Review: Canon PowerShot N2

The advent of technology has spawned many wonderful inventions: the iPhone, next-gen gaming consoles, and noise-insulating headphones.

And then we have the Canon PowerShot N2, a tiny camera made for selfies. It’s the first in Canon’s N family to emphasize self-portraits, allowing users to flip the LED display 180 degrees to frame the shot better, which was otherwise impossible on the N and N100.


However, it’s not the first time a major player has released a product to cater to the ballooning global selfie craze. Case in point: Sony DSC-KW1 that’s exclusive to China, and the more-available Samsung NX Mini.

What’s in the box?
One would think that a camera made in this day and age would have expedited the battery charging process. Canon, however, is sticking with the standard battery adapter that requires you to plug in a USB cable to charge the N2.

The MicroSD card is fortunately included along with a MicroSD adapter which is convenient because you only need to charge the camera for 8 hours before using.

Body & Design
The N2’s slim body is contrasted with the bulging lens that seems almost alien at first sight. Housing a 16.1 megapixel CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 6 image processor, it trumps the average compact camera in the market.

The most interesting thing Canon did to streamline the design of the N2 was to move the shutter button to the inner ring of the lens, allowing one to take photos at any angle without contorting their hands. Zooming in and out of a shot (to a max of 8x) was also delegated to the lens, similar to that of a conventional DSLR lens.

All other buttons have been placed on both sides of the camera, leaving the back of the camera for the 2.8-inch LED touchscreen that you can flip 180 degrees to the front to take self-portraits, or photos that require a tricky angle to frame.

The flash for the N2 was a nice, inconspicuous button at the top right corner, and it wasn’t harsh when we enabled it to take some photos in low-light situations.

Available in 3 colors – neon pink, charcoal black, and a creamy white, there is an option for everyone.


Creative Shot
The availability of photo-editing apps has attracted people to stick to their iPhones to take photos. Canon’s response to the threat was to make that an option in the N2. If you can’t beat them, join them.

The Creative Shot mode when selected will generate 5 filtered and composited images from a single snap. This mode is also available for any short video clips you’re recording. Some filter options include Monochrome, Natural, Retro, Special, and Auto.

We can see where this might easily facilitate the whole editing process for the selfie-obsessed, where some of our test shots easily made our faces brighter and blemish-free, but the cropping was slightly wonky, cutting our faces and not in an avant-garde way at all.

Like most cameras manufactured within the past 5 years, there is WiFi and near field communication (NFC) enabled, a must to stay ahead in the social game. These features allow users to quickly transfer their freshly taken photos straight from the camera to their smartphones, eliminating the need of a computer to act as the middleman.

A button is dedicated on the side to facilitate the process of pairing with smartphones (both Android and iOS devices are compatible) for the remote shooting function as well, ideal for group shots where an extended hand simply cannot fit all parties.

For users familiar with the standard layout of a camera with the shutter button on the top right side whilst behind the lens, the switch by Canon to have the shutter on the lens itself might be off-putting, especially to those who prefer to stay behind the lens.

Although it is just a slight stretch of the index finger to press down on the lens to take a shot, users with smaller palms might find it a challenge to take a photo. The N2 might have done just as well placing the shutter button in the standard position. After all, if selfie-takers have survived without the shutter on the lens, is this change really necessary?

The touchscreen was a welcome touch, with no physical buttons cluttering the back of the camera an added bonus. However, it might take some time getting used to the sensitivity and responsiveness of the screen. With the main buttons already placed on either side of the camera, it doesn’t require a lot of interacting with the screen, save for reviewing the photos taken.

Photo Quality
And this is where our feelings are a little mixed. Sure, some photos turned out Instagram-worthy (with just a slight colour adjustment) but then there were those like this:


This was taken with the camera’s Creative Shot mode, and there is no telling which filter this is. Not only is the ghostly color questionable, the cropping that cut out half a face and a quarter of a forehead just shows that the algorithms behind this automatic filtering still has room for improvement. Of course, this made for a good laugh while reviewing the images.

Here is the original for a comparison (yes, the photo turned out blur even with the autofocus:


However, we did love the sepia tones that the N2 applied to this very simple photo, turning it from just a random image into a vintage gem.


UrbanWire also compared the quality of the images to the smartphone currently dominating the market, the iPhone 6+.


And here are the results, zoomed in:


While it can’t beat the iPhone 6+’s main camera, it did trump over the iPhone 6+’s front-facing camera, which is where it matters the most. The N2 is simply made for taking selfies without frills. .

However, this also means that you probably want to stick to your smartphone’s camera to log your traveling escapades and #foodporn for higher quality purposes.

The N2 is what it is – a compact, efficient selfie camera. It does what it’s supposed to do, which is to take selfies. The neon pink version would do well with your posse when you’re out and about in town, and when you’re done with the quasi-photoshoot, it can be easily slipped back into your clutch or tote bag.

That said, it still has room for improvement in the filter department (see above) and the time that would be spent trying to master the art of pressing the lens’ shutter would be better off used to take even more selfies. It won’t be giving you Vogue-worthy images anytime soon.


It is also hard to justify the $400 price tag slapped onto its back, with many other better options available from Canon that’s just slightly pricier. Most of us also already have a smartphone that does the selfie-taking job good enough for us.

Do we then need a camera that’s dedicated to taking selfies? If your answer is yes, then the N2 would be great for you. You can even ignore the Creative Shot mode and simply transfer the photos from the N2 to your smartphone and edit it on Afterlight to your liking.

Meanwhile, we’ll be patiently waiting for the N3, hoping that Canon returns the shutter button to its rightful position.