Canon SL2 Field Test Part II

Good stills shooting features but underwhelming video

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 11/09/2017

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: 14mm (22mm eq.), f/8, 0.5s, ISO 100.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Recap of Field Test Part I

In my first Canon SL2 Field Test, I looked at the camera body itself, the image sensor and image quality, autofocus, performance and touched on usability in the field. In Part II, I'll start with a section discussing the shooting experience further, look at wireless shooting functionality and cover video features and performance.

Canon SL2 Shooting Experience

As I discussed in my first Field Test, the camera offers a very good user experience thanks in large part to its touchscreen and user-friendly interface. There's more to the experience of shooting with a camera than that, though, things such as exposure metering and shooting modes.


On the exposure metering side of things, the SL2 performs quite well. It is not as adept at handling complex scenes as a higher-end Canon DSLR, but it does a good job with most scenes and doesn't often miss the mark. With that said, in lower light, the SL2's metering accuracy drops off, particularly with respect to white balance, which often trends on the cooler side as it is and especially so when working in lower light. This is not unusual performance and is not a large concern. It is important that a camera meters consistently, such that you can adjust as needed once you're familiar with how the automatic exposure metering behaves, and the SL2 does well in that regard.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm (400mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 640.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Shooting Modes

There are a lot of shooting modes you can use with the Canon Rebel SL2. In addition to the standard program auto, aperture priority (Av), shutter speed priority (Tv) and full manual shooting modes, there are also creative filters you can apply to your photos in camera. These creative filters include grainy black and white, soft focus, fish-eye effect, water painting effect, toy camera effect, miniature effect, HDR art standard, HDR art vivid, HDR art bold and HDR art embossed. There are also "scene modes," which adjust camera settings for specific shooting situations. These include portrait, group photo, landscape, sports, kids, close-up, food, candlelight, night portrait, handheld night scene and HDR backlight control.

When considering HDR in particular, the SL2 does a decent job of making in-camera HDR images. These are, of course, JPEG files, but they work well in a pinch and alleviate the need to do processing on a computer at home. Something worth noting about the HDR images in the camera is that the camera does crop a bit when processing JPEG files.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm (29mm eq.), f/8, 1/30s, ISO 100.
HDR OFF. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: 18mm (29mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 800.
HDR ON. Click for full-size image.

Wireless Modes

The SL2 has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. Using my iPhone and Wi-Fi, I was able to quickly connect the camera to my phone via the Canon Camera Connect app. The application allows for remote viewing, transfer and capturing of images.

Once connected, the connection proved moderately stable, although there were times when the live view feed on my phone would freeze briefly, for a few seconds. The live view quality itself was good when it was stable. You do need to go through the reconnection process each time you want to use the app, but if you turn off the password protection, it's pretty simple on iOS. An aspect of the wireless functionality I liked a lot is that you can change settings on the camera body and these changes, such as switching shooting mode, are reflected in the app without needing to reconnect the camera. This is not always the case with other cameras, so I'm glad that the SL2 works this way.

The Canon Camera Connect App works well and offers good functionality.

When controlling the camera remotely, moving the autofocus point around using my phone was a bit delayed at times, but the app does offer a good amount of control over the camera. You can change settings such as white balance, metering mode, autofocus mode, drive mode, shooting quality and you can even manually focus using on-screen arrows (Note that remote manual focusing doesn't seems to work with every lens. For example, it works on the 15-45mm STM kit lens, but not the EF-M 55-200mm STM lens).

Overall, the SL2's wireless functionality doesn't break any new ground, but it offers multiple connectivity features, a good wireless app and does what most users would want it to do.

Canon SL2 Video

The Canon SL2's video features are not the camera's greatest strengths, but that doesn't mean that the camera isn't a competent one with respect to video. The SL2 records 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. For an entry-level DSLR, Full HD video recording about par for the course. So, no, there's no 4K, but that would be a big ask in this camera class. What the SL2 does do particularly well is offer Dual Pixel CMOS AF.

Canon SL2 General Video
1920 x 1080, 24p, recorded in Automatic Exposure with the 18-55mm kit lens
Download Original (80.7 MB .MP4 File)

The Dual Pixel CMOS AF is excellent and easy to use. By default, the camera utilizes Servo AF during movie recording, which works quite well in most situations. Naturally, very dark scenes pose more of a challenge, as is the case when using the camera's regular autofocus system, but in good light, the autofocus is fast and accurate and shows none of annoying micro adjustments which are common with contrast-detect AF systems.

