Canon’s SL3, also known as the EOS 250D outside of the United States, is their latest ultra-compact DSLR. Released in the summer of 2019, it replaces the EOS 200D as the third entry into the SL, Super lightweight, lineup that continues the trend of compact take anywhere DSLRs. And it’s now Canon’s smallest and lightest DSLR to date.
On paper, it promises only marginal differences over its predecessor, namely 4K video, an updated processor, and better battery life. And it’s a camera aimed as a competitor Panasonic’s G85, Sony’s a6300, and, strangle, their EOS M50.
But, considering the competition in the entry-level space is tight, can a DSLR of all releases take the reign as the top option? We’re in an era where the DSLR dynasty wanes, and small mirrorless cameras are the new norm. But, let’s see if Canon’s latest SLR has what it takes to slow that momentum.
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon SL3?
It obtains the same 24.1MP CMOS sensor with an Anti-Aliasing filter as the predecessor. However, new for this camera is the latest DIGIC 8 image processor, which offers significantly better processing. The added processing power gives this camera the new C-RAW 3 (.CR3) format, which reduces file sizes by 40%. And, overall, the combination of this sensor and processor delivers strong image quality for the class. The camera’s 14-bit RAW files produce a good amount of detail and ample dynamic range, closely matching Canon’s 80D and T7i. And the camera obtains Canon’s acclaimed color processing, for natural and pleasing color rendering.
It also offers continuous shooting speeds of 5 frames per second, which is average for the class. However, the buffer depth is good. And the camera delivers virtually unlimited JPEGs, 15 RAW, or 40 C-RAW images before slowing.
New for this release is 4K Ultra HD video up to 24 frames per second, a substantial change over the predecessor’s 1080p maximum. This resolution does have some issues, however. We will cover those in the con’s section below. Otherwise, like its predecessor, it also shoots 1080p full HD video up to 60 fps for slow-motion video. And it shoots both of these resolutions to the web friendly MP4 format via IPB compression. In performance, this camera mostly matches both the 80D and 77D DSLRs. And image quality produced during video recordings is excellent. The footage produced is reasonably sharp, with the same pleasing color rendering offered during stills.
The camera also offers a clean HDMI output, which outputs either 4K or 1080p signals, perfect for live streaming or using external recorders. Surprisingly, the camera even outputs a 10-bit 4:2:2 signal, an extraordinarily rare addition in this class.
The camera also provides Digital Image Stabilization (IS) when shooting videos, though at an additional crop. However, it’s useful if you don’t have an optically stabilized lens.
It obtains the 4K Frame Grab feature, which lets you pull 8.3MP still images from 4K movies or a 4K time-lapse.
The camera offers the 4K time-lapse movie, which outputs a 4K 30 fps video using ALL-I compression.
Like most cameras in this class, video recordings on this camera limit at 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance is excellent. It features a native ISO range from ISO 100-25,600, and users can expect usable images up to ISO 3,200.
When using the viewfinder, the camera uses the same 9-point AF system with a central cross-type point as the predecessor. This is also a similar setup as several of Canon’s other Rebel cameras in this range. But, despite its rather small coverage, the viewfinder focusing performance remains good for the class.
However, the updated processor has dramatically improved the camera’s Live View autofocusing system. The camera obtains Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF (DPAF) system when using the rear screen, which covers most of the frame. And new for this system is full-time Face and Eye-detect AF, a first for the Rebel lineup. And this addition ultimately becomes its key selling feature over the predecessor. With DPAF and Eye-Detect, this camera tracks the eye and re-focuses beautifully, making it well suited for portraits. And the Live View focusing is excellent.
The camera also offers manual focus magnification and focus peaking if you prefer manually focusing.
It uses the same LP-E17 battery as the predecessor. However, the updated processor has brought about significant improvements in battery life. Canon now rates the camera to deliver 1,630 shots per charge, nearly tripling its predecessors 620 shots maximum. And overall, the battery longevity offered here is excellent and a key selling feature compared to rivals in this class.
