DPReview Gear of the Year: Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D

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18MP sensor | Hybrid CMOS AF II system | 3.0-inch touchscreen

I'm afraid I didn't even hesitate. Though I've reviewed some fine cameras this year, when we started discussing our choices for Gear of the Year, I immediately chose the little camera then nestled in my bag: The Canon Rebel SL1, also known as the 100D and Kiss X7 elsewhere in the world. As a longtime reviewer, my choice is partly about the achievement the camera represents for end users, but also how I use the camera in my own life.

Canon SL1 - What I love:

  • Small body is easier than ever to bring along, so I do.
  • Snappy yet subtle shutter sound doesn't disturb subjects and sounds cool rather than cheap.
  • Touchscreen interface works better than most, making the quick menu truly quick.
  • Usable live view autofocus system offers more options for creative shots.
  • Low light performance is excellent for indoor and night shots, where family activities are common.
  • Focus tracking in video mode is effective, making movie mode that much more useful.

As I mentioned, other cameras I used this year also earned my admiration, including the Fujifilm X-E1, Olympus E-M1, Sony A7R, and Canon's own 70D, whose autofocus surpasses the performance of the little SL1. But it's getting SLR performance in a small package that's significant about the SL1. With the 40mm STM attached, that goes to extremes, at least for the SLR category, fitting into the same space I usually reserve for medium zoom lenses in my bag.

While I sometimes use longer zoom lenses for shooting outdoor events, I usually have either the 40mm STM mounted, which is not much thicker than a body cap, or the excellent 50mm F1.4. The 40mm is equivalent to a 64mm lens, and the 50mm is like an 80mm lens on this APS-C camera. Short telephotos are actually great for the type of shooting I like to do, which is portraits, but that's not all I like to do. 

What's missing to make the Canon SL1 the perfect 'street shooter' is a reasonably fast 22mm lens, which would equate to a 35mm lens. A 31mm lens would also come close to a 50mm lens on a full frame camera. These have too long been missing from Canon's lineup, so here's hoping they do something about this soon. 

For more general-purpose photography, the 18-55mm kit lens focuses fast, is reasonably small and image-stabilized, and I'd recommend it for most shooters. My wife picked up the camera for the first time and used the SL1 to grab this shot of my kid showing off her sandy hands over the summer. She liked its small size and how easy it was to quickly frame and fire through the viewfinder.

With the 40mm STM pancake lens, the Canon SL1 is a super small SLR with the equivalent of a 64mm lens. That may be a little long for some, but my affinity for portraits makes it just fine. The combo occupies the space normally reserved for medium zoom lenses. That's the SL1 in the lower left pocket, while the 70D is shown from the top with the 18-135mm lens mounted for comparison.

Controls on the Canon SL1 are small, but still usable, such that when the battery of my other camera died on a recent portrait shoot, it wasn't hard to quickly adapt to the SL1 and keep shooting: All the control I needed was there, and though I had to go into the menu to make a few changes, and of course change lenses, it went quickly and the camera worked like a charm.

I also use Micro Four Thirds cameras for my on-the-go family photography, but since I've had the SL1 around, my mirrorless camera has been sitting unused. I have more lenses that work with the SL1, which is the main reason, not any shortcoming of the MFT cameras. If I have a larger SLR along, the SL1 makes a great second camera, reducing lens swaps and taking up little space.

And because Canon hasn't changed the resolution of its APS-C lineup significantly (much to the chagrin of some fans), the little SL1 still performs as well as we'd expect in terms of image quality, delivering good detail in low light settings common to family events.

Where the SL1 excels, though, is in its live view and movie autofocus. The SL1 handled live view shooting better than other SLRs I'd used previous to the 70D, and as I demonstrated in my review, the SL1 can also track focus admirably thanks to its Hybrid AF II autofocus system. That alone makes having video on an SLR valuable: Working autofocus allows you to stop thinking about focus and instead focus on following your subject.

I'm not one who has trouble framing with cameras that only feature an LCD, but I have to admit it's nice to have an optical viewfinder in such a small camera, one that works with my modest set of SLR lenses, yet fits in a small space. As such, I have no problem recommending the Canon SL1/100D to family photographers. Its simplified feature set is nevertheless quite complete, having just what I need in a body I can keep handy without too much fuss. Good stuff.

This is part 5 in a series of articles where DPReview staff will be highlighting their personal standout products of the year.

