Canon SL2 Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly below average saturation levels but very good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon SL2 produces images with mean saturation levels that are a little below average these days. Dark reds are boosted the most, with dark orange, dark greens and dark blues pushed just a little, while cyan, yellow and light green are slightly muted. The mean saturation of 106.8% (6.8% oversaturated) at base ISO is a bit lower than the ~110% average we typically see, but colors are quite natural-looking and pleasing to the eye. Mean saturation levels are fairly stable across the ISO range except at maximum extended ISO, where it drops to a minimum of 103% at ISO 51,200. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon SL2 produced pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using Manual white balance (Auto white balance was very similar). Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish. Very good results. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the SL2's hue accuracy is much better than average when Manual white balance is used (as it always is for these results). There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green, but all are fairly minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 3.75 (lower is better) which is very good. Delta-C color error varies slightly with sensitivity, but remains better than average even at the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent white balance settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual worked well. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Auto WB (White Priority)
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon SL2's default Auto and Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very reddish or orange/yellow color casts. Like other recent Canon EOS models, the SL2 has a "White Priority" Auto white balance mode, which worked better, but it produced a magenta cast. The Manual setting produced the most accurate results that were just slightly cool. The Canon SL2 required +0.3 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is about average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Very good color, though a tendency towards slightly cool color balance with somewhat high contrast under harsh lighting. Slightly above average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+0.3 EV

In simulated daylight, the Canon SL2 produced pleasing skin tones with both Auto and Manual white balance, and overall color was generally very good. The Canon SL2 required only +0.3 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face reasonably bright, a little lower than average for our "Sunlit" portrait shot above. The Canon SL2's default contrast is a little high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the shot above, though the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority settings help with high contrast scenes like these. See below for examples.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~2,800 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about the same from RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,800 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our resolution chart showed sharp, distinct line patterns up to just over 2,800 lines per picture height horizontally and to just over 2,800 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen at lower resolutions. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 3,400 and 3,600 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file produces about the same resolution as the in-camera JPEG, though complete extinction of the pattern was extended a bit. While ACR was able to extract more detail, it also produced more false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Somewhat soft images at default sharpening, but with noticeable sharpening artifacts. Minor to moderate detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

Using default sharpening
settings, the Canon SL2's JPEG
files are slightly soft, yet with
some noticeable sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon SL2's 24-megapixel sensor captures very good image detail when coupled with a good lens, though its JPEG images are a bit soft at default settings. Yet the SL2's default sharpening setting generates visible edge-enhancement artifacts in the form of obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. (Keep in mind Canon has decided to keep an optical low-pass filter in the SL2 to reduce aliasing artifacts at the cost of slightly reduced sharpness, unlike some competing models which have gone the other way. However much of the softness is just due to unsophisticated default processing.) Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from an APS-C sensor at base ISO. Still, a decent performance for a 24-megapixel consumer model. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The SL2 offers Canon's Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS R and 5DS DSLRs. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style at base ISO.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon SL2's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like the 5DS/R, the Canon SL2 offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than older EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (0 to 5) and "Threshold" (0 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset boosts the Sharpness Strength operator one notch (to 4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness: 3/7, Fineness: 4/5 and Threshold: 4/5. The result is improved, more natural-looking rendering of fine detail along with less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting. However, noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop". There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon SL2 produces JPEG images with very good detail, but that are somewhat soft yet have visible sharpening halos when viewed on-screen at 100%. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 10.2 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't nearly as clean and smooth looking, with more noise as easily seen in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. And, as expected, sharpening halos aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. Bottom line: As is usually the case with Canons, you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter than the camera's default JPEG processing.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12,800 ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

Images are quite clean and detailed at ISOs 100 through 400, with just a tiny amount of luminance noise seen in the darker areas, and very little chroma noise. Some blurring of fine low-contrast detail is already visible at base ISO, though, as mentioned previously. ISO 800 is of course a little noisier and softer, but fine detail is still very good with a noise grain that's quite fine while chroma noise remains low. At ISO 1600 blurring becomes noticeably stronger resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though a fair amount of fine detail is still left. ISO 3200 is quite a bit softer and grainier, but chroma noise is well-controlled and there is still some fine detail left. ISO 6400 is quite soft and grainy with some minor chroma blotching as well, but the noise grain is still fairly tight and not too obtrusive. ISO 12,800 is quite soft and grainy, though some fine detail is still preserved Noise and the effects of noise reduction working hard to keep it under control really become apparent at ISOs 25,600 and 51,200, with heavy luminance noise, stronger blurring and more obvious chroma blotching.

