Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
    Canon SL1 275 wide.jpg
  • 18-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor
  • DIGIC 5 image processor
  • 3.0-inch Clear View Touch Screen Display (fixed)
  • ISO 100-12800
  • 4 frames per second high speed burst shooting
  • Hybrid CMOS AF II Auto Focus Sensor
  • Live View 
  • Movie Servo AF (compatible with STM lenses)
  • Full HD 1080p movie recording
  • Scene Intelligent Auto Mode
  • Effect Shot Mode
  • Creative Filters
  • Background Blur Simulation
  • In-Camera Editing and Cropping
  • Known as Rebel 100D in some parts of the world
Pros
  • Smaller size and lighter frame is definitely noticeable versus other DSLRs
  • Seems to have a sturdy feel and good build quality
  • SL1 remains easy to hold with well-sized right-hand grip, despite small camera body
  • Extremely fast performance in Viewfinder mode
  • Image quality is very good versus others in this price range in all lighting conditions
  • RAW shooting is available
  • Strong performer at high ISO settings
  • Can use built-in flash or external flash
  • Full HD video recording performance surpasses most entry-level DSLR cameras
  • High-resolution LCD includes touchscreen capabilities
  • Good price point for an entry-level DSLR camera
  • Autofocus is noticeably faster in Live View mode versus older Rebel cameras
  • Inclusion of Quick Control screen is a great feature
  • Plenty of lenses to choose from with EF mount
  • Kit lens provides a good value
Cons
  • Having an articulated LCD would have been a nice feature
  • No built-in wireless capabilities
  • AF illuminator sometimes struggles in extreme low light situations
  • Slight changes in menus between Viewfinder and Live View modes may confuse some photographers
  • Battery life is below average versus other DSLRs
  • Beginner-level automatic modes could use a few more features
  • Camera menus could have been redesigned to work better with touchscreen LCD
  • Some on-screen buttons are too small to select correctly on touchscreen LCD
  • With kit lens attached, the SL1's small size is compromised quite a bit
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 0.8 seconds 
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus in Viewfinder mode = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus in Live View mode = 0.7 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay in Viewfinder mode without flash = 0.6 seconds between frames
  • Shot to shot delay in Viewfinder mode with flash = 0.7 seconds between frames
  • Shot to shot delay in Live View mode without flash = 4.3 seconds with minimum review time On; 3.3 seconds with minimum review time Off
  • Shot to shot delay in Live View mode with flash = 5.7 seconds with minimum review time On; 4.6 seconds with minimum review time Off
  • Continuous Shot Mode = 10 frames in 2.4 seconds @ 18M
  • Silent Continuous Shot Mode = 10 frames in 3.7 seconds @ 18M
  • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 4 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
Based on the success of previous Canon EOS Rebel DSLR cameras, you'd expect the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 to be a very nice model. And you'd be right -- the Rebel SL1 provides some excellent features and performance speed in the entry-level DSLR camera market, and its improved autofocus system is impressive. While great features and performance may be a given for a Rebel and while this camera looks a lot like other Rebel DSLR models, you may still receive a bit of a surprise the first time you pick up the SL1. It's noticeably smaller and lighter than other Rebel models and other DSLRs. When you can pack most of the best features you'd find in an entry-level DSLR in a much smaller and lighter camera, the Rebel SL1 is going to be a strong contender in this market versus similarly priced DSLR cameras. And the optical viewfinder sets it apart from ILCs.
Pick This Up If...
You want the strong performance, optical viewfinder and great image quality of an entry-level DSLR camera, while finding a reduced size and weight versus what's normally available in DSLRs.
If you're wondering how traditional entry-level DSLR camera makers plan to specifically compete against the smaller mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (ILC) design that's been steadily growing in availability in the past several years, Canon may have an answer for you in its EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR camera (known as the Rebel 100D in some parts of the world).

While the SL1 looks a lot like other EOS Rebel cameras at first glance, once you hold this model you'll notice the thing that sets the SL1 apart from its Rebel brethren -- its small size. At the time of its release and up to the point this review was published, the Rebel SL1 is the smallest and lightest DSLR camera in the marketplace. 

Don't misunderstand -- the SL1 is not a camera that's like a tiny point-n-shoot or even as small as most ILC cameras. After all, the inclusion of the mirror in the camera's interior limits just how small a DSLR camera can be. However, the smaller and lighter size of the SL1 is very noticeable when compared to other DSLR and Canon Rebel cameras. The Rebel SL1 camera body alone weighs about 13 ounces, quite a bit less than other DSLR models.

Despite offering a small camera body, Canon didn't skimp on features with the SL1. This DSLR model has plenty of power and responsiveness, and it creates the type of really sharp images that you'd expect to find in a DSLR camera with an APS-C sensor.

The Rebel SL1 starts quickly and has minimal shot-to-shot delays and shutter lag when using the camera in Viewfinder mode. There are some delays when shooting in Live View mode, which is normal for a DSLR, but Canon has added a Hybrid AF II system to this camera and greatly improved the SL1's ability to autofocus in Live View mode; which makes this camera work better when shooting HD movies than previous Rebel cameras. The STM technology in the 18-55mm kit lens included with the SL1 helps with better video quality too. (The STM lens, short for Stepper Motor, eliminates noticeable noise during video recording.) In fact, the SL1's kit lens is so good that it greatly enhances the value of this package.

The usability of the Canon SL1/100D is very good too. Even though it's a small DSLR camera, most people won't have any problems holding and using this camera. The right-hand grip works well, even though it looks small when viewing the camera from above. What you cannot see in the overhead view is that the camera body indents underneath the shutter button, creating a nice sized right-hand grip. There's a good location for your right thumb on the back of the camera. The camera's control buttons are of a good size and are well placed, just as with past versions of the Rebel, and the SL1's build quality is very solid.

