Canon SL1 Review
|Full model name:||Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (EOS 100D)|
|Kit Lens:||3.06x zoom
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Dimensions:||4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
(117 x 91 x 69 mm)
|Weight:||22.0 oz (623 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
SL1 Review Summary: The Canon SL1 is the smallest and lightest DSLR that we've ever reviewed, delivering DSLR performance and image quality in a body that's almost as small as today's mirrorless camera models. Its features and image quality rival those of its bigger siblings, the Canon Rebel T4i and T5i. But it's not just a miniaturized version of those DSLRs; it's actually better in some ways, most notably its autofocus speed and video skills.
Pros: Extremely compact and lightweight for a DSLR; Delivers good image quality that's virtually identical to the Canon T4i/T5i; Accurate and relatively fast autofocus with improved Live View and Movie Hybrid CMOS II AF; Full 1080p HD movie recording; Better-than average kit lens (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM).
Cons: Still not as compact as most mirrorless cameras; Slightly worse than average dynamic range and high ISO performance; Poor battery life.
Price and availability: Available since April 2013 in the U.S. market, the Canon SL1's list price is US$650 body only and US$800 in a kit with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. The kit is now readily available in stores and online for US$750.
Imaging Resource rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
$618.57 (11% less)
16.3 MP (9% less)
6% bigger sensor
Also has viewfinder
$500.05 (28% less)
20.1 MP (12% more)
5% bigger sensor
Also has viewfinder
731g (17% heavier)
$822.63 (19% more)
Similar sized sensor
Also has viewfinder
791g (27% heavier)
$647.70 (7% less)
24.2 MP (34% more)
Similar sized sensor
Also has viewfinder
580g (7% lighter)
Canon SL1 Review
Shooter's Report by Eamon Hickey
We were told the "SL" in the 18-megapixel Canon SL1 consumer DSLR stood for "super lightweight." And that it certainly is. The new Lilliputian EOS Rebel SL1 feels as light as many mirrorless cameras -- and nearly as small -- especially with a Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens attached to the front of it. Canon touts the camera as "the world's smallest and lightest DSLR."
Clearly, the burgeoning mirrorless camera market is what Canon is aiming to take on with the fully mirrored SL1. While Canon already has its own compact system camera, the EOS M, this mirrorless model doesn't stack up against many DSLRs in terms of still photography skills. With the Rebel SL1, Canon has attempted to offer the best of both worlds: a compact camera that's small and light enough to take with you anywhere, combined with the performance and high image quality of a DSLR.
Design and build. Though the Canon SL1 is a very small and light camera, its design and build mimic Canon's other DSLRs. Consequently, it's comfortable and ergonomic to use, even for photographers with larger hands. The Rebel SL1 is approximately 25% smaller and 28% lighter than the Canon Rebel T5i -- which was introduced at the same time -- and the T4i before it, with the SL1 measuring 4.6 (w) x 3.6 (h) x 2.7 (d) inches (117 x 91 x 69 mm) and weighing just under 14.4 ounces (407g), with the battery and SD memory card installed (but not the kit lens).
Despite the Rebel SL1's small size, the textured hand grip fits snugly in your hand and the surprisingly large shutter button beckons you to press it. Canon's kept the same 3-inch LCD touchscreen monitor as one on the T5i/T4i, offering 720 x 480 pixel resolution (1,040,000 dots). It's fixed to the rear of the camera, however, and doesn't offer any vari-angle or side-swiveling capabilities.
Sensor and performance. Like the Canon T5i (and the T4i before it), the Rebel SL1 employs an 18-megapixel, APS-C CMOS sensor. The SL1's ISO range is 100 to 12,800 (expandable to 25,600 in H mode) and it boasts low-light capabilities that rival the Canon T4i's, which were quite good.
The Canon SL1 uses a DIGIC 5 image processor, but can shoot just four frames per second in continuous shooting mode, compared to five fps on the T5i/T4i. That four fps burst mode, however, is fairly typical for entry-level DSLRs. It's definitely fast enough to capture candid moments and even some amateur sports. In terms of overall operational speed, the SL1 is peppy and takes advantage of a fairly decent 9-point autofocus system, but with just the center point being a cross-type point. (All nine AF points on the T5i/T4i are cross-type points.)