Display & Viewfinder
The camera has an optical viewfinder with 95% frame coverage and a 0.87x magnification, which are on par for this class. The viewfinder also displays a good deal of on-screen information, including ISO, exposure compensation, aperture, and more.
Canon’s also opted to keep the predecessor’s rear screen. In this case, it maintains the same 3.0-inch vari-angle TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 1.04M dots. This screen also has Canon’s Clear View II coating, which helps reduce glare. Overall, the screen itself is excellent. It’s reasonably sharp, detailed, bright, and doesn’t suffer from reflections. And it’s fully articulating design is the ideal choice, as it offers the most versatility. It helps when shooting at both high and low angles, and it’s also perfect for front-facing selfies or vlogging. Since it’s a touchscreen, it supports various helpful touch gestures such as touch focus, touch tracking, touch shutter, swiping in playback, pinch to zoom, and full menu navigation.
It obtains a similar user interface and menu as the predecessor, which remains fantastic. The camera’s menus are well designed and perfectly suited for beginners. This camera also supports full menu navigation through touch. And Canon’s once again showed they’re the leaders in the user experience. On-screen settings are natural to change, and the camera responds well to this style of input.
The camera also obtains the customizable My Menu, where up to six items or top-tier items can be registered.
The camera provides 11 custom functions that you can map to four buttons, giving you some flexibility to customize its layout.
It obtains the Feature and Shooting Mode Guides, which provides extensive on-screen tips and guidance to teach new users how camera settings affect the final image, with examples. It also receives the Guided interface from the predecessor, which is well laid out and intuitive. Though, you can switch to the traditional Main and Quick menu screens, if preferred.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
At 449g, the camera is lighter than some of its mirrorless counterparts. But, it’s about the same weight as the predecessor, which was 453g. But, considering this is a DSLR, not a mirrorless camera, it now officially holds the title of the smallest and lightest SLR to date. Nevertheless, it maintains similar dimensions, design, and ergonomics as the SL2. And they’re excellent. Canon’s known for their ergonomics, and this camera inevitably follows suit. The camera offers a surprisingly deep grip for its size, making it quite comfortable during prolonged use. The grip also doubles to make the camera well-balanced, given its size and weight.
The button layout itself is simple but effective. But, they offer clicky metal detents and tactile feedback, a nice touch. And overall, the shooting experience offered by this camera is excellent.
There are some minor changes over the predecessor. Canon simplified the Mode Dial, removing the No Flash and Creative Auto Modes. These features are in the menus instead. And they’ve also removed the dedicated Wi-Fi button, a slight shame for some.
It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing you to wirelessly transfer photos, videos, or embed GPS coordinates. And you can also remotely control the camera via Canon’s Camera Connect app, with control over both photos and videos. Overall, the wireless implementation, while not new, remains one of the best around.
It has built-in HDR.
It has a microphone input.
It has a built-in pop-up flash.
It has a Smooth Skin effect, with five intensity levels, to smooth blemishes and skin tones. It’s a great addition to make the skin appear soft if you don’t plan on doing any post-processing.
When shooting in 4K, the camera does so with an additional 1.6x crop resulting in a total 2.64x total crop factor. But, even worse, you also lose Canon’s confident Dual Pixel AF at this resolution. Instead, the camera defaults to a less confident contrast-detection system. And this system hunts and is continually unsure of itself while focusing. Plus, the camera also experiences rolling shutter when filming in 4K. Overall, while 4K video is a headline-grabbing feature on paper, the reality is that it’s mostly unusable. It suffers from too many downgrades to make it genuinely desirable for anything besides static scenes. And it’s even more challenging if you plan on vlogging or filming indoors.
The camera lacks the super slow motion frame rate of 120 fps at 1080p. But more frustratingly, it lacks 24 fps at 1080p, an essential frame rate for cinematic recordings.