Some of the advantage gained by having a smaller DSLR camera body is negated once you add a traditional Canon DSLR lens to the SL1. It is nice that the Rebel SL1 has an EF lens mount and can use all Canon EF and EF-S lenses, but those lenses fit on larger DSLR cameras, too, so they will add more size to the EOS Rebel SL1 proportionally versus other larger Rebel DSLR models. The lenses used with mirrorless ILC cameras are typically quite a bit smaller than corresponding DSLR lenses with similar capabilities, which helps to keep the overall ILC package smaller versus even a small DSLR like the Canon SL1.

Those new to DSLR camera photography will appreciate the inclusion of several automatic shooting modes and some fun in-camera editing functions with the Rebel SL1. Canon included a Quick Control shortcut menu, which is a great feature for gaining fast access to all of the camera's primary settings on one screen. It reminds me of the very nice Smart Panel included in the Samsung NX2000 ILC camera. The Quick Control option works well in both Viewfinder and Live View mode, although the features shown in each mode are a bit different, which could confuse some photographers.

With so many advanced cameras now containing features like articulated LCDs and built in Wi-Fi access, it's a little disappointing to see that the Rebel SL1 doesn't offer either of these features. An articulated LCD is especially nice when using a camera with a tripod. However, Canon was able to keep the price point for the SL1/100D near the low end of the DSLR camera market in part by leaving those features out. 

Canon did not cut back when it comes to the quality of the camera's 3.0-inch LCD, though, as it's a very sharp screen, offering more than 1 million pixels of resolution.

And Canon gave the high-resolution LCD a touchscreen capability with this Rebel camera, which is a great feature to help beginners learn to use the camera. The touchscreen is very responsive, allowing for natural sweeping and pinching movements like you'd use on a smartphone or tablet. But some of the buttons and menu options are small on the screen, making it a little tough to select them properly. Although the Rebel SL1's menus are well organized, it would have been nice if Canon had redesigned the menu structure to take advantage of the touchscreen, making it look more like that found in many ILC cameras, such as again the NX2000.

Even though this camera may not have a ton of high-end features aimed at enthusiasts, it's a solid camera, containing all of the advanced shooting and manual control modes you'd expect with an entry-level DSLR model, including the ability to shoot in RAW.

ISO settings up to 12800 are available, and the Rebel SL1 creates really good photographic quality in low light situations. Noise is minimal at all but the highest couple of ISO settings. You may notice a few problems with the SL1 when shooting in extreme low light conditions where the autofocus lamp cannot help the camera achieve an adequate autofocus. 

Actually, the overall image quality with this camera is great, regardless of the lighting conditions. Colors are accurate and images are very sharp with autofocus or manual focus. The SL1's processor does a nice job of setting the ISO and white balance accurately, resulting in well exposed photos in automatic and semi-automatic shooting modes. Canon included an APS-C sized 18-megapixel image sensor with the SL1, which plays a key role in its excellent image quality. An APS-C image sensor is a bit larger than what you'll typically find in ILC cameras.

As far as available accessories, you'll have numerous options with the Rebel SL1, which is a significant advantage for this entry-level DSLR versus most ILCs. For example, multiple lens options are available for the SL1 because of the EF lens mount. The hot shoe on the camera's top panel is great for adding an external flash or other components. The SL1 has both USB and HDMI ports, and there's a microphone jack and a remote control port, too. If you want to add wireless connectivity capabilities with the EOS Rebel SL1, the camera supports Eye-Fi memory cards.

Canon included a separate battery charger with the SL1, which is great for those who want to purchase a second battery and charge one battery while using the second. This is recommended, because the SL1's battery capacity isn't quite as good as I'd like to see. If you shoot in Viewfinder mode all of the time and rarely use the LCD, your battery life will be okay, but the battery drains pretty quickly with constant use of Live View mode. And with the touchscreen LCD and Quick Control menus, you'll probably end up using the LCD to change settings more often than you might think, even if you're typically shooting in Viewfinder mode.

Bottom Line - If you didn't know the Rebel SL1 was the world's smallest DSLR camera, you certainly couldn't tell from looking at the camera's feature list or from measuring its performance level or image quality. The SL1 has all of the advanced shooting features you'd expect to find in an entry-level Rebel DSLR camera, and it creates outstanding images, as you would expect from any other Rebel. In fact the EOS Rebel SL1 does a better job in Live View mode and with HD video recording than some other Rebel models, because of an advanced autofocus system. It's not going to give you the performance of a professional-level DSLR, but it compares very favorably to other entry-level DSLR cameras, both in feature set and in price, thanks in part to the surprisingly strong kit lens. Canon is aiming the Rebel SL1 toward competing with ILC cameras, which because they don't have a mirror mechanism can be built smaller than DSLR models. While the SL1 is small compared to other DSLRs, it isn't as small as an ILC, and the added size is exaggerated because Canon lenses are larger than ILC lenses. Of course the optical viewfinder option in the Rebel SL1 really sets it apart from ILC models. People who want the improved image quality, optical viewfinder, and overall performance a DSLR provides, but who are discouraged by carrying around a bulky camera, may be more inclined to bring along the SL1. The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 proves the old saying: Good things do come in small(er) packages.


Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

World’s most compact and lightweight DSLR* featuring a newly-developed 18.0 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, ISO 100–12800 (expandable to H: 25600) for stills and ISO 100–6400 ...
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$414
18MP CMOS, HD, 3" TP, 4fps touch-enabled high-res 3" LCD screen,enhanced, wide-area hybrid autofocus gives continuous, full-time focus tracking of subjects, even while shooting ...
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$504 to $750