Expanded AF area. Speaking of the SL1's autofocus capabilities, though it's smaller than the T5i/T4i, its Hybrid CMOS AF II system features an AF area that uses approximately 80% of the width and height of the Live View display. That's a huge difference compared to the AF area of the T5i/T4i, which takes up just 38% of the width and 26% of the height of the Live View display.
This difference translates to improved Live View and movie mode focusing -- especially when the subject is not centered -- and gives photographers more flexibility when composing shots.
Creative features. The Canon SL1 is aimed at novice and beginning photographers, so it comes loaded with plenty of preset creative functions. In particular, the camera boasts a Scene Intelligent Auto Mode, which detects faces, colors, brightness, movement and a whole bunch of other factors, and automatically picks an appropriate exposure mode.
Other creative tools include an Effect Shot mode, which automatically produces two different photos, one with a creative filter and the other without. The Rebel SL1's seven creative filters include Art Bold, Water Painting, Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Fish-Eye and Miniature. As with the T5i, creative filters and the background-blur simulation effect can be shown in real time on the rear LCD during Live View shooting. Other new special scene modes include Kids, Food and Candlelight, providing beginners and even more advanced users with a wide variety of camera effects that not only help do the work for you, but add drama without post processing.
New kit lens. The Rebel SL1 uses an EF-mount that, like other Canon APS-C DSLRs, is also compatible with EF-S lenses. It's available in a kit with Canon's EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, which focuses quickly and quietly, and is pretty sharp for a kit lens. This lens is optimized for Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF II system on the SL1. Together the combination is effective, particularly for shooting video, tamping down any buzz from the focusing motor so you can capture HD clips with only the sounds of a scene being recorded. The 18-55mm STM lens offers four stops of image stabilization. (It's also available separately for a list price of US$250.)
Summary. By creating such a small and light -- yet highly usable -- camera with the EOS Rebel SL1, Canon has added an interesting wrinkle to the DSLR landscape. For photographers who might have been intrigued by small, mirrorless CSCs, the Canon SL1 offers a strong alternative. As it stands, the Rebel SL1 comes in just one color scheme: basic black. It currently retails at US$750 kitted with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, while the body-only version costs US$650. At just a $100 premium, the kit lens is a tremendous value (it's sold separately for US$250). The svelte, EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens, which retails for US$150, would be a solid addition to an SL1 system -- especially since it enhances the camera's compactness.
Shooting with the Canon SL1by Eamon Hickey
The Canon SL1 consumer DSLR was designed as an entirely new solution for photographers looking for a smaller, more compact interchangeable lens camera system, and to capitalize on the growing popularity of mirrorless compact system cameras. As someone who has shot with traditional (film and digital!) SLRs for more than 30 years, but who is now a big fan of CSCs, I was very interested in seeing just how good an answer the Rebel SL1 turns out to be.
Size and handling. The first thing I noticed after unpacking the Canon Rebel SL1 was its weight -- it really is surprisingly featherweight for a DSLR. It's also, of course, uniquely compact for a DSLR, but that difference didn't seem as striking to me. I'm sure that's partly because my test camera came with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens, which is fairly light but not particularly small in stature. But it's also because the SL1 is noticeably thicker than the CSC cameras I've used; the camera has to make room for its mirror.
After charging the battery and fitting a strap to the camera, I slung the Canon SL1 over my shoulder and headed out for a two-hour walk around New York City's Greenwich Village on a beautiful sunny day. One of the Village's landmarks, Washington Square Park, was abuzz with activity, and I spent more than an hour shooting street performers and other people enjoying the park. These included a small troupe of Irish step dancers, accompanied -- in the park, remember -- by a baby grand piano on wheels, plus an aspiring guitar god, a unicyclist and more.
The Canon SL1 simply captures solid pictures on sunny days and in low light.
Despite its small size, the Rebel SL1 felt immediately familiar and comfortable in my hands, allowing quick, stable and secure handling and shooting. Canon has managed to shrink the SL1's dimensions without compromising the camera's basic SLR-style handling and ergonomics in any significant way -- at least for me. The one slight exception is that I am naturally a left-eyed shooter, which pushed my face well into the control area on the right side of the Rebel SL1's back. I thumbed myself in the nose a few times, trying to access the exposure compensation button, and I've never had quite that much trouble on any other DSLR. But I don't really count this against the camera; I've known for a long time that left-eyed shooting was a personal vice I should be trying to conquer.
Skin tones and auto exposure are handled reasonably well by the Canon SL1.