Canon SL2 Autofocus Test Video
1920 x 1080, 24p, recorded with the 18-55mm kit: ISO 400, 1/64s, f/5.7.
Download Original (95.7 MB .MP4 File)

You can move the autofocus point around the frame using the touchscreen, which is great, or you can use a fully automatic (with face detect) autofocus mode which works well, too. I prefer handling the autofocus point myself, but it's nice to have a fully automatic autofocus mode that is reliable.

Canon SL2 ISO 3200 Video
1920 x 1080, 24p, recorded with the 10-18mm kit: 1/49s, f/5.7, ISO 3200.
Download Original (39.7 MB .MP4 File)

With respect to the video quality itself, it is sufficient for a camera like the SL2. It is not particularly outstanding, but it looks okay at most ISO speeds and the exposure and color is good straight from the camera. At lower ISOs, Full HD video is not very detailed, but it looks okay, with the camera is applying acceptable processing to the video. At higher ISOs, such as ISO 3200, the video is soft. Further, the dynamic range is quite limited at higher ISOs. The SL2 can record video at up to ISO 25,600, which is nice when you need a really high ISO, but it is very noisy and not worth using in most cases.

Canon SL2 ISO 100 Video
1920 x 1080, 24p, recorded with the 18-55mm kit: 1/49s, f/5.7, ISO 100.
Download Original (47.3 MB .MP4 File)

One of the best aspects of the SL2's video performance is that the camera makes it easy to capture fine-looking video. While it is not a videographer's camera, it's competent and easy to use, and for an entry-level DSLR, that's the most important thing.

In the Field

As I discussed quite a bit in my first Canon SL2 Field Test, the camera is enjoyable to use in the field. It may not offer the best image quality in its class, nor does it include a lot of great video features or performance, but the camera is very easy to pick up and use and it offers an approachability that is very important for this camera class. As an entry-level DSLR, the SL2 has to be easy to use yet still offer a good amount of control and flexibility for users who want to learn more about photography. It's a camera that I think a beginner could use comfortably while still being able to grow with the camera as their skills progress.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm (400mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/640s, ISO 5000.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

A big aspect of the SL2's appeal for a new photographer is the touchscreen, which continued to impress me during my time with the camera. The user interface is good, and the camera's wireless features are easy to use, which makes sharing images very simple.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM: 176mm (282mm eq.), f/8, 1/250s, ISO 400.
Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

With extended time with the SL2, some aspects of the camera remained frustrating, including the limited autofocus point coverage when shooting through the viewfinder. I am a big proponent of using a viewfinder while shooting, but I would recommend using Live View with the SL2 whenever possible because its autofocus coverage is much better than when shooting through the viewfinder. Plus, you'll have access to nice on-screen controls for shooting parameters and the Quick Menu.

The SL2's image quality, particularly at higher ISOs, is something of a disappointment. However, its image quality is significantly improved over its predecessor and that's noteworthy in a camera segment where manufacturers often utilize the same imaging pipeline year after year.

Overall, the SL2's biggest strength is its usability, which truly shines when out in the field. Its biggest weakness, which also shows up most in the field, is an underwhelming autofocus system when shooting through the viewfinder.

Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 55mm (88mm eq.), f/4, 1/500s, ISO 640.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Canon SL2 Field Test Part II Summary

A versatile entry-level DSLR

What I liked:

  • Wide variety of shooting modes
  • Good wireless functions
  • Easy to use video features

What I disliked:

  • Instability when remotely shooting in wireless app
  • Soft video at higher ISOs

The Canon SL2 proved easy to use in Field Test Part I and it's much the same story in Part II. This time the focus was on shooting modes, wireless features and recording video. The SL2 has a wide variety of shooting modes making it easy to capture nice images in a wide variety of situations. This is true with video as well, although the video quality itself is not great; the camera's video features are fine and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF works very well, allowing users to easily capture pretty good 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second.

Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM: 10mm (16mm eq.), f/7.1, 3.2s, ISO 100.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Overall, the Canon SL2 is a good entry-level DSLR camera. It introduces a number of nice improvements over its predecessor, produces generally nice images, has great Dual Pixel CMOS AF and can record decent Full HD video. What the SL2 does particularly well is allow beginner photographers to easily use the camera across its wide variety of shooting modes. It is not an intimidating camera for beginners but has significant features for users as they advance. It does not have the same physical controls you'd find on a higher-end DSLR, but it still puts a good amount of control in the hands of photographers, new and seasoned ones alike.


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