Canon A540 Review

 
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Canon A540 Optics

With a range covering the 35-40mm equivalent range, the Canon A540's 4x zoom covers a little more than the average consumer digital camera. Most are limited to 3x at this price range.

The lens comes out relatively quick, as soon as you press the power button. The camera's ready to shoot in 2.3 seconds, not bad. Zoom is actuated with the toggle surrounding the shutter button. It's a little slow to start, but moves quickly enough and doesn't make a lot of noise. Zoom control is not very fine, however, with the zoom control moving in big steps. That's very common with this class of camera.

Unlike most cameras with a 2.5 inch LCD, the Canon A540 has an optical viewfinder for use on sunny days, or if you just want to turn off the LCD to save battery power.

Lens

Zoom
A generous 4x optical zoom range, with good performance.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
35mm
140mm
4x Digital Zoom

The Canon A540 zooms over the equivalent of a 35-140mm range, a bit better than the 3x zoom that predominates in its class. The 4x digital zoom takes it out to 16x total, albeit with the loss of quality that digital zoom produces.

Macro
A small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Flash does not throttle down well at this range, so plan on using external lighting for macro shots.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Canon A540's macro setting performs well, capturing a fairly small minimum area of 1.64 x 1.23 inches (42 x 31 millimeters). Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) Note, however, that Macro focuses only at the wide angle end of the zoom range, requiring you to move the lens very close to the subject and consequently blocking much of the available light. The flash, not surprisingly, doesn't throttle down well when shooting that close, so plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the A540. (If you need more working distance for close-up work with the A540, you might consider Canon's model 250D close-up lens ($87), but note that you'll need the LA-DC52G Conversion Lens Adapter as well ($22).)

Distortion
Moderate barrel distortion. (A bit better than average.)

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel, usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion, usually at telephoto). The Canon A540's 0.71% barrel distortion at wide angle is slightly better than average among the cameras I've tested. At the telephoto end, the A540's 0.09% pincushion distortion is lower than average.

Barrel distortion at 35mm is 0.71%
Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Pincushion distortion at 140mm is 0.09%
Canon PowerShot digital camera image

Chromatic aberration
Noticeable at wide angle, all but invisible at telephoto.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Wide: low, top left @ 200% Wide: low, top right @ 200%
Tele: quite low, top left @200% Tele: quite low, top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is evident at wide angle, showing a few pixels of moderately bright coloration on either side of the target lines, but decreases to very low levels at telephoto focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
Some softening in the corners of the frame at wide angle, sharp in the center at both wide angle and telephoto.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Wide Angle:
Very slightly soft in the corners
Wide Angle:
Sharper at center
Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
Telephoto:
A bit softer in the corners
Telephoto:
Sharper at center

The Canon A540 produced soft corners at telephoto focal lengths, and very slightly soft ones at wide angle. Corner sharpness at wide angle is better than average, performance at telephoto is about average.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Optical viewfinder tight and skewed slightly high, and tilted a little. Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.

Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
35mm eq., optical viewfinder 140mm eq., optical viewfinder
Canon PowerShot digital camera image Canon PowerShot digital camera image
35mm eq., LCD monitor 140mm eq., LCD monitor

The A540's optical viewfinder was rather tight, showing about 83% of the final frame area at wide angle and 79% at telephoto. However, the LCD monitor showed almost 100 percent frame accuracy at all focal lengths.

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon PowerShot A540 Photo Gallery.

Canon A540

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