On subsequent days, I took the Canon SL1 on similar walks in Central Park and along the Hudson River, and I carried it with me on several nights out. On all those outings, the camera's weight remained hardly noticeable. It definitely negates the portability advantage that smaller CSC cameras have over standard DSLRs. But in terms of size, the SL1 still doesn't match up with most mirrorless models, especially with the sizable kit lens attached. You're just not going to slip the Canon SL1 into a coat pocket or a slim bag along with your iPad Mini and a bottle of water.
Performance. In just my first few shots in Washington Square Park, I confirmed what I had expected: the Canon Rebel SL1 is a quick and responsive camera. All the buttons and dials responded instantly when I changed settings or accessed features. I never found myself waiting for the Rebel SL1 to respond to my inputs.
While shooting the dancers, I was trying to capture moments of peak action, and this is the kind of situation where the feel, responsiveness and especially the delay of the shutter release cycle can make a real difference. The Canon Rebel SL1's shutter response turned out to be typical of entry-level SLRs, which means it's fairly quick and perfectly adequate for the vast majority of hobbyist photographers. (Pro DSLRs are definitely faster, as they should be.)
The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 allowed me to separate autofocus activation from shutter release to capture peak action with no AF delay.
On the dancer shots, I also used the Canon SL1 in continuous drive mode, which shoots at about four frames per second. Combined with the reasonably responsive shutter, this allowed me to get several interesting shots of the dancers in action.
I did, however, run into one relatively modest performance shortcoming. Irish step dancing goes fast and furious, and I was firing off multiple sequences of continuous bursts to try to capture all the many cool moments happening in front of me. I had the Rebel SL1 set to record simultaneous RAW+JPEG images, and it can only shoot five frames in that mode before the image buffer fills up and the frame rate falls way off. This isn't out-of-the-ordinary for an entry-level DSLR, but it caused me to miss a lot of shots. On later outings, I tested the Rebel SL1 in RAW only (i.e. with no simultaneous JPEG) and got eight frames before the buffer filled. For some sports shots on one of those later outings, I switched to capturing Large JPEGs only and never filled the buffer -- testing this mode, I could get more than 25 images at full frame rate, which is more than six seconds of action, easily good enough for any practical purpose I can think of.
As I walked around Washington Square Park taking grab shots of the action around me, I was impressed with the Rebel SL1's autofocus when used in its normal mode -- using phase-detection AF with the eye-level optical viewfinder and the mirror in its normal down position. It was very fast and decisive on every subject I shot, from the dancers in bright sunlight to backlit people sitting on a park bench.
The optical viewfinder is, of course, the biggest difference between a DSLR and a CSC model, but I don't feel like there's too much to say about the viewfinder in the Canon SL1. It's pretty typical of entry-level DSLR cameras, which means it's decent but noticeably less impressive than the big, bright viewfinders in high-end DSLRs, especially full-frame models.
The SL1's images showcase good color and detail, even in a heavily backlit scene at medium ISO taken at Hudson River Park.
On a different outing to Hudson River Park, I also tried the Canon SL1's Live View mode for taking some pictures of flowers, and folks walking along the river promenade. I had no trouble viewing and framing with the LCD except in the brightest direct sunlight.
Live View mode features Canon's new Hybrid CMOS II AF system which is unique to the SL1 so far and combines phase- and contrast-detect autofocus technologies. The new system uses a lot more of the Live View screen -- in fact, about 64% of the screen in total -- than models such as the Canon T4i and T5i.
I found the SL1's hybrid AF to be adequately fast, but not quite up to the standards of the best CSC cameras in my opinion. In my use, it was about half as fast as the Rebel SL1's standard phase-detection mode AF. That said, it was still faster than DSLRs I've tested that utilized solely contrast-detect AF for Live View still picture shooting -- and more importantly, a huge improvement over the T4i which had remarkably slow AF in Live View and video, even though it had an earlier version of the Hybrid CMOS AF technology.
The SL1 performed well in this high ISO test taken at dusk in the East Village.
When I headed home at the end of my Hudson River Park shoot, it was dusk edging into night, which gave me a chance to try both of the Canon SL1's AF systems in dim light. As I shot pictures of some East Village landmarks like McSorley's Old Ale House, both AF systems were impressively decisive despite the low light levels. Here, the Hybrid CMOS II AF system in Live View mode worked almost as fast as the SL1's phase-detection AF system with the viewfinder. I found that pretty impressive.
