Canon PowerShot N: Quirky yet powerful

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Smartphones are quickly killing off point-and-shoot cameras the way they obliterated the standalone MP3 market. People don’t want to carry an extra device if they don’t need to. And if they feel that the picture quality from smartphones is adequate for most uses, then why bother getting a standalone P&S? For Canon, the answer is the PowerShot N. Designed to be super portable and touch-friendly, it is no bigger than most smartphones yet has a larger sensor, longer optical zoom, and some innovative features. For any photographer that’s used to the traditional camera, the PowerShot N is a bit confounding. Its square design is awkward to hold at first, and the idea that major controls run through the touchscreen takes getting used to. The PowerShot N uses microSD cards, which makes sense given its smaller size but will put off any user who has collected full-size SD cards from previous devices. The battery is also a tiny thing and quite non-standard with the shape of a sawed-off AAA battery, which likely means only Canon makes replacements. Canon made the PowerShot N out of metal, which speaks to its durability, but this does factor into its weight. And being perfectly square means that it is sometimes challenging to figure out what the orientation is if you’re feeling for it in your jacket pocket or your purse. It sports Canon’s Digic 5 processor and has a range that no smartphone can touch. The built-in Wi-Fi is a bit half-baked; it requires some fiddling and honestly, will just make you want to take photos with your smartphone unless you’re capturing something really special. The screen flips back and is ideal for taking self-portraits or acting as a mini-tripod. It is also good for “from the hip” street photography or when you want to shoot from the waist. Verdict One you get over these quirks, the PowerShot N is a fun and unique camera to use. It will certainly appeal to the younger demographic as well as to people looking for one of the most compact cameras around. It is a viable back-up camera or just the sort of thing to bring along and pass around to friends. Review by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla First published in Speed November 2013