Canon EOS Rebel SL3 DSLR Review

What We Love. The simple, lightweight design of the Canon Rebel EOS SL3 DSLR camera makes it perfect to use for a full day of photography while on the move. It has multiple lenses available, so you gain far more versatility in the types of photos you can shoot versus a mirrorless ILC. And the price is just right for an entry-level DSLR.

What We'd Change. Although it's great that the SL3 can record 4K videos, the image stabilization feature doesn't quite compensate for camera shake while hand-holding the camera, so videos are a little shaky. Those with large hands may not be able to hold the camera comfortably.

Pick This Up If... You like smaller sized cameras, but you want the power and versatility of a DSLR. Those who like to shoot photos while sight-seeing or hiking will appreciate the lightweight but sturdy feel to the SL3.

Click HERE to buy a Canon EOS Rebel SL3 from B&H Photo-Video!

or

Click HERE to buy an SL3 from Amazon.com!

INTRO


Canon SL3 sculpture garden hands

32 mm | F/5 | 1/400 | ISO 100

With the rise of mirrorless cameras, which have a lighter and smaller body versus the typical DSLR, some photographers refuse to go back to a bulky, advanced DSLR. But when you pick a mirrorless camera, you sacrifice some of the flexibility you find with plentiful availability of interchangeable lenses.

The Canon Rebel SL3 DSLR looks to blur the lines between bigger and smaller cameras, giving you benefits of both, including access to a huge number of lenses.

Following in the footsteps of its two predecessors, the Canon SL3 is one of the lightest and smallest DSLR cameras on the market. It's still larger than mirrorless camera models, but its smaller size and weight will be noticeable for those who are used to carrying around a standard DSLR.

The Canon SL3 can use any EF lens, so you have a huge number of choices with this model.

Even with a smaller-than-average size, this camera delivers a good level of performance and build quality compared to similarly priced models. For a beginner to intermediate photographer, the EOS Rebel SL3 is fun to use and easy to carry for a full day of hiking or sight-seeing.

Canon SL3 flash raised

KEY FEATURES

  • 24.1MP, APS-C sensor size (22.3 x 14.9 mm)
  • 3.72 µm square pixel unit
  • 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Canon EF lens mount
  • JPEG, RAW 14-bit, and C-RAW image formats
  • Eye-level SLR viewfinder with fixed pentaprism (95% coverage)
  • TTL autofocus with 9 AF points
  • 63-zone metering sensor
  • ISO range 100-25,600 (51,200 expanded)
  • Shutter speed range 1/4000 to 30 seconds
  • Exposure compensation: AEB -/+ 2 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 increments
  • Flash exposure compensation: -/+ 2 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 increments
  • High-speed continuous shooting: 5 shots per second
  • Maximum 4K video resolution, 24 fps
  • 3.0-inch LCD, 1.04 million pixels (tiltable)
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity
  • Size: 4.82 x 3.65 x 2.75 inches
  • Weight: 14.18 oz. (body only)

Canon SL3 open LCD screen

WHAT'S IN THE BOX

  • Camera body
  • Battery Pack LP-E17
  • Battery Charger LC-E17
  • Wide Strap EW-400D
  • Eyecup Ef

BUILD QUALITY & DESIGN

Canon SL3 top view

When Canon introduced the first SL model camera several years ago, it was attempting to create a small and lightweight DSLR that could complete more with mirrorless cameras in size, while retaining the look and ergonomics of a DSLR.

The manufacturer certainly did that with the SL1, followed by the SL2. Now, with the SL3, Canon has created the lightest DSLR that has an articulated LCD screen. These are features that will appeal to those new to DSLR photography.

If you spend a lot of time walking or hiking while shooting photos, you'll definitely notice the lack of weight by the end of the day.

Even with its lightweight design, the Rebel SL3 still feels solidly built. Canon did a nice job avoiding loose panels or areas that feel a little wobbly in the camera body.

The camera's buttons are all well-placed. They have a good size and they're spaced far enough apart that you can press the right one each time.

Our test unit shipped with an EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM kit lens, which is a common configuration for the Canon SL3. Using the camera with this lens felt natural, as the two balanced each other nicely.

ERGONOMICS

Canon SL3 front view

With the smaller-than-average size of the Canon EOS Rebel SL3, you may be worried about holding the camera comfortably. The manufacturer did a nice job with the right-hand grip, though, giving photographers room to curl their fingers for a steady grip.

Those with long fingers or large hands may find their fingertips digging uncomfortably into the camera body between the hand grip and the lens, but the majority of photographers will not have a problem.

The oddest design feature with this camera is the power switch. It's a three-way toggle with Off, On, and Movie mode available. It's a little tough to control the switch to stop on the middle option (which is On for photography), but this is more of an annoyance than something that will regularly cause you to miss a spontaneous photograph.