The camera’s optical viewfinder experience takes a significant downgrade compared to the Live View shooting experience. With only 9 AF points clustered around the center of the frame, it’s merely inferior in performance. While this is the standard AF system employed by several entry-level Canon Rebel cameras, it’s archaic in today’s age, particularly so for the beginner crowd this camera aims. With such little coverage, users will have to focus and recompose when shooting through the viewfinder, which isn’t ideal for beginners. And considering this technique is unnecessary when using the rear screen, most users willingly composing in this fashion is rather low.
Like most Canon cameras in this class, ISO adjustments only occur in full-stop increments. And this limits the precise control you have to nail exposure using ISO alone.
You cannot set a minimum shutter speed when using Auto ISO.
The camera’s hot shoe lacks the necessary sync pin to connect with third party flash units, radio transmitters, and manual flashes. Only Canon’s proprietary EX flashes will work. It’s strange to see Canon remove this, as it’s a feature present on both the predecessor and EOS M50.
It lacks a headphone output.
It lacks weather sealing.
The camera doesn’t display audio levels while recording, a similar issue as the EOS M50.
It lacks USB charging.
Is this a good beginner camera?
It’s an excellent beginner’s camera and a reasonable upgrade over the predecessor. It offers an even more straightforward interface than before, which makes it great for new users. Plus, Canon’s kept the Scene Intelligent Auto, Guide, and Feature modes. And for this reason, it’s an excellent starting camera.
Is this a good camera for you?
With the massive crop factor and loss of Dual Pixel AF, this camera isn’t ideal if you desire 4K video. It suffers from too many limitations to recommend as a 4K camera. Instead, it’s a 1080p camera with the bonus of 4K resolution, which you can make work if you go in knowing its limitations. But with that said, it remains an excellent overall video camera, particularly for vlogging, with its confident focusing, flip screen, and mic input. So, if 4K video is not critical to your workflow, it’s a worthy option to consider.
Compared to the predecessor, it’s a worthy upgrade if you want better battery life and updated focusing. Otherwise, the SL2 is the better option, as there’s nothing substantial to gain.
Compared to other Canon cameras, namely the EOS M50, this camera is a tough sell. The competition in this segment is fierce. And the main reason to get this camera over the M50 is if you prefer the DSLR viewfinder experience. Otherwise, the EOS M50 is the better all-round camera, minus the continuous Eye-detect AF and optical viewfinder. If you can live without these particular features, consider it instead.
For seasoned shooters, there’s not a whole lot to gain with this camera. Consider Canon’s EOS M50 or M6 models instead.
In the end, Canon’s SL3 is quite a strange mishmash release from Canon. It provides an extraordinarily confident mirrorless experience, but composing through the viewfinder steps back in time and downgrades the camera. And the camera overall doesn’t really step forward in technology. Instead, it’s just yet another option in Canon’s lineup, but one that may confuse new users. And considering the EOS M50 is virtually identical to this camera, it’s confusing why they released this camera. But, it’s not all doom and gloom here. The 250D makes an excellent first time DSLR for new users or casual photographers. Sure, it doesn’t offer anything particularly revolutionary. And it lacks anything truly innovative or special. But, it ticks the right boxes, refines a proven platform and makes an ideal product for this target audience. So for beginners, it’s one of the better options in Canon’s lineup. And you won’t be disappointed by the image quality and performance. In the grand scheme, it offers a lot for a relatively low price. And for those looking for a full-featured compact DSLR, it’s an option to consider. And a great choice if you want a lightweight, versatile package.
Canon’s SL3 came as a shock to the market, and justifiably so as it’s yet another release to confuse users with options. And even though it’s not innovative, it can be a worthwhile option for those wanting a hybrid DSLR experience. And, overall, it’s a good camera. But it’s one that faces fierce competition that makes it only appealing to a small subset and a tough sell for most.