Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 Review

First I’d like to thank Canon UK for the loan of an EOS 100D while I was recently in the UK. The EOS 100D and the EOS SL1 are identical, but if you look at the EXIF data in some of the images in this article you will see the camera recorded as the EOS 100D.

The canon_sl1 is Canon’s smallest DSLR. In fact Canon claims it’s also the smallest DSLR yet produced by any manufacturer—and the lightest. This prompts the obvious question, “Well, how small is it?” If you want numbers, it’s 4.6" (w) x 3.57" (h) x 2.74" (d), and weighs 14.36 oz (including batteries). However there is no truth in the rumor that it comes with a magnifying glass so that you can see it and a brick to tie it to so it doesn’t float away….

Since I think it’s easier to judge the size visually than via numbers, here’s a Canon illustration of the relative sizes of the EOS SL1, the EOS T4i and the EOS-M mirrorless camera.

As you can see, it shaves a bit (0.64" from the width, 0.37" from the depth and 0.33" from the height) off the EOS T4i (already quite a small DSLR), though it’s not as diminutive as the EOS-M. Note the difference in the depth of the grip between the T4i (which is the same as the T5i) and the SL1. The larger grip of the T4i/T5i does make it easier to hold, at least for me.

As a further illustration, here’s a comparison of the SL1 with the 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM (29-88mm equivalent) and a Canon Powershot SX50 HS (with its built in 24-1200/3.5-6.3 equivalent lens).

The actual SL1 body is probably slightly smaller than that of the SX50 HS, a small sensor fixed lens digicam, though of course once you add a lens to the SL1 (except perhaps for the 40mm f2.8 pancake lens) the whole “camera plus lens” package becomes a lot larger with the SL1.

Who the EOS SL1 is for

The Canon EOS SL1 is probably aimed at photographers who are moving up from a small sensor digital camera to their first DSLR, but who don’t want the size or weight of a more traditionally sized camera. In addition, the SL1 is designed to provide excellent video performance (especially when used with an STM lens like the 18-55 kit lens). It would also make a good small and light second or “backup” body for someone who already owns a larger Canon EOS DSLR.

Notable Features

In addition to the small size and low weight, the EOS SL1 has the following notable features:

  • Newly designed 18MP CMOS sensor
  • 9-point AF system with a high-precision f/2.8 center point (cross at f5.6)
  • Hybrid CMOS AF II for video and live view
  • ~4fps continuous shooting
  • Movie Servo AF using Hybrid CMOS AF II covers 80% of the frame for continuous focus tracking of moving subjects
  • 1080 HD video at 30/25/24 fps, 720 HD video at 60/50 fps
  • Built in flash (GN 9.4 at 100 ISO)
  • 3" Touch sensitive LCD (1,040,000 dots)

Using the EOS SL1

While the EOS SL1 is certainly small, it’s just large enough for someone with hands the size of mine (male, large glove size) to get a fairly decent grip on. For someone with smaller hands it might be ideal, but for someone who plays for the Lakers and can palm a basketball, it might be to small for comfort. The “grip” section isn’t as deep as that found on other Canon DSLRs.

On top of the camera are found the off/on/video switch, the shutter release, and ISO selection button and the mode control dial and the main control wheel. Slightly unusual here for a Canon DSLR is is the 3 position on/off video switch. In the “ON” mode, still photography is enabled and either normal still reflex or LiveView modes can be used. Video cannot be shot and there is no “video” position on the mode dial. With the switch set to the video icon, the LCD displays what the camera is seeing, Video mode is enabled and video can be stopped or started with a button on the rear of the camera (see below). The shutter release does not start and stop video, but it will capture a still image. If you’re shooting video, you can still shoot a still image using the normal shutter release, but the video will pause and record a still frame for about 1 second while the still image is shot and stored. The video will then resume.

The dedicated ISO button allows ISO to be set from 100 to 12,800 and to 25,600 if ISO expansion is enabled via a custom function. The ISO button in conveniently placed and easy to find without looking, so that you can press it and change the ISO without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

The mode dial has positions for Program AE, Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual (Stills and Movie), Scene Intelligent Auto (Stills and Movie), No Flash, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports and Scene modes (Kids, Food, Candlelight, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, and HDR Backlight Control).

On the back of the SL1 (EOS 100D) is the 3" touch sensitive LCD screen (1,040,000 dots). Above the LCD and to the right of the viewfinder is button which selects LiveView in still photography mode and acts as the video start and stop button when the camera is in video mode. To the left of the viewfinder are the buttons which bring up the main menu system (MENU) and which change the amount of information (histogram, exposure info etc) which is shown on the LCD screen (INFO) when an image is displayed (either in LiveView or Playback modes).

