A square-shaped camera that doesn’t look like one, it has no shutter button nor is it used like any other camera. With this cover letter, it isn’t hard to almost unconsciously archive the new Canon PowerShot N in the “rarities” folder, another experiment to catch your attention. Or that’s what we thought, until we could lay hands on this 12-megapixel camera, which attempts to take a stand against mobile phones with its peculiar looks, its touch screen and Wi-Fi connection.
That’s cute! Even though there is no study about it, it is very possible that this expression is the most heard the first time a Canon PowerShot N is laid on the table. With its very small size and peculiar shape, it is impossible for it not to stand out.
The peculiar Canon PowerShot N in two versions: white and black.
But, is there something else or is this just another display of originality to win a place in the headlines? That’s what we asked ourselves some days ago when we had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with a couple of pre-production units of what seems to be the smallest camera in the world.
It may be because of the PowerShot TX1, that one camera nothing was ever known about again, or because we kind of view Canon as old-fashioned. Whatever the case, we were skeptical about the PowerShot N from day one.
With the mobile phone market as the potential biggest competitor, the lack of something similar to this camera on the shelves to compare it with inevitably raises some initial distrust.
Despite this, the first impression was good even before we had it our hands, because the price (430 USD) is high, but not exaggerated, as it tends to be with some marketing experiments doomed to fail.
Price issues aside, it’s time for the action. Its symmetrical square shape is definitely an eye-catch, and its construction is better than we expected, having in mind we were expecting plastic, of course. It is available in two colors, black and white. The black one has a neat textured design, but the white one is better-looking, in our opinion.
The shape and design are, as we said, clearly different, so it’s no surprise it took a little while for us to adapt. There is no handle and there are barely any buttons. Only four, actually: One to turn the camera on and off, another one to show pictures on the screen, one to turn on the Wi-Fi connection, and another to activate filters.
Everything else is done with a 2.8-inch touch screen. Even though we didn’t spend a lot of time with it, we could notice right away how quick and easy it is to use, not unlike Canon’s latest models, which have similar screens, and its operation is very intuitive, if you keep in mind this camera is designed to work automatically.
Its size, by the way, makes it necessary to use Micro SD cards and a really small battery. It remains to be seen if this last detail will affect the camera’s performance, since it relies heavily on its touch screen and Wi-Fi connectivity.
A different way to take a picture
The almost total absence of buttons raises two important questions the very moment you hold the camera: Where’s the zoom? Where’s the shutter button? The first one is not so hard to answer, a ring controls it, offering 8 different levels of zoom with focal lenses equivalent to 28-224 millimeters. While its small size is a bit hard to get used to, this kind of zoom control is very natural and comfortable to use.
PowerShot N’s second ring is much less usual, because it works as a shutter releaser and it is located between the body and the lens. There is a shutter on the upper part and a second one in the bottom. It would have been nice to have two more of them located at the sides, to make sure that taking a picture is as easy as possible regardless of the camera’s position.
Original? Undoubtedly. Comfortable? It takes time to get used to it, honestly. There is a textured zone around it, making it easier to find, but it’s very small and it is too close to the zoom control, which can be uncomfortable at times. It may be just a matter of becoming accustomed with it and not putting your finger instinctively on the place the shutter buttons have always been.
As we said, two of the only four buttons on the camera are used for Wi-Fi connectivity and filters, which is Canon’s way of telling us what this camera is all about. The filters are a curious feature, just by pressing the button and taking a single picture, the camera will generate half a dozen of them.
The camera can not only apply different kinds of filters to your pictures, à la Instagram, but also crop and reframe them. The latter works particularly well with portraits thanks to its face detection technology.
The wireless connection works similarly to the EOS 6D’s. You can synchronize the camera with your Smartphone to automatically transfer pictures, as well as configure it –though this is a bit time-consuming the first time you do it- to share them on a social network or e-mail them directly from the camera.
It will be something everyone will be talking about
The photographic specs (12-megapixel CMOS sensor, Full HD Video recording, high speed HS technology…) may not seem as important to talk about as some of the other, more eye-catching and innovative features, but it would be a mistake not to consider them. It’s easy to have a wrong first impression and think this is nothing more than a showcase of originality, but there’s a very solid, high-quality camera behind that.
So, Canon’s PowerShot N is clearly more than just a mediatic experiment to catch the buyers’ attention with something different. However, it’s still yet to be seen if the market is ready for this kind of innovation, or if the “taking a stand against the mobile phone market” part was just a bluff.
Something is bugging us, though: The square shape is a subtle homage to the Socialmatic project, the camera that attempts to bring Instagram into the real world?