Up close with Canon's tiny, Wi-Fi-enabled PowerShot N
LAS VEGAS—Canon's headline camera announcement at CES 2013 is a unique little point-and-shoot that boasts a tilting touchscreen, built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, and somehow, an 8X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 224mm). All those things are packed into a camera that isn't too much bigger than a short (and hinged) stack of Saltines.
This little box of a 12-megapixel camera also doesn't have a traditional shutter button or zoom control. Instead, you trigger the shutter by pressing a ring around the lens, and you operate the zoom lens by rocking a second lens-ring control back and forth with your finger. You can also focus and take a photo by tapping the camera's 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen, which is definitely responsive; a few times during my brief hands-on time with the PowerShot N, I accidentally took photos by mistakenly brushing my finger against the screen.
The camera is fully aware of which way you're holding it, too. With the screen flipped at a 90-degree angle, the image stays right-side up whether you hold the camera "right side up" or upside-down. Due to the design of the shutter button, zoom controls, and the letter "N" on the front of the camera, there's basically no "right side up."
The pint-sized PowerShot N has built-in Wi-Fi sharing capabilities, as well as a shortcut button on the side of the camera that you can configure to offload photos to a mobile device or upload directly to a specific social-networking site. A very small touchscreen keyboard lets you input text to accompany your photos while uploading them to Facebook.
The PowerShot N also has a Creative Shot mode that applies several Instagram-like filters to your shot immediately after you take a photo; there's a little toggle switch on the side of the camera that lets you pick between Auto exposure and the Creative Shot mode. In addition to the image effects, the Creative Shot mode also crops and recomposes the image you're shooting several times, so individual shots in a sequence come out looking surprisingly different.
The camera's tiny battery also has an "Eco Mode" setting that helps preserve its otherwise scant battery life. According to Canon, the energy-conserving setting increases its number of shots per charge from 200 shots to 280 shots, as it dims its display after 2 seconds of idle time and turns the display completely off after it's been at rest for 10 seconds.
The Canon PowerShot N is due in April for $300.