Most point-and-shoot cameras have a fairly standard design. They're rectangular, have a lens positioned to one side on the front, a screen on the rear, and controls for things like shutter and zoom on the top. The Canon Powershot N is not your typical compact. It has an unusually square design, and key controls are situated on rings around the lens.
Featuring a 1/2.3 type 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor and a 5-40mm f/3.0–5.9 lens (giving a 35mm equivalent of 28–224 mm), the core specs of the Powershot N are nothing too remarkable. Similarly, its ability to record Full HD video at 24 fps, its continuous shooting burst speed of 2.3 fps, 9-point autofocus, and ISO range of 80-6400 will not make it stand out from the crowd.
What does differentiate the Powershot N from the multitude of point-and-shoots cramming the shelves of your local camera store is its design. Measuring 3.09 x 2.37 x 1.15 inches (78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3 mm), the Powershot N is considerably more square than most cameras (except maybe the Lytro). Canon says it's been designed to enable the shooting of images in a more creative way and at unique angles or positions.
Notably, shutter and zoom are controlled via dual rings around the lens – the outer controls the shutter and can be clicked from any point on the ring, while the inner ring controls zoom. This supposedly means that the camera can be used equally well in any orientation, though clicking the shutter with the ring (and not accidentally zooming at the same time) could take some getting used to.
Combined with a 2.8-inch tilt touch panel LCD on the rear with 461,000 dots, it's claimed the unique design means users can shoot from a wide array of angles and positions. A Smart Shutter feature allows users to select their focus and start tracking by touching the LCD, then capture the image by lifting their finger off the screen.
Other buttons of note on the Powershot N include a dedicated movie button and a new Mobile Device Connect Button which allows the camera to easily connect with iOS and Android devices running Canon's CameraWindow app. The app means users can transfer photos or videos to their device. Powershot N users can also use Wi-Fi to upload to social networks and even comment on uploaded photos directly from the camera.
A Creative Shot mode can also be used to automatically create "artistic" versions of images. After the shutter is pressed, the camera will render five different variations of the shot, each with different color modes, crops, and styles.
The PowerShot N is expected to be available in white or black from April for a price of US$300.
Here's a quick video from Canon Europe introducing the camera.