Canon SL1 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.


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