Canon SL1 Review

Introduction

Initially released in the spring of 2013, Canon’s SL1, also known as the 100D outside of the United States, is the next progression in their entry-level lineup. It’s a camera released to offer more advanced capabilities than the earlier 1200D or T5, and a variant to the Rebel T5i. SL stands for Super Lightweight, and weighing in at only 13 oz, Canon touted this camera as the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR at the time of release.

Internally, it boasts a similar configuration as the flagship Rebel T5i. However, Canon offers it as a variant specifically aimed at enthusiasts or existing DSLR shooters looking for a smaller form factor, without a compromise in image quality. And Canon hopes it’ll be the ideal choice and the perfect competitor to Nikon’s D3400.

In today’s post, we will analyze its strengths, weaknesses, and address whether or not it’s still a relevant contender today.

canon-sl1-camera-specs

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon SL1?

Pros:

Image Quality

Despite the camera’s smaller size, It doesn’t compromise on image quality or sensor size. Instead, it obtains the same 18MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor along with the DIGIC 5 image processor from the Rebel T5i. Canon also equipped the sensor with an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF), to reduce the presence of moiré in certain scenes.

This is the same 18MP sensor found on the majority of Canon’s entry-level cameras during this time. Nevertheless, image quality is good and is on par with the competition. And its sensor produces images with good color and contrast that remain reasonably sharp, despite the camera’s age. And its photos display that pleasing Canon aesthetic to them.

It offers continuous shooting speeds of 4 fps, slow, but a respectable rate for this class of camera. When equipped with the proper SD card, it provides an 8 shot RAW or unlimited JPEG buffer. So while not particularly fast, and properly suited for sports or action, it does have quite some stamina.

Video Quality

It shoots 1080p full HD video up to 30 fps and 720p HD up to 60 fps in the MPEG-4 codec to the MOV format. Overall, video quality is okay and better suited for casual use. It’s not the sharpest, due to the presence of the OLPF and its smaller 18MP sensor.

Low Light Performance

It features a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 12,800, which is further expandable to ISO 25,600. And, overall, low light performance is quite good. Users can expect usable images and videos up to ISO 1,600. And while pictures from higher ISO’s are grainy, they’re mostly free of color shifts or banding.

Focusing Performance

It features the newer Hybrid CMOS AF II system, which promises superior autofocusing performance, particularly in Live View or during video recording. This system melds both contrast and phase-detection together, for added precision. And it provides a total of 9 points, where the central most is cross-type compatible.

However, unlike the iterations of this system that Canon installed on the EOS M and T4i, this system provides greater AF point coverage. And this camera boasts AF points that cover 80% of the Live View area. As a result, it offers superior performance and tracking compared to traditional contrast-based systems. And it was also one of the first cameras to offer continuous AF in video recording or Live View, outside of the T4i, which initiated the trend. Overall, autofocusing performance is fast, accurate, and consistent.

Display & Viewfinder

It obtains a similar 3.0-inch TFT touchscreen LCD as the EOS M and T4i with a resolution of 1.04M dots. Canon’s installed their Clearview II coating, which keeps the screen sharp and colors accurate. The screen also supplies enough brightness for viewing outdoors in harsh sunlight conditions. And since it’s a touchscreen, it also sports helpful gestures such as touch focus, touch shutter, and full menu navigation for quickly changing settings.

It features a slightly larger optical viewfinder now at 0.87x magnification but maintains the 95% coverage of the imaging area.

User Interface

It features standard Canon menus, which remain both intuitive and straightforward to navigate. Both newcomers and existing users will find them simple, easy to use, and quickly mastered.

It obtains the Quick Menu for quickly changing all critical settings on a single contextual menu.

It obtains the customizable My Menu, which allows users to create a custom menu tab with their favorite settings, saving time.

Newcomers will enjoy the camera’s fully automatic Scene Intelligent Auto Mode. In this mode, the camera automatically selects the best scene and settings. However, for enthusiasts, it also has Canon’s Creative Auto mode. This mode helps guide you to achieve a specific look without fully understanding exposure and other camera settings.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

In size, it remains as one of the smallest and lightest SLR’s Canon released to date, even smaller than the T5i and T4i. In size, it’s almost akin to a compact camera, which is quite surprising. Weighing only 370 g body alone, it’s virtually the size of the mirrorless Sony a6000. Nevertheless, the camera provides updated finishes, giving it a more premium feel than the 1200D.

And while it offers a more straightforward physical layout, it maintains all of the critical functionality needed for manual control. And all of the necessary selection of buttons are present, despite its smaller size. The button placement is also well executed and doesn’t lend itself to unwanted or accidental changes. Plus, the grip, while a bit small, is comfortable for its size and nicely contoured. Overall, it’s physical design and layout are both excellent. And we’re pleased to see Canon hasn’t sacrificed the removal of necessary ergonomics, just for size.

The camera has a decided video recording mode on the On/Off toggle, which allows users to start videos in any shooting mode. When set to the video mode, the Live View button acts as the camera’s video start/stop button. In contrast, the shutter button captures stills while recording, a nice touch.

Niche Features/Extras

It has HDR backlit, which performs in-camera HDR by taking three separate exposures to retain detail in both shadows and highlights of an image.

It has a microphone input.

It has a built-in pop-up flash.

It now features background simulation, which gives users a Live View preview of the background blur in the final image before capture.

The camera can now preview creative filters in Live View.

It features a new Effect Shot Mode, which captures two images simultaneously. One image has a creative effect applied, the other without.

Cons:

Video Capabilities

It lacks 4K UHD video. And it also lacks any high frame rate options in 1080p, be it 60 fps to 120 fps. If you desire slow motion, you will have to drop down to 720p HD to do so.

The camera segments video recordings into 4 GB chunks, which requires combining in post-processing for seamless videos.

Autofocus Performance

While the addition of touch focus in Live View is excellent, it’s a bit slow compared to newer implementations of this technology.

Battery Performance

Battery life is below average. Canon rates its LP-E12 battery at 480 shots per charge, much lower than the 600 shot lifespan typically expected for entry-level DSLRs. You will need extra batteries for a long day’s shoot.

Display

Unlike the T4i, it’s rear screen lacks articulation altogether and is completely fixed. In today’s age, a lack of articulation makes high or low angle shooting tricky and unnecessarily cumbersome. Overall, it isn’t ideal for this type of shooting, though it can work nonetheless.

Ergonomics

The camera offers a smaller grip with less surface area to purchase than it’s larger brother the T5i. Thus, those with larger hands may find the grip slightly shallow and uncomfortable during prolonged use.

Lacking Features

For some odd reason, the camera doesn’t display the battery status on the LCD. Strange to see this feature missing.

It lacks a built-in panorama.

It lacks built-in Wi-Fi and GPS. If you desire wireless connectivity or GPS, you can purchase optional adapters/receivers to obtain this functionality.

It lacks weather sealing.

Is this a good beginner camera?

Yes. It makes for an excellent beginner’s camera, even considering its age. And it’s undoubtedly a superior option to the lower-end 1200D. While it doesn’t obtain much of the higher-end features from Canon’s mid-range camera, it provides all of the necessary features that beginners need. 

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Canon SL1?

General Photography: 

EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

Macro Photography:

EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography:

EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM

Portrait Photography:

EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM
EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

Sports & Wildlife Photography:

EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM

Product & Still Life Photography:

EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM

Extra Batteries:

Canon LP-E12

SD Cards:

SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB
SanDisk Extreme PRO 64GB 
SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB

Tripod:

Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminum 5-Section Tripod

Is this a good camera for you?

Possibly. 

Current T4i or T3i users shouldn’t upgrade. This camera doesn’t provide significant enough improvements to justify an upgrade. That is unless you want a more compact camera that offers similar image quality. 

This camera makes a solid option as a backup camera or second angle for existing Canon users looking for similar image quality, without compromising performance. And it delivers the added benefit of being smaller, which makes it a good option if you want more discretion while shooting.

In the end, Canon’s SL1 is a camera that’s ideally suited for those looking for a lightweight, compact, take-anywhere DSLR. And it’s a complete package that provides a respectable feature set for its price point. In many respects, it’s the smaller Rebel T5i that’s aimed to be the ideal traveling companion. And it’s a camera that offers a similar package to the mirrorless competition, with the added benefit of more accurate autofocusing using the optical viewfinder. At its time of release, it was both the smallest and lightest DSLR around. And yet, it does so without compromising unnecessarily on features. It’s an excellent entry-point into the Canon ecosystem for the price and a solid alternative to the T5i, minus it’s articulating screen. If you want the smallest possible DSLR body without sacrificing features or performance, here’s your camera.  

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.2

Summary

Canon’s SL1 is ideally suited for those looking for a lightweight, travel-friendly SLR. It provides a respectable feature set at this price point, even considering its age. In many respects, it’s the smaller Rebel T5i. And it makes a strong choice for those looking for portability.