Canon Powershot N Review

May 29, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The PowerShot N camera is Canon's answer to the growing threat of smartphones. With an innovative square design, tilting touch screen and zoom and shoot operation lens rings, the Canon PowerShot N is quite unlike any other compact camera on the market. Billed as the "perfect smartphone companion", other key features of the PowerShot N include a 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 8x optical zoom lens, DIGIC 5 image processor, 2.8-inch touch-screen LCD, Wi-Fi connectivity, Creative Shot and Hybrid Auto modes, and GPS via mobile. The Canon PowerShot N is available now priced at £269 / $299.99 in white or black.

Ease of Use

The new Canon PowerShot N is quite unlike any other digital camera that we've ever reviewed, thanks largely to its square design that easily slips inside a trouser or jacket pocket. We say square - measuring 78.6 x 60.2mm, the PowerShot N is still strictly rectangular - but to all intents and purposes from the front it looks like a regular compact with both sides trimmed off. At 195g, it's actually not the lightest compact that's ever sat on our test-bench, with Canon making sure that the overall build quality is up to their usual high standards.

The other unusual aspect of the Canon PowerShot N's design are the dual control rings that surround the 8x lens. Used to control the zoom and take a photo, these two lens rings are something of an acquired taste. First of all, they're quite thin and close together, which makes it difficult to locate the right one in a hurry, especially the shooting ring which lacks the ridged area of the zoom ring.

Secondly, the shooting ring is a little over-sensitive. You have to half-press it to focus and fully press it to take the picture, but we frequently pressed it in all the way accidentally before focusing, resulting in a lot of blurred images. Note that you can actually operate the rings from the top or the bottom of the camera. In the end, we preferred to use the touch-screen LCD to focus and shoot with a single press, something that's very similar to a lot of smartphones and which we think a lot of this camera's owners will end up doing in preference to using the rather awkward dual control rings.

On the back is the third distinctive design choice - a tilting LCD screen. This is hinged at the top and moves through 90 degrees from flat against the back of the camera to the top, which is useful for waist-level shots and also for holding the camera above your head by turning the camera upside down. Sadly it can't be tilted out to the side or fully to the front for self-portraits, limiting its overall usefulness. Hidden away underneath the screen is a decorative grille for the stereo speakers.

Canon PowerShot N Canon PowerShot N
Front Rear

The capacitive touch screen allows you to control essential camera functions with a simple touch, such as focus or the shutter, and review images with familiar, intuitive smartphone-esque gestures such as pinching to zoom and swiping from side to side to browse through your collection. Some of the icons are a little on the small side, but given the camera's lack of physical controls and therefore its greater dependency on the touchscreen (for example, movie recording can only be activated via the LCD screen), we feel that the PowerShot N gets most things right in this vital area.

Changing modes and features on the N is a simple task thanks to a friendly user interface (UI) and straightforward menu system. Of the two menus, arguably the one you will use the most is the Function menu, activated by the Func soft button in the bottom left of the screen. This gives you quick access to the most used functions of the camera, and everything is labelled clearly so you can understand what is what - the same goes for the Main menu system too, accessed via the Menu button on the right of the screen.

The PowerShot N's modest dimensions still manage to fit in an 8x built-in zoom, although the lens does extend an ungainly 2-inches from the body when using the maximum telephoto setting. Still, having the equivalent of a 28-224mm zoom lens in such a relatively small body is no mean feat, although perhaps inevitably the maximum apertures at either end of the range are pretty slow (f/3.0 and f/5.9 respectively).

As you'd expect, the front of the PowerShot N is rather sparse, housing just the lens and a small porthole for the rather underpowered built-in LED flash. The top of the camera is even more pared back, with just three holes for the built-in microphone and wi-fi and product logos - there's no conventional shutter-release button on this camera.

Canon PowerShot N Canon PowerShot N
Front Tilting LCD Screen

On the left-hand side of the camera, when viewed from the rear, is the small On/Off button, with a prominent lug for the supplied strap underneath, mirrored by a second lug on the right-hand side. Below that is a Playback button and an HDMI port underneath a plastic flap, and above are two controls that you won't have seen before on a Canon camera.

