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Canon SX500 vs SX540

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS and the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2012 and January 2016. Both the SX500 and the SX540 are fixed lens compact cameras that are equipped with a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The SX500 has a resolution of 15.9 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 SX500
versus
Canon SX540
Canon SX500   Canon SX540
Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
24-720mm f/3.4-5.8 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5
15.9 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 20.2 MP – 1/2.3" sensor
720/30p Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 80-1,600 ISO 80-3,200
No viewfinder, LCD framing No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0" LCD – 461k dots 3.0" LCD – 461k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.8 shutter flaps per second 5.9 shutter flaps per second
195 shots per battery charge205 shots per battery charge
104 x 70 x 80 mm, 341 g 120 x 82 x 92 mm, 442 g
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Check SX500 offers at
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Check SX540 offers at
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX500 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

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon SX500 and the Canon SX540 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon SX500 vs Canon SX540
Compare SX500 versus SX540 top
Comparison SX500 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 larger (35 percent) than the Canon SX500. Moreover, the SX540 is markedly heavier (30 percent) than the SX500. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX500 nor the SX540 are weather-sealed.

Concerning battery life, the SX500 gets 195 shots out of its NB-6L battery, while the SX540 can take 205 images on a single charge of its NB-6LH power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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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 SX500 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 341 g 195 n Aug 2012 329ebay.com
2.
 
Canon SX540 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 205 n Jan 2016 399ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX740 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 299 g 265 n Jul 2018 399 amazon.com
4.
 
Canon SX430 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 323 g 195 n Jan 2017 299 amazon.com
5.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399ebay.com
6.
 
Canon T6 129 mm 101 mm 78 mm 485 g 500 n Mar 2016 449ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX420 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 195 n Jan 2016 299ebay.com
8.
 
Canon SX720 110 mm 64 mm 36 mm 270 g 250 n Feb 2016 379ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX410 104 mm 69 mm 85 mm 325 g 185 n Feb 2015 279ebay.com
10.
 
Canon SX530 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 210 n Jan 2015 429ebay.com
11.
 
Canon SX710 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 230 n Jan 2015 349ebay.com
12.
 
Canon SX520 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 441 g 210 n Jul 2014 399ebay.com
13.
 
Canon SX700 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 250 n Feb 2014 349ebay.com
14.
 
Canon SX400 104 mm 69 mm 80 mm 313 g 190 n Jul 2014 249ebay.com
15.
 
Canon SX510 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 349 g 250 n Aug 2013 249ebay.com
16.
 
Sony WX800 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 233 g 370 n Oct 2018 399ebay.com
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The SX500 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 18 percent) than the SX540, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and 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 SX500 (DIGIC 4), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Canon SX500 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 15.9 MP of the SX500. This megapixels advantage translates into a 13 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 1.33μm for the SX500). However, it should be noted that the SX540 is much more recent (by 3 years and 4 months) than the SX500, 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 SX500 are 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 80 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS are ISO 80 to ISO 3200 (no boost).

In terms of underlying technology, the SX500 is build around a CCD sensor, while the SX540 uses a BSI-CMOS imager. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.

SX500 versus SX540 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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 SX500 1/2.3 15.9 4608 3456720/30p19.811.149443
2.
 
Canon SX540 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.780648
3.
 
Canon SX740 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38884K/30p20.612.1105051
4.
 
Canon SX430 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p20.511.990049
5.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.511.992450
6.
 
Canon T6 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.778166
7.
 
Canon SX420 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/25p20.311.780648
8.
 
Canon SX720 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.881748
9.
 
Canon SX410 1/2.3 19.9 5152 3864720/30p20.211.672047
10.
 
Canon SX530 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.211.671247
11.
 
Canon SX710 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.211.671247
12.
 
Canon SX520 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.111.567246
13.
 
Canon SX700 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p20.111.462945
14.
 
Canon SX400 1/2.3 15.9 4608 3456720/30p20.111.567246
15.
 
Canon SX510 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/24p20.011.358645
16.
 
Sony WX800 1/2.3 18.0 4896 36724K/30p20.612.2107051
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the SX540 provides a better video resolution than the SX500. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the SX500 is limited to 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The SX500 and the SX540 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX500 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
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon SX500none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/1600s 0.8/s Y Y
2.
 
Canon SX540none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 5.9/s Y Y
3.
 
Canon SX740none n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/3200s 10.0/s Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX430none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5/s Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX730none n3.0 / 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9/s Y Y
6.
 
Canon T6optical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
7.
 
Canon SX420none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5/s Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX720none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 5.9/s Y Y
9.
 
Canon SX410none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 0.5/s Y Y
10.
 
Canon SX530none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
11.
 