The two buttons at the top right are used in shooting mode to select the active AF zone(s) and to lock exposure. In playback mode they zoom in and out on the displayed image.

Immediately to the right of the LCD is the Av+/- button. In the creative modes (Av, Tv and P) pushing the button and simultaneously turning the main control wheel applies exposure compensation (up to +/- 5 stops in 1/3 stop steps). In manual mode, holding the button down while turning the main control wheel changes aperture. Turning the control wheel without holding the button down changes shutter speed.

The the center right is a 4 way controller with a set/Q button in the center. Unlike most other EOS models, just pressing the up/down/left/right sides of the 4 way controller does not bring up any function menus to change camera settings. Instead, if you press the center button the quick control screen is displayed (see below).

The cursor (orange outline) can be moved around the screen with the 4 way controller. You can also select an option by touching the screen. In the image above, White Balance has been selected. The current selection is “Auto,” which is displayed at the bottom of the screen. The selection can be changed using the main control wheel or you can press the center button of the 4-way controller again which brings up a second menu as shown below.

Selection from this menu can be made using the left/right buttons of the 4 way controller or by using the main control wheel or by touching the option you want to select. You can also reach this screen by pressing the “menu” button, selecting menu #2, using the up/down buttons of the 4 way controller to scroll down to White Balance" (or touching the White Balance line of the menu) and pushing the “set” button in the center of the 4-way controller.

So, as you may gather from this brief description of the white balance setting, there are quite a few different ways to get to most of the commonly used options. Some are only accessible via the menu button (basically the parameters not shown on the quick control screen).

I’m not going to describe how to set every possible camera parameter, but I hope the brief description of white balance setting gives you some idea of the general procedure. It may sound a little complex and confusing, but it really isn’t. After using the camera for an hour or two I actually found the menu scheme(s) easy to use and quite intuitive. You can use the touch screen for a lot of selections, but I think in every case you have an alternate method involving pushing buttons or turning a wheel, which could be very useful if, for example, you were wearing gloves.

The SL1 has a small built in flash (Guide Number around 9.4 at 100 ISO) which also strobes to act as an AF illuminator. Unlike some more expensive EOS bodies, the built in flash does not have the ability to act as a wireless flash controller and it does not have a built in PC flash connector. The SL1 is, of course, fully compatible with any of Canon’s Speedlite flash units via the built in hotshoe.

Performance and Usability

In use, the SL1 feels quite responsive. There’s no appreciable lag when pushing buttons or making many selections. Shutter lag is specified as around 75ms, which is the same as the T5i and T4i and only slightly slower than cameras like the EOS 7D (~60ms).

Using a Transcend 8GB class 6 SD card (the minimum speed required for video use), a shutter speed of 1/100s and an ISO setting of 1600, in continuous mode the SL1 shot 4 frames at rate of 3.93fps, the 5th frame after another 0.4s and then the time between frames dropped to an average of around 2.7s (0.37 fps).

Shooting JPEGs under the same conditions the SL1 shot 27 frames at a rate of 3.93 fps, after which the rate dropped to 1.85 fps.

Shooting just RAW images the SL1 shot 6 frames at a rate of 3.94 fps, after which the rate dropped with an average time between frames of around 2.35s (0.425 fps). With a Class 10 card I got 7 frames at a rate of 3.92 fps followed by an average time between frames of 1.97s (0.51 fps).

Canon specify that using a high speed UHS-1 SD card the SL1 has a buffer size of around 1140 full size JPEGs or around 8 RAW images. So going for the fastest card gives a significant gain in the number of JPEG images you can shoot before filling the buffer (27 to 1140), but only a small increase in the buffer capacity for RAW images (6/7 to 8).

The following 100% crops show the noise present in images shot from ISO 100 to ISO 25600 using the default JPEG noise reduction parameters. By shooting RAW and processing in external software (such as Canon’s DPP or Adobe ACR) you can balance noise reduction with loss of detail if you don’t like the default settings.




















Image noise seems well controlled with no significant noise visible in JPEGs shot up to about ISO 800. From ISO 1600 and up noise gradually increases and becomes more visible. The softening effects of noise reduction also become more apparent and how much noise is acceptable depends on how large a print you want to make and your own tolerance for noise and noise reduction artifacts. The default noise reduction settings (which are shown above) are a good compromise, but if you want more control, shooting in RAW and setting your own choice for chrominance and luminance noise reduction is the way to go. The supplied (free) DPP software is pretty good and pretty easy to use. At the very highest ISO setting (H, or ISO 25600), there’s really no way of avoiding pretty unpleasant noise effects unless you are only looking for small images. It’s probably best used only in emergencies.