Overall, good high ISO performance for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and a noticeable improvement over its predecessor, though not quite as good as most modern rivals. See the Print Quality section below (when available) for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast and unremarkable dynamic range. HTP and ALO options do a great job of dealing with harsh lighting. Good low-light performance.

Default +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

The Canon SL2 produces images with moderately high contrast with some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test above. The mannequin's face is too dim at the default exposure and +0.7 EV has far too many blown highlights, so we preferred the image with +0.3 EV exposure compensation overall. This still resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, a bit more than we're used to seeing from an APS-C sensor lately, indicating mediocre dynamic range compared to the best of recent competitors. Shadow detail is however pretty good, though very deep shadows are a bit noisy and discolored. Bottom line: while dynamic range in JPEGs isn't bad, the Canon SL2 didn't do as well with this difficult shot compared to some recent state-of-the-art peers. Almost all highlights and shadows were however recoverable from the +0.3 EV CR2 file, indicating much better dynamic range is possible from the SL2's base ISO RAW files.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)


Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon SL2's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did a good job of preserving highlight detail as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links below to load the corresponding thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to access full resolution images.)

Highlight Tone Priority
HTP
Setting:



Off


On

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which required ISO to be increased to 200; part of how HTP works. As you can see, the thumbnails and histograms clearly show a reduction in highlights while mid-tones and shadows remained roughly the same with HTP enabled. If you look closely at shadows, you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200, although noise is still pretty low in the shadows at ISO 200.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the SL2 offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv and Av exposure modes. (Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to access full resolution images.)

Automatic Lighting Optimization

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening shadows and indeed most of the image while attempting to keep highlights the same. ISO does not need to be boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

HDR Backlight Control
The Canon SL2 includes a couple of High Dynamic Range modes, which take a burst of three shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There's an HDR Backlight Control scene mode, plus included in Image Effects (Creative Filters), there is an HDR mode that offers four Artistic effects: Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed, as well as a Natural setting.

HDR Backlight Control
HDR
Backlight
Control:



Off


On

Because it is a scene mode, HDR Backlight Control does not offer any control over aperture, shutter speed or ISO. In this case, the camera chose ISO 500, f/2.8 and 1/800s with HDR Backlight Control selected. As you can see above, it produced an image with much higher dynamic range, much better shadow and midtone detail, and fewer blown highlights, however the resulting image does look rather flat as overdone HDR images often do. Because it takes multiple images and merges them together, it is not recommended for portraits as any motion between frames would result in ghosting or double images. Also notice how the HDR image is noticeably "cropped" and then enlarged during the alignment and compositing process.

We did not test the Creative Filter modes in the lab, however there are some examples in our Gallery shots.

Face Detection
Just like most point & shoot cameras these days, the Canon SL2 has the ability to detect faces, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly.

Face Detection
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: Off
0 EV
Aperture Priority
Face Detect: On
0 EV
Auto Mode
0 EV

As you can see in the examples above, the center image with face detection enabled is much better exposed for the face compared to the left image where face detection was not employed, as using it dropped the shutter speed from 1/30s to 1/25s. Full Auto mode (right) is a little better exposed than without Face Detect enabled, though still a bit dim. It selected a much wider aperture of f/3.2, a faster shutter speed of 1/320s, and used the standard Auto Lighting Optimizer setting for lower contrast.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Above we compare dynamic range results from the SL2 (known as the 200D in Europe, in orange), with that of its predecessor's, the SL1 (or 100D in yellow), and to the 24-megapixel APS-C Nikon D5600 (in red), a class-leading competitor when it comes to dynamic range.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon SL2's dynamic range is significantly improved over the SL1's at low to moderate ISOs, however at ISOs above 400, the improvement is quite minor. The SL2's peak dynamic range at base ISO tested at 13.4 EV versus just under 11.3 EV for the SL1, which is just over a two stop advantage. At ISOs above 400, the SL2's advantage is less than 0.5 EV which would be a little difficult to see in real-world images.

The Nikon D5600 however performed better across the board, with a peak dynamic range of just over 14 EV at base ISO, which is about 0.6 EV advantage over the SL2, and the Nikon manages to keep a sizeable lead up to about ISO 3200, where its lead narrows.