To really give any AF system a challenge, you need to shoot sports, so on a subsequent day I took the Canon SL1 to a park near my apartment where I know I can find young -- and sometimes not so young -- men battling it out in pickup basketball games. I shot continuous bursts at 4 fps using AI Servo AF mode with the Rebel SL1's phase-detection AF system, and the camera did a really good job. It was able to easily follow fast-moving action and gave me a high percentage of in-focus shots. This remains one area where DSLR cameras significantly outperform nearly all CSCs. I should mention one caveat: this was not an absolute AF torture test for the Rebel SL1 because the kit lens I was using only opens up to f/5.6 (at 55mm), which provides enough depth-of-field to hide small focusing errors.
Controls. The control systems on DSLR cameras are pretty well worked out by now, and so the buttons and dials on the Canon SL1 were instantly familiar to me, as they would be to anyone with experience taking pictures with DSLRs, especially Canon SLRs.
Before my first shoot with the Rebel SL1, I set up the camera to separate autofocus from the shutter release button. On my trip to Washington Square Park, when capturing images of the dancers, I simply autofocused once on the center dancer, and then I could fire the shutter multiple times with no AF delay, as I tried to capture the peak of the action. It's also always been a snap to switch between manual and automatic focus on Canon DSLRs -- with a switch on the lens -- so the SL1 provided all the focus flexibility I needed.
On my trip to Hudson River Park, I did a lot of switching from one sensitivity to another, as I went from shooting front-lit landscapes and people to backlit flowers -- sometimes to allow narrower apertures, sometimes to allow faster shutter speeds. With its dedicated ISO button, the Canon SL1 made it easy to quickly make these changes.
The SL1's autoexposure bracketing can help on a tricky backlit scene such as this at Hudson River Park.
Like nearly all entry-level DSLRs (and CSCs, for that matter) the Canon SL1 has only one main control dial, but within that constraint, its exposure control system is quick to operate. In Hudson River Park, I used it mainly in Aperture Priority exposure mode, and I could quickly set positive or negative exposure compensation from shot to shot. I used this in combination with autoexposure bracketing for many backlit shots, and was able to get good exposures for several tricky images, including a group of teenagers backlit against the Hudson River, and a bed of flowers in dappled sunlight with backlit runners jogging by. As I mentioned earlier, my only small issue was that my nose covered the Rebel SL1's exposure compensation button, and I ended up with a thumb inside a nostril once or twice before I figured it out.
The Rebel SL1 mostly conforms to the Canon family menu style, which isn't necessarily brilliant but is perfectly acceptable. Most functions are quick to understand and access, and the My Menu, which you can customize with your own most-used function settings, is very handy. By my second shoot with the SL1, however, I had largely switched to using the Quick Control system, which lets you access important features and functions using the camera's touch-screen LCD. I was happy to discover that two very useful functions that are sometimes buried in menus are available directly with the Rebel SL1's Quick Control system: autoexposure bracketing and flash exposure compensation. Very nice.
The Canon SL1 includes a variety of scene modes and special effects filters, but I didn't find it particularly intuitive to activate them. That said, I used the HDR Backlight Control mode to shoot an image of a new building down the block from my apartment. The sun was low in the sky in the background, and the Rebel SL1 automatically combined three images into one HDR shot that easily captured more detail than I could get in a single image.
Later that same day, I shot a streetscape using the Handheld Night Scene mode, and the Canon SL1 automatically combined four images into a single, sharp shot with a half moon set against a deep blue nighttime sky over St. Mark's Place in the East Village.
I tested the Handheld Night Scene mode in the East Village and was pretty happy with the results.
Lens. My test Canon Rebel SL1 came with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens. As we mentioned above, this lens is specifically designed for quiet operation when shooting video, and sure enough, it's essentially soundless. I shot several video clips on busy 2nd Avenue in the East Village and could not hear any lens noise from either focusing or zooming.
Functionally, I was mostly impressed with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. It autofocuses not only silently but also very quickly. In five different shooting days with it, I left its Image Stabilization on for nearly every shot, and it let me make sharp handheld shots down to 1/10 second (zoomed to 55mm).
In manual focus, however, the lens leaves a lot to be desired; the manual focus ring is significantly underdamped and the focus throw is very short. I shot a few test images using manual focus, but it just was not very satisfying. The zoom action on the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens is also mediocre -- overall, it just feels plasticky, but this is almost certainly the price we have to pay for the very low weight of the lens.
