Canon PowerShot N100 review: Clunky enthusiast compact for creative snapshooters

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.6
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Image quality: 8.0
Review Date:

The Good The Canon PowerShot N100 packs a larger-than-usual sensor and a lens that starts at a bright f1.8 aperture, a combination that gets you better photo quality in low-light conditions than you'd get from a typical point-and-shoot. Shooting performance is excellent, too, and there's built-in Wi-Fi for on-the-go sharing and remotely controlling the camera, among other things.

The Bad It's heavier and bigger than the similarly spec'ed PowerShot S120; the design overall isn't great; the rear-facing camera is sort of a waste; NFC is underutilized.

The Bottom Line The Canon PowerShot N100's photos and performance are a step in the right direction for point-and-shoots, but the N100 design needs a bit more work and perhaps fewer novelties.

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The Canon PowerShot N100 is an odd camera, but in completely different ways than the first N series model.

It has a 1/1.7-inch sensor, which is larger than the typical 1/2.3-inch sensor found in much of Canon's PowerShot lineup -- including the PowerShot N -- and is the same sensor size and resolution as the PowerShot S120. It also as the same optics as that camera: a 5x, f1.8-5.7 24-120mm lens.

The N100 diverges from the S120 and enthusiast compacts in general by offering a bunch of automatic shooting options and no semimanual or manual modes and no raw capture. And instead of an assignable function button, you get a button to tag favorite images.

So, basically, Canon took the best parts of one of its enthusiast compacts and piled in features aimed at snapshooters. It's a smart move -- however, Canon maybe went a little overboard trying to be new and different with the N100.

Photo quality

The larger sensor and bright lens really pay off compared to its small-sensor compacts like the PowerShot SX700 HS. The N100 does very well with noise and detail up to ISO 200. At ISO 400 and 800 some noise reduction kicks in softening detail some, but there's still plenty of fine detail.

Even at ISO 1600 detail is still good, as is color. So as long as you don't need to enlarge and heavily crop, you should be pretty good in low-light conditions, especially for sharing online at small sizes.

At its highest sensitivities, the noise reduction really kicks in so subjects do look noticeably soft, and colors start to desaturate, too. I would avoid using ISO 3200 and 6400 unless you have no other option.

This is where that bright f1.8 lens comes in handy. As long as you're not using the zoom lens, you can easily stay below ISO 1600 for indoor/low-light shots (but, as always, the more light you have, the better off you'll be).

The camera's HD video is very good, too, but like its photos, video gets visibly softer and noisier in low light. The zoom does work while recording, and it moves quietly so it doesn't get picked up by the stereo mics just above the lens.

canon-powershot-n100-product-photo-11.jpg
Joshua Goldman/CNET

Shooting performance

The N100 is a quick camera, too; flash photos are really the only time it noticeably gets slower. From "off" to first shot is only 1.3 seconds, and the lag between shots is 1.1 seconds. Turn on the flash, though, and that shot-to-shot time extends to 2.7 seconds.

Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is brief at less than 0.2-second in bright conditions. It gets a little longer in low-light and with the lens fully zoomed in at 0.5-second.

There is no burst-shooting mode, but the camera can continuously shoot at 3.7 frames per second. That's with focus and exposure set with the first shot. There is also the option to continuously shoot with autofocus, but it's slower at about 2.5fps. Still, most cameras in this class don't have this option at all.

Design and features

canon-powershot-n100-product-photo-9.jpg
Joshua Goldman/CNET

The original PowerShot N, while not perfect, was a cool little boxy camera that you could toss in a bag or slip in a pocket when you wanted something more than the fixed focal length lens of your smartphone.

The N100, on the other hand, looks pretty much like a regular compact camera -- but a clunky one that's not the most fun to use.

For starters, the flat power, shutter release, and movie record buttons on top are close together and in line with each other so it's a little too easy to hit the wrong one.

It's on the heavy side (about 2.5 ounces heavier than the S120), and the body is so slick and slippery that I felt like I was going to drop it every time I picked it up. There is a thumb rest on back (and for some reason Canon made it beige on the white model), but it seems like the only reason it's there is so Canon had someplace to put a speaker; it doesn't make the camera much easier to hold.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Digital Camera
  • Optical Zoom 5 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer Optical
    optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/1.7"
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