EOS Rebel SL2

EOS Rebel SL2

Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Full Review

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Preview posted 06/28/2017 by Michael Palmer
Full review posted 01/17/2018 by Josh LeBlanc
Photographs by Josh LeBlanc & Michael Palmer


Canon_SL2_Amazon_550w.jpgThe Good. Canon took its most affordable DSLR (the SL1) and stuffed it with a better image sensor and one of the best (video) AutoFocus systems on the market today. At less than $650 for the kit, this budget-friendly DSLR features a guided menu system, designed to teach newer photographers how to advance past Full Auto. It will actually help you become a better shooter. Plus, if you want to make videos or vlogs, there's a Vari-angle display to help you frame your shots while you're on camera. And, thanks to its lens compatibility (from Canon and third party lenses), as you learn and grow, you can buy and/or rent more expensive glass before saving up for your next camera body. 

The Bad. Unfortunately, the SL2 is slower than Canon's other entry-level DSLRs, lacking weather sealing and even the more advanced metering systems for more accurate exposures.  Also, like most of Canon's other 2017 cameras, the SL2 doesn't record 4K video.

The Bottom Line. The EOS Rebel SL2 is the best entry-level Canon DSLR ever made and provides all the tools you need to learn photography and/or filmmaking and vlogging on a budget.

Pick This Up If... You want an easy-to-use entry-level DSLR that offers excellent photo quality and fast performance levels at an affordable price, but you aren't seeking a DSLR with top-shelf video results

INTRO

Good news for beginner/aspiring photographers. If you're looking to put down the smartphone and take the next step up in image quality, a step up that includes the flexibility of using all sorts of different lenses, Canon has updated their most affordable DSLR offering for 2017.

The new EOS Rebel SL2 takes over for the aging SL1, adding a slew of improvements, including the world's fastest Dual Pixel CMOS AutoFocus system, a new Vari-Angle touchscreen LCD, improved low light performance, higher video frame rates (up to 1080/60p HD), annnnnnnnnd three different types of wireless technologies.

Oh, and if you're nervous about buying a DSLR, don't be.

Canon updated their graphical user interface this year and added Feature Assistant, which not only makes the learning process easy and fun, but guides you through the basics like how to dial in your depth of field (do you want it shallow with blurry backgrounds or sharp all the way to the horizon), or how to give your still images a sense of movement (do you want a river frozen in time, or looking like it's flowing over rocks and rapids).

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Note: Captured on the Canon 6DMK2, but sharing here becase
the SL2 can teach you how to do this, which is awesome!

LENS USED

Canon Rebel SL2 with lens.JPG
Canon shipped us the EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM with the camera in the EOS Rebel SL2 Kit. Here's what the view looks like between 18mm (~29mm equivalent) vs. 55mm (~88mm equivalent):

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_18-55mm.jpg
Make sure to click on the image to see a larger version!

AND... for more samples, do check out our SL2 Sample Image Gallery.


KEY FEATURES
  • Camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL2
  • Image Sensor: APS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm )
  • Effective Pixels: 24.0 megapixels
  • Native Aspect Ratio: 3:2 but can shoot at 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9
  • Image Processor: DIGIC 7
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF
  • Maximum AF Points: 9
  • AF Modes: Dual Pixel CMOS AF, Contrast Detection and Phase Detection (AF)
  • Exposure Compensation: -5 to +5 in 1/3 increments
  • ISO Sensitivity: 100 - 25600( expands to 51200) 
  • Shutter Speed Range: 30 seconds to 1/4000
  • Viewfinder: Optical
  • LCD Screen: 3-inches, 1.04 million pixels, touch-enabled, fully articulated
  • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash, and shoe mount
  • Image Type: RAW, JPEG
  • Movie Type: MPEG-4 and MOV, 1920 x 1080 at 60p,30p,24p
  • Battery Life: Approximately 650 shots
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
  • EOS Rebel SL2
  • Zoom lens EF-S18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM (if you buy the kit)
  • Strap
  • Battery Charger
  • Battery Pack

BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

Canon Rebel SL2 no lens.png
If you're making the jump from either a smartphone or a point and shoot, the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 going to feel like you're a real photographer now. That said, it's much lighter and more compact than most DSLRs, though its plastic body feels cheap. Also, with the 18-55mm zoom lens on it, it's a tiny bit front heavy.   

It's a classic all black DSLR with white writing on it, minus the red Rebel SL2 logo on the front. Buttons are easy to access, and the on/off switch clicks with authority when switching between modes. The main camera dials and buttons all click and spin with the same heavy weight, giving the user solid feedback. 

Both the front and rear right-hand grips on the camera have a bit of texture on the surface, making it easier to hold the Rebel SL2 steadily with your right hand. However, if you have large hands, the grip feels a bit claustrophobic. 

