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First Look: Canon EOS Rebel SL1

First Look: Canon EOS Rebel SL1

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Meet The World's Smallest DSLR

March 21, 2013

Comparable in size to some interchangeable-lens compacts, the Canon Rebel SL1 ushers in a new category: The Ultracompact DSLR.

Despite its MILC-sized dimensions, the Canon Rebel SL1 is a full-featured starter DSLR with a full, newly-designed APS-C sensor and is compatible with Canon's extensive line of EF and EF-S lenses. Based on a comparison with other currently available DSLRs, I have concluded that the Canon Rebel SL1 is the world's smallest DSLR. It is 25 percent smaller and 28 percent lighter than the Canon Rebel T5i, which was introduced today, simultaneously with the SL1. Surprisingly, it is approximately the same size and exactly the same weight as the Olympus OM-D EM-5 MILC! 


The Canon Rebel SL1 has a reflex mirror and an optical eye-level viewfinder—both of which are deal-breakers for a wide swath of photo enthusiasts; the camera has the potential to be popular among travel photographers.

How did Canon's engineers do it?

Note: All new products announced by Canon today are available for pre-order now from Adorama. The Canon Rebel SL1 can be pre-ordered now from Adorama, Body Only or in a Kit with the new Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S STM kit lens. Orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis. Credit cards will not be charged until orders ship.


Side by Side Comparison: Canon's two new DSLRs, the T5i, left, and SL1, right. Same size sensor, but the ultracompact SL1 DSLR is smaller.


In addition to the SL1 and Rebel T5i, Canon also introduced the PowerShot SX-280, a compact digital camera with built-in Wi-Fi technology; scroll down for details about that camera.


Canon Rebel SL1 Key Features:

  • New 18MP CMOS APS-C Sensor
  • ISO range 100-12800, expandable to 25,600
  • Up to 4fps burst rate
  • Full 1080p HD video at up to 30p
  • 3-inch, 1,040k dot touchscreen LCD
  • Optical mirror-prism viewfinder, 0.87x magnification
  • 9-point hybrid CMOS phase and contrast detection AF
  • Scene Intelligent Auto Mode
  • Advanced imaging Features
  • New Special Scene Modes
  • Compatible with EF/EF-S lens, Canon Speedlite flash
  • 4.6x3.6x2.7 inches, 13 ounces

First, a bit of recent history: Canon, the last camera maker to join the MILC revolution, introduced the EOS M, which is compatible with EOS-mount lenses and uses an APS-C sensor, not too long ago, but with no eye-level viewfinder and virtually no surface controls (but an excellent on-screen menu system) its appeal may have been too limited, and the tiny SL1 may be their way of addressing those who didn't flock to the M.

Canon Rebel SL1 is built on a new chassis, designated the Canon EOS-b body. The designation "SL1" and "EOS-b" seem to be used interchangeably by Canon. A newly designed 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S kit lens features STM, a super quiet AF motor that is supposed to reduce or even eliminate AF noise that might be picked up by the camera's internal microphone and a welcome feature for videographers.


Despite its diminutive dimensions, the Canon Rebel SL1 is a full-featured DSLR. Its command center is a 3-inch, high-resolution touchscreen LCD monitor, which dominates the limited space in the camera's back. Gone are all of the buttons normally found on the left side of a typical Canon DSLR's LCD, and the camera's physical controls are streamlined. A handful of controls include a mode dial and flywheel atop the camera, and a 4-way toggle switch for menu navigation in back. Info, live view, meter pattern, AV controls, preview and delete buttons are the only buttons you'll find on the back. The monitor offers multi-touch operation with direct access to the camera's key functions, and Touch AF: touch the screen and focus will snap to what you're pointing at.

Key features include Effect Shot Mode, Background Simulation and various advanced Creative Filters, which you can apply in real time using Live View. New scene modes include Kids, Food, and Candlelight, each offering its own presets ideally suited to the selected shooting situation and perfect for the technically uninitiated.

The camera's newly-developed 18MP CMOS APS-C sensor has a native ISO range of 100-12,800 for still photos and 100-6400 for video, expandable to 25,600 and 12,800, respectively. Burst rate, 4fps, is standard for a starter DSLR.

