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Get $100 (13%) Off Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR with EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Lens

Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR

If we read reviews from expert, Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is a very compact DSLR similar in ability and layout to a Rebel T2i/T3i for stills. The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is small in size but enormous in performance.
It features an 18.0 MP CMOS sensor, ISO up to 12800, DIGIC 5 image processor, continuous shooting up to 4 fps, Full HD movies (1080/30p), 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD display, Hybrid CMOS autofocus system, Scene Intelligent Auto Mode, Optical Viewfinder, Creative Filters, and much more! Included is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Zoom Lens.

Paired with small primes, it makes for an exceedingly capable travel camera. Larger kits can make the T5i preferable. Smaller kits come more readily from mirrorless cameras with smaller senors.

Rebel T5i:
18 MP
5 fps
9-point AF w/ 9 cross points
Hybrid AF w/ 9% frame coverage
1080p/30, 720p/60
Articulating touchscreen
Stereo mics
13m flash range
20 oz

Rebel SL1:

+ 14 oz, 30% smaller by volume
+ Hybrid AF w/ 64% frame coverage
-- 4 fps
-- fixed touchscreen
-- 9 point AF w/ 1 cross point
-- 9.4m flash range
-- mono mic



This is the smallest DSLR from any make. It's a whole size tier below the T5i and level with a number of mirrorless bodies. Whether that's a worthwhile ergonomic compromise depends on the use case. With a small lens like a 40/2.8, the combined package reduces to prosumer point-and-shoot dimensions.

In-hand, the SL1 is a fingertip camera. The palm of your large right hand doesn't rest easily against the body without finger contortions, so support comes mostly from the left under the lens.

Single cross-point AF

When we talk about 'phase-detect' AF and 'cross-points', these are characteristics of the viewfinder AF system. The SL1's phase-detect AF array has 9 points. Only the center point is a cross-point. Cross-points (shaped like a +) detect contrast in any orientation. The 8 outer points (shaped like lines) only see contrast that's near perpendicular to them. The practical implication is that the T4i/T5i will be somewhat faster and more consistent with off-center compositions with wide-aperture lenses (e.g., 50/1.8) and motion-tracking.

Both systems outperform the contrast-detect focus in any current mirrorless body with motion. You focus through an optical viewfinder that'll never wash out, show noise in dim lighting, lag the action, or smear colors. In exchange, you lose the clever information overlays of electronic viewfinders (EVF), the face tracking that's become a part of many contrast-detect systems, and the precise matching between what the EVF shows and the camera records.

Here's the phase-detect breakdown for this body:

  • VF, stills, static: fast and accurate in frame-center
  • VF, stills, movement: moderately fast and accurate in frame-center
  • VF, movies, any subject: not possible

This is the same AF array as in the T2i/T3i. If you were happy with those bodies, you'll be equally so with this one.

Hybrid AF II

In the T3i and prior, Live View focusing from the rear LCD was achieved by contrast-detect. This method is vastly slower than phase-detect and, in Canon's DSLR implementation, isn't capable of tracking motion in movies. It's reasonably quick and quite accurate with stills. It isn't possible to use the main phase-detect array without interrupting Live View because a mirror gets in the way.

The T4i/T5i added a second phase-detect system integrated into the imaging sensor itself that boosted acquisition speed and improved motion tracking to mediocre/adequate levels, but only for the center 9% of the frame. The SL1 expands this system to 64% frame coverage. The result is significantly more confidence with continuous autofocus in movies. With off-center subjects, it hunts (bringing the scene in and out of focus) much less than the T4i/T5i.

Here's the contrast-detect breakdown:

  • LV, stills, static: reasonably fast and accurate over the whole frame
  • LV, stills, movement: slow, accurate when it can keep up
  • LV, movies, static: reasonably fast, occasional hunting
  • LV, movies, movement: slow, accurate when it can keep up

Motion tracking is still short of exceptional. STM lenses (which use a stepper motor instead of standard USM or a noisy micro-motor) work more quickly and precisely than non-STM lenses. They'll track slow, undemanding subjects and faces. For more challenging movement, either prefocus, manually focus, or jump to the next performance tier comprised of Sony's 'translucent mirror' DSLRs, many mirrorless bodies (e.g., Panasonic G/GH), and Canon's own 70D. The SL1 has no focusing aids (e.g., focus peaking) for Live View except full-screen zoom. Focusing accurately by hand on a moving target is very challenging.

Everything else is to lesser consequence. A slightly weaker flash, a slightly slower framerate, a smaller battery, one less microphone channel. Even the loss of LCD articulation isn't much of a bother unless you're continually shooting from vantage points away from the viewfinder.

A major advantage of the SL1 is that, like the T4i/T5i, it has a new touchscreen that that significantly lowers the EOS learning curve. It's capacitive and almost as responsive as a modern smartphone. Adjusting functions (e.g., exposure, white balance, focus points; everything) is as simple as tapping what you want. The camera won't be at the ready when you're manipulating the LCD, but thanks in part to an integrated 'feature guide' that explains most options, you probably won't need to pull out the manual on first acquaintance.

Phone gestures (e.g., pinch zoom, swiping) are now part of the picture review system, which makes checking focus vastly quicker and more flexible than on any other non-touch EOS body. Focus itself is touch-enabled in Live View mode, so you can tap to focus on static subjects anywhere in the frame without ever having to manipulate the 9-point AF system.

The interface isn't necessarily intuitive, but photography in general isn't intuitive. There's a large gulf between a design for novice users that hides complication and one for experienced users that makes powerful features easily accessible. By offering redundant touch controls, Canon straddles this line surprisingly well. This is a camera that can grow with you.