Image quality is good, certainly at least on a par with previous Rebel DSLRs. The in camera correction for CA works well and exposure and white balance give good results the vast majority of the time. As is normal for Canon, tungsten white balance for indoor incandescent lighting gives noticeably warm images, but I’m sure this is by design not by accident. Setting white balance to around 2800K gives more neutral results.


EOS SL1 (100D) with 18-55 IS STM lens @ 50mm, I/125s @ f16, ISO 1600

Video performance is good, with optimum AF operation when used with one of Canon’s STM (stepper motor) lenses. The SL1 has the Hybrid CMOS AF II system (which also operates in LiveView mode) which uses phase detection pixels spread across 80% of the sensor’s imaging surface. Audio is only recorded in mono, but the SL1 provides the option of attaching an external stereo microphone (any 3rd party electret condenser microphone with a 3.5mm diameter plug). Audio level can set to automatic or it can be manually controlled in 64 steps. 1080 HD frame rate options are 30/25/24 fps, so you don’t get the 60fps option that some other cameras offer, though 720 HD is 60/50 fps.

Brief Specifications

Image Sensor 22.3 × 14.9mm (APS-C), 18MP (5184 × 3456)
AF Zones 9 zones in diamond pattern. (Center AF point is AF cross-type at f/5.6,
Center AF point is vertical line-sensitive at f/2.8)
AF Working Range Center AF point: EV -0.5 – 18
Other AF points: EV 0.5 – 18
ISO Settings ISO 100-12800 (expansion to 25600)  plus Auto
Shutter Speeds 1/4000 to 30 sec., X-sync at 1/200 sec.
Exposure Compensation Manual: +/- 5 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
AEB : +/- 2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
Continuous Shooting Max. approx. 4fps
Video [Full HD] 1920 × 1080 (30 fps/25 fps/24 fps)
[HD] 1280 × 720 (60 fps/50fps)
[SD] 640 × 480 (30 fps/25fps)
Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.60 × 3.57 × 2.74in / 116.8 × 90.7 × 69.4mm
Weight 14.36 oz. / 407g (inc battery and memory card)

Full Specifications can be found on the Canon website

Conclusions

The canon_sl1 (EOS 100D) is a good camera. Once I got used to the control layout, I found it an easy camera to use and a convenient camera to carry. The 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens exceed my expectations in terms of overall sharpness, image stabilization and focusing speed and buying the kit rather than just the camera body seems like a “no-brainer” unless you have no need for a lens with that focal length span.

Despite it’s small size, the SL1 packs in a lot of features so it’s not by any means a “stripped down” camera. Image quality was very good, especially if you take the time and trouble to shoot in RAW mode, though the default JPEGs will be just fine for the majority of users. High ISO noise is well controlled, though ISO 25600 is best left for emergency use or when you only need small web images. The video capabilities are good and the wide area AF tracking system works well with STM lenses. Though the built in microphone records only in mono, the ability to use an external stereo microphone will be welcome to those who are more serious about their video shooting.

The question of size is a complex one. It’s certainly more convenient to have a camera that’s small and light, but you also have to take into account what lenses will be used. With a small, light lens—such as the Canon EF 40/2.8 STM—then a small, light body makes sense to create a small, light camera system. Even with the 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens, the SL1 is still pretty compact. However once you start adding “more serious” (and by that I mean larger, heavier and more expensive) lenses, the contribution of the camera body to the size and weight of the system becomes significantly less important. The same reasoning applies to mirrorless cameras like the canon_eos_m_22f2. With small, light lenses you get a compact system, but once you start to use larger lenses, the small size of the body becomes much less significant. Perhaps the ideal lens to use with the EOS SL1 if you want to absolutely minimize size might be something like the very small tamron_18-270-canon which is only 3.5" long (just 0.5" longer than the 18-55 kit lens). It would make for a small, light outfit – thought the lens would actually weigh slightly more than the EOS SL1 body does!

Alternatives

Well, there is no DSLR that’s as small as the canon_sl1. Sony have just announced a new “SLR like” camera the sony_a3000_kit that is smaller (only 4.0″ × 2.3″ × 1.5″), but though it has the same form factor as a DSLR and it has interchangeable lenses, it’s actually a mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder. That means it lacks the real-time clear viewfinder of a true DSLR and it also lacks the phase contrast AF system with dedicated focus sensors that a true SLR has. Then again, with the shorter backfocus distance of a mirrorless cameras, dedicated lenses (particularly short focal length lenses) can also be made a little smaller.