The first is the Mobile Device Connect button, which provides quick quick pairing to your smartphone or tablet. Simply enter a nickname for the camera and you can then connect the PowerShot N to a smartphone, a computer, a printer and the internet. Setup is relatively straight-forward for each scenario, although you'll need a basic understanding of the protocols involved. Note that you need to install the dedicated and free Canon CameraWindow app to connect the PowerShot N to the world's most popular smartphone, or the Apple iPad, iPad 2 and fourth-generation iPod Touch), or an Android device.

The PowerShot N's wi-fi functionality is also employed to tag your images with GPS data recorded by your smartphone (latitude, longitude, altitude and shooting time) via the Canon CameraWindow app, which effectively replaces a more conventional built-in GPS system. We actually prefer having GPS built-in to the camera rather than having to sync it with an additional device, so in this regard the PowerShot N doesn't compare well with rivals that offer this feature, although it does side-step the issue of negatively affecting battery life.

The second control is for the Creative Shot shooting mode, which is actually the default mode when the camera is first turned on. This innovative mode actually takes 6 different versions of the scene in front of you, intelligently assessing the subject and varying the composition, exposure, point of focus, white balance, gradation and contrast. Think of it like a random picture generator that creates one true image and five more creative versions. Sometimes you'll wonder what on earth the camera was thinking of, sometimes you'll marvel at one of the alternatives that it has produced, making this new mode well worth using.

Canon PowerShot N Canon PowerShot N
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The PowerShot N's other shooting modes include Hybrid Auto, Smart Auto, Program and an array of 7 creative filters to help spice up your shots even further. Hybrid Auto captures up to 4 seconds of the action before a still shot is taken, then joins all the clips together from the same day into a single 720p movie, which creates a time-lapse movie overview.

The N powers up in just over a second, rear LCD bursting into life and zoom extending to maximum wideangle setting so the camera is ready for action. With a half press of the shutter release ring the camera takes a further second to determine focus and exposure, AF point/s highlighted in green with the customary beep of confirmation that focus and exposure has been determined and the user is free to pursue the shot. Go on to fire the shutter and a full resolution 12 megapixel image is committed to memory in a couple of seconds, the screen briefly blanking out before returning to the real-time scene before the lens. The amount of time the captured image appears on screen as a means of review can be altered via the menu folders.

The excellent High-speed Burst mode shoots at 2.3fps at full 12 megapixel resolution, while the Super Slow Motion Movie mode offers a great way to dramatically slow down fast-moving subjects, shooting at either 240fps at 320x240 pixel resolution or 120fps at 640x480 pixels.

The bottom of the PowerShot N houses a lozenge shaped battery that's good for around 200 shots, a metal tripod mount, and the love-it-or-loathe-it tiny microSD slot, almost inevitable given the tiny dimensions of the camera.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3.5Mb.

The Canon PowerShot N produces images of good quality. It recorded noise-free images at ISO 80-400, with some noise and slight colour desaturation at ISO 800. ISO 1600 shows more obvious noise and loss of colour but still remains perfectly usable, and even the faster setting of ISO 3200 doesn't suffer too badly, although we'd avoid using the fastest speed of ISO 6400.

The Canon PowerShot N handled chromatic aberrations well, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations and generally at the edges of the frame. The built-in flash worked OK indoors, with adequate overall exposure. The night photograph was poor, with the maximum shutter speed of 1 second not long enough for most after-dark shots.

Anti-shake works well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is excellent, allowing you to focus as close as 1cm away from the subject. The images were a little soft straight out of the Canon PowerShot N at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop. The range of Creative Filters and the new Creative Shot mode help to spice up your images.


There are 8 ISO settings available on the Canon Powershot N. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso6400.jpg


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default setting ideally and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Focal Range

The Canon Powershot N's 8x zoom lens provides a versatile focal length of 28-224mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Canon Powershot N handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The Canon Powershot N offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card).


