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Canon PowerShot SX540 HS Camera Review

Tested using Methodology v0.9
Reviewed Sep 28, 2021 at 09:08 am
Canon PowerShot SX540 HS Picture
5.4
Travel Photography
5.3
Landscape Photography
6.0
Sport & Wildlife Photography
3.4
Vlogging
2.8
Studio Video
3.3
Action Video
Body Type
Bridge
Mirrorless
Yes
Sensor Size
1/2.3-inch
Tested Lens
Built-In Lens

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is a very basic bridge camera with a superzoom lens. It's decently comfortable to use, quite lightweight, and delivers impressive overall stabilization performance. That said, it has a very limited feature set, as you can't use it to shoot RAW images, doesn't have 4k video recording capability, and offers limited FHD video recording features. Autofocus tracking performance is poor in both video and still photography too. It also lacks a viewfinder and has a relatively low-resolution screen that isn't touch-sensitive.

Our Verdict

5.4 Travel Photography

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is middling for travel photography. It's lightweight and comfortable to use, though it isn't nearly small enough to fit into a pocket or a small bag. The lens' enormous focal range should allow you to frame both wide-angle shots as well as tight zooms on far-away subjects. Unfortunately, its autofocus system struggles with tracking moving subjects, and depending on your choice of settings, its battery life might not be sufficient for long shooting sessions. Image quality degrades noticeably at higher ISO levels, while its built-in lens has a narrow maximum aperture, so it isn't a very good fit for low-light photography. The lens' focal length also can't be adjusted in fine increments, which could be an issue if you're trying to frame a scene without moving around too much.

Pros
  • Lightweight construction.
  • Extremely wide focal range.
Cons
  • Mediocre build quality.
  • Poor autofocus performance.
  • Incapable of shooting in RAW.
  • Fixed low-resolution screen isn't very sharp.
5.3 Landscape Photography

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is passable for landscape photography. It's fairly lightweight and decently comfortable to use if a little bulky. Its lens' wide minimum focal length should make it easy to frame landscape shots too. Unfortunately, its lack of a viewfinder and fixed screen can make it hard to compose your shots. It also can't shoot in RAW, which is a significant omission if you plan on editing your shots. Image quality is alright, though it's best to shoot in the daytime since images lose a noticeable degree of sharpness at higher ISO levels. It also isn't advertised as being weather-sealed and has a plastic body that scratches rather easily.

Pros
  • Excellent overall stabilization performance.
  • Lightweight construction.
  • Extremely wide focal range.
Cons
  • Mediocre build quality.
  • Incapable of shooting in RAW.
  • Fixed low-resolution screen isn't very sharp.
6.0 Sport & Wildlife Photography

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS isn't bad for sports and wildlife photography. Its maximum full frame-equivalent focal length of 1200mm should allow you to snap fairly clear photos of far-away subjects. Its maximum continuous shooting speed of 8 fps is also relatively fast, and it clears its buffer almost instantaneously. It also does a great job smoothing out camera shake, which is handy if you're shooting at a fairly extended focal length. However, its autofocus system struggles to maintain focus on moving subjects, and while its tracking performance does improve if you set the camera to 'Sports' mode, you lose the ability to change your exposure settings. In addition, it feels cheaply built, though it is comfortable to hold for the most part.

Pros
  • Excellent overall stabilization performance.
  • Extremely wide focal range.
  • Fast buffer clearing time.
Cons
  • Mediocre build quality.
  • Poor autofocus performance.
  • Incapable of shooting in RAW.
3.4 Vlogging

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is poor for vlogging, though it isn't designed for this kind of use. You can't see its fixed screen when the camera is pointed at you. In addition, while the camera is lightweight, its bulky design can make it a little impractical to carry around for extended periods. Its battery life is also very short, though this can vary depending on your choice of settings and usage habits. It's incapable of shooting 4k video, and video quality in FHD is very soft and noisy, even in well-lit environments. Thankfully, it does an incredible job of smoothing out camera shake when shooting handheld video.

Pros
  • Excellent overall stabilization performance.
  • Lightweight construction.
Cons
  • Poor autofocus performance.
  • Terrible FHD video quality.
  • No 4k shooting capability.
  • Fixed low-resolution screen isn't very sharp.
2.8 Studio Video

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is a bad option for studio video. FHD video quality is terrible, and it can't shoot in 4k. Its autofocus system also delivers terrible tracking performance. It doesn't have a mic or headphone jack, while you can only use its HDMI port for media playback. Its battery life is short, and you can't recharge it over USB while in use, so it isn't a good fit for long recording sessions.

