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 T5i at ISO 100

The SL1 and T5i are very similarly spec'd with the same or very similar 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor. As you might expect, the images look very similar to each other.


Canon SL1 versus Nikon D3200 at Base ISO

Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Nikon D3200 at ISO 100

The D3200 features a 24MP APS-C sensor, so the crops looks slightly different in size and quality. The mosaic crops look very similar between the two, but the SL1 seems to produce sharper fine details. The D3200, however, does noticeably better with the red fabric crop compared to the SL1.


Canon SL1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at Base ISO

Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

The Olympus really outshines the SL1 in the mosaic image, producing much more crisp detail. The bottle itself in the first E-PL5 crop looks just a bit cleaner and sharper than in the SL1 crop, however the shadow area of the E-PL5 appears to show some noise reduction issues. Meanwhile, the SL1 may have a slight edge with the fabrics.


Canon SL1 versus Pentax K-30 at Base ISO

Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Pentax K-30 at ISO 100

The Pentax is the clear winner with this comparison, producing much more fine detail than the Canon in all three crops. However, the Pentax has a bit of trouble with the pink colored fabric.


Canon SL1 versus Sony NEX-6 at Base ISO

Canon SL1 at ISO 100
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 100

Like the above comparison, the Sony has the edge compared to the Canon. The mosaic and red fabric are the most telling, showing higher detail from the NEX-6, although the SL1 is quite close with the mosaic.


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 T5i at ISO 1600

Like before, these two cameras are nearly identical in their image quality. And both begin to have trouble with fine details at ISO 1600, particularly with the red fabric.


Canon SL1 versus Nikon D3200 at ISO 1600

Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Nikon D3200 at ISO 1600

It's a mixed bag here with this comparison. The SL1 produces a cleaner image in terms of noise in the first crop, with much less chroma noise compared to the D3200. The Canon also appears to produce crisper detail in the mosaic (notable in the beige tile border), while the Nikon handles the red fabric much better.


Canon SL1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

The E-PL5 does nicely here at ISO 1600, producing better fine detail than the SL1, most notably in the mosaic crop. It also produces a more discernible leaf pattern in the red fabric compared to the SL1. Like we saw at ISO 200, the Olympus shows more apparent noise reduction in the shadow areas in the first crop.


Canon SL1 versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 1600

Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Pentax K-30 at ISO 1600

Another mixed comparison, with the Pentax producing more fine detail in the mosaic crop, but having an oddly mottled look to the shadow areas and the bottle surface in the first crop. The SL1 does great with noise, but the K-30 produces sharper text on the bottle's label, for instance. In the fabric crop both cameras have issues, with the Pentax almost completely unable to reproduce detail in the red fabric.


Canon SL1 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600

Canon SL1 at ISO 1600
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 1600

The Sony does a great job at ISO 1600, and just edges out the SL1. The bottle crop from the NEX-6 is clean and has sharp detail, as does the mosaic crop compared to the SL1. The red fabric area looks better from the Sony than the Canon, but the NEX-6 has trouble with the pink fabric.


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 T5i at ISO 3200

Like we saw previously, the SL1 and T5i images here at ISO 3200 look practically identical.


Canon SL1 versus Nikon D3200 at ISO 3200

Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Nikon D3200 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, both of these cameras run into trouble with noise, which greatly affects their ability to reproduce fine detail. The Nikon images look a bit worse with noticeable chroma noise in the bottle and mosaic crops, while still barely producing some semblance of a leaf pattern in the red fabric (which the SL1 really struggles with).


Canon SL1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

The Olympus beats the Canon at ISO 3200 in the mosaic crops, while both end up struggling with producing detail in the fabric. The bottle crop from the Olympus has much sharper text and a bit less noise than the Canon.


Canon SL1 versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 3200

Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Pentax K-30 at ISO 3200
High ISO noise really becomes an issue for the Pentax at ISO 3200, however it still manages to produce more fine detail in the mosaic crop than the Canon, as well as sharper text in the bottle's label. The red fabric area is difficult for both cameras to resolve, but the Pentax does worse than the SL1 here.

Canon SL1 versus Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200

Canon SL1 at ISO 3200
Sony NEX-6 at ISO 3200

Like we saw in the previous comparison, the Sony packs a punch compared to the Canon with less shadow noise and a bit more detail in the mosaic crop. The NEX-6 also shows a more noticeable leaf pattern in the red fabric compared to the SL1.


Detail: Canon SL1 vs. Canon T5i, Nikon D3200, Olympus E-PL5, Pentax K-30 and Sony NEX-6

Canon SL1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon T5i
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D3200
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus E-PL5
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax K-30
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony NEX-6
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. At base ISO, the Olympus and Pentax easily come out on top, with clean, crisp fine detail. The SL1 and T5i images at ISO 100 look virtually identical. In terms of detail alone, the two Canons, the Nikon D3200 and the Sony all look fairly similar. The Sony however does appear to show some moiré artifacts in the fine lines of the lettering. As the ISO increases, the Olympus E-PL5 really shoots ahead of the competition here, maintaining lots of fine detail. The SL1, T5i and D3200 all look very similar at ISO 3200 and 6400.

 

Canon SL1 Print Quality Analysis

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.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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