Canon Rebel SL1/100D sample gallery

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Comments

Total comments: 269
12
Lawrencew
By Lawrencew (4 months ago)

Would the new EOS M2 with EF-M 22mm fit the bill as your "perfect street shooter", if Canon would sell it outside of Asia?

It shares many of features of the SL1 including the same hybrid sensor, albeit in mirrorless form.

If you want a 'discrete' street shooter, then the SL1 is still large and indiscrete in comparison.

Or is it the lack of OVF and liveview only focusing that still puts you off an M2?

1 upvote
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

I think I would like an M2. As I said, I don't mind shooting from an LCD only on a small camera. What put me off the M was its very slow AF with the 22mm lens. If that's improved - which I can't know without testing - then it would be great as an everywhere camera.

3 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (4 months ago)

for street snaps 6D/D600, 70D/D7100 and down to G6/E-M1 with a lens in the 28-200 range (50, 85, 135, 24-105 or 70-200) sounds good to me.

fast response (OODA loop) is the key, that I think SL1 may be on the okay line but EOS M is not.

maybe the purpose of EOS M/M2 is to disappoint people for a dramatic effect when Canon announce new cameras next year?

1 upvote
Garp2000
By Garp2000 (4 months ago)

Probably not. Because the Hybrid CMOS AF II system is still slow. Too slow for being the only focus method in a camera.

0 upvotes
Alastair Norcross
By Alastair Norcross (4 months ago)

There's a lot of silliness here about the need for ultra fast focus for street shooting. For many years photographers did very well with manual focus. The current EOS M with upgraded firmware is perfectly fast enough for street shooting with the exceptional 22mm pancake. Unless, perhaps, you are shooting fast and erratic runners in the street. That little camera is a joy to use, as I've recently discovered.

3 upvotes
SulfurousBeast
By SulfurousBeast (4 months ago)

Shawn - Again, why be stuck with a mirror box design, when there are so many alternate options? Lumix, Oly, Sony, Sansung, Fuji etc. You can shrink the body as much as you want except the mirror box and flange distance, and lenses will be ever the same big ones designed for EF or EF-S mounts...its a losing battle. Look at the experiments Sony had to do before what seems like settling down on one type of mount to forward.

0 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

SulfurousBeast, I don't feel stuck. I have a mirrorless camera and like it a lot. But I liked my time with this more. It's my job here to be honest about my experience, and I have been.

0 upvotes
FunckyPIX
By FunckyPIX (4 months ago)

well mirrorless everyone has a smartphone, so for a change a SL1 is good

0 upvotes
JapanAntoine
By JapanAntoine (4 months ago)

Interesting choice.
Why better than the Fuji XE-1 / XE-2?

1 upvote
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

It's smaller and less expensive for starters. I liked the Fujifilm cameras as well, and would buy one if the better lenses weren't quite as expensive. They're worth it, of course, I just can't afford more than two camera systems personally. The SL-1 also just works really well. I have my eye on an X-M1, though.

2 upvotes
Naveed Akhtar
By Naveed Akhtar (4 months ago)

well with all the gear you already got,i would suggest X100S!! small, excellent sensor quality and fixed lens is extremely good and tiny and easier to slip in your bag or even pocket. however one other team member has already took it ..

0 upvotes
armandino
By armandino (4 months ago)

I do not think that the Fuji cameras are quite as snappy for shutter lag. Great cameras if you do not care for dynamic shots.

0 upvotes
schmaud
By schmaud (4 months ago)

Nice perspective,
still I have to smile a bit about the fuss on small but capable system cameras this year(3 of 5 gear of the year so far).
My second hand camera I bought more than five years hold up quite well agains the newest an hottest: I have a Olympus E420 with a 25mm pancake and the small kit zoom

when looking at:
http://camerasize.com/compare/#448,206
I somehow do not feel the urge for an upgrade..

Yes, there is no video, no touch screen and live view AF performance could be better. But still it is a 7year old camera concept ( counting teh e-410 as almost identical).

cheers

Ralf

2 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

Yep, that's a good, very small camera. I liked it very much too. Olympus stopped making it, though, so this is a good alternative for those wanting a similar product today. Glad to hear you're still happy with your camera.

1 upvote
Revenant
By Revenant (4 months ago)

The fact is that "small but capable" is exactly what many people want nowadays. Using a large DSLR in a studio, or bringing it to a model shoot, or when driving to a specific location to shoot landscapes, that's one thing. But few people find it convenient to use a large DSLR as a walkabout camera, or for family snapshots.
I don't think the "small but capable" thing is some kind of agenda that DPR is trying to force upon us. Rather, it just reflects what the consumer in general wants.

