allows you to take shots from various angles easily - even single-handed. However, the shutter ring is quite sensitive, so there were quite a few situations where we wanted to focus by half-pressing the ring, but ended up snapping a blurry shot by pressing the ring down entirely.

Alternatively, users can focus and fire a shot by using the touch-sensitive display, similar to a smartphone. We suspect many users will opt for this method, even though it will require a two-handed operation. By contrast, the shutter ring option can be operated in one-hand, depending on the angle used to holster the camera.

Another point to note is that the shooting ring can only be pushed down or up while shooting in landscape mode. This means that you will have to push the ring to the left or right when shooting in portrait mode.

Generally, shooting is a pretty simple affair with the PowerShot N as there are no manual shooting modes and only just a handful of other options. There’s the Creative Shot, Smart Auto, Hybrid Auto, Program and seven filters to shoot with. The mode that will probably interest users the most (and most likely, used the most) is the 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 (mainly from its repository of 25 filters). What you get pretty much depends on luck and it’s an interesting and fun mode to shoot with. It's an apt function for a fun looking camera. For an example of what you can expect, hit the next page where we've sample photographs taken with the camera.

7.0
Performance
7.5
Design
7
Features
7
User-Friendliness
7.5
Value
6.5
The Good
Compact
Fun to shoot with Creative Shot mode
Good image quality for its class
The Bad
Pricey
Clunky Wi-Fi implementation
Awkward handling
Limited shooting modes