Body & Design

Physical size notwithstanding, the Rebel SL1's design will be immediately familiar to anyone who's used an entry-level Canon SLR over the last few years. The camera's aluminum and polycarbonate resin body construction feels appropriately solid in your hands. A textured handgrip is deep enough to provide a firm hold of the camera, and there's also the familiar contoured thumb pad along the right side of the camera.

All of the key shooting controls you'd expect in an entry-level Rebel series are present: focus point selection and exposure lock, along with dedicated ISO, exposure compensation and depth-of-field preview buttons. The Q menu and SET option share a button and are surrounded by a 4-way controller. Its directional keys no longer have functions assigned to them: instead all secondary options are accessed via the on-screen 'Q' panel.

Top of camera

The controls along the top of the Rebel SL1 are almost indistinguishable from those found on the T4i/T5i. An easy to reach ISO button sits next to the camera's single adjustment dial. A three-position switch surrounding the mode dial is used to power the camera on and off and switch to video mode. You must set the camera to video mode in order for the red record button on the rear of the camera to work; in stills mode it enters and exits live view. But while you can't record movies in stills mode, you can capture stills in movie mode with a full-press of the shutter button.

The mode dial sees a couple of changes though. For starters, the number of icons has been reduced, with several scene modes now housed under a single mode icon. In addition, we're happy to note that on the SL1 you can rotate the dial a full 360 degrees, a long overdue feature we saw Canon adopt on the EOS 6D. The A+ position on the mode dial gives access to Intelligent Auto mode, and is followed by other fully automatic modes like Creative Auto and Canon's scene modes. Rotating the dial the other way gives access to the program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual modes.

The SCN position gives access to six modes. Three of these - Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene and HDR Backlight Control - are familiar from previous models, while another three are new to the SL1 (Kids, Food, and Candlelight). They're selected using an onscreen menu, which like everything almost else on the SL1 can be operated by touch.

In your hand

The SL1 feels reasonably solid in your hand and provides the external controls you'd expect in a Canon entry-level DSLR. Button shape and placement has been redesigned from earlier Rebels to accommodate the SL1's significantly reduced size. The handgrip, with its offset shutter button and lip running across to the lens throat, is surprisingly good for such a small SLR.

The Rebel SL1 is comfortable to hold - indeed unexpectedly so for a small camera. The textured grip is deep enough to provide a solid hold of the camera. Users with even medium-sized hands, however, may be taken aback initially at just how little beyond the bottom edge of the rear LCD the camera body extends. Many may find it difficult to wrap all three remaining fingers around the grip when holding the camera in a shooting position, an experience not unlike using a 'bridge' camera for example.

Make no mistake though, we find it impressive that Canon has been able to whittle away so much size and weight from a DSLR while still allowing it to operate more or less like just about any recent Rebel-class camera.

Viewfinder size and crop

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in usability: the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.

The EOS 100D/Rebel SL1's small body size fortunately does not result in a reduced view magnification. In fact, the Rebel SL1 offers slightly higher magnifications than larger APS-C DSLRs from Canon and Nikon. It still falls well shy of the high view magnification offered by Sony SLT models, which use an electronic viewfinder.

The pentamirror viewfinder in the Rebel SL1 offers approximately 95% scene coverage, on par with optical finders in cameras of its class. As you can see in the illustration above, the camera provides a magnification view that is marginally greater than the physically larger co-announced T5i. As is standard on Canon's lower-level DSLRs, the viewfinder's focusing screen is not user-replaceable. You can set diopter adjustments between -3 and +1.