Canon PowerShot N: Reinventing The Compact Camera?

I was probably the last to hear about it as I don’t really pay too much attention to news or announcements regarding compact (point-and-shot) cameras, but on January 7, Canon announced a very sleek looking little package they are calling the PowerShot N.

Like any camera (even pro-DSLRs) the Canon Powershot N has a few “flaws” (the built-inLED light — one cannot call such thing a flash — is a joke), but overall I like that they are pushing the concept of what a compact camera can be.

Aesthetically it is a cross between my Canon Powershot S110 (with the lens ring functionality) and my EOS M (with its round-edge squared-off body and strap mount posts). I absolutely love the symmetrical layout. A tilting screen always makes me nervous (durability), but is also a big aid in off angle viewing.

Canon Powershot N Aesthetic Lineage

In fact, the way you can operate the camera controls and shutter from the lens rings, and hold the camera at waste level is very reminiscent of shooting with a twin lens reflex camera. Waist-level shooting is actually the best position for shooting street photography. It is a very stable and compact position (especially when the camera is tensioned off of a kneck-strap) and very stealthy (you are not holding a camera up in front of your face saying, “Hey look at me — I’m taking your picture!”)

Waist Level Photography
Waist-level photography compared to eye-level photography as illustrated in the BlackBird Fly Camera manual

It sounds like Canon are striking the right balance between serious camera and mobile photography accessory. I quite enjoy having Wifi on my Powershot S110, especially as I have not been travelling with a computer or even an iPad lately. The ability to photo-blog, or keep family up-to-date via my iPhone while still using a quality camera is very much appreciated. I also really like the PowerShot N’s ability to charge via a USB cable. A wall mounted charger is just one more thing to carry and you are not likely to have it with you when you really need it. It would be really special if the PowerShot N would automatically back-up files to the cloud when plugged in to a power source, the way iOS does with Photo Stream (this saved my butt in Argentina when I had my iPhone 4 stolen by pickpockets on the metro — I didn’t lose a single Hipstamatic because they had all been backed-up to my iCoud Photo Stream).

Canon PowerShot N Waist Level Shooting

Personally, even with a go-everywhere, slide-in-my-pocket compact camera, I put RAW storage and Manual mode on my list of criteria. These are the reasons why I use the PowerShot S110. For the PowerShot N, RAW storage wasn’t mentioned in Canon’s press release, so maybe it will be included, but I have my doubts. If everything else was incredible, I could work with Program mode, but Manual mode would be so much better, especially as this is being positioned as a “creative” camera. To be creative you need control and that just doesn’t mean just having a half-dozen toy camera filters available.

I think I have enough camera’s to satisfy all my wants and needs at the moment, but I’m still interested in trying out the PowerShot N when it becomes locally available.

Read the Press Release and get the camera specifications over at the dpreview.com (the best photography review site in my opinion).