Overall, however, I found the 18-55mm to be a pretty decent kit lens, better than most you'll find that come packaged with entry-level DSLRs.
Image quality. We evaluate the image quality of the Canon Rebel SL1 in detail, using standard test images side-by-side with some top competitors, later in another section of this review, but I'll add some subjective impressions from my test shots.
I used careful technique -- a high shutter speed, medium f-stop, careful focusing and stabilizing -- to shoot images designed to show me what kind of detail the Canon Rebel SL1's 18-megapixel sensor can record. The SL1 doesn't disappoint. Even though it may not have as much resolution as some competing entry-level DSLRs such as the Nikon D3200, there's more than enough detail to make very large prints. (A fact which we confirmed in our Print Quality Analysis further down in the review.)
The Canon SL1 performed well in high contrast scenes such as this street scene that demonstrates the camera's dynamic range.
Also, I shot a lot of other contrasty subjects and many backlit scenes into the sun setting over the Hudson River, and the Canon SL1 was able to capture a decent amount of dynamic range. All of my test images were shot at the camera's default JPEG settings, which produced good skin tones but colors that are, to my eye, not particularly inspiring, although reasonably neutral and accurate. I also shot a large number of high ISO images (up to ISO 6400), and these were quite good, with a nice balance of noise reduction and detail at the default JPEG settings.
Canon Rebel SL1 Sample Video
1,920 x 1,080, H.264, Progressive, 30 fps
Download Original (76.1MB MOV)
Movies. To test the Canon Rebel SL1's movie mode, I shot a series of short clips one evening on 2nd Avenue, one of the most active streets in the East Village. I found the camera's movie mode controls a bit unintuitive. However, once I figured them out, they were fairly flexible, allowing focusing while recording and also providing reasonably advanced exposure control options. The Rebel SL1 provides a good range of video resolution and frame rate options (up to 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD at 30 fps, or 1,280 x 720 HD at 60 fps).
The resulting clips were very stable, courtesy of the image stabilization of the 18-55mm lens, and also very sharp. As noted above, I couldn't detect any noise from the lens in the recorded clips, as the EF-S 18-55mm IS STM is both smooth and silent. Most importantly, unlike what we found with the Rebel T4i, the AF speed didn't exhibit any noticeable lag or otherwise get in the way.
All in all, the SL1 proved to be quite good at recording videos -- better than most entry-level DSLRs that I've used.
Summary. I was reasonably impressed after shooting with the Canon SL1. It undeniably provides the benefits of a DSLR, including very responsive autofocus and overall operation, a well worked out control system, and an optical eye-level viewfinder. And it captures extremely high quality images and movies. Canon has managed to fit all this in a small and very lightweight DSLR body without compromising usability very much at all.
On the other hand, the SL1, especially when considered with a lens mounted, is still significantly bulkier than most CSC models and, of course, the overwhelming majority of compact point-and-shoot cameras. For photographers who have their minds set on a DSLR but would like to save as much weight as possible, it's a great choice. For shooters who are more interested in ultimate portability, it may still be a bit too bulky.
Canon SL1 Review -- Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins
Sensor. The tiny little Canon SL1 is based around an 18-megapixel, APS-C CMOS image sensor shared with the simultaneously-announced Canon T5i DSLR, and closely related to that in the earlier T4i. It features a native 3:2 aspect ratio, and yields maximum image dimensions of 5,184 x 3,456 pixels.
Processor. Output from the image sensor is handled by Canon's DIGIC 5 image processor, which was first introduced to the Rebel series in the summer of 2012 with the T4i. It's said to be five times faster than the previous-generation DIGIC 4 chip.
Burst. Although it uses essentially the same processor and sensor pairing as does the Canon T5i, the Canon Rebel SL1 extracts a little less performance. Burst shooting is limited to a manufacturer-rated 4 frames per second in high-speed continuous mode, with focus fixed from the first frame. By way of comparison, its sibling manages 5 fps under the same conditions, as did the Rebel T4i.
Sensitivity. Although its performance is curtailed somewhat, the Canon SL1 does derive the same sensitivity range from its sensor and processor as do the significantly larger T4i and T5i. From a base of ISO 100 equivalent, the Rebel SL1 offers up to ISO 12,800 equivalent ordinarily, which can be expanded to a maximum of ISO 25,600 equivalent.