3 upvotes
Iskender
By Iskender (4 months ago)

schmaud: I have an E-420 too (bought as new), but unfortunately I feel a bit differently about it these days.

When I bought it the options for small size and big sensor were it and the Sigma DP series - how things have changed! Within a year I added the Sigma 30/1.4, which gave it an excellent boost.

However, taking pictures today, it can't keep up. I now have the Olympus E-P1 - which is considered to be a slow focuser with a noisy sensor.

However, compared to the 420 the P1 is a high-performance camera. The image has a chance of fitting into the dynamic range, there is none of that horrible high-ISO pattern noise, noise is lower overall, and the IS increases the chances of getting the shot further.

The worst-in-class viewfinder and AF complete the aged E-420 package. It's still a good and feature-packed camera, apart possibly from the sensor. Time and competition have beaten it, however.

0 upvotes
new boyz
By new boyz (4 months ago)

If only Canon could stuff FF sensor into this...

5 upvotes
iudex
By iudex (4 months ago)

I do not doubt that SL1 is a nice small camera, but praising it as there were no small camera+lens combos in the past is not really fair. Take any entry-level DSLR from Pentax, add an extra small 40mm XS lens and the combo will be even smaller than SL1 with 40mm STM lens. http://slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1490
Tha same with a zoom lens: Canon has nothing to compete with ultra-compact 20-40mm Limited zoom.

1 upvote
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

I'd get out a caliper on that claim. You might be right in terms of thickness, given how slim the 40mm pancake is, but I don't think so in width or height. Pentax cameras are small, and historically so as well, no question. But they don't have the live view and video autofocus the SL1 has, which is a major point of this story. It's an SLR that can focus almost as well as fast mirrorless cameras in live view mode.

1 upvote
iudex
By iudex (4 months ago)

I see, Pentax cannot compete in video features with Canon, that ´s for sure. I just wanted to focus on DSLR small-form factor, which is no new invention of Canon, but has a long tradition at Pentax, not only the bodies, but most notably the Limited lenses (the 40mm XS being the smallest DLSR lens ever).

2 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

Yep, totally agree. Canon could learn a lot from Pentax's Limited lenses in particular, because they're made specifically for people who love photography. The 40mm STM is crude by comparison. My first draft of this article went into more depth about Olympus and Pentax's historical contributions to small SLR form factors dating back to the 1970's, but I cut it to stay on point.

4 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (4 months ago)

> Canon could learn a lot from Pentax's Limited lenses in particular

definitely not ... maybe yes for users who have wrong idea about photography.

0 upvotes
Brett St Pierre
By Brett St Pierre (4 months ago)

>> Canon could learn a lot from Pentax's Limited lenses in particular

> definitely not ... maybe yes for users who have wrong idea about photography.

Please elaborate. I've been shooting for 30 years, 3 brands (Canon, Minolta, Pentax), many good prime and zoom lenses and they all have their uses. Weddings and travel I use mainly zooms. Street I like primes. A small body and 2 or 3 small primes are a joy for the enthusiast to wander with. My son is learning photography with just one prime. It teaches him to move to frame not zoom to frame and from that you learn other things about composition. I don't understand your comment about being for users who have the wrong idea about photography. I'd say it's the right idea about photography.

0 upvotes
RicardoPhotos
By RicardoPhotos (4 months ago)

I'm not a fan of small DSLRs. It's why I chose my lesser spec'd 50D over the T2i. Mostly because of ergonomics.

But the SL1 is different. Feels very comfortable in my hands. And I just don't get over the size. Tiny, yet capable.

Honestly, I don't know if it's enough over compact cameras which are even smaller. If you must have a small ILC, this might be a way to go.

1 upvote
white shadow
By white shadow (4 months ago)

Quite an ideal walkaround and backup camera for Canon users.

It would be better if it uses the same battery as the Canon 5D Mk3 and be able to trigger off camera flash like in the 700D.

Pair it with the Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L Mk2 or the Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS and it becomes a great street camera for the day.

1 upvote
Kinematic Digit
By Kinematic Digit (4 months ago)

I own the EOS-M, SL-1 and of course my other stuff with the 5Dmk3 and Leica gear.

I really love the SL-1 for it's compact size, and perfect amount of features for more than enough advanced amateurs to enjoy.

I rarely put too much bigger onto this camera than the STM lenses, but occasionally I put the 100mm macro L onto it and it's surprisingly fun kit to carry around. It even supports the hybrid-IS which I believe none of the other Rebels support (maybe the the T5i).

Great video on this camera as well and paired up with some great glass it just becomes a sensor to add to a lens because of it's weight and size.

2 upvotes
iudex
By iudex (4 months ago)

What makes someone buy an EOS-M, if he already has a SL-1 as a back-up to his 5DIII?

3 upvotes
Resom
By Resom (4 months ago)

Because he can? btw - collecting cameras is fun. :)

1 upvote
iudex
By iudex (4 months ago)

Sure, this diagnosis already has a name: gear acquisition syndrome :-)
http://www.dpreview.com/news/2013/07/10/photographer-blogs-about-gear-addiction

1 upvote
Miwok
By Miwok (4 months ago)

Collecting cameras that costs thousands of $$ is fun?
When I watch the world around me, I'm not so sure about this.

2 upvotes
Resom
By Resom (4 months ago)

@iudex - thanks for the link :-)

But there is "help"!
http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2012/03/04/10-tips-on-how-to-cure-yourself-of-gas-gear-acquisition-syndrome/

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Xentinus
By Xentinus (4 months ago)

if the only matter is size,pentax has really small bodies with lovely limited lenses.to be honest i would not pay for a piece of plastic which is written canon on it.

6 upvotes
robbo d
By robbo d (4 months ago)

While I don't mind the plastic on the Canon's and I don't see them falling apart at all, I do find it amusing that he has just discovered a DSLR with a small form factor and a pancake lens and is calling it his camera of the year........Pentax video is decidedly average, but user interface is superb and guess what they have even better optical viewfinders and much improved AF, better lowlight performance and weather sealing to boot. Is this a joke?? C'mon.....Canon are good cameras, yes but a camera of the year the SL1 ??

6 upvotes
dr.noise
By dr.noise (4 months ago)

Camera of the year is not always about build quality or AF accuracy. There are other features that count.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

If you read the text, you'll find I own other Canon lenses, which makes it a useful body in my personal life. I own no Pentax lenses, though I have a few favorite Limited lenses I used to use quite a lot; the 43mm Limited is one I happen to LOVE. Just because I like one camera doesn't mean I think others are bad. I like this one because it's good and has served me well, during and after the review. I will regret sending it back and might have to buy one when sales get sufficiently deep. Read my detailed review for why I liked this camera in particular, complete with photographic and video samples.

6 upvotes
robbo d
By robbo d (4 months ago)

We all have our favourites for certain reasons...and Shawn makes a point that he's obviously a Canon follower because he has the lenses. I do find it slightly odd that such a well known website lets its writers pronounce to the world that XYZ camera is their Camera gear for the year.....how many people just glance over it and tell their mate at work....oh yeah DPR says it's camera of the year without really reading into it, thereby bringing such Kudos to any camera? I don't have an issue with Canon at all, fine cameras they are, but you've just bought unusual amount of positive media coverage to what is effectively nothing special in the camera world and something that other brand followers have been enjoying for a while........Canon just woke up to the fact its not size that matters...or is it?? Lol

6 upvotes
robbo d
By robbo d (4 months ago)

@ Dr Noise....precisely and totally agree..... so what other brands have bought things to the table that cancel out this little marvels finer points? Quite a few i suspect....I just looked at the "what I liked" things and thought yeah, cool, but if his daughter splashed a fist full of sand and sea water at Daddy's nice Canon, guess he'll have to take it back and beg for another one...just one of many other features...weather sealing?? for example.

0 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

Please note that my liking a camera does not mean I don't like others. I gave the SL1 a gold award and I gave both iterations of the K-5 II a gold award. Many Pentaxians vilified me because I had items in the Con box. We always have items in the Con box, because there is no perfect camera for everyone. I cannot possibly include "but Pentax makes great cameras too, and they're also small and waterproof," in every review of a non-Pentax camera. I'm glad you're happy with your Pentax cameras. I agree they're great and also fun to use. But I can't afford to own every brand of camera, particularly system cameras. I would if I could, and at least one Pentax would be among them. I happen to like EOS lenses, and have owned them since 1990. I also like Canon color and metering; it's a taste, much like my affinity for Kodakchrome and Tri-X. Finally, it truly should not surprise you that a camera review website would ask its reviewers to post an opinion. It's what we do here.