Pros
  • Simple menu system with built-in guide mode.
Cons
  • Poor autofocus performance.
  • Few inputs and outputs.
  • Terrible FHD video quality.
  • No 4k shooting capability.
3.3 Action Video

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS isn't designed for action video. It's too big to mount on any chest or helmet rig, and it isn't advertised as being water-resistant, dust-sealed, or impact-resistant. It can't shoot 4k video, while its maximum frame rate in FHD is limited to 30 fps. All of that said, its video stabilization performance is superb.

Pros
  • Excellent overall stabilization performance.
  • Lightweight construction.
Cons
  • Mediocre build quality.
  • Terrible FHD video quality.
  • No 4k shooting capability.
  • 5.4 Travel Photography
  • 5.3 Landscape Photography
  • 6.0 Sport & Wildlife Photography
  • 3.4 Vlogging
  • 2.8 Studio Video
  • 3.3 Action Video
  1. Updated Aug 05, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.9.
  2. Updated Apr 22, 2022: Corrected the FHD crop factor to 1.1x. The 'FHD Video Frame Rate' score has been updated accordingly.
  3. Updated Apr 22, 2022: Converted to Test Bench 0.8.
  4. Updated Oct 06, 2021: Updated 'Tested Firmware' field from 'N/A' to 'Unspecified'.
  5. Updated Sep 28, 2021: Review published.
  6. Updated Sep 24, 2021: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
5.7
Design
Portability
Height
3.3" (8.3 cm)
Width
4.7" (12.0 cm)
Depth
4.0" (10.1 cm)
Volume
61.3 in³ (1,005.0 cm³)
Weight
0.95 lbs (0.43 kg)
Weight With Lens
0.95 lbs (0.43 kg)

You can compare the camera's portability with its lens cap off and the camera turned on here, with the lens fully extended here, and with the lens fully extended and its popup flash flipped upright here.

6.0
Design
Build Quality

  • Body is made of plastic that scratches fairly easily
  • Buttons are large and provide good physical feedback, but are made of a cheap-feeling plastic
  • Command dial feels solid and provides good feedback
  • Hard to set a precise focal length since the zoom toggle is very sensitive but is also a little laggy
  • Flash mechanism feels passably well-built
  • Input compartment is covered by rubber flaps

Design
Body
Water Resistance
No
Rugged
No
Hot Shoe
No
Customizable Button
No
Command Dial
1
Tripod Mount
Yes
Lens Mount
No Lens Mount
Built-In Flash
Yes
Design
In The Box

  • Canon PowerShot SX540 HS camera
  • Shoulder strap
  • Lens cap with string attached
  • 1x Canon NB-6LH battery
  • Battery charger
  • Getting Started guide

7.0
Design
Ergonomics & Comfort
Hand Grip: Small Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Medium Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Large Hand
Yes
Hand Grip: Extra-Large Hand
No

  • Lightweight contoured body makes it comfortable to hold
  • No viewfinder
  • Fixed screen has a slow refresh rate and isn't very sharp, so you need to position yourself right in front of it to see it clearly
  • Dedicated ISO and video mode buttons
  • Aperture and shutter speed can be adjusted using the single command dial
  • Zoom toggle changes focal lengths in set increments, making it tricky to frame your shots precisely
  • Camera doesn't display focal length, forcing you to pull out its SD card and check an image's EXIF data to see the focal length it was taken at
  • SD card can't be changed while the camera is mounted on a tripod

Design
Viewfinder
Viewfinder Type
N/A
Advertised Coverage
N/A
Advertised Resolution
N/A
Advertised Magnification
N/A
2.7
Design
Screen
Screen Articulation Type
No Articulation (Fixed Screen)
Screen Max Brightness
429 cd/m²
Advertised Resolution
0.46 million dots
Size
3.0" (7.5 cm)
Touchscreen
No
7.0
Design
Menu System
Guide Mode
Yes
App Name
Canon Camera Connect
Design
Assistance Functions
Level Display
No
Grid Lines
Photo & Video
Histogram
Photo & Video
Zebra Pattern
No
Focus Peaking
Photo & Video
Waveform
No
7.0
Design
Lens
Lens Type
Built-in
Maximum Aperture
3.4 - 6.5
Max Aperture (Full-Frame Equivalent)
f/19.1
Minimum Focal Length
4.3 mm
Maximum Focal Length
215 mm
Max Focal Length (Full-Frame Equivalent)
1,200 mm
Optical Image Stabilization
No
Luminance
83.2%
Light Falloff
81.3%
Design
Sensor
Sensor Type
CMOS
Advertised Effective Pixels
20.3 MP
Processor
Digic 6
Extended ISO Minimum
N/A
Native ISO Minimum (Base ISO)
80
Native ISO Maximum
3,200
Tested Firmware
Unspecified
4.7
Design
Battery
Battery Type
Canon NB-6LH
USB Charging
No
Use When Charging
No
Advertised Battery Life In Photo
205 photos
Tested Battery Life In Video
81 min
Photo General
Photo General
Photo Features
JPEG File Format
Yes
Raw File Format
No
Shutter
Mechanical
Slowest Shutter Speed
15 s
Fastest Shutter Speed
1/2,000 s
Silent Shooting
No
HDR
No
Time Lapse
No

Note: The manufacturer doesn't currently provide any technical information on the camera's shutter type. Based on the absence of a silent shooting mode and the max shutter speed of 1/2000s, the camera is assumed to have a mechanical shutter.

6.0
Photo General
Photo Shooting Speed
Low Speed Continuous
N/A
High Speed Continuous
8 fps
Silent Shooting Continuous
N/A
Raw Buffer Size
N/A
JPEG Buffer Size
10,000 Photos
Buffer Empty Time
0 s

Note: This camera has both a normal and AF priority continuous shooting mode. Since the max continuous speed of the camera's AF priority continuous shooting mode can vary depending on autofocus tracking performance, the camera's shooting speed wasn't tested in this mode.

2.8
Photo General
Photo Autofocus
Object Tracking Success Rate
14%
Face Tracking Success Rate
23%
Face Detection Distance
110" (279 cm)
Eye Detection
No
Advertised Coverage
N/A
Advertised Focus Points
N/A
8.0
Photo General
Photo Image Stabilization
Minimum Shutter Speed Achieved
1/10 s
In-Body Image Stabilization
No

Note: Our standard test methodology for this test is to have the camera in its manual mode with ISO set to 'Auto'. However, you can't set ISO to 'Auto' with this camera in its manual shooting mode. To capture well-exposed images, the camera was set to shutter priority mode, allowing us to change the ISO setting to 'Auto'. As such, the results shown might not be fully comparable with other cameras that we've tested.

Photo Image Quality
not tested
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Dynamic Range
Dynamic Range At Base ISO
N/A
Dynamic Range At 1/500s Exposure Time
N/A
Dynamic Range At 1/2000s Exposure Time
N/A
Dynamic Range At 1/4000s Exposure Time
N/A
6.1
Photo Image Quality
Photo Sharpness
JPEG Sharpness At Base ISO
2.637 pixels
JPEG Sharpness At ISO 800
3.6008 pixels
JPEG Sharpness At ISO 3200
5.475 pixels
RAW Sharpness At Base ISO
N/A
RAW Sharpness At ISO 800
N/A
RAW Sharpness At ISO 3200
N/A
7.1
Photo Image Quality
Photo JPEG Color Accuracy
Color Difference (dE2000) At Base ISO
10.73
Color Difference (dE2000) At ISO 800
10.56
Color Difference (dE2000) At ISO 3200
10.50
7.9
Photo Image Quality
Photo JPEG Noise
SNR 18% At Base ISO
40.62 dB
SNR 18% At ISO 800
33.66 dB
SNR 18% At ISO 3200
29.50 dB
0
Photo Image Quality
Photo RAW Noise
RAW SNR 18% At Base ISO
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 200
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 400
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 800
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 1600
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 3200
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 6400
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 12800
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 25600
N/A
RAW SNR 18% At ISO 51200
N/A

Note: This camera is incapable of shooting RAW. As such, we couldn't perform this test.