Lens mount. Like all Rebel-series digital SLRs, the Canon SL1 includes an EF lens mount that's also compatible with EF-S lenses, and has a 1.6x focal length crop.
Only one kit lens choice is available: the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. Unlike previous versions of the 18-55mm lens, this switches the autofocus motor to an STM type, providing for quick, quiet autofocus. You can also buy the Rebel SL1 body-only, if you prefer to stick with your existing glass, or to choose from the many other lens options.
Hybrid autofocus. Like the Rebel T4i before it, the Canon SL1 includes on-chip phase detection autofocus, or Hybrid CMOS AF in Canon parlance. The system, available during both Live View and movie capture, uses a combination of phase detection to get focus into the ballpark quickly, and contrast detection to fine-tune focus.
Where the T4i provided hybrid autofocus only from a small area at the center of the image frame, the Rebel SL1's Hybrid CMOS AF II system offers it across 80% of the frame width and height. That's a full 64% of the image frame covered, where the T4i's on-chip phase detect was available from barely 10% of the frame.
The use of on-sensor phase-detect enables smoother AF with less hunting, but you'll want to use an STM lens to take best advantage of this capability.
Dedicated AF, too. Just as on the T4i and T5i, the Rebel SL1's on-chip PDAF system isn't used for still imaging when shooting through the viewfinder. In this case, the SL1 uses a brand-new, dedicated, nine-point sensor. Unfortunately, only the center-most autofocus point is a cross-type; others are line-type sensors, quite a downgrade from the nine cross-type points of the T4i and T5i. That center-most point operates as a cross-type at f/5.6, and as a vertical line point at f/2.8.
Autofocus working range is EV -0.5 to 18 at 23°C, ISO 100 equivalent for the center-most point, and EV 0.5 to 18 for the remaining points.
Metering. Just like the Rebel T4i and T5i before it, the Canon SL1 includes a 63-zone metering sensor. Available metering modes include 63-zone AF-linked evaluative, 9% partial, 4% center spot, and center-weighted average. The metering system has a working range of EV 1-20 (23°C with 50mm f/1.4 lens, at ISO100).
Shutter. Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, plus bulb, set using an electronic first-curtain shutter and a vertical-travel, mechanical focal plane shutter for the second curtain.
White balance. This is another area where the Canon SL1 is much like the Rebel T4i and T5i. White balance modes on offer include Auto, six presets, and custom, along with a +/- nine step white balance adjustment on blue/amber and magenta/green axes.
Exposure. The Canon SL1 provides all the usual suspects on its Mode dial: Scene Intelligent Auto (aka 'Green' mode), Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, No Flash, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, and Scene. This last position provides access to Kids, Food, and Candlelight modes -- all new -- as well as Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, and HDR Backlight Control modes.
Viewfinder. The Canon Rebel SL1's viewfinder is similar -- but not identical -- to that in the T4i and T5i. It's still a pentamirror design with fixed focusing screen, rather than the brighter pentaprism type with interchangeable screen that's found in larger, heavier, more expensive cameras. Coverage is 95%, but magnification is 0.87x, slightly higher than the 0.85x of its siblings. The Canon SL1's finder still has a somewhat tight 19mm eyepoint. Diopter correction is -3 to +1m-1.
Display. On the rear panel is a three-inch, 3:2 aspect LCD panel with 720 x 480 pixel resolution (~1,040,000 dots), the same size and resolution as used in all Rebel DSLRs from the T2i through the T5i. Like models since the T4i, the Canon Sl1 has a newer Clear View II LCD panel type which removes the air gap between LCD and cover glass, reducing glare.
Touch screen. Also like the T4i and T5i, the Canon SL1's display is overlaid with a capacitive touch panel, similar to those used by most smartphones. This allows it to provide autofocus on the subject touched on the screen, a very handy feature.
No articulation. Unlike the T4i and T5i, however, the Canon Rebel SL1 lacks any form of articulation for its display. That's understandable as a concession in favor of keeping size and weight down, but does mean the live view mode will not be as useful for shooting from an awkward angle.
Flash. Despite its trim proportions, the Canon SL1 still includes a built-in, pop-up flash strobe. It's quite a bit weaker than those of the T4i and T5i, though, with a guide number of just 9.4 meters (31 feet) at ISO 100. The built-in strobe on the larger Rebel DSLRs has a rating of 13 meters (43 feet), by way of comparison. Coverage is manufacturer-rated at approximately 28mm (35mm-equivalent), and the recycle time is about three seconds. X-sync is at 1/200 second.