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Canon Powershot N are Auto, Flash On, Slow Synchro, and Flash Off, with Red-eye Correction and Red-Eye Lamp settings available via the Flash Settings main menu option. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Auto Flash - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (224mm)

Auto Flash - Telephoto (224mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64


The Canon Powershot N's maximum shutter speed is 1 second, which is not very good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 100.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Anti Shake

The Canon Powershot N has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are sharper than with anti shake turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/60th sec / 28mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg
1/25th sec / 224mm antishake2.jpg antishake2a.jpg

Creative Filters

The Canon Powershot SX280 HS has 7 different creative filter options to help spice up your images.


Fish-eye Effect

effects_01.jpg effects_02.jpg

Miniature Effect

Toy Camera Effect

effects_03.jpg effects_04.jpg

Soft Focus

Monochrome - B/W

effects_05.jpg effects_06.jpg

Monochrome - Sepia

Monochrome - Blue

effects_07.jpg effects_08.jpg

Creative Shot

In the Creative Shot mode the Canon Powershot SX280 HS records six different versions of the current scene.



creative_shot_01.jpg creative_shot_02.jpg



creative_shot_03.jpg creative_shot_04.jpg



creative_shot_05.jpg creative_shot_06.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Canon Powershot N camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 24 frames per second. Please note that this 24 second movie is 102Mb in size.

Product Images

Canon Powershot N

Front of the Canon PowerShot N

Canon Powershot N

Front of the Canon PowerShot N / Turned On

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N

Canon Powershot N

Side of the Canon PowerShot N

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N / Image Displayed

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N / Turned On


Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N / Function Menu

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N / Main Menu

Canon Powershot N

Rear of the Canon PowerShot N / Wi-fi Menu

Canon Powershot N

Tilting LCD Screen

Canon Powershot N

Tilting LCD Screen

Canon Powershot N

Tilting LCD Screen

Canon Powershot N
Top of the Canon PowerShot N
Canon Powershot N
Bottom of the Canon PowerShot N
Canon Powershot N
Side of the Canon PowerShot N
Canon Powershot N
Side of the Canon PowerShot N
Canon Powershot N
Front of the Canon PowerShot N
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Front of the Canon PowerShot N
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Memory Card Slot
Canon Powershot N
Battery Compartment


The Canon PowerShot N is a brave attempt to try and stem the tide of the all-conquering smartphone, but ultimately it doesn't deliver on some of the key elements that smartphone users expect, namely easy connectivity and sharing, self-portrait shooting, and a wider range of creative filters. It's also too expensive at the full retail price of £269 / $299.99 - billed as a smartphone companion, we can't think of too many people who will pay that much extra for the Canon PowerShot N, despite its tiny size, good image quality and innovative design.

Speaking of which, you'll either love or hate the PowerShot N's control layout, with the dual lens rings splitting opinion straight down the middle. Most people that we handed the camera to struggled to even take a picture until we explained what to do, so it's more imperative than usual that you try this camera out before buying.

Image quality is good, with the employment of a modest 12 megapixel back-illuminated sensor helping the PowerShot N to perform well in low light, something that most smartphones can't even attempt, with a usable ISO range of 100-800 and even the higher settings proving adequate for web use and smaller prints. The PowerShot N's other major advantage is the 8x zoom lens, again something that smartphones can only currently dream of.

Ultimately the Canon PowerShot N misses the mark both as an alternative/companion to a smartphone and as a compact camera in its own right, and it's simply too expensive to appeal to either camp. It may be the most surprising camera of 2013, for which we applaud Canon for trying something different, but it's definitely not the most well realised, whichever way you look at it.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Canon Powershot N.

Canon IXUS 255 HS

The Canon IXUS 255 HS (also known as the PowerShot ELPH 330 HS) is a small and stylish new point-and-shoot compact camera. The IXUS 255 HS' stand-out features include a 12 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 10x wide-angle zoom lens, full 1080p HD movie recording, 3 inch LCD screen and built-in wi-fi connectivity. Read our in-depth Canon IXUS 255 HS review to find out if this tiny camera is worth the £199.99 / $229.99 price-tag.