This sensor is functionally identical to those in the T2i/T3i/T4i/T5i/60D/7D save for the pixels devoted to phase-detect. Noise and dynamic range are similar in raw. Expect acceptable results up to ISO 3200. Nikon's D5100 is slightly better, Sony's A65 slightly worse. It's about two solid stops better than a typical point-and-shoot.

Unless you're in a JPEG-only shooting mode (e.g., multi-shot NR, HDR), raw gets the most out of this camera. JPEG often lacks the flexibility for significant changes in post. Raw shooting also lets you defer decisions (e.g., white balance, sharpening, noise reduction, color, lens corrections, tone curves, and even exposure) that distract from catching whatever moment you're after.

That aside, if your scene and shooting technique don't call for major adjustments on the computer, you're likely to be pleased with the JPEG output.


The 18-55/3.5-5.6 STM is a stellar optic. Focus is as fast as the camera allows, near-silent, and inaudible in movies, as is the IS system. If you upgrade, it'll be for speed, a different range, or perhaps more contrast, not because it isn't sharp enough. The 18-135/3.5-5.6 STM is equally impressive, though about an inch longer and twice the weight.

Light and small primes are well-suited to this body. The 40/2.8 STM, 50/1.8, 28/1.8, and 28/2.8 are all more compact than the kit lens. Larger lenses work as with any other EOS body, though some will be slightly more awkward when you're trying to adjust the zoom ring and support the rig from under the lens at the same time.


For video, buy SD cards 32 GB or larger. My pair of 16 GB cards have been inadequate for even a one-day event. The highest recording quality uses 350 MB/minute, equating to about 90 minutes per 32 GB card. For stills (~7 MB in JPEG and ~25 MB in raw), two or three 8 GB cards is plenty.

Interface responsiveness isn't much affected by card speed. Faster cards have three advantages: they can shoot longer bursts at 4 FPS, clear the picture buffer more quickly, and record video at the highest quality without risking a speed warning. Buffer depth is 28 JPEGs and 7 raw files with a standard SD card. Buffer cycling times are much lower with UHS-1 ('Ultra High Speed'). In one-shot mode, this difference is invisible; very fast cards would only make sense if you were time-limited on card-to-computer transfers with a USB 3.0, SATA, or Firewire card reader.

If you buy protection filters for your lenses, try Hoya's "DMC PRO1 Clear Protector Digital" line. They have very high light transmission and cause no visible flare. Digital sensors filter UV natively, there's no reason to pay more for that feature.

The SL1 is sized to compete with mirrorless, but the EOS lens line doesn't have many compact options to pair with it. And it never will, because the SL1 uses an APS-C sensor, the second-largest available. That applies doubly for Canon's mirrorless EOS-M, which looks like a deck of cards beneath an Evian bottle when attached to any of the f/2.8 zooms or longer telephotos.

Canon's lens line is simultaneously the greatest strength and weakness of this body. The EOS mount makes accessible some extraordinary and unique high-dollar glass. If you want to shoot supertelephotos, or real tilt-shift, or superfast primes that see in the dark, or macro lenses that'll fill the frame with Roosevelt's head on a dime, there's no other system that has it all under one umbrella. And if you've already invested in it, the SL1 is the obvious choice.

But what if that's not you? What if you plan to stay with the general-purpose lenses that just about every system contains? The advantages of the SL1 narrow considerably. They are: subject isolation, motion tracking with stills, the immediacy of an optical viewfinder, and Canon's highly polished user interface.

Relative to a M4/3s body like Panasonic's G6, the SL1 will have more foreground and background blur at any given aperture. If you're all about creamy backgrounds for portraiture, the difference is noticeable. You can still isolate with M4/3s, it just takes a closer subject and more telephoto.

Motion tracking for stills used to be a huge arrow in the SL1's quiver. It still is relative to most mirrorless bodies, though recent ones have gotten surprisingly fast. Likewise for low-light focusing, formerly a mirrorless weakness. Still, if your subjects are often running children, or anything that moves toward or away from you at high speed, the SL1 will have a higher hit-rate.

The optical viewfinder is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you're seeing the scene in real-time with no processing delays from imaging hardware. On the other, you're not seeing what the camera sees. The DSLR shooting process involves a lot of chimping, where you take the shot with the viewfinder and immediately check the exposure with the rear LCD. Not so with mirrorless: what you see is what you get, for better or worse. The SL1 finder maintains an edge with fast action and in very dark conditions that'll cause OLED/LCD viewfinders to fade to black.

This SL1 isn't the only camera with a touchscreen and logical menus. More to the point, mirrorless bodies are often less clunky than the strange amalgam of 'Live View' and traditional mirror shooting that defines this camera and other DSLRs. That may well consume the SL1's advantage.


If you want to pair this body with fast, high-dollar EOS lenses or bulky accessories like an external flash, the T5i is a better alternative. The cost difference disappears into the system cost. The SL1 maintains an advantage with continuous focus in movie-mode, but lags everywhere else.

If you want the smallest possible EOS-compatible body, the EOS-M has identical image quality in a truly miniature package. After a recent firmware update, it's now acceptably fast at focusing, though still well behind the SL1 in general responsiveness.

But if your priorities favor DSLRs, hands-off autofocus in movies, and small size, the SL1 is the best choice in Canon's arsenal. A compromise, yes, but a good one.

Get $100 (13%) Off - Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR with EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Lens

Review by D. Alexander