As well as the built-in flash, there's an intelligent hot shoe compatible with EX-series Speedlites and Canon's E-TTL II metering system. Both Canon's IR and radio-controlled wireless flash systems are supported, with the appropriate hardware.
Video. Video capture is possible at up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution, with a rate of 30, 25, or 24 frames per second, using MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression. Two reduced-resolution options are available: HD (1,280 x 720 pixel) at 60 / 50 fps, and VGA (640 x 480 pixel) at 30 / 25 fps. The high-def options have a bit rate of 330MB/minute, and the VGA mode records at 82.5MB/minute.
As mentioned previously, phase detection autofocus is available for movie capture in the center-most 80% (horizontally / vertically) of the image frame courtesy of the hybrid AF system. Both automatic and manual exposure are possible.
Microphone. Where the T4i and T5i sport a built-in stereo microphone, the Canon SL1 makes a concession to size and opts for a monaural mic. That's not the end of the world, though -- stereo separation is often awful with built-in microphones anyway, and the SL1 still provides an external stereo microphone jack.
Connectivity. As well as the mic jack and hot shoe we've already mentioned, other options include an infrared remote receiver, wired remote jack, combined AV/USB 2.0 High-Speed port, and a high-def Mini HDMI (Type C) port.Storage. The Canon SL1 accepts SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards, including the higher-speed UHS-I cards. In-camera Wi-Fi is possible using Eye-Fi SD cards.
Power. Not surprisingly given its smaller size, the Canon SL1 doesn't use the same LP-E8 battery pack as other recent Rebel cameras. Instead, it opts for an LP-E12 battery pack. Battery life is CIPA rated for 380 shots on a charge, about 14% less than the T5i manages.
Accessories. Canon doesn't offer a battery / portrait grip for the SL1, but a range of other items are available, including an AC adapter, angle finder and a variety of dioptric lenses and eyepieces.
Price and availability. Available since April 2013 in the U.S. market, the Canon SL1 has an original retail price of US$650 body only, or US$800 in a kit with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. However, the kit is now readily available in stores and online for US$750.
Canon SL1 Image Quality Comparison
The crops below compare the Canon SL1 to the Canon T5i, Nikon D3200, Olympus E-PL5, Pentax K-30, and Sony NEX-6.
Note that these images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. Each camera was shot with one of our very sharp reference prime lenses.
Canon SL1 versus Canon T5i at Base ISO
Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Canon SL1 versus Nikon D3200 at Base ISO
Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Nikon D3200 at ISO 100
Canon SL1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at Base ISO
Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200
Canon SL1 versus Pentax K-30 at Base ISO
Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Pentax K-30 at ISO 100
Canon SL1 versus Sony NEX-6 at Base ISO
Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 100
Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.
Canon SL1 versus Canon T5i at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 versus Nikon D3200 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Nikon D3200 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Pentax K-30 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600
Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.
Canon SL1 versus Canon T5i at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 versus Nikon D3200 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Nikon D3200 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200
Detail: Canon SL1 vs. Canon T5i, Nikon D3200, Olympus E-PL5, Pentax K-30 and Sony NEX-6
The SL1 delivers good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; makes a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 800 and a usable 4 x 6 at ISO 12,800.
ISO 100/200 can produce great 24 x 36 prints if you look at them from a typical viewing distance, while a 20 x 30 inch print looks wonderful. You are pushing the resolution of the 18-megapixel sensor once you go past 20 x 30 inches, as you can see tiny pixilation on the edges if you look very closely. However, the detail is still impressive with excellent fine details and bright, accurate colors. ISO 100 and 200 prints are nearly identical, with maybe just a tiny fraction more detail in ISO 100, but it's extremely hard to tell the difference. Despite the 18MP sensor, 30 x 40 inch prints would do fine for wall display.
ISO 400 allows for great prints up to 20 x 30 inches, while 24 x 36 inch prints are suitable for wall display.
ISO 800 images look good at 16 x 20 inches. There is a hint of noise, but you only really notice it in the shadow areas. 20 x 30 inch prints are suitable for wall display.
ISO 1600 makes a good 13 x 19 inch print with a nice level of fine detail. Colors also looked accurate and pleasing. At 16 x 20, the image is a bit too soft in finely detailed areas for us to make the call at that size. Noise starts to appear a bit in the shadows if you look closely, but noise in the highlights and midrange areas are very low.
