Sporting full manual features in a relatively compact and affordable bundle, Canon's PowerShot A540 is another strong entry into the advanced camera category. While it only has a six megapixel sensor, the pictures are still up to the usual Canon standard and those looking to take the next step with their photography should be pleased with this model.
- Low chromatic aberration, Good noise performance, Strong colour reproduction
- Some slight softness around edges
Another great Canon advanced camera, the PowerShot A540 is a great choice for those looking to move up to more manual photography as it combines a strong feature set with great pictures.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Typically Canon cameras impress in our image tests, and the A540 was no exception. We ran our usual array of subjective trial shots and objective Imatest tests to see how this model stood up to the competition.
In our sharpness test, the A540 scored 1380, which is about what we expect from a six megapixel sensor. Our test shots exhibited good clarity with smooth edges and nice levels of detail. Some edges were a little soft, as seen in our motherboard test shot, but this won't be problematic at small magnifications. We wouldn't recommend this model if you're interested in more sizeable enlargements (say 8in x 10in or above), but as an entry level advanced camera we don't consider it a problem.
The clarity is also assisted by the camera's low chromatic aberration. Our software gave it a score of .71% in this area, which is an excellent result and far below what most, comparably priced models score. It was clearly reflected in our pictures which had minimal blurring towards the edges and almost no visible haloing.
In our colour tests, the A540 performed exceptionally, scoring 6.35. Anything below 7.0 is a brilliant result and indicates superior colour representation. As is common with consumer cameras, reds are slightly oversaturated, but aside from that most other colours are extremely accurate.
The excellent performance continued in our final test for image noise. Its score of .69% in this test at ISO 100 is a great result that is slightly better (lower) than the competition (most cameras score around 0.8-0.9%). Furthermore the noise scales quite well with higher ISO settings. Even at ISO 800 the pictures are perfectly usable. A fine grain is the only sign of the increased sensitivity. We'd be comfortable using them at small to medium magnifications.
As the A540 is an advanced camera, it has all the usual bells and whistles. There are aperture, shutter and program priority modes along with a manual mode, for those wanting to try their hand at more advanced shooting. Meanwhile there are 21 preset scene configurations for novice users, and they will also appreciate the 30 frame per second, 640 x 480 video mode. White balance can be set manually or using presets, and ISO sensitivities extend from 50 to 800.
There is a three frame per second burst mode, which is quite good for a camera at this price point, as well as Canon's nine point auto focus. Do note that we had mixed responses using the auto focus. Some of our test shots came out quite strongly under sharpened, with soft edges that detracted from their clarity, even at smaller magnifications. This wasn't a regular occurrence, but it did rear its head occasionally during testing.
It performed moderately during our speed tests. Its shutter speed of .05 of a second is up there with the fastest units on the market. However it exhibited a 1.8 second shot-to-shot time and a 1.8 second power-up time, both of which are more on par with competing units.
Aesthetically, the A540 follows the same trend as past PowerShot models. It is quite compact for an advanced camera, although the shape is still fairly chunky and it sports the trademark silver colour scheme and jutting right hand grip. It is fairly heavy for its size, weighing in at 180g, and it feels quite sturdy. The controls are comprised of the typical combination of a function wheel on top and a directional pad with buttons scattered around next to the 2.5in display. The function wheel is a little stiffly, making it difficult to rotate, but this is a minor concern.
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