Conclusion - Pros

  • Very small and light with good grip for small to medium-size hands
  • High ISO shots are quite usable, even above ISO 6400
  • Excellent LCD and responsive touchscreen
  • Special coating minimizes fingerprint smudges from touchscreen use
  • Hybrid AF II / STM lens combo is noticeably improved for live view and movie shooting
  • Useful night modes
  • Chromatic aberration correction works well
  • Stereo mic jack
  • Full HD video recording

Conclusion - Cons

  • May be too small for those with larger hands
  • Grip may be insufficient for use with larger lenses
  • AF illuminator integrated into flash (must have flash engaged to use it)
  • Flash produces red-eye in Night portrait mode
  • Non-STM lenses struggle in live view and in movie servo AF
  • Default dynamic range lags behind its peers

Overall conclusion

Canon took the standard Rebel and whittled it into a smaller body, removing only a few features, while adding one very important one: improved live view autofocus. The result is a mature camera for the family photographer that's not a burden to bring along, but which can also serve as a reliable, lightweight backup for a more knowledgeable photographer. Those familiar with Canon SLRs will feel right at home, but those with smaller hands won't feel left out or intimidated. For amateurs, Canon still includes full auto modes as well as Creative Auto mode for simple, jargon-less access to changes like color mode and background blur. Experienced photographers will be able to pick up the Canon SL1 and still feel at home, with a full set of manual and semi-auto modes.

Anyone watching the evolution of the digital Rebel line will have noticed a trend toward larger camera bodies with a bigger grip and more enthusiast features, including swivel screens and wireless external flash controls. The features grew to a point that it was difficult to tell the T3i from the 60D, and much of the advantage found in the Rebel's small body, as seen in cameras like the XTi/400D went away. The Canon SL1/100D changes that and brings back the small SLR.

Clearly the Canon SL1 is built to offer an alternative to the mirrorless camera - including the company's own EOS M - while maintaining compatibility with the company's EF and EF-S lenses. Unlike earlier attempts at live view and video autofocus, the SL1 does very well at tracking and focusing thanks to its new Hybrid AF II system, at least with an STM lens attached. It's not as small as most mirrorless cameras, nor does it focus as fast as recent contrast-detect autofocus systems from Olympus and Panasonic, but it's not so slow that we wouldn't recommend the SL1 for video or live view shooting, which is a first for Canon's SLR line.

Handling

The Canon SL1 handles well. The body is tight, solid, and well-built like you'd expect of an EOS, yet light and well-appointed. Even though the grip is tiny, the index finger finds the shutter button naturally and the camera still points well when brought to your eye. The shutter release is quick and doesn't gather a lot of attention. Silent mode spreads out the sound over a longer period, reducing the attention, but it's not bad even by default. Overall, the Canon SL1 feels like a more sophisticated camera thanks to Canon's attention to small details.

The improved autofocus continues the impression of finesse. Autofocus is reasonably swift and works so much better than Canon's other Hybrid AF systems, it's hard to believe it was introduced at the same time as the T5i/700D. Focus in both live view and Movie modes is considerably better, so much so that both modes were actually usable - with an STM lens attached, that is. Autofocusing with a USM or other lens in either mode is still difficult, however, and fraught with cumbersome seeking during video and long autofocus lag for stills. Even with an STM lens, it's still not as fast as most contrast-detect systems, and is certainly no match for most recent mirrorless cameras, but it's still usable.

Using the touchscreen is an excellent experience. It's very responsive for easy swiping as you scroll though pictures, and setting most controls is rapid and no-nonsense. Even making settings in the tabbed menu system requires just a touch or two, and it's easy to be accurate despite the relatively small menu lines. If you like, you can ignore the touchscreen, or turn it off altogether, as you can also use the SL1's control buttons and dials to make all the settings.

Image Quality

The Canon Rebel SL1 continues the well-established reputation for high image quality we've seen from previous Rebels. Exposures are generally good, and white balance is most often correct. Images have good contrast and saturation and detail is also up to par. In-camera JPEGs are enhanced by the Auto Lighting Optimizer, which is set to Standard by default. It assisted with shadow exposure often enough we usually left it on. More advanced shooters will still benefit from shooting Raw and processing their images more carefully afterward, as more shadow and highlight detail can be extracted from the Raw files.

The dynamic range of the Rebel SL1 lags a little behind some of its peers, but this can be compensated for by enabling Canon's Highlight Tone Priority mode. Canon buries this mode in the Custom Function menu, so it's doubtful many who will benefit from it will ever find it.

Video quality is significantly improved thanks to the Hybrid AF II autofocus system, which adds the missing element that made so many of the SL1's predecessors too difficult to use for video. Combined with the new 18-55mm STM lens, having a usable, quiet autofocus system makes video capture suitable for consumer users. Face tracking worked very well, as did touch autofocus, and the STM lens did its work quickly and quietly.

The SL1's 1080/30p output offers good color and contrast, and the meter works well in a variety of lighting conditions. Our panning videos revealed a little trouble with moiré, which is unsurprising.

The Final Word

With everything a family photographer is likely to want and little left over to intimidate, the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 may be Canon's best-targeted digital Rebel to date. As the top end of the Rebel line - currently the T5i - added more and more enthusiast features, the camera got bigger and more complex, and the SL1/100D stands as a suitable alternative without much compromise where it matters. Indeed, it currently stands as the better alternative for those who want to shoot in live view mode, and for anyone who thinks they'll want to shoot a movie now and then, thanks to Hybrid AF II. Image quality is also uncompromised, as we've come to expect from the Rebel line.

Its smaller size and lighter weight make it easier to pack and carry, meaning the Canon SL1 is more likely to be used, and its fuller feature set helps it stand out for those dissatisfied with their smartphone shots. The good news is the SL1 is a real pleasure to shoot, with ergonomics good enough for small to medium-size hands, and snappy performance, both when shooting and reviewing photos. The touchscreen makes menus and playback work like a cell phone, making it familiar to more users than would normally be the case. The only element missing to help it compete in the smartphone-dominated market is Wi-Fi, which can be added via an Eye-Fi card, which is supported in the SL1's menu.

The SL1 isn't necessarily the perfect answer to the mirrorless camera, as smaller-sensor offerings abound in cameras from Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic, and Olympus. Smaller sensors have their disadvantages, but one of their advantages is they can deliver equivalent focal lengths with smaller lenses. Though the SL1 is itself smaller, its 18-55mm kit lens is noticeably larger than kit lenses on cameras like the Olympus E-PM2 or Nikon V2. Still, for a great many looking for SLR quality in a smaller package, the Canon Rebel SL1 delivers both with confidence and grace, and offers the advantage of a larger APS-C sensor.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (EOS 100D)
Category: Entry Level Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D is an ideal camera for consumer users looking for better image quality, with improved Live View and movie-mode autofocus in a small body. Its touchscreen interface offers a modern set of digital controls in a camera that will still feel familiar to more traditional SLR users.
Good for
Users who want to shoot in Live View and record movies, but also want the benefits of an APS-C digital SLR in a smaller body.
Not so good for
Enthusiasts looking for more bells and whistles, like an articulating LCD or wireless remote control of flash.
78%
Overall score

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Real-world Samples

There are 34 images in the Canon EOS Rebel SL1/100D review samples gallery, 30 in our daylight samples gallery, and 24 in the preview gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.

Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D Review Samples Gallery

20 images • Posted on Jul 25, 2013 • View album
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Canon EOS 100D/SL1 Review Samples

26 images • Posted on Jun 17, 2013 • View album
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Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 Preview samples

27 images • Posted on Apr 10, 2013 • View album
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