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Canon SX20 vs SX540

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2009 and January 2016. Both the SX20 and the SX540 are fixed lens compact cameras that are equipped with a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The SX20 has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the SX540 provides 20.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon SX20 versus Canon SX540
Canon SX20 Canon SX540
Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5
12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor 20.2 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor
720/30p Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 80-3,200
Electronic viewfinder (202k dots) No viewfinder, LCD framing
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 461k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.7 shutter flaps per second 5.9 shutter flaps per second
123 x 88 x 87 mm, 600 g 120 x 82 x 92 mm, 442 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon SX20 and the Canon SX540. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon SX20 vs Canon SX540
Compare SX20 versus SX540 top
Comparison SX20 or SX540 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon SX540 is notably smaller (9 percent) than the Canon SX20. Moreover, the SX540 is markedly lighter (26 percent) than the SX20. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX20 nor the SX540 are weather-sealed.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX20 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Aug 2009 399i
2.
 
Canon SX540 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 205 n Jan 2016 399 i
3.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399i
4.
 
Canon 1300D 129 mm 101 mm 78 mm 485 g 500 n Mar 2016 449i
5.
 
Canon SX720 110 mm 64 mm 36 mm 270 g 250 n Feb 2016 379i
6.
 
Canon SX530 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 210 n Jan 2015 429i
7.
 
Canon SX710 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 230 n Jan 2015 349i
8.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 116 mm 74 mm 66 mm 553 g 240 n Feb 2014 799i
9.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549i
10.
 
Canon G1 X 117 mm 81 mm 65 mm 534 g 250 n Jan 2012 799i
11.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429i
12.
 
Canon SX40 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 600 g 380 n Sep 2011 429i
13.
 
Canon 1100D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 495 g 700 n Feb 2011 449i
14.
 
Canon SX30 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 601 g 370 n Sep 2010 429i
15.
 
Canon SX10 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Sep 2008 399i
16.
 
Canon SX1 128 mm 88 mm 88 mm 615 g .. n Sep 2008 599i
17.
 
Canon 1000D 126 mm 98 mm 65 mm 502 g 500 n Jun 2008 449i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a 1/2.3-inch sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 5.6. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the smaller-sensor digicams that favor affordability and compact design. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Technology-wise, the SX540 uses a more advanced image processing engine (DIGIC 6) than the SX20 (DIGIC 4), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Canon SX20 and Canon SX540 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the SX540 offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixels, compared with 12 MP of the SX20. This megapixels advantage translates into a 30 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the SX540 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 1.18μm versus 1.53μm for the SX20). However, it should be noted that the SX540 is much more recent (by 6 years and 4 months) than the SX20, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Canon SX540 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SX540 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 19.4 inches or 65.8 x 49.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 15.6 inches or 52.7 x 39.5 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 13 inches or 43.9 x 32.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon SX20 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS are ISO 80 to ISO 3200 (no boost).

SX20 versus SX540 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon SX20 1/2.3 12.0 4000 3000720/30p........
2.
 
Canon SX540 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p........
3.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p........
4.
 
Canon 1300D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p........
5.
 
Canon SX720 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p........
6.
 
Canon SX530 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p........
7.
 
Canon SX710 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p........
8.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II 1.5-inch 13.0 4160 31201080/30p21.510.858158
9.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
10.
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
11.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.217947
12.
 
Canon SX40 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p........
13.
 
Canon 1100D APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
14.
 
Canon SX30 1/2.3 14.0 4320 3240720/30p........
15.
 
Canon SX10 1/2.3 10.0 3648 2736480/30p........
16.
 
Canon SX1 1/2.3 10.0 3648 27361080/30p........
17.
 
Canon 1000D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none........

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the SX540 provides a better video resolution than the SX20. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the SX20 is limited to 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SX20 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX540 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX20 and Canon SX540 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon SX20202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
2.
 
Canon SX540none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/2000s 5.9 Y Y
3.
 
Canon SX730none n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9 Y Y
4.
 
Canon 1300Doptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
5.
 
Canon SX720none n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/3200s 5.9 Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX530none n 3.0 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6 Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX710none n 3.0 922 fixed n 1/3200s 6.0 Y Y
8.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIoptional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 5.2 Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX60922 n 3.0 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4 Y Y
10.
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
11.
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
12.
 
