Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (EOS 250D)
Resolution: 24.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(22.3mm x 14.9mm)
Kit Lens: 3.06x zoom
(29-88mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 25,600
Extended ISO: 100 - 51,200
Shutter: 1/4000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 4.0 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 in.
(122 x 93 x 70 mm)
Weight: 23.4 oz (664 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
Availability: 04/2019
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon SL3 specifications
size sensor
image of Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (EOS 250D)
Front side of Canon SL3 digital camera Front side of Canon SL3 digital camera Front side of Canon SL3 digital camera Front side of Canon SL3 digital camera Front side of Canon SL3 digital camera

Canon SL3 Review -- Now Shooting!

by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 04/10/2019

04/23/2019: First Shots posted
06/17/2019: Performance posted
07/31/2019: Field Test Part I posted
09/23/2019: Field Test Part II posted

For those looking for our Overview of the camera's features and specs, please click here.


Canon SL3 Field Test Part II

A real-world night shoot, plus the crippled flash, better battery, 4K video and more!

By Mike Tomkins | Posted: 09/23/2019

27mm (43mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 2500
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

Recently, I posted my first field test for the EOS Rebel SL3, a camera that, in an increasingly mirrorless world, proves Canon nevertheless still sees demand for DSLRs even at the entry-level end of the market. For that first test, I took the SL3 along with its kit lens and three other optics for an impromptu roadtrip to Kingsport and Jonesborough, Tennessee.

In my earlier report, I compared the SL3 to its nearest rivals from Nikon and Pentax, the only other companies still making affordable, sub-frame DSLR cameras like this one. I also discussed its build and handling, including its pentamirror-based optical viewfinder and some of the control changes since the previous generation.

On the road with an unusually compact DSLR

I also took a look at daytime image quality and performance, tested the SL3's Wi-Fi and remote capture functionality, and looked at its friendly new Creative Assist mode, too.

And I have to say that I quite enjoyed shooting with the Rebel SL3 in the daytime. It proved to offer good image quality and decent performance for its class. It's also pretty light and compact enough to fit in a small camera bag, along with lenses covering everything from 16mm to 400mm-equivalents. Three were zooms, while an additional prime lens added both a 1:1 macro with a built-in ringlight and a portrait-friendly 50mm-ish focal length with a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture.

I didn't have room to look at everything in that first field test, however. In this second test, I'll be looking at a few things in particular. I promised a side-by-side comparison of raw and C-Raw file formats, and also promised to give eye-detection autofocus a whirl. I also saved high-sensitivity and long-exposure shooting in low light for the second test, as I usually do, and likewise video capture both day and night. And finally, I also want to talk about both the Canon SL3's flash hot shoe, and its battery and charging setup.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 2000
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

C-Raw offers a significant file size saving but doesn't noticeably impact quality

But first of all, it's time for that C-Raw versus raw comparison. Let's dive right in and see how the two file formats compare!

(For those of you who're not already familiar with the difference, C-Raw is essentially a standard raw file which has had lossy compression applied to it to reduce the file size, trading off some image quality in the process while retaining unique advantages of raw like the ability to restore clipped highlights, change white balance without a loss of quality, etc.)

Compared: Uncompressed raw (left) vs. lossy C-RAW (right)

The full scene: I shot this same scene twice, once each in standard raw and C-RAW formats. Below, you'll find a series of 1:1 crops from each version, with lossless raws in the left column, and lossy C-RAWs in the right column. Clicking on any of the thumbnails will take you to the full image.

The overview image above, as well as the crops below, were all made using Adobe Camera Raw at its defaults, but with all noise reduction and sharpening sliders at the bottom end of their respective ranges. Since we're concerned about raw here, specifically, the out-of-camera JPEGs aren't our primary concern, but you can see the out-of-camera raw + JPEG exposures here, and the C-RAW + JPEG exposures here.

Crop 1: There's really nothing in it here. Even in the finest details of the bricks and stonework, I'm struggling to see any difference between the two raw file formats other than their size.
Crop 2: Again, I'm seeing no real discernible difference between raw and C-RAW. Even rapidly switching back and forth between the two on-screen, the only noticeable change I can detect between the two versions is some subtle motion in the foliage.
Crop 3: Same story for crop three. Even looking at the very lightest scuff marks in the painted walls, or the slightly brighter areas in the black tar paper roofing material, I can't see any significant difference at all.

As you can see, there's really nothing to choose between the two, other than the fact that the C-RAW format offers significantly smaller file sizes, and thereby longer buffers too.