1 upvote
Resom
By Resom (4 months ago)

"DPReview staff will be highlighting their personal standout products of the year"

Its a completly mess about that "DPReview awards"- and "DPReview Gear of the Year"-thing. Please, DPReview should name such kind of personal leanings as "Editors Choice". This would be much better in my opinion.

1 upvote
robbo d
By robbo d (4 months ago)

No disrespect Shawn and of course, it wouldnt be DPR without keeping you on your toes......if I didnt shoot Pentax, i'd probably have a 70D or 5DmkII by now. I did like the colours and AF as well, but other things for my style tipped me away.
My concern was with the 'ethics' of letting you guys proclaim gear of the year, being perceived by many as Camera of the year, where as previously stated, should be headlined in a different manner........i'm sure the SL1 does what every Canon does well, the basics... in a solidly pieced together way, that forms a nice overall package

1 upvote
Revenant
By Revenant (4 months ago)

The whole purpose of a review is to give your personal, subjective opinion, based on actual user experience and analysis of whatever tests you'd like to perform. There is no 100% objective, unbiased and purely scientific way to determine if product A is more recommendable to every consumer than product B. I see no ethical problem with letting reviewers choose their personal gear of the year.

Besides, "a nice overall package" is exactly what many consumers want. Enthusiasts and gearheads may salivate at the thought of DxOMark scores, adjustable AA filters, non-Bayer sensors and so on, but most people just want a camera that takes nice pictures and is a joy to use.

1 upvote
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (4 months ago)

This camera is the saving grace of Canon from the oblivion doomed EOS M.

.

3 upvotes
cgarrard
By cgarrard (4 months ago)

Right on Shawn enjoyed this piece- and I agree on the SL1 too.

I started a thread in the Canon forum asking for Canon to make two more pancakes in the focal lengths you mentioned or near them, and was surprised at some of the lack luster reactions or defense of the current lens lineup.

Canon needs a set of 3 pancakes for this camera, period! :).

11 upvotes
Master Yoda
By Master Yoda (4 months ago)

I have this camera with the 40mm pancake and I absolutely love it! It easily fits in a large jacket pocket, cargo pant pocket or small belt pouch. Finally, in this package I've got a truly small DSLR that frees me from having to carry around a camera bag.

I do agree with "rwl408" below and the review article above, that the 22mm STM in an EF-S version would make this even better. Canon has an embarrassing void in it's lineup in this area and I've got a feeling they may soon be filling that void. We shall see.

3 upvotes
5inchfloppy
By 5inchfloppy (4 months ago)

Yes, I've been longing for a 35mm equivalent for APS-C for a long time now, and I sure as hell would love a pancake 22mm EF-S STM! I'd think the 22mm EF-M design should work, probably just needs to be tweaked.

0 upvotes
Richard Murdey
By Richard Murdey (4 months ago)

Mirror box. The EF-M is as small as it is because it sits closer to the sensor than can be permitted in a dSLR.

It could be made for EF-S but it would end up being f/3.x. (e.g. Pentax DA21 for reference)

0 upvotes
David Hurt
By David Hurt (4 months ago)

EF 22mm, NO ef-s lenses for me. I am thinking of renting the SL1 & pairing it up with my 17-40L lens & my 24-105.

1 upvote
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

I agree. The 40mm is an EF, so I'd hope for the same with the wider pancakes. I think the distinction rwl408 was making was because of the 22mm on the EF-M mount.

0 upvotes
SulfurousBeast
By SulfurousBeast (4 months ago)

Incorrect Shawn, it would only make the lens bigger to fit a FF imaging circle. Canon should designn one specfically for APS-C. Honestly a GM1 with a 17mm Lumix pancake all day long...

0 upvotes
DPReview Staff
By DPReview Staff (4 months ago)

The 40mm is an EF lens. I'm not a lens designer, but there's probably a way to make a wide angle lens for FF that's small enough to be called a pancake.

0 upvotes
Richard Murdey
By Richard Murdey (4 months ago)

Pentax has a small, 21mm lens for APS-C. Nikon and Canon do not. I don't know why they don't, but I do know that to make it small and still perform decently without massive corrections you have to drop the max aperture. The Pentax is f/3.2. Maybe that was deemed unappealing by the other companies.

0 upvotes
rwl408
By rwl408 (4 months ago)

Yep, an EF-S version of 22MM STM lens would have made SL1 an idea camera on the go.

8 upvotes
Total comments: 269
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