Canon PowerShot N Review: Creative and Connected
by Laura Hicks -  5/29/2013

Designed for the creative person who likes a bit of adventure in their imagery, the Canon N enters the market as an extremely pocketable point-and-shoot. This tiny camera packs quite a bit into it's seriously small 3.09 x 2.37 x 1.15 inch body--a 12.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, a 8x zoom lens with a 28-224 mm (equivalent), and a 2.8-inch TFT LCD screen--leaving very little room for anything else. If the size and shape of the camera don't have you taking a second look, the Creative Shot feature will. This feature is not your average creative mode. It's actually quite interesting and gives the user a total of six unique images including the original. But is the creative shot mode enough to have you purchasing the Canon N?

Build and Design
The Canon N is small...very small. The camera measures 3.09 x 2.37 x 1.15 inches and weighs 6.88 ounces. It is very portable and easy to take with you--fitting nicely into a pocket or wristlet. The camera has very little space for extras making a micro SD card (SDHC or SDXC) the only way to record your images.

Even though the camera is small, it still feels relatively solid. That being said, there is really no where for a finger grip or many other physical buttons. Those with large hands will feel a bit clumsy when operating this camera since finding a place for your fingers to rest gets a bit tricky.

Ergonomics and Controls
Although there are few physical controls, the ones that the camera does have do quite a bit. Around the zoom lens are two rings--one that controls the zoom of the lens and the other that releases the shutter. Of course, you can always use the touch screen to compose your image and tap the screen to shoot the picture.

Around the edge of the camera sits the on/off switch, the creative mode switch, the mobile device connect button, and the playback button. There is also a port for your mini USB for charging and off-loading your images.

As I stated, the N is not the easiest camera to hold. It lacks prime real estate for your fingers. It's odd design actually makes it nearly impossible to use with only one hand.

Menus and Modes
The Canon N is pretty simple to use. There are very few physical buttons. The majority of the camera's functions are controlled through the simple and direct user interface accessed though the touch screen. The menu consists of two pages--an image page and a tools page. The menu is intuitive and extremely easy to navigate. The camera offers the following shooting modes: Auto, Hybrid Auto, P, Creative Shot, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome, Super Slow Motion Movie.

The Canon N lacks a viewfinder, but that is a non-issue with a camera of this size and price. The entire back of the camera is comprised of a 2.8-inch TFT LCD screen. The screen possesses 461k dots. Again, at this price point that is not bad, but it's also nothing to brag about. Looking at the screen in direct sunlight can be a bit if a problem. However, since it's is so small it is easy to cover the entire camera with your hand to view your images.

The LCD screen tilts into a tent shape, but falls very short of flipping 180 degrees (which would be preferable). The screen is responsive to the touch, but for image capture I favor using the rings around the lens.

The Canon N was not designed for the professional. It also lacks many of the features that most enthusiasts want from a camera. But the Canon N is all about the Creative Shot feature and it makes no bones about it.

Shooting Performance
It's important to understand the target audience before talking about the camera's shooting performance. The Canon N was designed to be a fun, artistic tool for the young, social photographer. Speed is not the highest concern for those looking for Instagram-esque imagery. The N takes almost 2 seconds before taking the first image and almost the same amount of time between taking the next image. Using continuous shooting will allow you to take a little over 2 frames per second. Shooting in low light conditions gives way to slower AF capture--over 1/2 a second. Otherwise, AF capture will still cost you about 2-3 tenths of a second.

The flash on the camera is pretty small and renders very little impact on an image. If you do choose to use the flash, it will cost you about 2 seconds before it is ready to shoot another image as long as the battery has a good charge. That being said, Canon's website states they allow up to 10 seconds to recycle the flash. I did not experience this long of a lag, but I also found that it wasn't really worth using the flash. This camera does a decent job indoors (in medium lighting), but a much better job outdoors.

The camera offers ISO sensitivities from 80-6400. The shutter speed can shoot as fast as 1/2000th of a second.

The camera is powered by a small rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery (NB-9L charged in-camera). The battery is rated at 200 shots. It's an tolerable amount of images until you factor in the Creative Shot mode and the Wi-Fi--both using additional battery life and lowering the shot count.

Lens Performance
The lens on the Canon N is an 8x zoom with a 35mm equivalent of 28mm wide to 224mm telephoto. The zoom is a bit slow, but pretty much as expected for this type of camera.

As with most point-and-shoot cameras, image quality was good, but did lack sharpness. Compared with similar cameras, the N was on-par. The sharpest point of an image was located in the center with some softening as you move toward the outer regions of the picture.

But I reiterate, the likelihood of the intended buyer caring about softer images is not very great. This user is all about the innovative and artistic Creative Shot mode--where attention-grabbing images are more important than super sharp ones.

Video Quality
The Canon N offers Full 1080 HD video with 24 frames per second. In addition to the traditional video mode there is also movie digest, super slow motion and miniature effect recording.

I downloaded the Canon iMage Gateway to my iPhone 4s. Although this is not the most convenient or easiest app I have used, it did upload the images to my phone as it stated. Actually, it was even able to upload other images I had on my micro SD card from a previous photo shoot. I would like for Canon's app to be more user friendly and easier to manage. That being said, there are very few camera Wi-Fi apps that meet my desires.

Image Quality
The Canon N is a fun camera with a very cool feature--Creative Shot. Of course, the camera can shoot single images, but why would you? Your camera phone can do that! Creative Shot give you all the fun of adding filters to your images without any of the work...and it does one better. When used in creative mode, the camera gives you 5 additional images to choose from not including the original. Below is a sampling of some images the N and I created together.

And these...

The images speak for themselves. The Canon N takes creative photography to a higher level--making the point-and-shoot camera a more creative tool than ever before. Generally, I liked 4 of the 6 images that were created.

The Canon N produces images that are best for internet viewing, but printing is not out of the question if you feel inclined. My guess is that most of the images taken with the N will likely be viewed on a mobile device though social media sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Additional Sample Images

The Canon N is a fun point-and-shoot camera that packs a lot of creativity into a small package. Going far beyond the standard creative modes and effects pallet, the N offers users a more tailored approach to their photography.

Without the Creative Shot mode, the Canon N would be just one more point-and-shoot in an endless sea of cameras. But that's exactly what makes this camera special. It's innovative and creative. It's a bit like opening a surprise gift every time you take a picture--you just never know what you'll get.

I had a good time using the Canon N, but restricting the Creative Shot mode to the N seems a bit sad to me. Why not offer this functionality with the Rebel cameras? I think it would be a great additional feature to the entry level DSLR. I have a feeling a lot of budding photographers would think this was a pretty neat option. Plus, no other camera company is doing a Creative Shot mode with this much gusto. It gives entry level Canon DSLRs one more feature that separates them from their competition.

The Canon N sells for $299.99 and is available in both white and black.