Rebel SL2 battery life is very impressive. I've had the same battery in there for a few days, and it's still well more than half-way charged. It's a perfect travel camera where you could spend a whole day or two (as long as you're not shooting a lot of videos) out and about and not have to worry about your battery. 

The lens cap, however, is terrible. It will pop off at the slightest touch or slap. (Why are you slapping your lens cap you may ask? Why not.) Here's proof.


ERGONOMICS 

Canon rebel SL2 with screen out.png
The Rebel SL2 looks like a full-sized DLSR, but unlike bigger DSLRs camera where you have a bit more room, my hand was a bit cramped when holding with a single hand and trying to select buttons. The camera body measures 4.8 x 3.7 x 2.8 in inches, making it smaller than a lot of other DSLR camera bodies. The right-hand side of the camera -- as you're holding it -- includes an HDMI port and a USB 2.0 port. 

The rear Vari-angle LCD touchscreen is a marvel. It is fully adjustable, can be flipped over to be a regular screen, swung out to the left to tilt up and down to help with high or low angle images, or flipped 180-degrees to VLOG with or take selfies. Add in its touch ability and Wi-Fi connectivity, and you won't have to worry about not being able to see the controls on the back of the camera.

Canon Rebel SL2 back buttons.png
On the back of the Rebel SL2 to the left of the viewfinder and above the touchscreen, we have MENU and INFO buttons, which make two-handed operation a little more accessible as you can get into the menu with your left hand and navigate with your right.

Most of the cameras touch buttons are on the back right side including a thumped, AV +/- button and a playback and trash button. On the top right of the back are the Zoom+ and ZOOM- buttons. 

Canon Rebel SL2 dials.png
On top of the SL2, you'll find a Wi-Fi button to the left and, to the right, a MAIN DIAL, shutter button, MODE DIAL, ISO and DISP buttons, and an on/off/video mode selector. If this is your first DSLR and you're concerned with using advanced (aka manual) modes, don't worry. The SL2's Menu System will GUIDE users through setup and learning the basics of exposure, aperture and shutter speed settings. It's a marvelous feature.

Again as you're holding the camera for use on the left side of the camera is a small rubber flap which hides post for the mic and remote trigger.

If you flip the camera upside down to look at the bottom you'll find both the battery slot and the SD card slot which are on the same panel. For me, I hate having the SD card on the bottom of the camera, but that's more of an irrational fear of it falling out if I get distracted while taking it out. Yes, it's a weird gripe, I know. 

If you're facing the camera head-on, there are a few buttons on the right side of the lens. There's the lens release button with a flash button above it and a depth-of-field preview button below it. Which can be very useful if you're trying to experiment with well... the depth of field.  

The Canon Rebel SL2 has a popup flash that surrounds the hot shoe in the center of the top panel. The popup flash is a nice feature for shooting quick flash photos. We also like having a hot shoe to attach an external flash for greater control over the flash unit when needed.

MENUS & DISPLAY

Canon SL2 back screen camera settings.png
The 3-inch LCD screen is a high quality and bright enough to be used in broad daylight (black lettering on a white screen helps), but it's as a home to the SL2's menu system that it shines. When you cycle the MODE WHEEL at the top, the LCD comes to life like a private camera tutor. It's like training wheels for a DSLR. In fact, even if you're an experienced shooter but have no idea about what these different modes are on the camera, the Rebel SL2 is there to help. It's literally like having someone there with you, guiding you along as you navigate the fun new world of photography. That doesn't mean that the modes work exceptionally well, but at least you know that it's not your fault. 

When you push the MENU button and get into camera settings, recording, playback etc it's also very easy. Everything is listed in neat little rows that you can navigate by touch. 

When shooting in live mode, the screen gives you a closer approximation to your final photo, which is helpful if you want to shoot manual and fine-tune your settings BEFORE taking shots rather than having to check after the fact.

SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-43.jpg
(55mm, F5.6, 1/160, ISO 200)

The Rebel SL2 has a new upgraded APS-C CMOS sensor that's a huger upgrade from the Rebel SL1. It performed very well in a number of areas, except action photography. With a maximum continuous shooting rate of only 5fps, you're not going to get everything you want. It's completely adequate for most things, but if you're running around taking pictures of your kids playing soccer or basketball, it might not be fast enough for you.  

The Rebel SL2 has Face Detection you can activate if you're trying to get images of loved ones and they keep moving on you.

Through the optical viewfinder there are only 9 focus points, however through live view and when shooting video, the camera is capable of Dual Pixel Autofocus. Canon, in fact, claims the Rebel SL2 has the world's fastest autofocus on entry-level DSLRs.


METERING 

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-45.jpg
(42mm,  F8, 1/200, ISO 1,600)

For more samples, check out our SL2 Sample Image Gallery.

