Canon PowerShot N100 review: Clunky enthusiast compact for creative snapshooters

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

The camera does have a touchscreen, and a pretty nice one to boot. Usually I like having physical controls instead of only a touchscreen, but in this case I wish Canon had just ditched the buttons on back. They're all crowded together and a little tough to press accurately. I would rather have a larger touch screen.

The touchscreen tilts up 90 degrees, which is nice for shooting from below and above eye level. But I don't understand why Canon didn't design it to go all the way up 180 degrees so people could take easier self-portraits.

There is no mode dial, but instead you have a switch for dropping between three modes: Auto (and other modes), Hybrid Auto (more on this later), and Dual Capture .

What may at first look like a viewfinder on the back is actually a secondary camera for the Dual Capture mode. It takes a picture or movie clip of the photographer when the shutter release is pressed and embeds it in the main photo or video for a picture-in-picture effect. But that's all it does. You can pick what corner you want to be in, but you can't enlarge the size, use it as a standalone camera, or even do a split screen between the front and back cameras. Hell, you can't even put a silly frame around yourself.

Canon PowerShot N100 Key specs

Price (MSRP) $349.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.1 x 2.7 x 1.4 inches (104.5 x 67.5 x 35.8 mm)
Weight (with battery and media) 10.2 ounces (289 g)
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch tilt touchscreen LCD, 920K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 5x, f1.8-5.7 24-120mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 330 shots (460 shots in Eco mode)
Battery charged in camera No
Wi-Fi/GPS Yes with NFC/No (geotagging available via Wi-Fi)
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC

The camera's Wi-Fi is relatively easy to set up and use, but I recommend reading the manual first. Canon gives you a good selection of wireless features, but there's a chance you may want to use only one or two of them.

For example, it allows you to share straight from the camera via Wi-Fi to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Drive, and Flickr. However, Canon requires you to sign up and register all the social-networking accounts you plan to share to with its Canon Image Gateway service. You might just be better off sending shots straight to an iOS or Android device via Canon's CameraWindow app and sharing from one of those instead.

Canon's Mobile Device Connect button lets you specify a smartphone or computer in advance that you'll connect to at the push of a button. Press it and it turns on the camera's Wi-Fi, at which point you have to open your mobile device's wireless settings and select the camera. Opening the Camera Window app completes the process.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

Along with sending photos and movies directly to mobile devices for viewing, editing, and uploading, you can use the Wi-Fi to sync your mobile's GPS to geotag your photos, which is nice because this camera does not have built-in GPS. You can also wirelessly send images directly to a photo printer or back them up to a PC on the same network that the camera is connected to.

Lastly, the app can be used as a remote viewfinder and shutter release. It doesn't give you much control -- just zoom, self-timer, shutter release, and flash (assuming you've popped it up) -- but it's nice to have for shooting wildlife and group portraits. It can't be used to start and stop video, however.

Canon includes NFC on the N100 for use with supported Android devices, but it isn't used for much. If you haven't installed the CameraWindow app, you can tap your smartphone against the camera and it will launch the Google Play store so you can download it. After that, it's used only to launch the app. You'll still have to turn on the camera's Wi-Fi and connect your device to the camera by selecting it in your wireless settings.

Other cameras featuring NFC from Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung will launch the app and handle the connection process, making shooting and sharing that much easier. They also use NFC to quickly send single photos to your phone with a simple tap between the camera and device.

Canon PowerShot N100 General shooting options

ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Multi-area, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program, Hybrid Auto, Dual Capture, Creative Shot, Portrait, Face Self-timer, Handheld Night Scene, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Background Defocus, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, iFrame Movie
Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Macro, Normal, Infinity, Manual
Macro 1.2 in. to 1.6 ft. (3-50 cm) (Wide)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom (adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation, red, green, blue, and skin tone are available)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

Again, if you're looking for direct control over aperture and shutter speed or raw capture, you'll want to go with the S120. What you'll find on the N100 is Canon's solid Smart Auto (it sometimes doesn't pick the most obvious target to focus on); a Program Auto for a bit more manual control; and a smattering of scene modes along with filters and effects.

Then there are a couple of novelty modes that join the aforementioned Dual Capture mode. There's the Creative Shot mode that automatically creates five different versions of a single shot using different color and tone settings, crops, and styles in addition to saving the original photo. The N100's Creative Shot gives you some control over the results, letting you choose a category of filters -- Retro, Monochrome, Special, or Natural -- for the camera to use with a total of 46 filters available.

Then there's Canon's Hybrid Auto mode that captures a few seconds of video before each picture you take. At the end of a day of shooting, the camera automatically gathers up all the little clips and your photos -- taken using the Smart Auto mode -- and puts them into a movie.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

Building on that is a Story Highlights option (the little photo album button above the LCD), which creates a 2- or 5-minute highlight reel of photos and movie clips that you can individually select or have the camera automatically select based on events, date, or person. Though not exactly a shooting mode, you'll probably want to keep the option in mind when you're shooting.

Conclusion

The Canon PowerShot N100 is a step in the right direction for Canon's point-and-shoot lineup. One of the reasons to still get a compact camera is for image quality and a larger, higher-quality lens. The N100's photos and shooting performance easily beat a smartphone's camera. However, it seems like Canon's desire to deliver a camera that's new and different resulted in a bit of a mess.

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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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