If the smallest size and lowest weight aren’t particularly important, then there are many fairly small fairly light DSLRs from Sony, Pentax, Canon and Nikon, including Canon’s own Rebel range, many of which are similar in price or cheaper than the SL1, for example the canon_Canon_Rebel-T5i-Kit, which has a tilt and swivel LCD, a better still AF system and a faster frame rate the the SL1. However it’s a bit larger and heavier, the video AF tracking system isn’t as sophisticated, and it costs about $100 more.

Image Samples






















canon_100D.

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    • The Olympus E-420 of 2008 weighs less at 13.4 oz vs 14.36 oz for the SL1. So it's not the smallest & lightest.

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    • The E-420 hasn't been available since 2009 and even when it was it had a smaller 4/3 sensor. Not hard to make a smaller camera with a smaller sensor.

      The SL1 is the smallest lightest APS-C DSLR currently available. If fact I don't think anyone has ever made a smaller, lighter APS-C sensor DSLR then the EOS SL1.

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    • I have kept Pentax DSLR stuff for years, but now I may not have to keep two DSLR outfits to have a compact body alternative to my 5D2 for light carry. The new 40mm pancake has sealed the deal for this compactness, but why would Canon put all this effort and development into a truly compact body for which there is only one small lens, the 40? C'mom, Canon, why not an EOS version of your M-only 22mm? Without a more comprehensive set of compact lenses, the new smaller Rebel body is wasted effort.

      So, what are my choices for wide coverage in a compact size? Nikkor 20 f4 or 3.5 via an adapter with no autofocus? The old EF 24 f 2.8?

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    • I have read a lot of reviews of this little DSLR, and i can help but think that too many of the reviewers have sort of missed the point. I went to a store to look at this camera and after about 30 seconds playing with it, i knew i was going to walk out with one, and i did... Why you ask? I travel a great deal and there is no way in hell i am running around from airport to airport with however many pounds of full frame or 1Dwhatever or 5Dwhatever camera, lenses, etc in my bag. Hell i even downsized my laptop just to drop weight to carry around. The little SL1 offers me photo quality that is very near if not slightly better then my higher end gear under "most" circumstances, the whole package is tiny; camera, lens, charger etc all tuck into a corner of a carry on nicely. Even if i want to pick up the 55-250 for extended reach... it is not a huge piece of hardware and now i am able to shoot anything i am going to come across and get great results. Could i use a smart phone or a compact digital? sure, and often times i do, but for those times when i want better images, the little baby Rebel is always there tucked away in the rolling backpack... My gut feeling is that the SL1 is not a camera for everyone, and it will never replace the T5i or "enter other camera name here", but for some peoples purposes this little thing is darn near perfect. I bought it, i love it, one of the best camera purchases i ever made.

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    • I tend to be behind the times for just about everything.  It can be years before I see a popular movie, read a popular book or buy a new camera.  The last camera I bought was the Fujifilm HS20EXR bridge camera which is actually a really great camera.
      I recently treated myself to a Christmas present and bought the Rebel SL1 (100D).  It came with the standard kit lens and an additional Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens.
      Fabulous camera!  The colors are spot on.  It's very light weight and all the features are within easy reach for my hands.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!  I just purchased the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens to add to my collection of lenses and I've got my eye on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens to complete my collection, once I can afford it ($900 is nothing I can sneeze at).
      I hope to have this Canon for MANY years to come and I certainly love the images coming out of it.  Cheers!

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    • I have always preferred the Canon menu system, but have never personally owned a DSLR before. Only a small Powershot A430 and then a Fujifilm Finepix something (bridge camera that was so bad that we almost never used it and gave it away). After buying the 100D for my wife (CANON EOS 100D DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 III + EF 75-300 mm f/4-5.6 III Lens), I have not had any buyer's remorse. This is a good piece of kit, I'm not a professional photographer, however, I do understand photography and rarely (if ever) use the camera in automatic mode (even though it does perform very well for standard snaps in automatic mode). I've take some amazing photos on it and would really recommend it to anyone after a portable (although it's a DLSR, it is a lot lighter and more compact than any other (with the exception of Olympus PEN series) DSLR, whilst maintaining all of the functionality that you would expect. It is touchscreen (which is always going to be a bonus these days), however, there is no wireless connectivity to copy the photos onto another device, so the only way to get the photos off is the old manual "stick the SD card in a PC" way. It is very reasonably priced (I paid around £350 GBP ($550 US) for ours - body plus the two lenses).

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