Canon’s range of digital compact cameras currently consists of sixteen models, divided into three product lines. The S series is aimed at the serious power-user, while the IXUS series (SD series in the US) is targeted at the more style-conscious consumer. The seven models of A series make up the rest of the range, and cover the middle ground, for users who want simplicity and style, but also high quality and photographic versatility. There is enough variety among those seven cameras to satisfy most needs.
Launched in February this year as a replacement for the popular A520, the PowerShot A540 is one of five new cameras in Canon’s A series, and is the mid-range model of the bunch. It has a 6.0 megapixel CCD, 2.5 inch LCD, 4x optical zoom lens and a maximum ISO setting of 800. For the casual snapshot photographer it features a range of program and scene modes and an idiot-proof full-auto setting, while for the more adventurous user it has an optical viewfinder and a full range of manual controls. The recommended retail price is £289, which is a little on the high side for a camera in this class, but you can pick it up from Amazon for a mere £157, which makes it one of the least expensive 6MP cameras on the market.
You certainly get a lot of camera for your money. Although it has a plastic body, the A540 does nothing to sully Canon’s excellent reputation for design and build quality. It feels solid and sturdy, and the large clearly labelled controls all feel very solid and operate with a reassuringly positive click.
With its two AA batteries the camera weighs around 230g, which is a little above average for a pocket compact, and this combined with the comfortable sculpted handgrip give it a distinctly chunky feel. The overall shape is square and businesslike, and you get the impression that it’s been designed for usability rather than style or size. It’s not exactly ugly, but I think it’s fair to say that the A540 is going to end up in a lot more men’s coat pockets than in lady’s handbags.