By way of comparison, the unprocessed raw image above weighs in at 28.0MB, whereas the C-RAW version is just 17.3MB, a savings of 10.7MB or close to 40%. Effectively, you can almost double your raw storage capacity, for little if any noticeable difference in image quality. Nice!

35mm (56mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 125
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

Live view eye-detection is good for portraits, but can lag behind moving subjects

Moving along to the eye-detection autofocus which Canon has added to live view mode, I gave it a whirl with some quick snapshots of my 10-year old son Geoffrey, who gamely agreed to play along as Dad fiddled with settings and had him walk towards the camera repeatedly.

For static or relatively slow-moving subjects, such as the portrait of my son sitting at the dining table in the shot above, eye-detection AF performed very well, indicating the location of the detected face with a white box on the live view display, and the location of the primary eye with another, smaller white box. (Only the latter remains once you press the shutter button halfway and focusing begins.) As your subject moves, the box moves quickly to follow them.

250mm (400mm eq.), 1/400 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 500
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

But once my son was up and moving about, I found the SL3's live view mode just wasn't fast enough to keep up with tracking faces at longer focal lengths. I still got a good few frames where focus was in the right place, but about as many frames where the camera failed to keep up with his motion and put the point of focus anywhere from a few inches to a few feet behind him.

I still think it's a very handy addition to the SL3's toolbox, as it's likely going to be used mostly for portraits of people staying still anyway, but it's worth knowing that it's of less utility for moving subjects.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 2000
Exposure tweaked slightly in Adobe Camera Raw, see out-of-camera JPEG here.
Click thumbnail for ACR-edited JPEG, or here for raw file

Time for some high ISO / long exposure shooting around Knoxville and Art Alley

Although its resolution and sensor size are unchanged from the previous generation, the SL3 has both a newer image sensor and processor, so I was hopeful there would be some image quality improvements, and if I was going to see those anywhere it was likely to be at higher sensitivities. Looking at our initial lab shots, it seemed that there was a noticeable advantage for the SL3 at ISO 6400 and above, and so that was where I initially focused my efforts.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 3200
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

Seeking some colorful subjects for high-sensitivity and long-exposure shooting in low light, I headed to nearby downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, and made a beeline for Art Alley. A constantly-evolving selection of graffiti-style artworks that always has something new to offer my lens, it which tends to be dimly lit at the best of times, and hence makes for a great source of high ISO shots.

Remember, there's plenty more in the gallery too!

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 4000
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

You'll see a selection of my efforts throughout this page as I can find space for it, but if you want more you'll find it in my Canon SL3 gallery, which now weighs in at around a hundred frames. I'd suggest right-clicking (or on mobile, long-holding) here to open the gallery in a new tab, which you can return to when you're done reading.

Pleasing results at ISO 6400 and below, or even ISO 12,800-ish in a pinch

So what did I think of the Canon SL3 after getting out for a sunset shoot that extended through the blue hour into total darkness, or at least, as close to that as you can hope to get in an urban setting? I found the image quality fairly pleasing overall, although I think that much like the previous generation, it still trails the best competition by just a little.

Noise starts to become noticeable from about ISO 1600-equivalent, although it has a fine, fairly film-like and unobtrusive grain that I didn't find troubling in the least. By ISO 3200, noise levels increase to the point where some of the finer details in images are lost either to the noise or the processing required to combat it.

Post-processed raw can be your friend for high ISO shots, but you still won't want to use the highest settings

Most of the time, I wouldn't want to take things much further than ISO 6400, as noise starts to become more prominent from that point onwards, and colors feel a touch more muted as well. But with that said, I'd consider ISO 12,800 or maybe just a bit higher to be usable in a snip, for on-screen viewing or smaller print sizes. Especially if you shoot raw, and you're willing to put in a bit of work in post-processing with something like the Prime denoising engine in DxO Labs' PhotoLab 2.

ISO 25,600 and above didn't feel wildly useful to me. It's just too noisy, and even with DxO's Prime denoising, the results can be a bit on the ugly side. As for long-exposure shots, results were very nice.

12mm (19mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/5.0, ISO 5000
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

You can see a few several-second examples towards the end of this field test below; please note that I accidentally underexposed both shots because I forgot I'd bumped the LCD brightness to the maximum a bit earlier, then didn't change it back. (A check of the histogram post-capture would've saved me, but I was rushing and neglected to do so.)

