Canon SL3 Review
|Full model name:||Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (EOS 250D)|
(22.3mm x 14.9mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 30 sec|
|Max Aperture:||4.0 (kit lens)|
4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
(122 x 93 x 70 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Canon SL3 specifications|
Canon SL3 Review -- Now Shooting!
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 04/10/2019
04/23/2019: First Shots posted
Two years after the debut of its tiny SL2 DSLR, Canon has just answered some of our concerns in that camera -- and pared down its manufacturing costs at the same time -- by launching the smallest and lightest EOS camera of the moment, the Canon Rebel SL3 (also known as the 250D and Kiss X10 in some markets). Situated just below the T7i in Canon's current lineup, the SL3 has a slightly less-sophisticated autofocus system than its elder sibling offers, but it's still rather more advanced than that provided by the Canon T7.
(Slightly) more aggressive styling, and fewer controls than before
Although it looks a whole lot like the camera in whose footsteps it follows -- and indeed, its dimensions are identical, while weight has fallen by just a scant few grams -- the Canon SL3 nevertheless debuts a brand-new body with slightly more aggressive styling. Sharper angles at the transition from top to side panels are mirrored by more angular shapes for some of the buttons. At the same time as these changes, Canon has also removed several controls completely, although those which remain are all in the same positions as before.
We doubt that the top-deck Wi-Fi button and its adjacent lamp will be missed by many, but the lack of flash and depth-of-field preview buttons is a bit of a shame. You can however still assign depth-of-field preview to the display button. And while we're mentioning customizability, you can now also change the function of the shutter button during video capture. You can also switch the functions of the AF point and AE lock buttons, if you'd prefer the pair the other way around.
Several other exterior features didn't make the cut, too
Since the flash must now be raised manually, there are new ridges on either side of its popup flash head, to help give your finger and thumb a little purchase when doing so. Another subtraction that's more obvious at a glance is the absence of a red-eye reduction / self-timer lamp, which sat above the EOS logo on the SL2 body. And gone, too, is the AF assist beam function of the buillt-in strobe, meaning that you're entirely reliant on an external strobe if you need autofocus assist.
Canon has also removed the NFC antenna which allowed for quick-and-easy pairing with Android devices, and has simplified the Mode dial by removing both the Flash Off and Creative Auto positions. The former, obviously, isn't included any more since the flash can no longer raise itself when needed. The latter is still available, but through the menu system instead. One last, more minor change is that the front-facing, stereo microphone ports now each have one hole apiece, rather than the two-hole grilles of the SL2.
Brand-new sensor and processor allow 4K, much better battery life
Doubtless, trimming some of these features has helped Canon to save some cost in a shrinking DSLR market (and an even faster-shrinking sub-frame DSLR market). In some respects, though, they do make the Canon SL3 feel like a lesser camera than that which it replaces. That is, until you take a closer look at the spec sheet, because there are certainly some important ways in which the Canon SL3 bests its predecessor significantly. (And a few more in which it ekes out a more modest lead over that earlier model.)
Key among the changes are a new 24.1-megapixel image sensor and DIGIC 8 processor pairing, a combination which might not yield any higher resolution than before, but have allowed for major improvements elsewhere. For one thing, the Canon SL3 now boasts in-camera 4K video capture, answering one of our main criticisms of its predecessor. And it also promises a really significant step forward in battery life, as well.
Cropped 4K and better creative controls, but no Dual Pixel AF for 4K
Looking at the movie-mode upgrades, first of all, the Canon SL3 bests its predecessor's Full HD video capture with ultra-high def 4K recording capabilities, though unfortunately it's heavily cropped (likely the same as the M50). And not just normal 4K is supported, but also 4K time-lapse videos at a wide range of capture rates. There are also new creative controls on offer, as in addition to the program auto and manual exposure options of the SL2, the SL3 now brings both aperture-priority and shutter-priority video capture options to the table.
