Canon SL1 Review

 
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Canon Rebel SL1 Video Recording

The Canon SL1 includes very similar high definition video recording features as its larger sibling, the Rebel T5i, making this diminutive DSLR a pretty powerful video shooter (though unlike the T5i, the SL1's internal microphone is not stereo and its LCD monitor is not articulating). The SL1 includes most of the standard set of video features we've seen on other Canon video-capable DSLRs like 1080p recording at 30 and 24 fps plus 720p at 60 fps, as well as manual audio level adjustments, and an external mic input.

The unique, stand-out feature for this tiny DSLR is the inclusion of Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF II technology, currently making it Canon's only camera to feature this newer hybrid focusing system. The Canon T4i, T5i and EOS M use an older hybrid AF system, and the newer 70D features an even more advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, while other Canon DSLR models do not support continuous AF during movie recording at all. We talk more about the SL1's Hybrid CMOS AF II system down in the video focusing section, but it greatly improves Live View autofocusing over the older system, particularly Movie Servo AF.

Barring a few things such as aperture- or shutter-priority exposure control and the generous selection of frame rates and compression types found on some higher-end cameras, the SL1 packs a fairly healthy feature set into its compact body. Despite the SL1's position squarely at the consumer end of the spectrum, it's quite a capable little camera. Here's a quick rundown of its video capabilities, along with our usual selection of sample videos at the bottom.

Canon SL1 Basic Video Specs

  • 1,920 x 1,080 (Full HD / 1080p) at 30 & 24 frames per second, 1,280 x 720 (720p) at 60 frames per second, and 640 x 480 (VGA) at 30 frames per second
  • TTL (through the lens) matrix metering using the main image sensor
  • MOV file format, with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoding with variable bitrates
  • Hybrid CMOS AF II provides a much larger area of on-chip phase detect autofocusing (64% of sensor surface) for much-improved Movie Servo AF over the prior hybrid system
  • MOV file format, with H.264/MPEG-4 AVC encoding with variable bitrates
  • Autofocus can be triggered during movie recording by pressing the shutter button, or continuous AF can be enabled
  • Manual focus also available
  • Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity can be controlled in Manual exposure modes, both before and during recording (note: the level meter is only displayed when in manual level setting menu screen)
  • ISO sensitivity can also be controlled automatically in Manual exposure mode
  • All three exposure variables are controlled automatically in other exposure modes
  • Exposure compensation can be selected prior to or during recording
  • Video recording can be started and stopped with dedicated movie button or optional RC-6 remote control
  • Seven-step LCD brightness adjustment available
  • LCD brightness must be adjusted before capture starts
  • 16-bit, 48KHz, Linear PCM audio from internal mono microphone or an optional external 3.5mm stereo jack
  • Automatic or fine-grained 64-step audio sensitivity adjustment available, including level display with peak hold indication
  • Still images can be captured while in video recording mode, but doing so pauses recording for a second or so
  • Movies can be "trimmed" in-camera, selecting just the portion you want and optionally saving it as a new file
  • Video Snapshot feature lets you record quick video clips in 2, 4 or 8 second durations, which can be joined together in Video Snapshot Albums and be set to music
  • If an attached Canon flash unit has an LED light, it can automatically enable it in low-light shooting in all except Manual mode
  • Video duration limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds maximum
  • File size restricted to 4 GB maximum; automatically and seamlessly spans movie capture across a second file if needed
  • If sensor temperature threshold is exceeded, shooting may stop before either limit is reached; camera warns before threshold is reached
  • Single SD memory card slot. Uses SD, SDHC, SDXC cards, Speed Class 6 or faster recommended.
  • Histogram is available in manual mode, but only before capture starts
  • Two grid displays (3x3, 6x) are available, but only before capture starts
  • "Clean" HDMI output not supported. Live view feed is only about 50% of screen, surrounded by black area containing readouts.