Before we move along to video, there are just a couple more points I want to address on the still imaging front. Firstly, there's the matter of the SL3's hot shoe, which has one rather disappointing feature subtraction as compared to the SL2. But perhaps offsetting that piece of bad news, there's also some good news on the battery life front.

55mm (88mm eq.), 1/50 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 6400
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

The SL3 won't let you use many third-party strobes and hot shoe adapters

We'll start off with that hot shoe. The change Canon has made is pretty subtle visually, but it makes a world of difference in terms of the SL3's compatibility with third-party strobes and adapters. There's no longer a metal contact at the center of the hot shoe, a change that will have absolutely no impact on you so long as you shoot only with Canon's own strobes, or third-party strobes compatible with its E-TTL system that can be triggered off one of Canon's proprietary contact which sit just behind the now-plastic ghost of that missing central pin.

But if you're shooting a third-party strobe (or via a third-party adapter) which requires that central pin to function, well... you're out of luck. That rules out a mass of dirt-cheap third-party strobes, and it also means that you can't use even quality, name-brand strobes that don't support E-TTL. For example, my Pentax AF540FGZ flash works just fine with my other non-Pentax cameras so long as I'm willing to control its output manually, but when mounted to the SL3 there's simply no way to make it fire, even if I manually configure the flash strength.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 6400
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

Even E-TTL-compatible third-party strobes may need updates or fail to work

And even for E-TTL compatible strobes from third parties, you may well find the SL3 either prevents use or requires updated firmware. For example, Chinese lighting manufacturer Godox has had to issue updated firmware for some of its strobes and accessories to explicitly re-add support for the SL3 and other recent Canon models that also forgo the center pin. (That includes the EOS Rebel T7 and the T100, a model which hasn't yet been launched in the US market.)

This feels like it's more about reducing third-party strobe use than costs

It seems pretty unlikely that Canon made this change in the interests of reducing costs. The value of that one missing contact and the little additional circuitry required to connect it up will have very little impact on the bill of materials cost for the camera, after all.

But other than the slim cost savings and putting on our most charitable hats, we can't come up with a good reason for the change other than simply to prevent Canon SL3 owners from opting for cheaper third-party strobes.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 8000
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

Canon really needs a more affordable Speedlite if it's dead-set on this path

That's a bit of a shame, because it's going to result in fewer SL3 owners deciding to try an external flash in the first place. Instead of having access to an array of external strobes costing as little as $30 with which to get their feet wet, before deciding to shell out $170 for the most affordable Canon Speedlite model, they'll have to reach much deeper in their wallets to start off with.

Remember, we're talking about a camera which costs just US$650 or thereabouts (as of this writing in September 2019) -- and that's with a lens which ordinarily costs about US$250. Expecting a customer who just spent $400 on a camera to spend close to another $200 on a flash strobe feels like a big ask.

If Canon is dead-set on this path -- and we really hope they reconsider, because they're not going to prevent third-party strobe use in the long run, just make third-party offerings slightly more expensive -- then there really needs to be a more affordable first-party Speedlite option aimed at entry-level shooters.

Good news: Battery life is significantly better than before!

And with that said, we'll move on to a piece of news that's rather more welcome. (Canon may taketh away, but it also giveth.) For the second straight generation, Canon has significantly improved battery life for the SL3. As compared to the line-starting Canon SL1, battery life has gone from being a significant weak point to a total non-issue.

Back when the SL1 launched in 2013, it had a battery life of just 380 frames through the viewfinder, which remember is optical, so uses almost no power in operation. (It's not quite none, though, because technically a little power is required to run and backlight the small status display beneath the viewfinder, as well as to illuminate the relevant autofocus point(s) when a focus lock is achieved.) Switch to framing on the power-hungry LCD monitor instead, and battery life plunged to just 150 frames on a charge.

For two generations in a row, Canon has come close to doubling battery life

In the followup SL2, Canon improved battery life significantly in both circumstances. Shooting through the viewfinder, that model was capable of 650 frames on a charge, a full 71% more than its predecessor was capable of managing. And even on the LCD monitor with live view, battery life was rated at 260 shots to CIPA testing standards, an improvement of 73%. This was achieved by switching from the earlier 875mAh-rated LP-E12 battery pack to a higher-capacity 1,040mAh LP-E17 pack.

43mm (69mm eq.), 1/85 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 10,000
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

This time around, the Canon SL3 vaults past even the SL2 with a viewfinder battery life of 1,070 shots on a charge, an improvement of almost 65% over the SL2, and a staggering 2.8x as many frames as you'd have managed with the SL1. Even if you switch to shooting on the LCD monitor instead, battery life is still rated at 320 frames. That's just 16% less than the SL1 was capable of when shooting through the viewfinder, and almost a quarter more frames than the SL2 could manage in the same circumstances!