ISO 3200 prints start to show a bit more noise in the shadows, and the SL1 starts to have noticeable issues with red colors (particularly in our red fabric area of our test scene), but it still produces a nice 8 x 10 inch print. As before, shadow noise is apparent, but otherwise the image looks great and fine details are still noticeable.
ISO 6400 makes a decent 5 x 7, but noise and a reduction in fine detail starts to degrade image quality, preventing us from calling anything larger acceptable.
ISO 12,800 images are fairly heavy on noise and lack fine detail at larger sizes, but can still produce a decent 4 x 6 inch print. Colors still look okay, if a little on the dull side.
ISO 25,600 images were too mushy on fine detail and high ISO noise was very apparent, and therefore we would recommend avoiding this ISO level for use in prints.
The Canon Rebel SL1 uses an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor that's very similar to the one housed inside the Canon T4i & T5i, and produces excellent results for large prints at low ISO levels, all the way up to wall-mountable 30 x 40 inch prints at ISO 100 and 200. Additionally, this camera did surprisingly well in handling noise and grain at higher ISO levels. It wasn't until we got to ISO 6400 and looked very closely at the shadow areas that we began to see noise as well as noticeable degradation in fine detail. Once we get up to ISO 12,800, things start to look a little bleak, although we still thought a 4 x 6 inch print looked acceptable. At ISO 25,600, the lack of fine detail and high ISO noise levels made it difficult for us to call any size acceptable. All in all, a solid performer from Canon with its micro-sized DSLR.
In the Box
The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 ships with the following items in the box:
- Canon SL1 DSLR camera body
- EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens (if in a kit)
- Eye cup
- Lithium-ion battery pack LP-E12
- Battery charger LC-E12
- Wide camera strap EW-300D
- USB interface cable IFC-130U
- EOS Digital Solution disc and software instruction manual CD
- Camera instruction manual
- Extra battery pack (LP-E12) for extended outings
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 16GB is a good trade-off between cost and capacity for a consumer DSLR, but if you plan to capture HD movie clips or shoot in RAW format, look for larger cards with Class 6 or faster ratings.
- Additional lenses, especially the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
- AC adapter kit ACK-E15
- Mini-HDMI cable and/or AV cable
- Wireless remote control RC-6
- Canon EX-series Speedlite external flash
- Mid-size camera bag
Canon SL1 Review Conclusion
In many ways, the Canon SL1 provides the best of both worlds, pairing the compact, lightweight body of a mirrorless camera and the performance and image quality of a DSLR. You could almost call it a miniaturized version of Canon's Rebel T4i/T5i DSLRs. And that's a good thing; both standard-size interchangeable lens cameras are solid, full-featured consumer models. It's somewhat amazing that Canon can pack so much DSLR into a tiny body.
However, the SL1 does have one important advantage over its bigger siblings -- its new Hybrid CMOS II AF system for shooting in Live View and Movie modes. The previous version of the technology proved to be fairly sluggish in the T4i, but we were relatively impressed with the improved AF speed of Rebel SL1. What's more, the Hybrid CMOS II AF of the SL1 uses a whopping 80% of both the width and height of the LCD monitor, offering a lot more framing and shooting flexibility than the T4i/T5i.
The image quality of the Canon SL1 is almost identical to that of the T4i/T5i; if you look at the comparison crops against the T5i (the replacement for the T4i that was introduced at the same time as the SL1), it's outright uncanny. Photos taken with the SL1 at low ISOs in particular are excellent, but there is noticeable drop-off as ISO rises above 1600 -- the Canon Rebels could still stand some IQ and processing improvements to make high-ISO results more competitive. The SL1 also doesn't exhibit the dynamic range we've seen recently from other consumer DSLRs in its class.
One last nitpick with the SL1: Though its by far the smallest and lightest DSLR we've ever reviewed, it's still bulkier than most mirrorless compact system cameras. That's certainly not a deal-breaker, unless you're a photographer looking for the ultimate in ILC portability.
Add in the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens -- which is relatively sharp and very smooth and silent when recording movies -- and some serious video recording skills, and the Canon SL1 is much more than a cute, tiny Rebel. It's a camera that needs to be taken seriously, and should appeal to a wide range of photographers, beginners and enthusiasts, who want a small body but the benefits of a DSLR. It's a bona fide Dave's Pick.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.