Canon SL1 Video: Image Size, Frame Rate, and Encoding

The Canon Rebel SL1 offers three different video resolutions and three frame rates, although only certain frame rates are available for a given resolution. When set to NTSC mode, the combinations shown below are available:

Canon SL1 Video Options
MOV files, H.264/MPEG-4 encoding
Resolution
Aspect Ratio
NTSC Mode Frame Rate

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

30p
(29.97 frames per second, progressive scan)

1,920 x 1,080

16:9

24p
(23.976 frames per second, progressive scan)

1,280 x 720

16:9

60p
(59.94 frames per second, progressive scan)

640 x 480

4:3

30p
(29.97 frames per second, progressive scan)


Full HD movie. The SL1's touch screen makes it easy to quickly select the appropriate video resolution among other setting and options.

The SL1 features the standard set of video recording resolutions like many other Canon DSLRs, all of which are progressive scan formats. It offers full 1,920 x 1,080 HD video at both 30 and 24 frames per second. The 60 frames/second frame rate available in 1,280 x 720 mode is great for capturing smooth-looking action, but won't be as good in low-light situations, because the camera can't use a shutter speed longer than 1/60 second. Note that the Canon SL1 records video at 25p and 50p instead of 30p and 60p respectively when switched over to PAL video mode.

The 24p mode is popular with many filmmakers and cinematographers because 24 fps is the frame rate used for cinema, and it gives videos more of a "film look." The lower frame rate can look choppy, though, particularly when shooting in bright light with fast shutter speeds.

The Canon Rebel SL1 saves its video files in the MOV format, using H.264/MPEG-4 encoding. Unlike the more advanced, newer Canon DSLRs, the SL1 doesn't feature the higher bitrate video formats like ALL-I mode. The SL1 is very similar to cameras like the 60D or T5i in terms of recording formats.

The Canon SL1 also features Canon's Video Snapshot feature, which lets users take quick 2-, 4- or 8-second video clips, then stitch them together and set them to music in Video Snapshot Albums all in-camera.

Canon SL1 Video: Image Quality

The SL1 produces very high image quality in video, similar to what we've seen with other Canon DSLRs. Video has nice, crisp detail with accurate, pleasing colors. Scenes shot in bright daylight can look a bit too contrasty to our eyes, though, with shadow areas being fairly dark when using the Standard Picture Profile. Thankfully, Canon allows users to customize the picture style, allowing for more dynamic range by decreasing the contrast. In low-light scenes, the SL1 did a great job, with nice detail overall and decent shadow detail. While there was visible high ISO noise, particularly chroma noise, in our nighttime test videos, it wasn't severe enough to significantly degrade the image quality.

We saw a fair amount of moiré artifacts in the standard problem areas like window screens, roof shingles, and fine patterned fabrics. Moiré and aliasing were even more pronounced in 720p video, which has been the case with other Canon DSLRs we've seen in the past. Overall, moiré artifacts look very similar to those seen on the other Canon DSLRs (with the exception of the 5D Mark III). This isn't a deal breaker by any means, and while it could be a deciding factor for professionals or high-end video shooters, most users should just be careful where they shoot and be on the lookout for problems with the patterns in people's clothing, etc.

Below you can see our standard array of sample videos for the SL1:

Canon SL1: Video Samples
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second, Night
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second, Night
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second, Night
Download Original

 

Canon SL1 Video: Focusing

The Canon Rebel SL1 is a unique camera among Canon's lineup in that it is currently the only camera that features Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF II focusing system, which increases the area of the on-chip phase detect AF capability to 64% of the total image sensor area. The T5i, T4i and EOS M in contrast have a much smaller area for on-chip PDAF, at only about 10% of the sensor area. As such, the SL1's Movie Servo AF is quite good -- check out how it stacks up compared to the excellent Canon 70D over on our 70D review page.

  • By default, the SL1 uses movie-servo AF, but you can disable this and opt for manual or single-servo autofocus instead
  • Single-servo autofocus focuses when the shutter button is half-pressed; movie-servo AF focuses as the camera deems necessary during recording
  • Near-silent autofocusing with STM lenses (like the standard 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens)
  • AF area mode options:
    • Face-priority + Tracking
    • FlexiZone - Multi
    • FlexiZone - Single
  • The focus point can be selected by gently tapping on the touch screen, letting you subtly change focus between different subjects without moving the camera
  • Autofocus via the shutter button can be disabled, which is useful if you want to capture still images during movie shooting without causing the camera to refocus as well
  • Manual focus is also available during movie recording
    • Note: with STM lenses, you have to half-press the shutter button and hold it down for manual focusing to work

Canon SL1 Video: Exposure Control

  • Exposure. Although you can shoot video in Av, Tv or P modes, exposure for video will default to Program Exposure in all three modes.