Even better news: The improvement didn't require a new battery this time!

And if you're considering an upgrade from the Canon SL2, the news gets even better. This time around, no new, higher-capacity battery was needed to gain a step up in battery life. In fact, Canon has come close to doubling battery life while retaining the exact same LP-E17 battery pack as used in the previous model, and so you'll be able to keep your old batteries as well, for even more frames in a shoot.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/85 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 12,800
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

(Of course, if you're upgrading from the SL1 there's no way around the fact you'll need to upgrade your batteries too, but then you'd likely need to anyway, as unless they've already been replaced, existing batteries for the six-year old SL1 are likely to be nearing the end of their lives by now.)

A charger's included in the bundle, but you won't want to leave it at home

One final point I want to mention before moving along to video capture is the Canon SL3's charging setup. Like the SL2 before it, the Rebel SL3 ships with both an LP-E17 battery pack and an LC-E17 charger in the product bundle, in the US market at least. (The precise charger model will likely vary in other markets.)

12mm (19mm eq.), 1/85 sec. @ f/5.0, ISO 16,000
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

While we like to see an external charger included (or at least available) so that you can continue shooting with your camera while charging spare batteries, we prefer that it's not the only option. Unfortunately, that's not the case in the SL3. Once again, the new model lacks support for in-camera charging via USB, just as did its predecessors.

Once again, the SL-series lacks support for in-camera charging via USB

That's a bit inconvenient if you're a fan of traveling light. Essentially, your choices if you're planning more than a day or perhaps overnight trip are either to pack and bring Canon's somewhat-bulky charger -- even though you're doubtless already going to be bringing a USB charger for your other devices -- or you could just pre-charge and bring a few spare battery packs, and then accept that once you run out of charge it's game over.

18mm (29mm eq.), 1/100 sec. @ f/5.0, ISO 25,600
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

Don't get us wrong, we'd rather see a dedicated charger alone than see no option but to charge the batteries in-camera, turning your expensive camera into a useless paperweight until your battery's topped off. But we'd much rather see both USB charging support and an external charger.

Finally, 4K video -- but with some significant catches to be aware of

Among our (admittedly, relatively short) list of cons for the previous SL2 model was the lack of support for ultra-high definition 4K video capture. The Canon SL3 addresses this shortcoming, but the newly-added 4K video capture mode comes with some gotchas of its own that you'll want to be aware of.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the SL3's 4K video capture mode comes with a significant 1.65x focal length crop, and that's on top of the 1.6x focal length crop inherent in a Canon DSLR with an APS-C sized sensor. Together, those combine for a whopping 2.64x focal length crop, which will seriously limit your wide-angle possibilities, as you can see in both the day and night videos below. (All of these were shot at the same focal length from the exact same position, so the difference in framing is entirely down to the 4K crop.)

Because of that severe crop, the SL3's 18-55mm kit lens is, effectively, a 48-145mm lens for 4K video. Even the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, the widest rectilinear lens Canon offers -- as opposed to a fisheye, which curves straight lines in the final image -- works out to be a not-so-wide 29-63mm zoom for 4K capture. And that focal length crop will also weaken the effectiveness of the SL3's software-based Movie Digital IS stabilization, as well as the optical stabilization of any attached lens.

Download Original
3,840 x 2,160 pixels @ 23.976 frames per second

Download Original
1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 59.94 frames per second

Download Original
1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second (IPB Standard)

Download Original
1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second (IPB Light)

Download Original
1,280 x 720 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second (IPB Standard)

And that's not all, either. The Canon SL3's video mode also doesn't support the company's on-sensor Dual Pixel CMOS AF phase-detection autofocus system, instead dropping back to a choice of either single-point or face+tracking autofocus using contrast-detection. The ISO sensitivity range is also curtailed to ISO 100-6400 for 4K capture, and you have a sole capture rate choice of 24 frames per second.

Good video image quality, but with limited frame-rate choices

With all of that said, once you get past the limitations, 4K video capture quality is good, with lots of crisp, sharp detail and pleasing color. And Full HD / HD video quality is good too, within the limits imposed by their much lower resolution. Note, though, that while 4K video has a fixed 24 fps capture rate, that isn't available at any lower resolution. Instead, you have a choice of 60p or 30p capture at Full HD, or 30p capture for HD video.

