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.
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.
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.
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)
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
Well, there is no DSLR that’s as small as the
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