Canon Powershot N first impressions
Understanding the Canon PowerShot N
Of all the myriad of compact cameras announced at the CES trade show in Las Vegas at the start of 2013, the tiny Canon PowerShot N, with its either-way-up design, tilting touchscreen and round-lens shutter and zoom controls is sure to be one of the most interesting. Not because of its photographic feature set or appeal to enthusiasts - at heart it's a fully-automated point-and-shoot - but because of its unique design and overall philosophy, and what this says about the way mass-market photography is going.
It's no great secret that the conventional point-and-shoot camera market appears to be in terminal decline. The ever-increasing capability of smartphone cameras means that they're more than good enough for the vast majority of casual users, while their internet connectivity makes it easy to share pictures with the rest of the world the moment they're taken. Throw in the current popularity of Instagram, with its emphasis on the use of 'artistic' image processing filters and community sharing, and it's little wonder that people are deserting the pocket camera in droves. Why carry a small camera when you're taking your phone anyway, and it does what you want better?
Because of this, the traditional camera manufacturers are having to rethink their approach. It's clear that compact cameras have to offer some compelling advantage over smartphones to persuade buyers to part with their money. This has generally meant zoom lens range or features, as in superzoom 'bridge' cameras or high-end enthusiast compacts, both of which have continued to do relatively well. But with the Powershot N, Canon has gambled on something very different - creativity and fun.
So what's the PowerShot N all about?
In essence, the PowerShot N is best seen as a smartphone companion for the Instagram generation. With its flip-up touchscreen, and unconventional zoom and shutter controls that work equally well when the camera is held upside-down, it's designed to encourage shooting at unusual angles. It has built-in Wi-Fi for uploading images to social media, either by direct connection to a hot-spot, or via a smartphone or tablet. It's also very small and easy to slip into a pocket when going out. But perhaps most tellingly its all-new 'Creative Shot' mode, which takes the concept of creative processing filters further than we've ever seen before, is turned on by default. Canon's marketing tagline is 'Creativity with a Twist', and it's very apt.
Obviously the PowerShot N has to offer something smartphones don't, and that's provided by its 28-224mm equivalent 8x optical zoom lens and 12MP 1/2.3"-type sensor (~6.2 x 4.6mm), that's larger than those used in most phones. In combination with the Digic 5 processor, this promises better image quality and much greater compositional flexibility than you'll get from a phone camera. The tilting screen, which flips up a little over 90 degrees, allows shooting at unusual angles, but sadly doesn't move far enough to let you frame self-portraits.
Body and Design
The PowerShot N is an unusual design to say the least, as emphasized by its front and rear views. The back of the camera has no buttons, only a tilting capacitive touchscreen that's the primary interface, just like a smartphone. There are three small buttons on the sides: the power switch is on the left, while the right side is home to the playback button, a dedicated button to connect to your phone by Wi-Fi, and a little switch to select between normal shooting and 'Creative Shot' mode. The front of the camera is dominated by the 8x zoom lens, and the two silver rings encircling it turn out to be the zoom controller and shutter button. There's a little LED flash on the top right of the camera too.
When you first pick up the N, this design is slightly bewildering - without the familiar position of the shutter button, it's not immediately clear how to hold it and take pictures. But after a couple of minutes playing with it, everything starts to make sense - this is a design that works remarkably well, allowing you to shoot at unusual angles using just one hand (of course a wrist strap will make a lot of sense too). Here are a couple of options we've found for how to hold it.
Essentially, the Powershot N forces you to reconsider everything you thought you knew about holding a camera, and to get the most out of it you have to throw away your preconceptions. It's definitely a camera you have to try for yourself to appreciate fully. However the unconventional design does mean that it's not a camera you can easily pass to friends or family for a quick snap; in fact hardly anyone we've handed the camera to has managed work out how to take a picture without being taught.
Creative Shot mode
Creative Shot is an all-new mode that takes the concept of creative filters beyond anything we've seen before. Rather than simply applying a series of filters directly to your original shots, it starts by taking a series of bracketed exposures, which according to Canon can include either exposure or focus bracketing. It then not only adds processing filters, but can also select different crops, and even at times rotate the image before cropping (this appears to apply mainly to faces). It'll select five filters out of a broad range, so you never know exactly what you're going to get - there's an element of Lomography here. Thankfully the camera always saves your original too.
The examples below (kindly provided to us by Canon EU) give some idea of how this works. The camera's produced five variants on the original image, applying different filters to the bracketed exposures, and in three cases selecting different square crops. It's definitely interesting, even if it may not necessarily be to every purist's taste.
|Original shot||Filtered version 1|
|Filtered version 2||Filtered version 3|
|Filtered version 4||Filtered version 5|
What's interesting about Creative Shot is that it's semi-random - if you take exactly the same picture several times in a row, you'll get a different set of filtered variants each go. Not all will be masterpieces, of course - in practice you'll likely delete many of them - but you can never be sure exactly what you'll get. The American street photographer Garry Winogrand said "I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs", but with the N, you can find yourself photographing to see what the camera thinks the world should look like in photographs. It's certainly a unique shooting experience.