The SL2's metering is pretty solid overall. Though I found that it has a hard time if there's a stark contrast of light in the image. It's not quite as accurate as the higher end Canon DSLR cameras, but you get what you pay for. Just like the focusing, the metering kind of gets a little wonky when you're shooting in lower light.

I actually found the images from manual metering which can be done from -5 to +5 in 1/3 increments to be the best. The colors and the timing all seemed better than Canon's Scene Intelligent Auto, which seemed to capture overly bright images.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-40.jpg
(34mm, F5, 1/500, ISO 200)

With a 24.2 MP sensor, you will get some stunning pictures. It's all going to come down to how you shoot. The blues from a clear blue sky were deep and rich and the reds popped out of the images, especially in RAW mode, which captured a surprising amount of dynamic range and fine details.

You can shoot images in Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter priority, Program AE, Scene Intelligent Auto, Creative Auto, Special Scene and Creative filters. Sometimes the mode will be event-driven, but mostly it will be user's preference. 

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-42.jpg
(55mm, F5.6, 1/400, ISO 200)

The pop-up flash is really only good for filling in shadows. It's not something you want to use to actually light a whole scene up. The camera can do Shutter sync, and full auto as well as it becomes available in some of the creative modes depending upon the need.

For more sample images, please check out our Canon Rebel SL2 Sample Image Gallery.


ISO PERFORMANCE

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-50.jpg
(55mm, F5.6, 1/2000, ISO 1,600)

The Canon Rebel SL2 has a native ISO performance of between 100 - 25600. You'll find photos in the 6,400 range not only usable, but the grain is surprisingly small. The extended ISO range runs as high 51,200 ISO equivalent, but your images won't really be usable. You're going to get pictures that look like they came off of a thirty-year-old security camera, so, it's more there just to say "hey if you really want to take a picture you can."  

VIDEO QUALITY

The Canon Rebel SL2 has the ability to record Full HD (1920 x 1080) video at up to 60 frames per second. You can capture it as a .MP4 files using H.264 codec. The maximum bit rate when recording 1080/60p video is 60 Mbps. The maximum clip length is 29 minutes and 59 second. You can also record time-lapse videos at dull HD 30fps playback. There's an external microphone Jack for you Vloggers, but there's still no headphone jack, so watch those levels.

While the SL2's nine AF points for shooting stills fits an entry-level camera, the SL2 also boasts Dual Pixel CMOS AF for video recording (and live view still mode), and it's one of the best systems out there. It's fast, accurate, and even tracks movie subjects.

That said, it struggles a bit in low light and there are no 4K resolution options. It's not a deal-breaker at this price point, but I don't understand the lack of 4K recording in entry-level DSLRs. The sensor can handle it, perhaps Canon wants you to buy a 5D if you want 4K. 

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-17.jpg
(55mm, F5.6, 1/250, ISO 125)

The Rebel SL2 has built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth, which is a HUGE upgrade over the SL1. The Canon phone app is pretty great and works almost flawlessly every time. It's a huge help to use the App as a remote trigger, but it's even better than that as you can see on your phone an approximation of what the image is going to look like, so, you'll know if you're going to get the shot or not. Another plus is the ability to transfer photos wirelessly. In this age of social media, it's nice to be able to show off your work without having to download an entire card. 

PROS & CONS

Pros
  • Colorful imagery
  • Solid lowlight performance
  • Excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AutoFocus (video & live view)
  • Helpful guide modes and menu systems for beginners
  • 3" Vari-angle Touchscreen great for selfies or recording video alone
  • Full Manual modes for those who want to grow; Full Auto for those who need simplicity.
  • Compatible with dozens of Canon EF and EF-S lenses
  • Budget-friendly
Cons
  • Only 9 focus points (optical AF)
  • Slower burst shooting than other Canon DSLR
  • Not weather sealed
  • No 4K Video
  • No in-body Image Stabilization
  • If you do buy the kit, the lens cap is easy to knock off.

BOTTOM LINE

Canon_EOS_Rebel_SL2_SampleImage-19.jpg
(55mm, F5.6, 1/3200, ISO 100)

For more samples, check out our SL2 Sample Image Gallery.

We have a few gripes with the SL2 -- harder to hold for those with sizeable hands, low light processing is average, no 4K video, it's not fast, and we still don't understand Canon's single-over-dual adjustment dial strategy -- but at $600-650 with a kit lens, it's a bargain.

You get a terrific image sensor, which shows off vibrant blue skies, tons of auto functions and the guided (tutorial-esque) menu system, accurate metering, and a top-tier AutoFocus system for shooting video. The Rebel SL2 is a camera you'll be able to use for years and, along the way, it will help you take better photos and/or shoot better videos. And with a Canon camera, this means you can invest in better glass as you grow and, whenever you're ready for your next camera body, jump right into the next level without ever looking back. 

The SL2 might be the best entry-level DSLR Canon has ever made.
Canon_SL2_Amazon_550w.jpg

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