Download Original
3,840 x 2,160 pixels @ 23.976 frames per second

Download Original
1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 59.94 frames per second

Download Original
1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second (IPB Standard)

Download Original
1,920 x 1,080 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second (IPB Light)

Download Original
1,280 x 720 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second (IPB Standard)

Video AF, Video stabilization -- lens dependent?

Time-lapse videos are now 4K too, and add some preselected capture rates

Time-lapse videos are technically not new for the SL3, but there have been a few changes nevertheless. For one thing, Canon has added a choice of three "Scene" types: Scene 1 (90x fast-motion for subjects like people walking), Scene 2 (150x fast-motion for slower action like clouds moving), and Scene 3 (450x fast-motion for very slow-changing scenes.)

Of course, there's still a custom mode which allows you to dial in your own frame rate and number of frames, instead. Time-lapse movie mode also adds choice of 4K or Full HD capture, where previously it was Full HD only. (And since it's effectively just capturing and combining a succession of still images, there's no crop for 4K video in time-lapse mode.)

You can see 4K samples for all three scene presets below:

Download Original
Shot using Scene 1 preset, 300 frames, 3 sec. interval
15-minute record time, 10 seconds playback, 90x fast-motion
3,840 x 2,160 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second

Download Original
Shot using Scene 2 preset, 240 frames, 5 sec. interval
20-minute record time, 8 seconds playback, 150x fast-motion
3,840 x 2,160 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second

Download Original
Shot using Scene 3 preset, 240 frames, 15 sec. interval.
60-minute record time, 8 seconds playback, 450x fast-motion.
3,840 x 2,160 pixels @ 29.97 frames per second

Closing thoughts on my time with the Canon SL3

If you're already a Canon shooter looking to upgrade from an earlier entry-level model, and you don't need third-party strobe support, the Canon SL3 looks to be a solid if unremarkable option. If you're not a Canon shooter already and you're set on buying a DSLR rather than a mirrorless camera, though, you have a choice to make.

Are you better off going with the dominant brand (Canon) and accepting a little lesser image quality and features than are available from the nearest rivals, but with the best chance of being able to share lenses, gear and knowledge with other DSLR owners, and the broadest availability of second-hand gear? If so, you'll want to go for the safety of Canon's leading market share.

26mm (42mm eq.), 4.0 sec. @ f/4.5, ISO 100
Exposure level increased by 1.3 stops in Adobe Camera Raw; see here for out-of-camera JPEG.
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file

But if you want the best image quality and feature-set at the pricepoint, and you're not so concerned about what others are shooting? Well, then Canon's certainly still worth a close look, but I'd personally suggest also taking a look at Nikon or, perhaps, even Ricoh's Pentax brand, which while dwarfed by the other two offers the most feature-rich cameras of the bunch.

And that brings me to the end of my second and final field test. Watch this space for the remainder of our review including our final verdict, coming soon!

18mm (29mm eq.), 4.0 sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 100
Exposure level increased by 1.2 stops in Adobe Camera Raw; see here for out-of-camera JPEG.
Click thumbnail for JPEG, or here for raw file


• • •


Canon SL3 Review -- Overview

by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 04/10/2019

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. Also gone is the hot shoe's ISO-standard center sync contact, as it's now designed to be used only with Canon EL/EX-series Speedlites. You can no longer trigger older or non-dedicated strobes without some sort of an adapter.

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.


Canon SL3 Field Test Part I

The tiny, record-making EOS DSLR gets its first real world test!

by Mike Tomkins |

Mirrorless cameras might be where it's at these days, but what if you prefer an optical viewfinder to an electronic one or, worse still, to shooting at arm's length on the LCD? Well, DSLRs might not be as compact as their mirror-free brethren, but that's not to say they have to be big, bulky behemoths either.

A little EOS SL-series history to set the stage
Back in 2013, Canon decided to gift its long-running EOS camera series with a new model, aimed at taking on its mirrorless rivals by paring away all the fat. The lean-as-could-be Canon SL1 was the result, and not only was it the world's lightest DSLR at the time, it actually remains the world's smallest DSLR to this day.

A couple of years later in 2015, Nikon responded to its rival with the D5500, which it announced as the world's smallest and lightest DSLR with an articulated LCD monitor, a handy convenience the SL1 lacked. Fast-forward two years to 2017, though, and Canon took both titles from its rival with the Canon SL2. While not as small and light as its predecessor, it was more feature-rich in general than was its predecessor, and boasted better image quality and performance to boot.


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