Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Ultimately, it is the image quality that makes a camera worth buying. For a digital SLR, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, contrast and exposure are properties of the camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness depends on the weakest link. So, the camera cannot capture more details than the lens lets through. Conversely, a lens can transmit even more details than the sensor can capture.
With 18 megapixels on a 1.6X-crop sensor, the SL1 has rather small pixels for a DSLR, yet they remain larger than those of most mirrorless cameras. Of course, being state-of-the-art helps it extract an impressive amount of subject details while maintaining image-noise low.
The Canon Rebel SL1 shows good image-quality. Image noise is unnoticeable until ISO 1600 where it is barely visible at 100% view. ISO 3200 starts showing a mix of luminance and color noise with only a minor reduction in maximum print-size. Noise-reduction can clean this up at the expense of detail, which gains nothing in terms of print-quality. Better turn it off in-camera.
Noise really kicks in at ISO 6400 but its effect on details is moderate. Still, this DSLR can easily produce a mid-size print, say 12" x 9" at this sensitivity. What is impressive is that dynamic-range and contrast remain excellent even at ISO 6400. At ISO 12800, noise increases again yet not as much as between 3200 and 6400. This time, small details get destroyed though and dynamic-range takes a dip.
The expanded ISO 25600 setting is obviously noisy. Amazingly, it still produces usable small prints and retains relatively good contrast and color. Details in deep shadows are obliterated but remain recognizable in relatively bright areas. All-in-all, an worthy performance for such a small DSLR.
The SL1 has a 63-zone Evaluative metering system which uses information from most of the frame. Resulting exposure is average and is tuned to produce relatively bright images. It therefore requires a little more negative exposure-compensation than, say, a 5D Mark III
Canon EOS 5D Mark III but is immensely better than the 7D
Canon EOS 7D. Still, the SL1 rarely misses by more than 1 EV either way.
The maximum dynamic-range of the SL1 is somewhat lower than other modern APS-C DSLR, falling 2½ stops behind the class-leading Pentax K-5 IIs
Pentax K-5 IIs. It does have a gentler fall-off though and reduces the gap down to 1 EV at its maximum standard ISO of 12800. Not a poor performance but certainly a weak point of the SL1.
There is a Highlight Tone-Priority option designed to preserve highlight details which makes a difference and reduces the amount of over-exposure. This prevents the use of ISO 200 but is worth it in most situations.
There are six Picture Styles on the SL1. Each one is customizable in terms of Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation and Color Tone. There are 8 Sharpness levels and 9 for other image parameters. While the defaults are overly punchy, tuning Contrast and Saturation down one in Standard style, makes images look more natural. Colors are never perfect but quite reasonable.
Automatic white-balance is average. Under natural light, scenes come out looking neutral. The SL1 handles a variety of conditions but tends to leave a noticeable yellow cast under artificial light. This effect is pronounced when light is low. Preset white-balance settings can improve things but do not always manage without some fine-tuning.
Image sharpness is slightly soft at the default setting of 3. Pushing it to 4 improves things slightly. One more step introduces dramatic sharpening artifacts though. Remember that a good lens makes a huge difference. The kit lens is not one of those and must be stopped down 2 stops or more to produce acceptable images.
As an entry-level DSLR, the performance level of the SL1 is understandably limited. After all, this is one of the three main differentiating factor between it and higher-end models. Still, this is a DSLR and it remains faster than most fixed-lens cameras.
Both autofocus systems of the SL1 are highly accurate. They also cover a wide section of the camera's field-of-view. While this is welcome when manually selecting the focus-point, it is often problematic with automatic AF-point selection where it often focuses on an unimportant foreground object. This is why advanced DSLRs offer selection by point-groups.
The Canon Rebel SL1 is generally quite responsive. The dial and buttons get an instant response, even when in Live-View. The autofocus system is relatively fast for its class but this depends on the lens used and lighting conditions. In good light, ¼s usually suffices to lock focus. It can take up to ¾s in low-light which is on par with expectations. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Canon EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 IS STM supplied as kit lens is quite fast and very quiet.
The 4 FPS continuous drive is slow by modern standard. It may not catch action at its height but is very usable for candid shots and the like. The performance of the SL1 is characterized by the following numbers:
- Power On or Off: Just over 1s without sensor-cleaning, 3s with. Slower than average.
- Time-To-First-Shot: 1½s. Average.
- Autofocus: Between ¼ and ¾ seconds. Average.
- Shutter-lag: Instant with short black-out. Good.
- Video: Instant to start and stop. Excellent.
- Instant Review: 1½s. Slow.
- Enter Playback: ½s. Good.
- Exit Playback: Instant. Excellent.
Being small, the SL1 uses a small battery. It delivers 380 shots battery-life according to the CIPA standard. This is below average for a DSLR yet sufficient to last for a typical day of shooting.
The Canon Rebel SL1 succeeds at packing a complete entry-level feature-set without sacrificing image-quality into the smallest DSLR body to date. It does so while maintaining the same level of controls and ergonomics as its peers. Canon really managed to produce a design which reduces the advantage of mirrorless cameras.
This DSLR produces quality images. Image-noise is well controlled with ISO 100 to 1600 completely usable for large prints. ISO 3200 and 6400 make nice mid-sized prints while higher settings stay usable for small ones. The dynamic-range is somewhat below average which makes for more contrasty photographs at the expense of some clipping, mostly of highlights.
Colors, white-balance and sharpness are not perfect but generally good. At optimal settings, the Canon SL1 can produce nice images with a natural look and reasonable sharpness. Of course, a sufficiently good lens is required for the latter. The SL1 is quite responsive and acceptably fast too.
Overall, this DSLR provides a well-rounded modern performance in a more compact than ever body. The SL1 particularly excels at video in terms of both quality and speed. This, of course, is appealing to a target audience assumed to be upgrading from a compact camera.
Canon Rebel SL1 Facts
|18 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-12800|
|Canon EF Mount|
Sensor-Size: 22 x 15mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Spot-Metering|
|4 FPS Drive, 1140 Images||Hot-Shoe|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Stereo audio input|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
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