Sadly, the SL3's Dual Pixel CMOS AF doesn't extend to 4K capture. Instead, the new model relies solely on contrast-detection autofocus for 4K footage, and uses phase-detection only for stills and for movies shot at Full HD resolution or below. The record rate is fixed at 23.98 frames per second for both capture and playback of standard 4K content, which also has a bitrate of around 120Mbps. At Full HD resolution, you have a choice of either 59.94 fps capture with a 60Mbps bitrate, or 29.97 fps capture at either 30 or 12Mbps. HD footage is fixed at 59.94 fps with a 26Mbps bitrate. (These are NTSC mode frame rates; the SL3 also supports PAL at corresponding 50 and 25 fps frame rates.)
Time-lapse 4K too, albeit with a much narrower range of capture rates
Time-lapse videos, however, have a fixed 29.97 fps (or 25 fps for PAL) playback rate, but can be captured at anywhere from an interval of one frame every second, to one frame per hour, for anywhere from two to 3600 frames. That's plenty slow enough to capture and accelerate playback of events which take place even over a period of weeks, like flowers growing and blooming, for example. Admittedly, the SL2's much lower-res time-lapse mode could roam even slower, to as little as one frame every hundred hours or so, although we're struggling to think of many subjects which would take advantage of this difference.
All of the above is for the custom time-lapse mode, incidentally, where you can dial in rates across the board manually. Canon has apparently also added several preset time-lapse modes which will have a narrower range of capture rates, or perhaps just fixed ones. (We're not quite sure which, yet.) Oh, and if you don't need 4K resolution, you can also shoot time-lapse movies at Full HD. Regardless of which resolution you choose, your time-lapse clips will use ALL-I compression. However, where the SL2 placed its time-lapse clips in a MOV container, the Canon SL3 will output its time-lapses in MP4 format, just as for its standard video clips.
Two-thirds better battery life means more time shooting, less fiddling
Returning to the other major advantage of the Canon SL3 over its predecessor, let's take a quick look at battery life figures. This was an area in which the SL2 itself had already made some improvements over the original SL1, but the newest model in the line goes much, much farther. Where the SL2 was rated as capable of around 650 shots on a charge when using the optical viewfinder (and with 50% flash usage), the SL3 should be capable of around 1,070 shots before its battery is depleted.
That's a pretty spectacular ~65% increase in the number of frames that can be captured on a charge. With zero flash usage, Canon suggests you might see as many as 1,630 frames. And even shooting in freezing conditions, the company's testing indicates a reduction in battery life of just five to ten percent. Of course, shooting in live view mode on the rear-panel, touch-screen LCD monitor will greatly reduce these figures, with a claimed 320 frames of battery life to CIPA standards, or 350 frames with zero flash usage.
Eye Detection AF in Live View makes its EOS-series DSLR debut
These are pretty worthwhile gains, we're sure you'll agree, but there have also been a fair few other important -- if less attention-grabbing improvements since the SL2. For one thing, Canon is proudly calling this the "first DSLR in the Canon EOS line to feature Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Eye Detection AF in Live View shooting mode". That's quite a mouthful; so let's unpack it, shall we?
For those of you not already familiar with the name, Dual Pixel CMOS AF is Canon's name for a system which splits each pixel into two halves to form millions of phase-detection autofocus pixels across most of the image sensor's surface. There's approximately 88% coverage horizontally, and 100% vertically, just as in the EOS M50 mirrorless camera. In total, 3,975 phase-detection autofocus positions can be addressed manually.
Dual Pixel CMOS AF isn't new to the SL-series, as a somewhat smaller area of the SL2's image frame was also covered by Dual Pixel CMOS AF points. What's new here is the availability of eye-detection autofocus in live view mode, specifically. That does mean you'll need to make do with the much lesser battery life of live view mode to take advantage of this feature, but when you're able to live with that compromise, you'll be able to have the SL3 focus not just on your subject's face, but specifically on their eyes for more pleasing portraits.
Creative Assist is another EOS-series DSLR first for the SL3
Another function making the leap from Canon mirrorless to DSLR is Creative Assist, which we've seen in mirrorless cameras all the way back to 2015's EOS M3. It's a function which seems ideally-suited to the target customer for the SL3, which is aimed first at foremost at the family market. The family documentarian likely has an idea of the look of the image they're trying to achieve, but perhaps a more limited knowledge of how to achieve that with the exposure variables and other creative tools on-hand.
