Canon EOS Rebel SL1 review: A dSLR for dainty hands

Overall, the camera's performance is up to its intended tasks -- photographing kids, pets, and vacations -- albeit with some caveats. The autofocus works relatively quickly and accurately in both still and Live View/Video, as long as you don't rely on the camera to choose the AF points (no camera chooses the correct subject). Using the touch focus in Live View is a big help. Like the rest of the Rebels, though, the viewfinder has tiny little focus points that are almost impossible to center over your subject while shooting burst. You pretty much have to rely on happy accidents to get sharp, correctly framed action shots.

The only problem is the LCD. On one hand, it has the same great touch screen and interface as the T5i's, which is really nice for navigating the settings and shooting video. But it's nearly impossible to see in direct sunlight, and since it doesn't articulate like the T5i's, you're stuck. It's not much of a problem for shooting stills, since you can see most of the relevant settings you need to change in the viewfinder, but shooting video outdoors can get really frustrating.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Raw shot-to-shot time
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim light)
Shutter lag (typical)
Sony Alpha NEX-6
2
0.2
0.2
0.5
0.2
Canon EOS Rebel T5i
0.7
0.3
0.3
0.8
0.2
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
0.6
0.2
0.3
0.8
0.3
Nikon D3200
0.3
0.6
0.5
0.5
0.3
Nikon D5200
0.3
0.2
0.2
0.8
0.5
Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
4.1

Design and features
Smaller and lighter than its dSLR competitors, SL1 in design sacrifices surprisingly little to shave some size off the T5i. Most of the difference is in the grip, which is shallower and lower than the bigger camera's, and the LCD, which is fixed rather than articulated.

On the right shoulder of the camera sits the mode dial, which has the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes , plus a three-way on/off/movie switch. In addition to the three multishot modes offered by the T5i -- HDR Backlight Control (which automatically combines four image exposures to retain detail in shadow and highlight areas for backlit subjects), a four-shot Handheld Night Scene mode, and Night Portrait -- the SL1 includes kids, food, and candlelight scene modes. The mode dial itself is smaller than on the T5i but still manageable.

The SL1's body compared with the T5i. Sarah Tew/CNET

The controls on the back are smaller and flatter than those on the T5i, though the layout is roughly the same. The big difference here is the lack of functions attached to the navigation buttons -- you've got to use the touch screen to choose autofocus mode, drive mode, white balance, and Picture Styles, though I didn't find it much of an inconvenience (except in direct sunlight, when I couldn't see the screen).

The touch screen is responsive and has an intelligent user interface, including the usual capabilities, like touch focus, that streamline Live View shooting. You don't have to use it if you don't want to, though operations like selecting ISO sensitivity go much faster when you can directly select rather than having to cycle through them. Overall, I find Canon's interface straightforward and easy to use.

Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Canon EOS Rebel T5i Nikon D3200 Pentax K-50 Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Alpha SLT-A58
Sensor effective resolution 18MP Hybrid CMOS II 18MP hybrid CMOS 24.2MP CMOS 16.3MP CMOS
(12 bits)
16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
n/a
20.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
22.3mm x 14.9mm 22.3mm x 14.9mm 23.2mm x 15.4mm 23.7mm x 15.7mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm 23.2mm x 15.4mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/
200 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (exp)
ISO 100 - ISO 51200 ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 4fps
8 raw/ unlimited JPEG
5fps
6 raw/22 JPEG
4fps
n/a
6fps
8 raw/30 JPEG
3fps
11 raw/15 JPEG
(10fps with fixed exposure)
5fps
6 raw/7 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) 95% coverage
0.85x/0.53x
95% coverage
0.85x/ 0.53x

Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/ 0.53x

Optical
100% coverage
0.92x/0.61x
OLED EVF
0.5-inch
2.4 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/0.73x
Electronic OLED
0.5 inch/ 480,000 dots
100% coverage
0.88x/0.59x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type;
31-point contrast AF
9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
(SAFOX IXi+)
99-point phase detection, 25-area contrast AF 15-pt phase-detection
3 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 to 18 EV -0.5 to 18 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 18 EV 0 to 20 EV -1 to 18 EV
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/6,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 30-1/4,000 sec.; bulb; 1/160 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 seconds; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 77-segment 1,200-zone 1,200-zone
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 22 EV 0 - 20 EV n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/
24p/25p; 720/50p/ 60p
AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/ 24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440 x 1080/30p @ 12Mbps AVCHD 1080/60i/ 50i/25p/24p @ 24Mbps
Audio Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono; mic input Mono Stereo; mic input Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes n/a
IS Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Optical Sensor shift
LCD size 3-inch fixed touch screen
1.04 MP
3-inch articulated, touch screen
1.04 MP
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch tilting touch screen
921,600 dots
2.7-inch tilting
460,800 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 380 shots 440 shots 540 shots 710 (AA lithium); 410 (lithium ion) 270 shots
(with viewfinder)
690 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 5 x 3.8 x 3.1 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 4.8 x 2.8 x 1.1 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.1
Body operating weight (ounces) 14.9 20.8 17.6 22.9 (est) 12.3 17.4 (est)
Mfr. price $649.99 (body only) $749.99 (body only) n/a $699.95 (body only) $649.99 (body only) n/a
$799.99 (with 18-55mm STM lens) $899.99 (with 18-55mm STM lens) $699.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $779.95 (with 18-55mm WR lens) $799.99 (with 15-60mm PZ lens) $599.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a $1,099.99 (with 18-135mm STM lens) n/a $879.95 (with 18-55mm WR and 50-200 WR lenses) n/a n/a
Release date April 2013
April 2013 April 2012 July 2013 October 2012 April 2013

But without even an articulated display, the camera disappoints even more than the T5i on its features. It's got the basics you'd expect from a $700 body, but lacks a lot of modern options, like GPS or wireless, as well as interesting traditional features, such as time-lapse, multiple exposure, and intervalometer. It's got the same handful of "meh" special effects as the T5i. I also miss peaking for manual focus in Live View; it would make focusing with every lens besides the STM model so much easier. It does include the Video Snapshot mode carried over from the camcorders and PowerShots for shooting quick clips.

Conclusion
The SL1 is a fine dSLR, and I enjoyed shooting with it. But from a buying-advice perspective, its only real advantage over dSLR alternatives is its size, and in that respect it's simply not small enough -- especially compared with a mirrorless interchangeable-lens model equipped with a power zoom lens. Its optical viewfinder isn't significantly superior to the electronic viewfinder, either, which would be one of the main reasons to opt for a dSLR. And there are much cheaper compact ILCs that deliver similar performance and photo quality, with better feature sets, especially if you're willing to forgo the viewfinder. If you already have a selection of Canon EF or EF-S lenses, or want to be able to share lenses with bigger Canon bodies, it's a reasonable purchase, but otherwise you might want to check out the competition.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Digital SLR Camera
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 18.0 Megapixel
  • Optical Sensor Size 14.9 x 22.3mm