Bottom line, dynamic range has improved significantly over its predecessor at low to moderate ISOs, however the SL2 still lags behind leading APS-C rivals. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon SL2 for more of their test results.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
100

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8
ISO
3200

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8
ISO
25600

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Canon SL2 performed well in our low-light tests for an APS-C camera, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but luminance noise remains fairly low and fine-grained at ISO 3200. Some chroma noise in the form of subtle color blotching in the shadows and dark areas is visible at lower light levels, though it's effectively suppressed by default noise reduction. As you'd expect, noise is quite high at the maximum native ISO of 25,600, particularly when noise reduction is minimized (rightmost column in the table above).

Color balance was very good with the Canon SL2's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool even at 1/16 foot-candle.

We didn't see any significant issues with hot pixels or heat blooming, and banding (fixed pattern noise) appears to be very low in the shadows.

LL AF: The Canon SL2's dedicated optical viewfinder AF system was able to focus on our legacy low-contrast AF target down to about -2.5 EV unassisted with an f/2.8 lens using the center AF point. That's not bad for the class, and it was able to focus on our newer high-contrast AF target down to -2.8 EV. Note that both these results are significantly better than Canon's -0.5 EV spec. When using Dual Pixel AF in Live View mode, the SL2 was about to focus down to -2.2 and -4.1 EV respectively, which is pretty good. The Canon SL2 has an AF assist feature which strobes its built-in flash while focusing and is thus able to focus in complete darkness with it enabled, though it only works when using the optical viewfinder.

As always, keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Large sensored cameras like the Canon SL2 do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Very good 30 x 40 inch prints up to ISO 400; a good 16 x 20 inch print at ISO 1600, and a nice 5 x 7 at ISO 12,800.

ISO 100 and 200 printed images are quite good at 30 x 40 inches, displaying rich colors and very good fine detail. Larger sizes may certainly be fine as well, depending on your viewing distance, as the only real limit is resolution at these sensitivities.

ISO 400 is also capable of a quality 30 x 40 inch print. There is perhaps a touch of fine detail loss if you view close enough, and if you squint you may yet see a mild trace of noise in a few flatter areas of the print, but overall still very good.

ISO 800 produces a solid 20 x 30 inch print, still quite a nice size at this ISO given the class of camera. There is a mild softening that begins to occur in the red channel here, pretty common for APS-C cameras by this ISO, and just a mild trace of noise appearing in the shadowy areas of our target, but otherwise a good print to be sure.

ISO 1600 allows for a nice 16 x 20 inch print, with only mild issues similar to the 20 x 30 inch print at ISO 800. This is still a generous size and it allows a lot of flexibility in gain for low-light shooting to know you can achieve a large print size at this sensitivity.

ISO 3200 is usually the turning point for APS-C cameras in general, and the SL2 is no exception, displaying much more noise in general in the larger print sizes, while aggressive noise reduction begins to take a toll in various ways. We are confident calling the 11 x 14 inch prints good here, giving them our stamp of approval for all but the most critical printing purposes.

ISO 6400 prints are suitable at 8 x 10 inches, which is not bad considering how high this ISO is. Pretty much all subtle detail is now lost in our tricky red-leaf fabric swatch, but that's a pretty standard occurrence across APS-C camera models at this sensitivity. Colors are still nice and full, and there's enough detail at this size still remaining to achieve a solid print.

ISO 12,800 produces a surprisingly good 5 x 7 inch print, considering this lofty sensitivity. This is definitely a suitable ISO for all but the most critical printing purposes at this size, and will definitely work for things like good family prints.

ISO 25,600 images can be printed to our smallest analyzed size of 4 x 6 inches, and once again the print is actually fairly good for this camera class -- colors are not muted as we find with some models at this gain setting.

ISO 51,200 does not provide a usable print and this gain setting is best avoided, though you may be able to get away with a 4 x 6 inch print here for less critical applications.

The Canon SL2 bests its predecessor, the popular Canon SL1, at every ISO by a print size or more. The higher resolution combined with improved noise reduction processing is evident, and anyone looking to upgrade for larger prints will be pleased in that regard. In addition, the camera matches stride in the print quality department with the larger and pricier Canon 77D, giving interested buyers more than one reason to choose this little gem based on image and print quality.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D) Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D) with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate