Canon PowerShot N review
1/2.3in 12.0-megapixel sensor, 8.0x zoom (28-224mm equivalent), 195g
The PowerShot N is the strangest looking camera we've seen in a long time. There's an 8x zoom lens on the front, a 2.8in touchscreen on the back and very little else. There are buttons on the side for power, playback and Wi-Fi, plus a mode switch, but no sign of a shutter button or zoom lever.
These key functions are built into the metal rings that encircle the lens. Zooming is achieved by twisting, and pushing the ring up or down captures a photo. The idea is that, like an iPad, there's no right or wrong way to hold this camera. The screen tilts up to allow shooting from waist height. If you want to shoot with the camera held above your head, just turn it upside down – the zoom and shutter release controls will work in exactly the same way. They fall comfortably under the fingers in portrait orientation too, although the screen's single-axis hinge isn't any help here.
The design is certainly innovative, but more conventional controls and a screen that tilts both up and down would have achieved roughly the same result. Then again, articulated screens are rare on ultra-compact cameras, and they're always extremely welcome.
The minimal design and integrated Wi-Fi also point towards another form of innovation. Wi-Fi cameras let users take photos with a camera and edit and share them on a smartphone a few seconds later. The PowerShot N's design seems to fully embrace this concept, stripping the camera down to its essential components, including a relatively small 2.8in screen for composing shots, on the basis that they're more likely to be viewed on a smartphone.
It's a compelling idea, but Canon's Wi-Fi implementation is a limiting factor. Photos and videos are transferred on demand, with browsing either on the camera or smartphone app (available for iOS and Android). However, there's no option to transfer photos automatically as soon as they're captured, which would have given much tighter integration between camera and smartphone. There's no remote shooting function either, and the app-based GPS tagging function is a little clumsy. The 200-shot battery life is another worry. This camera might not last a full day's use if the Wi-Fi radio is used extensively.