In steps Creative Assist with the ability to preview shooting conditions in real-time on the LCD monitor. As you tweak white balance, say, or adjust the exposure level, and so on, the effect of that change will be immediately visible on-screen, allowing you to get the results you're after in a more visual way that's less dependent on your camera know-how.
Spot AF and better exposure metering for live view, too
Speaking of live view, this has also received a couple of other important upgrades since the SL2. Firstly, Canon has switched from a 315-zone exposure metering system to a finer-grained 384-zone system for the SL3. The company has also reduced its partial metering circle from a 6.0 to a 5.5% coverage, and the spot metering circle has grown from a 2.6 to a 3.7% coverage. At the same time, the metering system has also had its working range extended to -2EV at the lower end, while the 20EV top end figure.
We also understand that there's a new spot autofocus function for live view mode, although we don't yet have any details as to specifics.
A deeper raw buffer, but depth is still fairly limited
We do, however, have figures for the improvement in the buffer depth department, and while it's a relatively modest one it's still a very worthwhile gain. Shallow raw file buffer depths were noted as a con in our review of the preceding SL2, which was capable of just five or six raw or raw+JPEG frames in a burst. That meant you could fill its buffer in just a fraction more than a second's worth of holding down the shutter button.
With a raw buffer depth of 10 frames, or a raw+JPEG depth of nine frames, the Canon SL3 might still be able to fill its buffer in around two seconds of shooting, but that extra second could easily be the difference between a once-in-a-lifetime shot captured or missed, so we'll take it!
Canon's C-RAW format brings significantly better buffer depths
And if that's not enough, Canon has added the C-RAW (aka Compact RAW) file format from the EOS M50 mirrorless camera to the SL3. That means you can gain most of the benefits of raw capture without the hefty file sizes typical of raw capture, and with a significant increase in buffer depths. By lossily compressing the raw sensor data, the C-RAW format allows about a 40% reduction in file sizes. In turn, that results in an almost-quadrupling of buffer depths, from 10 to as many as 37 C-RAW or 17 C-RAW+JPEG frames in a burst.
Oh, and JPEG file sizes have increased by around 10% for high-res images, and by as much as 40% for low-res ones. That doesn't affect buffer depths, though, as JPEGs were already capable of shooting until your flash card space or battery life ran out. Meanwhile, raw (as opposed to the new C-RAW) file sizes have decreased by around 10%.
A miscellany of more minor modifications
And that, for the most part, is what's new in the Canon SL3. In most other respects, the new model looks to be very similar to that which it replaces, save for more minor changes here or there. As we wrap up our preview, let's hit a few of these which stood out from the crowd somewhat.
There's a new "smooth skin" scene mode with five-step control over its skin-smoothing effect, and a preview of its efficacy available in live view mode. (This is another feature inherited from the EOS M50, incidentally.)
Canon has also reduced its rating of Wi-Fi range for the SL3 by about one-third to ten meters (33 feet), and says it has removed the ability to transfer images directly between multiple camera bodies via Wi-Fi.
And while the company has retained an HDMI video output in the new camera, this is no longer compatible with the Consumer Electronics Control standard (or HDMI-CEC), which allowed the preceding SL2 to be controlled from the remote control unit of the display to which it was attached. On the plus side, clean 4K and Full HD HDMI out is now supported even with autofocus enabled (unlike the SL2), and HDR output is also possible with an HDR compatible TV or monitor.
Finally, Canon has switched to the latest version 2.31 of the EXIF standard, which adds additional tags for keeping tabs of time-zone information, as well as adding support for a few new on-screen menu languages: Vietnamese, Hindi, Malay and Indonesian.
Canon SL3 pricing and availability
The Canon SL3 is currently slated to go on sale in the US market from the end of April 2019. A choice of either black or white body colors will be available, with a suggested list price of US$600 body-only, or US$750 with an EF-S 18-55 f/4-5.6 IS STM lens. Both prices are around $50 more than those of their SL2 equivalents at launch, although as of this writing our affiliates are offering $50 and $100 instant rebates respectively.
Buy the Canon SL3
1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate
2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate
3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate