My mom has been talking about wanting a camera and it was her birthday so I figured why not kill two birds with one stone. She gets a camera and I get to try out one of the new Canon models. I could easily have gone with a cheaper model, but I found a pretty good deal on the Canon A540 (six megapixels), $36 below average street price and free shipping. Most reviews say it is worth the extra cost over the very similar A530 (five megapixels).
It seems to me that the A540 shares at least some of the new hardware being used in the Canon SI S3 that I want. Reviews of the S3 have not been so great because it is basically the same as the S2. You get one more megapixel but they say ISO 400 is less sensitive than it used to be on the S2 (because now it is a more correct measure) and ISO 800 is basically unusable. After trying out the A540 I agree, 800 is basically unusable unless you really must have the picture and don’t care about the quality. And even then it doesn’t seem much better than the old S2’s 400 in the dark though that is with image stabilization so hard to compare directly.
Full reviews of the S3 are now up at dpreview.com and dcresource.com. Both have some pretty good comparisons photos from the S3 and the S2. While I still think it is a great camera, I have decided (for now) it is not worth upgrading from my S2. But if my S2 died, the S3 certainly would be on the top of my list.
Back to the A540, other than ISO 800 being so noisy most people will never use it and the long flash refresh time, it is a nice little camera. I would prefer a bit more zoom, but you know I am addicted to my 12x. For most people 4x would be good enough. I really like the size, I was a bit shocked when I saw how small it was. It would be a bit of a bulge in your pocket, but it would certainly fit. It makes my S2 look giant. I miss the image stabilization of the S2. Without it, the camera is not very useful indoors without the flash. But few cameras in its class have any kind of image stabilization.
One of the reasons I went with the A540 was it had an optical view finder. My mom can hardly use my camera because she has trouble moving focusing between the fold out LCD and the subject for aiming. The viewfinder of the S2 is also an LCD, so she thought a viewfinder like a real camera would be better. Turns out the optical viewfinder isn’t much better. Part of it has to do with her bifocals, but I am not sure all of it can be blamed on that. I don’t really like the viewfinder since I am used to the LCD live preview, but I don’t have a problem using it.