    Defaults to fully automatic exposure, but exposure compensation adjustment is available
  • Auto-ISO limit set in still capture mode doesn't affect video recording
  • Camera defaults to Program Exposure mode in P, Av and Tv modes. M mode is used for full manual exposure control
    • Adjustments to exposure compensation are somewhat delayed, and are applied gradually, making them more subtle than with many cameras
  • Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity can be adjusted before and during exposure in Manual exposure mode
    • All three exposure variables can be adjusted through touch screen, using the four-way controller, or the control dial
    • The physical controls produce some noise on the audio track. The touch screen is silent, but it's difficult to keep the camera still, as you have to tap repeatedly to make adjustments. (Sadly, the touch-and-drag slider you get when not recording isn't available during recording; this would make it easier to adjust settings without shaking the camera.)
    • Adjustments in shutter speed, aperture, or ISO sensitivity are instant and make noticeable changes in exposure level, even with auto ISO. (Here, the exposure level dims or brightens slightly, then returns to the original level.)
    • Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000s down to 1/60s for 60p, and down to 1/30s for 30p and 24p
    • Sensitivity can be set from ISO 100 to 6,400 (or 12,800 with ISO Expansion enabled), or to Auto. The latter lets you dial in your chosen shutter speed and aperture, while letting the camera handle the exposure level by changing the ISO.
  • Full range of Picture Style settings apply to movie recording. (Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and User Defined 1 - 3), and each can be adjusted. Picture Style adjustments include sharpness and contrast, plus saturation and color tone for color styles, and filter / toning effects for monochrome.)
  • AE (auto-exposure) lock is supported in video mode, both before and during recording
  • Evaluative metering is always used for video recording, regardless of metering mode selected
  • If an attached Canon flash unit has an LED light, it can automatically enable it in low-light shooting in all except Manual mode

Canon SL1 Video: Audio Recording

  • Internal monaural microphone
  • Defaults to automatic level control
  • Manual level control available via Movie Settings menu, with 64 levels available
  • Audio level meter is true VU-type, calibrated in dB, and with peak-hold function
  • VU (audio level) meter available only when adjusting recording level (no option for it on-screen before or during recording)
  • External stereo mic input - use external mics for better sound quality, control over stereo effect / directionality, and to eliminate camera / lens noise
    • Thankfully, the SL1 features a touch-screen allowing for silent adjustment of camera functions during recording (exposure compensation, aperture, shutter speed, etc.)
  • Audio can be disabled entirely

Canon SL1 Video: Rolling Shutter Artifacts ("Jello effect")

Pretty much every DSLR on the market distorts moving objects, or the entire scene, if the camera is being panned. The technical term for this is "rolling shutter artifacts," but many users simply call it the "Jello effect," because the image can jiggle and sway like Jello as the camera is moved. This occurs because the image is captured and read out line by line, so the bottom of an object may no longer be underneath the top of it by the time the camera gets around to capturing that part of the frame.

The SL1 does a nice job of controlling rolling shutter distortion. At the 1080p resolution, rolling shutter distortion was noticeable yet still minimal, and even less so at 720p. Overall, the SL1 seems evenly matched with other Canon DSLRs in this regard, putting it well within the upper range of all DSLRs when it comes to rolling shutter. As long as you are mindful of this effect, and avoid quick pans or back-and-forth motions, particularly around objects with vertical lines like trees and buildings, you probably won't notice the rolling shutter distortion at all.

Canon SL1: Rolling Shutter Artifacts
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 30 frames per second
Download Original
1,920 x 1,080
MOV, Progressive, 24 frames per second
Download Original
1,280 x 720
MOV, Progressive, 60 frames per second
Download Original

 

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