Despite its size, the
Canon Rebel SL1 is no slouch in the AF department, offering a 9-point AF system—standard fare for an entry-level DSLR—including a dual-cross f/2.8 center point. When using Live View, the camera switches to a Hybrid CMOS AF focus area, which Canon says boosts AF speed and accuracy for both stills and movies.

Speaking of movies, the
Canon Rebel SL1 offers choices: at 1080p, you can shoot at 30, 25, or 24p frame rates, and double those rates for 720p videos. The camera has a built-in mono microphone, manual audio level adjustment, and a Video Snapshot mode with editing in camera.

Weight and Size Comparisons

Compared to other small DSLRs currently on the market, the
Canon Rebel SL1 is indeed smaller and lighter. The Nikon D3200, for instance, weighs in at a pound and is comparable in size to the Canon T5i. The Sony SLT-A37 is a tad smaller than the D3200 and T5i but still larger than the SL1 and besides, some discount it due to its EVF instead of optical finder. The smallest Pentax DSLR, the K30, is almost as slim  but larger in its other dimensions and heavier. Only MILCs are smaller, and in the case of the Olympus OM-D EM-5, not by much (the two cameras weigh the same). Among higher-end MILCs with eye-level viewfinders, the loaded Sony Alpha NEX-7 is smaller and lighter.


Conclusion and Recommendation

With the
Canon Rebel SL1, Canon has introduced a new DSLR subcategory: The Ultracompact DSLR. It promises DSLR performance in a camera the size of a larger mirrorless compact with a DSLR-sized sensor. It has an eye-level viewfinder, something many MILCs lack, and a reflex mirror through-the-lens optical view, something all MILCs lack but which many photographers prefer.

Canon was clearly hesitant to get into the MILC market—after all, Canon was the last company to enter this growing field. Canon needed to prove that DSLRs were still viable and clearly, the
Canon Rebel SL1 offers a compelling reason to stick with the DSLR format. If you are a traveler who needs to pack light but demands DSLR performance, the Canon Rebel SL1 is well worth considering.


The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 will be available in April, and can be pre-ordered now from Adorama, for $649.99 body only or $799.99 bundled with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM kit lens.


But wait...There's More!


Canon also announced its latest starter DSLR, the Canon Rebel T5i, which features an 18MP CMOS sensor, a souped-up image processor that is said to deliver action-catching 5 frames-per-second burst rate, and an extended ISO range of 100-12,800 (expandable to ISO 25,000) that is said to offer excellent low-light image quality, and a 9-point all cross-type AF system. Yes, these are are all features we've seen before, but on pricier cameras designed for serious hobbyists and pro shooters.

The T5i's sophisticated features are overlayed with user-friendly technology, such as the flip-out touch screen which made its debut on the T3i, as well as a set of intuitive creative features such as intelligent auto, special effects filters, and on-board HDR, all designed to make using such an advanced camera more intuitive for folks who are ready to step up from compact cameras and cell phones to the flexibility and creative possibilities of DSLR photography. For videographers, the 5Ti offers full 1080p HD video in several frame rates with continuos AF during video capture.

The Canon EOS Rebel T5i will be available in April but can be pre-ordered now, body only at the
Adorama price of $749.99, with the new 18-55mm kit lens for $899.99, or bundled with the  18-135mm kit lens for the Adorama price of $1,099.


Finally, Canon announced the Canon SX-280, a compact digital camera with a 12MP CMOS sensor, new DIGIC 6 image processor (the first camera to feature this new processor), and built-in Wi-Fi for wireless image transfer. The camera features a 20x zoom 25-500mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.5-6.8 lens, has an ISO range from 100-6400, captures up to 1080p/60p HD video,and offers geotagging of photos via built-in GPS. Intelligent IS chooses automatically from 6 image stabilization modes, and the camera's sophisticated Smart Auto selects proper settings based on a database of 58 shooting situations.


Canon claims that the new processor will reduce lag time, produce better image quality at higher ISOs, and give overall better performance. The Canon SX-280 will be available in April, but can be pre-ordered from Adorama now. It comes in in Black  and Red and will cost $329.99.


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