MENUS & DISPLAYS

Canon SL3 back view

Let's start with the optical viewfinder in the Rebel SL3, which works adequately. However, if you're used to using higher-end Canon DSLR cameras, you'll notice this pentamirror viewfinder doesn't match up to the quality of the viewfinders in those higher-end cameras. Images, as seen through the SL3's viewfinder, lack a bit of brightness and sharpness. The images aren't as bad as those found with cheap electronic viewfinders, but they could be a little better.

If you prefer to shoot with the LCD screen in Live View, you'll be pleased with the SL3's 3.0" Vari-angle LCD screen. It has more than 1 million pixels of resolution, which delivers sharp imagery. It also responds to touch, which is nice for beginners used to shooting with a smartphone. As an added benefit, the EOS SL3 LCD screen swivels and rotates away from the camera body. This is great for shooting odd-angle photos, for reducing the effect of sun glare, or for using the camera while attached to a short tripod.

EOS Rebel SL3 menus are aimed squarely at beginners, featuring a Guide Mode to explain how camera settings affect image quality and style. Those with some photography experience may find these explanations and simple menu windows a hindrance to making quick changes to the settings. But you can turn off Guide Mode and, for those who aren't familiar with DSLR cameras or who have never shot in anything but automatic mode, the explanation screens are easy to understand and informative.

Guide Mode appears on some mirrorless cameras as, so you may be familiar with the concept. However, with the SL3 and its optical viewfinder, Canon's guide mode is more usable than what's found with mirrorless cameras. You can use the guide mode on the LCD screen, making your settings changes, and then lift the viewfinder to your eye to shoot the photo. With an electronic viewfinder in a mirrorless camera, you'd have to switch the information on the screen back and forth between guide mode and Live View, which is a hassle.

SPEED & AF PERFORMANCE

Canon SL3 yellow flowers

55 mm | F/5.6 | 1/80 | ISO 400

Versus similarly priced entry-level DSLRs, the Canon SL3's performance levels are a pleasant surprise.

Shutter lag is rarely an issue with this camera, so you shouldn't miss spontaneous family photos. The burst mode works nicely too, allowing for five frames per second for several seconds in JPEG.

Considering the SL3 only makes use of nine autofocus points, its AF system is accurate and works more quickly that you may expect. It's not going to stack up to extensive AF systems in more expensive Canon DSLRs, but it certainly isn't going to negatively affect your shooting experience the majority of the time either.

One disadvantage to the nine-point AF system is that all of the autofocus points are near the middle of the scene. If you want the focal point to be off-center, you'll have to frame the scene with the focal point in the center, hold the shutter button halfway down to maintain the focal point, and then move the camera to recompose the scene with the item you want in focus at the edge.

One reason why the SL3 has such a high level of performance is Canon's decision to include the DIGIC 8 processor with this camera. This allows it to deliver significantly better operational speed than the SL2, which used the DIGIC 7.

METERING

Canon SL3 silhouette

18 mm | F/8 | 1/250 | ISO 100

You can use evaluative, partial, spot, or center-weighted average metering with the Canon Rebel SL3. This 63-zone metering system is the same one used in the EOS Rebel SL2.

The metering system struggles a bit when photographing highly contrasted scenes or in low light. But it still does an adequate job the majority of the time.

As with most of the SL3's other features, if you're used to using a high-end Canon DSLR camera, you'll be a bit disappointed with the SL3's metering, as its system is not quite as accurate as those found in advanced cameras.

STILL IMAGE QUALITY

Canon SL3 soybean field

24 mm | F/4.5 | 1/1000 | ISO 400

The Rebel SL3 makes use of an APS-C sized image sensor that delivers roughly 24.1 megapixels of resolution. This is about what you'd expect in a beginner level DSLR camera. Although the SL3 cannot match the image quality you'd find with an advanced Canon DSLR, when you consider its price point, this entry-level DSLR does a solid job.

It excels in daylight conditions and good lighting. Images are sharp using the autofocus system, and colors are pleasing.

As is typical with entry-level DSLRs, the SL3 struggles a bit in poor light and indoor conditions. Indoor and low light photos are a little less sharp and a little off-color versus photos shot in ideal conditions. These problems often are fixable in post-processing editing or if you purchase a faster lens.

This camera does have a built-in flash unit, which is helpful for quick indoor photos. You must lift the built-in flash yourself, as it will not automatically open when needed, which would be a nice feature to have for the inexperienced photographers at whom Canon has aimed the EOS SL3.

It also has a hot shoe if you want to add an external flash unit for better performance, so you can record even better photos indoors. However, the SL3's hot shoe (at the time of this writing) only works with external flashes that Canon manufactures; third-party flashes don't fit.

You can pick among JPEG, RAW, and C-RAW (short for Compact RAW) image formats with the SL3. C-RAW is a new addition to the SL3 versus the SL2, and it reduces file storage size requirements of RAW images by as much as 40%.

ISO PERFORMANCE

Canon SL3 Indoors ISO 12800

24 mm | F/8 | 1/30 | ISO 12800

Unlike some entry-level DSLRs, the Canon SL3 has a nice range of ISO settings. You can pick from settings between 100 and 25,600. You even can bump up to a 51,200 ISO in certain settings and shooting modes, but the noise is pretty significant here, almost to the point where the photo is not really usable.