Summary and First Impressions
When digital cameras first arrived on the scene, the freedom from the constraints of film camera layout resulted in lots of design experimentation. The articulated screens on Canon's own G-series, like Nikon's classic twist-body Coolpixes, encouraged shooting from different angles. But after a few years everything settled back down again, and if you walk into a camera shop now, most of the compacts on the shelf will look little different in basic design to film cameras such as Canon's classic APS film Ixus II. Inertia can be a powerful thing.
The PowerShot N reminds us again that cameras don't necessarily have to follow these conventional lines, and alternative designs can work really well. It may look like it shouldn't work, but it genuinely does. Whether it truly offers something sufficiently interesting to attract buyers who've been having fun with Instagram on their smartphone, but wouldn't call themselves 'photographers', remains to be seen. But it's certainly refreshing to see Canon trying something a little different.
|Patrick Finds Inner Peace by ecastellon|
from Your best photo of the week!
|Forks by Kukla|
from Arranged everyday objects
The new iZugar 3.25mm F2.5 super fisheye lens offers an insane 220-degree angle of view. That means it can basically see behind itself... good luck keeping your feet out of the shot.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll remember that time you took a picture of the frozen pizza baking directions.
A Craigslist poster has discovered the worst possible way to photograph a car: taking pictures of pictures displayed on a cracked and scratched up smartphone screen.
With the iPhone X coming out soon, the title probably won't last, but the iPhone 8 Plus is officially the best smartphone camera DxOMark has ever tested, and the iPhone 8 is second.
Kodak's new Facebook Messenger chatbot is trying to bring back the 'Kodak Moment' by digging up your old social media photos and trying to sell you prints and custom coffee mugs.
Affinity Photo for iPad was touted as "the first full blown, truly professional photo editing tool to make its way onto the Apple tablet." This update makes it that much more convenient.
Yashica has released a new teaser video, and this one claims they'll be releasing an "unprecedented camera" in October on Kickstarter. Ready... set... speculate!
Storage solutions company Synology has just released its very first 6-bay NAS tower. Combined with the DX1215 expansion units, it can hold and control up to thirty drives.
We're always expanding our collection of product overview content, and we've just added videos for the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, the EOS Rebel SL2 and EOS M6.
The venerable Canon PowerShot G1 was announced seventeen years ago this week, marking the start of a line of enthusiast-focused compacts that's still alive and kicking.
Super macro photographer Can Tuncer captured these incredible close-ups of a single peacock feather using a special setup and three different microscope lenses.
After successfully crowdfunding the Biotar 75mm F1.5, Oprema Jena is at it again. This time they're bringing back the Biotar 58mm F2: the world's only lens with a 17-blade aperture.
Adobe's move to a subscription model is treating it very well indeed. The company has posted record revenue for the second quarter in a row, hauling in a mind-boggling $1.84 billion.
More details have emerged about the potential sale of Blackstone's 45% stake in iconic camera brand Leica.
Popular mobile editing app Snapseed just got a major update that includes a new interface and 11 new presets for both Android and iOS, as well as adding the Perspective tool to the iOS version.
It might sound like a strange idea, but taking macro photos of boiling water can actually result in some really cool photographs. A good photo experiment for a rainy day.
The database was created to "break with the narrow lens through which history… has been recorded" by equipping those who commission photography with "the resources to discover photographers of color available for assignments.
Lensbaby has released two new optics for their special "optic swap system." The Lensbaby Sweet 80 Optic gives you that trademark sweet spot of focus, while the Creative Bokeh optic gives you 9 different drop in aperture plate options to play with.
TechCrunch has already posted their review of the upcoming iPhone 8 (not yet the iPhone X), and they're calling it "a look into the augmented future of photography."
Affinity Photo is a $50 photo editing software with no subscriptions. That's it – pay for it once and you're done. And we think it's actually pretty darn good.
Instagram is currently testing a major change to the app's profile layout: replacing the 3-photo across grid with a 4-photo grid... and some users are NOT taking the news well.
A report by USSRPhoto is shedding some light on the return of the famed Zenit camera brand. It seems the full-frame mirrorless camera they're working on will be made in part by Leica using components from the Leica SL.
According to a reliable Korean report, Samsung is developing a smartphone sensor that's capable of super slow motion. Translation: Samsung's next batch of Galaxy smartphones may be able to shoot 1,000fps.
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.
After a massive leak last week, Profoto has officially debuted the Profoto A1: the company's first on-camera flash system that they're calling "the world's smallest studio flash."
"When the first hyperfocal distance charts were designed, someone decided that an acceptably sharp background contained some blur — enough to notice in a medium-sized print [...] After that point, nearly every other hyperfocal chart followed suit."
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (also known as the EOS 200D) is the company's impressively compact entry-level DSLR. Packing a 24MP APS-C sensor, DIGIC 7 processor and Dual Pixel AF, it promises a lot of bang for the buck. And while not mind-blowing, it handles most tasks very well.
Correct these four common composition mistakes and your photos will be more balanced, tell a better story, and lead your viewer's eye where you want it to go.
The rugged, compact 360° action camera Kodak unveiled at Photokina in 2016, the Kodak PixPro Orbit 360, is finally available in the United States.
iOS 11 launches tomorrow, and it'll save all of your pictures in a new high efficiency image format called HEIC. Fortunately, there's now a converter that will let you turn those photos back into JPEGs.