Canon SL2 Conclusion

EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: 14mm (22mm eq.), f/6.3, 0.6s, ISO 100.
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After over four years in the market, Canon finally refreshed their most-diminutive DSLR with the aptly named EOS Rebel SL2. Following in the footsteps of the SL1, the successor model maintains the notably compact design, but brings some much-needed imaging pipeline updates, performance upgrades, ergonomic improvements and modern features.

Design

Much like its other Rebel compatriots, the Canon SL2 is very much aimed at beginner and entry-level photographers. The ultra-compact nature of the SL2's design, however, makes it an enticing option for those looking to get their first DSLR, or upgrading from a compact fixed-lens camera, and who want that tried-and-true DSLR experience without a lot of bulk. In a way, the compact Rebel SL2 serves as an alternative to the generally small, svelte mirrorless cameras; those who want an easy-to-carry DSLR, one that gets them into the vast Canon ecosystem, should look no further than the Canon SL2.

As for the design details, the Canon SL2 is still constructed mostly from polycarbonate plastic, but it nevertheless feels very solid in the hands. The build quality is very nice, despite the entry-level category. The SL2, in fact, features an improved grip that's slightly larger than the SL1's grip, so the camera fits better in the hand. Plus, the grip has a more "grippy" texture, one that's more similar to other EOS DSLRs. The increased size, if ever so slight, gives the controls a bit more breathing room, while the layout of the buttons and dials are, more or less, unchanged. The SL2 also gains an articulated LCD screen, a nice upgrade from the fixed LCD of the SL1, as well as improved battery life and, finally, comprehensive wireless connectivity.

Image Quality

The more significant upgrades come to the imaging pipeline. The SL2 gains a 24MP APS-C sensor, much like most other crop-sensor EOS models nowadays, plus it gets a notable image processor upgrade, going from a DIGIC 5 to a DIGIC 7 chip. The image quality, in and of itself, is quite good and is a noticeable improvement over the SL1. The new 24MP sensor helps put the SL2 up on a more level playing field compared to other modern APS-C cameras. However, compared to many rivals, the SL2's image quality isn't quite as good, though still not bad by any means. Sharpness, dynamic range and high ISO performance still lag behind some others in this class of camera.

Like most Canons, straight-from-camera JPEGs at default settings tend to be on the softer side, likely due in part to the optical low-pass filter in-place over the sensor, yet images display visible sharpening artifacts. Thankfully, the SL2 now includes Canon's newer "Fine Detail" Picture Style, which offers more refined sharpening and detail processing, but for optimal quality, processing from RAW is the best choice. For high ISOs, the SL2's 24MP sensor is pretty similar to other 24MP crop-sensor Canon cameras; good performance, but, again, lagging behind some rival cameras.

Video, too, is underwhelming in some ways, as it is yet another Canon camera that doesn't offer 4K video. The SL2 does, however, gain 60p recording at Full HD, whereas the SL1 topped-out at 30p. Quality-wise, Full HD footage is decent for this class of camera, though nothing eye-popping. Fine detail is lacking, especially at higher ISOs, and the dynamic range appears limited.

EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM: 135mm (216mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 100.
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Performance

Overall, despite the entry-level classification, the Canon SL2 is a fairly nimble camera with really good overall performance on most counts. Standard, through-the-viewfinder autofocus is rather bare-bones at only 9 AF points with a single cross-type point, but despite that, the AF system is very fast. Shot-to-shot times are also quick, and the top continuous burst rate is decent at 5fps. It's far from the fastest camera around, but for an entry-level camera, it's quite good and should suffice for capturing most general-purpose action moments. Buffer depth for JPEGs is pretty good for this class of camera, at 22 frames in our testing. However, RAW buffer depth is quite shallow, at a paltry five frames when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG.

While video quality may not top the charts, what does work extremely well for video (as well as Live View shooting, in general), is the Dual Pixel CMOS AF -- another new upgrade for the Rebel SL2. Dual Pixel AF has worked very well in other Canon cameras we've reviewed, and the SL2 is no exception. Live View focusing is fast, accurate and the touchscreen interface makes it a breeze to put focus right where you want it.

EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm (400mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 640.
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Summary

The Canon Rebel SL2 is an interesting model among Canon's family of easy-to-use, entry-level DSLRs. It shares many of the features, particularly the imaging pipeline, with the more expensive Canon T7i but comes in at about $200 less and remains uniquely more compact. But the SL2 is a much more full-featured camera than the recently-announced Canon T7, which comes in at the same price point (though the T7 includes a lens). The T7 uses an older DIGIC 4+ processor instead of the SL2's DIGIC 7, it doesn't offer Dual Pixel AF, and the T7 has a lower-res, non-articulating LCD, among other differences.

Overall, the improvements to the SL2 over the predecessor are significant, though perhaps not groundbreaking compared to the current camera market as a whole. The higher-res sensor, Dual Pixel AF, faster processor as well as design and ergonomic improvements make for better image quality and a better shooting experience compared to the SL1. As the mirrorless world continues to gain steam, though, the SL2 does feel a little stale, lacking some key features like 4K video and super-fast burst shooting, and having image quality that, overall, isn't as good as some rival cameras. Plus, since it's still a DSLR, the SL2 is not as svelte and compact as some competing mirrorless cameras.

That being said, the Canon EOS ecosystem is vast, with lenses for pretty much any subject matter. If you're wanting to move up in the photography world without breaking the bank (or your back), the Canon SL2 is a nice entry point into the EOS family. It's comfortable, easy to use, and is extremely small and lightweight for a DSLR. Plus, it captures pleasing photographs, all things considered. Keeping in mind the entry-level category and compact size, the Canon SL2 is a nice little DSLR, and one that deserves a thumbs-up as a Dave's Pick.

 

Pros & Cons

  • Higher resolution and better image quality than SL1
  • Much improved dynamic range over its predecessor
  • Accurate and pleasing color
  • Supports Fine Detail Picture Style for better JPEG sharpening than default settings
  • "White Priority" Auto White Balance options helps avoid overly warm colors in incandescent lighting
  • Quick power-up
  • Swift cycle times
  • Fast AF speeds
  • Low shutter lag
  • Decent 5 fps burst speed for its class
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF provides excellent live view/movie autofocus
  • Compact body with good ergonomics for the size
  • Slightly larger grip for better comfort & security
  • Tilt-swivel touchscreen LCD
  • Decent optical performance from new kit lens
  • In-camera HDR modes
  • Full HD movies up to 60p
  • In-camera time-lapse movies
  • External mic input
  • Wired remote jack
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • Much improved battery life
  • New "Feature Assist" user interface helpful for beginners
  • Dynamic range and high ISO performance still not quite as good as leading competitors
  • Shallow buffer depth when shooting RAW images (5 frames)
  • Default JPEGs a bit soft
  • Small pentamirror optical viewfinder not very accurate
  • OVF only offers 9 AF points (with only 1 cross-type)
  • No 4K video
  • Video quality is okay overall, but soft at higher ISOs
  • No clean HDMI out
  • No headphone jack
  • No IR receiver (but supports BR-E1 Bluetooth remote control)


 



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