Photo Image Quality
Test Scene Pictures Download
JPEG Picture At Base ISO Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 400 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 800 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 1600 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 3200 Download
JPEG Picture At ISO 6400 N/A
JPEG Picture At ISO 12800 N/A
JPEG Picture At ISO 25600 N/A
JPEG Picture At ISO 51200 N/A
RAW Picture At Base ISO N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 400 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 800 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 1600 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 3200 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 6400 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 12800 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 25600 N/A
RAW Picture At ISO 51200 N/A
Pictures Sample Gallery
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Skate Park Picture
JPEG Skate Park Picture Download
RAW Skate Park Picture N/A
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Polish Church Picture
JPEG Polish Church Picture Download
RAW Polish Church Picture N/A
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Studio Picture
JPEG Studio Picture Download
RAW Studio Picture N/A
Pictures Sample Gallery
The Stairway Picture
JPEG Stairway Picture Download
RAW Stairway Picture N/A
Video General
Video General
Video Features
Full HD Video
Yes
4k Video
No
6k Video
No
Clean HDMI Output
Playback Only
Advertised Max Chroma Sampling Over HDMI
Playback Only
Advertised Max Bit Depth Over HDMI
N/A
Log Picture Profile
No
Recording Light
No
Video General
Audio
Audio Test Sample
Audio Recording
Stereo
Microphone Level Display
No
Video General
Video File Format And Compression
MP4 H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
Yes
MP4 H.265 / HEVC
No
MOV H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
No
MOV H.265 / HEVC
No
AVCHD H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC
No
All-I Compression
No
4k Video
0
4k Video
4k Video Frame Rate
240 fps In 4k
No
120 fps In 4k
No
60 fps In 4k
No
30 fps In 4k
No
24 fps In 4k
No
4k Crop At Max Available fps
N/A
0
4k Video
4k Video Internal Recording
Bitrate Maximum In 4k
N/A
Bitrate Minimum In 4k
N/A
Chroma Sampling In 4k
No
Bit Depth In 4k
N/A
Record Time Limit In 4k
0 min
Overheat Recording Interruptions in 4k
N/A
0
4k Video
4k Video Autofocus Performance
Object Tracking In 4k
N/A
Face Tracking In 4k
N/A
Face Detection In 4k
No
Eye Detection In 4k
No
not tested
4k Video
4k Video Stabilization
Walking Test In 4k
N/A
Running Test In 4k
N/A
In-Body Video Image Stabilization In 4k
N/A
4k Video Stabilization Crop
N/A
not tested
4k Video
4k Video Quality
Low Light Capability In 4k N/A
Test Scene Extract In 4k N/A
not tested
4k Video
4k Video Rolling Shutter Effect
4k Rolling Shutter
N/A
Full HD Video
3.7
Full HD Video
FHD Video Frame Rate
240 fps In FHD
No
120 fps In FHD
No
60 fps In FHD
Yes
30 fps In FHD
Yes, with a Crop
24 fps In FHD
No
FHD Crop At Max Available fps
1.1 x
7.2
Full HD Video
FHD Video Internal Recording
Bitrate Maximum In FHD
35 Mbps
Bitrate Minimum In FHD
24 Mbps
Chroma Sampling In FHD
4:2:0
Bit Depth In FHD
8 Bit
Record Time Limit in FHD
24 min

Note: This camera's recording limit is advertised as being 29 min 59 sec, or whenever a video file reaches 4GB in size. Our test unit's maximum recording limit was 23min 50sec, which generated a video that was 4GB in size. That said, users may be able to reach this recording time limit if they use lower video quality settings.

2.6
Full HD Video
FHD Video Autofocus Performance
Object Tracking In FHD
1.3
Face Tracking In FHD
3.1
Face Detection In FHD
Yes
Eye Detection In FHD
No

Note: Unlike the 'Photo: Autofocus' test, using the camera in its 'Sports' shooting mode didn't improve autofocus tracking performance in testing.

9.0
Full HD Video
FHD Video Stabilization
Walking Test In FHD
4.95 pixels/frame
Running Test In FHD
8.10 pixels/frame
In-Body Video Image Stabilization In FHD
No
FHD Video Stabilization Crop
1 x
2.7
Full HD Video
FHD Video Quality
Low Light Capability In FHD
2.5
Test Scene Extract In FHD
2.9
6.4
Full HD Video
FHD Video Rolling Shutter Effect
FHD Rolling Shutter
5.7°
Storage And Connectivity
Storage And Connectivity
Storage
Card 1 Slot
SD Card UHS-I
Card 2 Slot
No 2nd Card Slot
3.8
Storage And Connectivity
Inputs / Outputs
USB
Micro-B USB 3.0
HDMI
Mini (Type C) [Playback Only]
Headphones
No
Microphone
No Microphone input
Wi-Fi
Yes
Bluetooth
No

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS is only available in one color variant: 'Black'. You can see our test unit's label here.

Let us know in the discussions if you come across another variant, and we'll update our review.

Discussions