Canon SX710none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 6.0/s Y Y
12.
 
Canon SX520none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
13.
 
Canon SX700none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 8.5/s Y Y
14.
 
Canon SX400none n3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/1600s 0.8/s Y Y
15.
 
Canon SX510none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/1600s 3.8/s Y Y
16.
 
Sony WX800none n3.0 / 922 tilting Y 1/2000s 10.0/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

Both the SX500 and the SX540 have zoom lenses built in. The SX500 has a 24-720mm f/3.4-5.8 optic and the SX540 offers a 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the SX500 and SX540 provide the same view at the wide-angle end, but the SX540 has more tele-photo reach at the long end. Both cameras offer the same maximum aperture.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SX500 and the SX540 write their files to SDXC cards. The SX540 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the SX500 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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 SX500 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
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon SX500-stereo / mono---2.0---
2.
 
Canon SX540-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
3.
 
Canon SX740-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
4.
 
Canon SX430-mono / mono---2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX730-stereo / mono--micro2.0YYY
6.
 
Canon T6Ymono / mono--mini2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX420-mono / mono---2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon SX720-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
9.
 
Canon SX410-stereo / mono---2.0---
10.
 
Canon SX530-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
11.
 
Canon SX710-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
12.
 
Canon SX520-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
13.
 
Canon SX700-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
14.
 
Canon SX400-stereo / mono---2.0---
15.
 
Canon SX510-stereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
16.
 
Sony WX800-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-

It is notable that the SX540 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the SX500 does not provide wifi capability.

Both the SX500 and the SX540 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The SX500 was replaced by the Canon SX510, while the SX540 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the SX500 and SX540 can be found, respectively, in the Canon SX500 Manual (free pdf) or the online Canon SX540 Manual.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon SX500 and the Canon SX540? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX500 IS:

  • More compact: Is smaller (104x70mm vs 120x82mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 101g or 23 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (18 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2012).


Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX540 HS:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 15.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 13%.
  • 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).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/2000s vs 1/1600s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5.9 vs 0.8 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
  • 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 3 years and 4 months of technical progress since the SX500 launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the SX540 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 4 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. 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.

SX500 04:10 SX540

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX500 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SX500 and the SX540 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX500..+ +....4/54/5 Aug 2012 329ebay.com
2.
 
Canon SX540............ Jan 2016 399ebay.com
3.
 
Canon SX740..+3.5/5..4/54/5 Jul 2018 399 amazon.com
4.
 
Canon SX430........3.5/53.5/5 Jan 2017 299 amazon.com
5.
 
Canon SX730..+....4/54/5 Apr 2017 399ebay.com
6.
 
Canon T64/5o4/573/1004/54/5 Mar 2016 449ebay.com
7.
 
Canon SX420..........3/5 Jan 2016 299ebay.com
8.
 
Canon SX720..+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2016 379ebay.com
9.
 
Canon SX410..o........ Feb 2015 279ebay.com
10.
 
Canon SX530..+ +....4/54/5 Jan 2015 429ebay.com
11.
 
Canon SX710..+....4/53.5/5 Jan 2015 349ebay.com
12.
 
Canon SX520..+....3.5/53.5/5 Jul 2014 399ebay.com
13.
 
Canon SX700..+ +....4/54/5 Feb 2014 349ebay.com
14.
 
Canon SX400..+........ Jul 2014 249ebay.com
15.
 
Canon SX510..+ +....4.5/54/5 Aug 2013 249ebay.com
16.
 
Sony WX800............ Oct 2018 399ebay.com
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

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ebay.com

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon SX500 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 SX500 Canon SX540
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens 24-720mm f/3.4-5.8 24-1200mm f/3.4-6.5
    Launch Date August 2012 January 2016
    Launch Price USD 329 USD 399
    Sensor Specs Canon SX500 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 15.9 Megapixels 20.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 5184 x 3888 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.33 μm 1.18 μm
    Pixel Density 56.73 MP/cm2 71.80 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 80 - 1,600 ISO 80 - 3,200 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC 6
    Screen Specs Canon SX500 Canon SX540
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder no viewfinder
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 461k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX500 Canon SX540
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.8 shutter flaps/s 5.9 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Single or Dual Card Slots Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX500 Canon SX540
    External Flash no Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Canon SX500 Canon SX540
    Battery Type NB-6L NB-6LH
    Battery Life (CIPA)195 shots per charge205 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 104 x 70 x 80 mm
    (4.1 x 2.8 x 3.1 in)
    120 x 82 x 92 mm
    (4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
    Camera Weight 341 g (12.0 oz) 442 g (15.6 oz)
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    ebay.com
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    Check SX540 offers at
    ebay.com

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