Note: We've used European (EOS 100D) and North American (Rebel SL1) versions of this camera. Most of the product photos are of the 100D version, but we'll refer to the camera primarily as the Rebel SL throughout this review. There are no functional differences.

Canon has long hinted that another path to competing with mirrorless entries from Nikon, Sony, Olympus and Panasonic lay in the miniaturization of its familiar SLR design. With the announcement of the EOS 100D / Rebel SL1, Canon has laid its cards on the table. Billed as 'the world's smallest, lightest APS-C DSLR', the Rebel SL1 unabashedly merges the Rebel-series' DSLR operational hallmarks with an impressively small body.

Thanks to a downsizing of internal components that has resulted in a smaller shutter mechanism, thinner sensor module and smaller-footprint circuit board, the Rebel SL1 is significantly smaller and lighter than the co-announced Rebel T5i, while offering the same 18MP resolution, DIGIC 5 processor and, presumably image quality. The Rebel SL1 is, in fact, comfortably the smallest DSLR we've yet seen, and not so far off 'SLR-style' mirrorless models such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5.

As attention-grabbing as the Rebel SL1's small footprint undoubtedly is, what's equally impressive is that Canon has been able to retain most of the controls and features typically found on a Rebel-series camera. A front dial and dedicated ISO, exposure compensation and AF/AE lock buttons are among the controls that will be familiar to any Canon DSLR user. Its touchscreen is identical in resolution to that on the Rebel T4i and T5i, but is fixed, rather than articulated.

The Rebel SL1 introduces version two of Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF system, originally seen in the Rebel T4i. While Canon is making no claims about focus speed improvements of its hybrid phase/contrast detect system, the new version covers a significantly greater portion of the live view area (80% of the area). This should make it a significantly more useful option than the version found on the EOS M and T4i.

Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D key specifications

  • Small form factor DSLR weighing 400g/14oz.
  • 18MP APS-C sensor with 14-bit DIGIC 5 processor
  • 'Hybrid CMOS AF II' system with 80% frame coverage
  • Continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking
  • ISO 100-12800 (expandable to ISO 25600)
  • 4 fps continuous shooting
  • 1080/30p video recording, monaural microphone (stereo input jack)
  • 3-inch fixed capacitive touch-screen (same as EOS M)
  • 9 point AF (central sensor is cross-type)
  • 'Creative Filters' image-processing controls, previewed live on-screen

Compared to the Canon EOS Rebel 700D / T5i

This front view shows that the EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 is substantially smaller than the co-announced EOS 700D / Rebel T5i - itself not exactly a giant.
However, the Rebel SL1 retains the majority of the external controls found on the larger camera. Although both cameras feature the same rear touchscreen, the Rebel SL1's screen is fixed, not articulated.
The top-plate controls are essentially the same too, but the Rebel SL1 only has space for a mono microphone on the top left shoulder. The offset shutter button may look odd, but works well.

The Rebel SL1 achieves its notable size reduction without sacrificing much in the way of external control compared to the Rebel T5i. On the SL1 the button at the center of the 4-way controller does double-duty as both the Q menu and Set button, and the surrounding buttons have lost their dedicated functions. The SL1 has a lower capacity flash, with a guide number of 9m (versus 13mm on the 650D) and houses a mono versus stereo microphone, though it does retain a stereo mic input. And while the handgrip is not as deep as the one on its larger sibling, the SL1 still provides a distinctly DSLR handling experience.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens

Introduced alongside the EOS Rebel SL1 was the EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. This is the standard kit zoom for the SL1 and brings the total number of EF-S STM lenses to three, with a 40mm pancake and 18-135mm (both shown below) also on offer. Canon's STM lenses are designed to take full advantage of the Hybrid AF system found in the Rebel T4i, T5i and SL1. They offer quiet autofocus, helpful when shooting video, and full time manual focus. The 18-55mm lens has a close focusing distance of 0.25m and a circular seven-bladed aperture. An internal focusing motor means the lens does not extend while turning the focus ring.

The Rebel SL1's Hybrid AF II system is designed to work optimally with Canon's three-lens STM lineup which consists of an 18-55mm, 18-135mm and fixed 40mm pancake lens.
Compared to the previous EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens, the STM version is slightly longer to accommodate the internal focus system, and has a 'proper' manual focus ring at the front of the barrel that drive the focus group electronically. As with the older design it's physically shortest in the middle of its zoom range, and extends on zooming either to 18mm or 55mm (click here for a comparison at 55mm).

The STM focus motor is extremely quiet and, when using the optical viewfinder, impressively fast, offering a noticeable improvement over its predecessor. But switch the camera to live view and, just like the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, it slows down significantly. This is unfortunate - Canon's live view AF system still distinctly lags behind the competition.

The filter thread on the STM lens remains 58mm. The inner-focus design means it doesn't rotate on autofocus, and allows the use of an optional EW-63C petal-type lens hood (rather than the relatively ineffective bowl-type hood of its predecessor). As we'd expect at this level, the lens mount is plastic. This is an EF-S lens, so only fits on Canon's APS-C cameras.

Preview video