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Canon Powershot N Review

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You never know in this reviewing game: one day it’s a DSLR, then a MILC, rapidly followed by a compact camera. Each with its own attractions, each with its own foibles … but few that really break convention very much.

Then, suddenly, the door bangs open and in comes a crazy, ground-breaking innovation. Is it a pack of cards, ciggies or business card holder?

NOTA: none of the above!

It’s Canon’s entry into the fashion world of desirable gadgets.

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Canon Powershot N Features

Gone is the usual myriad of external controls. Absent are cascading viewfinder menu options. Gone is a top-mounted viewfinder. Missing is a comprehensive instruction manual … in its place is a pamphlet ‘Getting Started’ with the instructions covering only one side of the A3 paper. Oh and there’s a CD with a more elaborate instruction manual in linked files.

Before heading out on a shooting spree I suggest you thoroughly immerse yourself in either or both! Don’t want to be caught with your shutter down in the wild outdoors! For one thing, the camera is ‘driven’ by touch screen operation and well implemented it is too. But manual controls? De nada!
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In construction, the camera is a fold out job to form an L shape; with screen swung 90 degrees outwards, the l8x zoom lens faces forwards, protruding some 18mm. So you hold the camera facing forward to take pictures with the screen facing upwards …or you can fold the screen back onto the body and hold it like a normal camera. In either configuration, outdoors the screen washes out.

Want to zoom? Simply rotate a metallic ring at the front of the camera body and just aft of the lens itself.

At this stage I have to warn you that holding the camera is a little nerve-wracking. For one, it’s tiny. It’s light. And there are no handholds that you usually find on DSLRs or many compacts, so you’re on your own. There are two lugs, one one either side of the camera so I suggest you string some sort of neck-bearing strap to prevent you dropping the little beast!

One note: the camera accepts micro cards: microSD, microSDHC and microSDXC. So that will be your first buy before you head out shooting.

My usual habit with a new camera to review is to fire up and start shooting straightaway. But the N floored me right at the starting gate. Having a touch screen I saw a large red button at left, tapped it and the N began video recording. Gave up on the stills front.

I scanned the external controls. At left is the power button.
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On the right edge, a tiny toggle that swings between normal shooting and creative mode. The latter shoots a bracket of five shots bearing different treatments: washed out; underexposed; diffused top and bottom of shot (1200×1200 pixels); centre enlarged; edges whited out. A lot of fun!

Lower down is a mobile device connect button. The N offers integrated Wi-Fi and one-touch connectivity to smartphones or tablets.

Then, beneath that is the replay button and the card slot.

Forward of the lens ring is another ring which gives you manual control of the camera: focus confirmation and shutter firing.

Front of camera: at the top right corner is a tiny clear button. Waffor? It’s the flash. Believe me!
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The menu options are minimal, allowing control of the touch shutter, AF, the stabiliser etc. You can also choose shooting modes that include Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Toy Camera Effect and Monochrome.

There’s a novel option that commands the camera to shoot a four second movie before every still shot resolution. Sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ video of your still shooting efforts!
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And that’s about it.

The 12.1 megapixel CMOS captures a maximum image size of 4000×3000 pixels, enough to make a 34x25cm print.

Full HD video at 1920x1080m pixel resolution can be shot. No, you can’t shoot stills mid video recording.

Startup Times

About a second from startup to first shot; under a second per shot from then on.

Distortion

No problems.

Canon Powershot N ISO Tests

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I made four attempts to shoot my favourite orange/bicarb and vanilla. AF was the problem… it just wouldn’t lock in.

Eventually, I managed to shoot the run from ISO 80 to 6400. The sharpness and lack of noise was OK up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 sharpness fell off noticeably; noised still quite low. At ISO 6400 sharpness had dropped noticeably but noise was still low.

Thinking that my efforts were suffering from operator error or newbie complex, I shot a test shot at ISO 6400 outdoors. Perfect. Sharpness 100 per cent. I can only put it down to the camera’s general unhappiness with AF at close quarters.

Canon Powershot N Review Verdict

Quality: about average.
Why you’d buy it: glam cam!
Why you wouldn’t: fiddly for experienced photographers.

The N is available in white or black.

I found some aspects of the N quite irritating: for one, the lens and shutter rings are easily perplexing … I often found I had to do a visual check to find either.

Pick up the camera and I often did not know which way was up.

Despite this, the N is the perfect companion for the smart phone set and has obvious ambitions to surpass the latter’s picture taking prowess. Doubt it will tho’!

Canon Powershot N Specifications

Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multi pattern, centre-weighted, spot.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE.
Sensor: 11mm CMOS.
Lens: f3.0-5.9/5-40mm. 35 SLR equivalent: 28-224mm.
Shutter Speed: 15 to 1/2000 second.
Memory: microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4000×3000 to 640×480. Movies: 1920×1080, 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240.
LCD Screen: 7.1cm LCD (461,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, MPEG4.
Continuous Shooting: 2.3 fps.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 6400.
Interface: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 79x60x29mm WHDmm.
Weight: 195 g (inc battery and card).
Prices: Get a price on the Canon PowerShot N at Amazon.

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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.