Nikon Coolpix S800c

The Nikon Coolpix S800c is half compact camera, half smartphone, based upon Android, the world's most popular mobile platform. Featuring a 10x, 25-250mm lens and a 16 megapixel CCD sensor, the S800c also offers a 3.5 inch touch-screen OLED display, 1080p HD movies and wi-fi connectivity. Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix S800c review now to see if it really can replace your smartphone...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 is a new mid-range travel-zoom compact camera with built-in wi-fi connectivity. The Panasonic SZ5 also offers 14 megapixels, a 10x zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen and 720p HD movies. Read our Panasonic DMC-SZ5 review now...

Samsung WB30F

The Samsung WB30F is a new travel-zoom camera that won't break the bank. The WB30F offers a wide-angle 10x zoom lens, 16.2 megapixel sensor, 720p video recording, 3 inch LCD screen and built-in wi-fi. Read our in-depth Samsung WB30F review to find out if it's worth the modest asking price....

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX100

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX100 is an affordable compact camera with a wealth of advanced features. A 10x zoom lens, 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting and Superior Auto and Background Defocus modes, Full HD movie recording and even 3D photos are all on offer. Priced at around £180, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX100 review to find out if it lives up to its full promise.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Canon Powershot N from around the web. »

Bijou beauty or mediocre miniaturisation? In truth, there's a bit of both in the PowerShot N, Canon's truly compact compact. On the whole, though, this clever re-imagining of how cameras should look and perform puts the bias strongly towards the former.
Read the full review » »

The Canon Powershot N features an 8x optical zoom lens, tilting touch screen and built-in Wi-Fi. Its square design makes it an unusual looking camera. The Powershot N is available in black & white and costs around £269.
Read the full review » »

“That’s not a camera, that’s a toy!” That was the initial reaction we got when we pulled Canon’s PowerShot N ($300) from our pocket to show it off. Indeed this small rectangular shooter is a departure in camera design for Canon (at least in recent memory). The PowerShot N is aimed toward the millennial generation – a camera that’s connected, with an emphasis on fun – but we wonder if Canon went far enough to attract this user.
Read the full review »



Type 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS
Effective Pixels Approx. 12.1M
Colour Filter Type Primary Colour


Type DIGIC 5 with iSAPS technology


Focal Length 5.0 – 40.0 mm (35 mm equivalent: 28 – 224 mm)
Zoom Optical 8x
ZoomPlus 16x
Digital Approx. 4x¹.
Combined Approx. 32x
Maximum f/number f/3.0 – f/5.9
Construction 8 elements in 7 groups (1 double-sided aspherical lens, 1 single-sided aspherical UA lens, 1 single-sided aspherical lens)
Image Stabilisation Yes (lens shift-type), Approx. 3.5-stop (Canon standard). Intelligent IS


Type TTL
AF System/ Points AiAF (9-point, Face Detection or Touch AF)
AF Modes Continuous, Servo AF/AE(in Auto mode), Touch AF
AF Assist Beam Yes
Closest Focusing Distance 1 cm (W) from front of lens in macro


Metering modes Evaluative (linked to Face Detection AF frame), Centre-weighted average, Spot (Touch AF frame)
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
i-Contrast for automatic dynamic range correction
ISO sensitivity* AUTO, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400


Speed 1 – 1/2000 sec. (factory default)
1 – 1/2000 sec. (total range – varies by shooting mode)


Type TTL
Settings Auto (including Face Detection WB), Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H.


Monitor Tilt type 7.1 cm (2.8”) PureColor II G Touch screen LCD (TFT). Approx. 461,000 dots. Capacitive type
Coverage Approx. 100%
Brightness Adjustable to one of five levels


Modes Auto, Manual Flash On / Off, Slow Synchro
Slow Sync Speed Yes. Fastest speed 1/2000 sec.
Built-in Flash Range 50 cm – 90 cm (W)


Modes Smart Auto (58 scenes detected), Hybrid Auto, P, Creative Shot, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Soft Focus, Monochrome
Modes in Movie Smart Auto (21 scenes detected), P, Miniature Effect, Monochrome, Super Slow Motion Movie
Drive modes Single, Auto Drive, Continuous, Self-Timer
Continuous Shooting Approx. 2.3 shots/sec. (until memory card becomes full)¹


