LAS VEGAS--Trying to make a tiny point-and-shoot to compete with smartphones might be futile at this point, but it certainly seems like Canon's PowerShot N is designed for just that.
An entirely new PowerShot line, the N's ultracompact body measures 3.1 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 1.2 inches deep, with some of that thickness going to its 2.8-inch tilting touch screen, which can flip up 90 degrees so you can more easily experiment with positioning (and something you can't do with a smartphone).
To further assist with experimentation, Canon dropped the typical shutter release/zoom lever combo found on other PowerShots and went with new control rings around its 8x f3.0-5.9 28-224mm lens; an outer ring controls the shutter, whereas an inner ring works the zoom.
The PowerShot N introduces a new Creative Shot mode as well, which goes beyond the typical effects and filters. Snap a picture of something and the camera will automatically create five different versions using different color modes, crops, and styles in addition to saving the original photo. With a newer Canon Digic 5 image processor and a 12-megapixel high-speed, high-sensitivity CMOS sensor, it should do it pretty fast, too.
Also new for the N is a Mobile Device Connect button. Using the camera's built-in Wi-Fi and Canon's free CameraWindow application for iOS and Android, the button lets you quickly wirelessly transfer photos and videos to a smartphone or tablet. The PowerShot N will store regularly used devices and accounts for faster connecting and uploading. You'll even be able to comment on uploaded photos directly from the camera.
Judging by the size of the battery compartment door, the N is using one of Canon's tiny lithium ion rechargeable batteries, which haven't provided the best battery life in camera's like the PowerShot Elph 520 HS. To combat that, there's a new Eco mode that promises approximately 30 percent longer battery life by dimming and eventually shutting off the display after 10 seconds of inactivity.
The Canon PowerShot N will come in black and white versions when it arrives in April for $299.99.
Those just interested in an ultracompact with an 8x zoom lens and built-in Wi-Fi will be able to get the Canon PowerShot Elph 130 IS in February for $199.99. You'll save a $100 from the N, but going by specs, it's much less of a camera, with a slower f3.2-6.9 28-224mm lens, older Digic 4 image processor, and a 16-megapixel CCD sensor.
Joining the PowerShot Elph 130 IS in February are two A-series models, the A2600 and A1400. Priced at $149.99 and $109.99, respectively, they feature the same 16-megapixel sensor and processor of the Elph 130 IS, but switch to a 5x 28mm lens and lose optical image stabilization. The A2600 has a 3-inch LCD and a rechargeable battery; the A1400 has a smaller LCD and an optical viewfinder and is powered by two AA batteries.