Canon SX40202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 10.3 Y Y
13.
 
Canon 1100Doptical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Canon SX30202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.6 Y Y
15.
 
Canon SX10202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
16.
 
Canon SX1202 n 2.8 230 swivel n 1/3200s 4.0 Y Y
17.
 
Canon 1000Doptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

Both the SX20 and the SX540 have zoom lenses built in. The SX20 has a 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 optic and the SX540 offers a 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the SX540 provides a wider angle of view at the short end, as well as more tele-photo reach at the long end than the SX20. The SX20 offers the faster maximum aperture.

The SX20 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the SX540 uses SDXC cards. The SX540 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the SX20 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and Canon PowerShot SX540 HS and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon SX20Ystereomono--YES2.0---
2.
 
Canon SX540-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
3.
 
Canon SX730-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon 1300DYmonomono--mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX720-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX530-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX710-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon G1 X Mark IIYstereomono--mini2.0YY-
9.
 
Canon SX60YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
10.
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
12.
 
Canon SX40Ystereomono--YES2.0---
13.
 
Canon 1100DYstereomono--mini2.0---
14.
 
Canon SX30Ystereomono--YES2.0---
15.
 
Canon SX10Ystereomono---2.0---
16.
 
Canon SX1Ystereomono--YES2.0---
17.
 
Canon 1000DY-----2.0---

It is notable that the SX20 has a hotshoe, while the SX540 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

The SX540 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Canon. In contrast, the SX20 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the SX20 was succeeded by the Canon SX30. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon SX20 better than the Canon SX540 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS:

  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/3200s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Better light gathering: Has a lens with a wider maximum aperture (f/2.8 vs f/3.4).
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2009).


Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 30%.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (DIGIC 6 vs DIGIC 4).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/30p).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (461k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.9 vs 0.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
  • More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 158g or 26 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 4 months of technical progress since the SX20 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SX540 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 6 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

SX20 06:13 SX540

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX20 and the Canon SX540 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX20 or the SX540. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX20..+ +73/100..4/5 Aug 2009 399i
2.
 
Canon SX540.......... Jan 2016 399 i
3.
 
Canon SX730..+..4/54/5 Apr 2017 399i
4.
 
Canon 1300D4/5o73/1004/54/5 Mar 2016 449i
5.
 
Canon SX720..+..4/54.5/5 Feb 2016 379i
6.
 
Canon SX530..+ +..4/54/5 Jan 2015 429i
7.
 
Canon SX710..+..4/53.5/5 Jan 2015 349i
8.
 
Canon G1 X Mark II3/5+77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2014 799i
9.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549i
10.
 
Canon G1 X5/5+76/1004/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
11.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429i
12.
 
Canon SX40..+..4.5/54/5 Sep 2011 429i
13.
 
Canon 1100D..80/10069/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449i
14.
 
Canon SX303/5+ +..3.5/54/5 Sep 2010 429i
15.
 
Canon SX10..+ +....4/5 Sep 2008 399i
16.
 
Canon SX1..+ ++..3.5/5 Sep 2008 599i
17.
 
Canon 1000D..82/100+ +3.5/54.5/5 Jun 2008 449i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Canon SX20:
Check Ebay offers
Canon SX540:
Check Amazon price

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Canon SX20 vs Canon SX540

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon SX20 Canon SX540
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5
    Launch Date August 2009 January 2016
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 399
    Sensor Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX540
    Sensor Technology CCD BSI-CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor 1/2.3" Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 6.17 x 4.55 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 28.0735 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 7.7 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 5.6x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 20.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 5184 x 3888 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.53 μm 1.18 μm
    Pixel Density 42.74 MP/cm2 71.80 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 80 - 3,200 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC 6
    Screen Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX540
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 461k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX540
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.7 shutter flaps/s 5.9 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX540
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port YES HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX540
    Battery Type 4xAA NB-6LH
    Body Dimensions 123 x 88 x 87 mm
    (4.8 x 3.5 x 3.4 in)
    120 x 82 x 92 mm
    (4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
    Camera Weight 600 g (21.2 oz) 442 g (15.6 oz)

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