Image Size 4:3 - (L) 4000 x 3000, (M1) 2816 x 2112, (M2) 1600 x 1200, (S) 640 x 480
16:9 - (L) 4000 x 2248, (M1) 2816 x 1584, (M2) 1920 x 1080, (S) 640 x 360
3:2 - (L) 4000 x 2664, (M1) 2816 x 1880, (M2) 1600 x 1064, (S) 640 x 424
1:1 - (L) 2992 x 2992, (M1) 2112 x 2112, (M2) 1200 x 1200, (S) 480 x 480
Compression Superfine, Fine
Movies (Full HD) 1920 x 1080, 24 fps, (HD) 1280 x 720, 30 fps, (L) 640 x 480, 30 fps
Super Slow Motion Movie (L) 640 x 480, 120fps, (M) 320 x 240, 240fps
Miniature Effect (HD, L) 6fps, 3fps, 1.5 fps
Movie Length (Full HD & HD) Up to 4 GB or 10 min. 00 sec. ¹
(L) Up to 4 GB or 1 hour ²
(Super Slow Motion Movie) 30 sec.


Still Image Type JPEG compression, (Exif 2.3 [Exif Print] compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system, Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Movies MOV [H.264 + Linear PCM (monaural)]


Canon Printers Canon SELPHY Compact Photo Printers and Canon Inkjet Printers supporting PictBridge (ID Photo Print, Fixed Size Print and Movie Print supported on SELPHY CP & ES printers only)
PictBridge Yes (via USB or Wireless LAN)


GPS GPS via mobile (linked to compatible smartphone)
Red-Eye Correction Yes, during playback
Intelligent Orientation Sensor Yes
Playback zoom Approx. 2x – 10x
Self Timer Approx. 2 or 10 sec.
Menu Languages English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Greek, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, Ukrainian, Romanian, Farsi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese


Computer Hi-Speed USB (MTP, PTP) dedicated connector (Mini-B compatible)
Computer/Other Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11b/g/n), (2.4 GHz only) ¹


Type microSD, microSDHC, microSDXC


PC & Macintosh Windows 8 / 7 SP1 / Vista SP2 / XP SP3
Mac OS X v10.6 – 10.8
For Wi-Fi connection to a PC:
Windows 8 / 7 SP1
Mac OS X v10.6.8 / v10.7 / v10.8.2 or later


Browsing & Printing ImageBrowser EX
Other CameraWindow


Batteries Rechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-9L (battery and charger supplied)
Battery life Approx.200 shots ¹
Eco Mode: Approx. 280 shots ¹
Approx. 240 min. playback
A/C Power Supply Optional, AC adapter kit ACK-DC70


Cases / Straps Quickshot Case DCC-2000
Power Supply & Battery Chargers AC Adapter kit ACK-DC70, Compact Power Adapter CA-DC30E (USB), Battery Charger CB-2LBE


Operating Environment 0 – 40 °C (5 - 40 °C when using CA-DC30E), 10 – 90% humidity
Dimensions (WxHxD) 78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3 mm
Weight Approx. 195 g (including battery/batteries and memory card)
Zoom ¹ Depending on the image size selected.
Continuous Shooting ¹ Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
Movie Length ¹ The following Speed Class memory cards are required for maximum record time: (HD) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 4 or above. (Full HD) 1920 x 1080 Speed Class 6 or above. (iFrame) 1280 x 720 Speed Class 6 or above.
² Depending on memory card speed / capacity / compression setting.
Computer/Other ¹ Wi-Fi use may be restricted in certain countries or regions. Wi-Fi support varies by device and region. For more information visit
Battery life ¹ Using the batteries and memory card format supplied with the camera (where included), except where indicated.
  • * Standard Output Sensitivity / Recommended Exposure Index.
  • According to ISO 12232:2006 (20th April 2006) which specifies the method for assigning and reporting ISO speed ratings for digital still cameras.
  • All data is based on Canon standard testing methods (according to CIPA Standards) except where indicated.

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