The EOS Rebel SL3 shots are pretty free from noise from ISO 100 through 1600. At large viewing sizes, you'll notice noise at ISO 3200 and 6400. Once you reach ISO 12,800 and 25,600, the noise is visible in nearly all photo sizes, causing a significant loss of details.

(For more about our ISO tests, check out our Sample Photos page. We shot a series of photos using various ISO ranges, with no editing applied, so you can judge the noise at each level for yourself.)

VIDEO QUALITY

The Rebel SL3 is the first Canon Rebel DSLR to offer 4K video recording resolution, in addition to HD recording. It can record in 4K at 24 fps. To shoot a movie, toggle the power switch from photography mode (On) to video recording mode (with the movie camera icon). Once in movie mode, the SL3 automatically switches to Live View. You'll then press a movie recording button near the viewfinder to start and stop video recording.

This setup is fine when you don't mind having a bit of a delay -- as you complete these steps -- before you can begin recording movies. But if you're someone who often is shooting still images and then suddenly wants to grab a quick video, this feature will create some annoyance.

As you can see from our test movies here, camera shake is a problem with video recording. These were both handheld videos, and the slight jiggle in these movies was disappointing to see.

The autofocus system is less accurate in 4K video than in HD video, which will be a significant frustration for some people. In HD movies, the AF mechanism works pretty quickly, but it's noticeably less accurate and speedy with 4K movies.

Overall, the quality of the images in the movies was good with realistic colors and sharp details. However, a shaky movie can be such a distraction that you may not notice the pleasing aspects of the SL3's videos.

WIRELESS PERFORMANCE

Canon SL3 traffic signs

26 mm | F/4.5 | 1/250 | ISO 400

The Canon EOS SL3 has both WiFi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity options. It does not have NFC technology.

Using the Canon Camera Connect app allows you to pair the SL3 and your smartphone via Bluetooth. This is the easiest way to share photos, especially when the smartphone is then connected to WiFi.

Through the app, you can remotely control the camera's shooting modes as well.

Because Canon nearly doubled the battery life performance in the Rebel SL3 versus the Rebel SL2, you won't have to feel guilty about using WiFi or Bluetooth, which can drain a camera's battery quickly. You should be able to send your photos wirelessly and still have plenty of battery life to keep shooting.

PROS & CONS

Canon SL3 Lincoln bridge

55 mm | F/32 | 1/60 | ISO 400

Pros

  • Good overall image quality, especially in daylight, without the need for much time spent in editing
  • Lightweight camera design with pleasing ergonomics
  • Upgraded DIGIC 8 processor versus Rebel SL2 camera
  • Control buttons are of a decent size
  • Has a guide mode to help beginners control the settings and learn more about photography
  • Limited number of choices on the mode dial, which simplifies operation
  • Rotating LCD screen for odd-angle photos
  • Improved battery life over its predecessor
  • 4K video recording
  • Adds C-RAW image format to JPEG and RAW

Cons

  • Guide mode will be a hindrance for experienced photographers
  • Optical viewfinder build quality could be better
  • No in-body image stabilization
  • Built-in flash does not open automatically as needed
  • Third-party external flash units currently will not fit on the hot shoe
  • Only one memory card slot
  • Doesn't provide a percentage estimate of battery power remaining; only a simple estimate in a battery icon
  • AF system only uses nine points
  • Those used to shooting with advanced Canon DSLRs will be disappointed

FINAL THOUGHTS

Canon SL3 left side

Canon has positioned its Rebel SL line of cameras squarely at the entry-level section of the DSLR market. The SL3 has some nice improvements over older SL cameras, yet it still remains an affordable, lightweight camera that delivers decent results.

No one is going to mistake the EOS Rebel SL3 for a high-end Canon DSLR aimed at advanced and professional photographers. But for those who like to leisurely walk and shoot photos on vacation or at home, the Canon Rebel SL3 is a perfect choice.

It's one of the smallest and lightest DSLR cameras on the market. But it also has some notable features, like the ability to shoot 4K video and a rotating LCD screen. Even with a lightweight design, the camera feels well-balanced and solidly built.

For basic photography needs, the Canon SL3 more than justifies its reasonable price point. It has a few design features that will annoy advanced photographers, especially those that like to fiddle with the settings, but, in reality, the SL3 wasn't really designed with them in mind.

Our recommendation: There's a lot to like about the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 DSLR camera, including its lightweight design, solid image quality in daylight conditions, and reasonable price. This is clearly an entry-level camera that's made for those who are seeking to learn a bit more about photography. It's fun to carry and use for a full day of walking, making it easy to capture almost any kind of photograph. Throw in an affordable prime lens or two and you'll have a great starter kit!

Click HERE to buy a Canon EOS Rebel SL3 from B&H Photo-Video!

or

Click HERE to buy an SL3 from Amazon.com!

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