Canon's latest rebel is the smallest DSLR ever
In the Field
The Rebel SL1 is positively tiny. It measures just 4.6 inches on the longest side, and the height is only 3.6 inches, pentamirror housing notwithstanding. Even Canon’s modestly sized 50mm f/1.4 lens (the one we use for lab testing) looks large on this body.
The kit lens is a revamped version of the 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS zoom that is now compatible with Canon's STM system for quiet, fast focusing during live view or video shooting. For those occasions, the SL1 boasts an increased area of coverage—80 percent of both the horizontal and vertical frame—compared with the previous bodies with Canon’s Hybrid AF system.
We spent a big portion of our field-test shooting the SL1 with Canon’s 40mm f/2.8 pancake STM lens. This made for a cute, lightweight rig that was easy to bring just about anywhere. And since that lens can close-focus to less than a foot, there were few photographic opportunities we couldn’t tackle.
Despite the camera’s small size, the SL1 doesn’t suffer as much as you’d expect when it comes to controls. Sure, there aren’t that many physical controls, but there are dedicated buttons for live view, ISO, exposure compensation, AF point selection, and more. Plus, the quick menu—with its dashboard style presentation—lets you check or change any of the most important shooting parameters.
The camera’s grip is so small that we’d challenge any adult (or even a big kid) to keep a pinky on the thing while shooting. Most of the time, we had both pinky and fourth finger tucked up underneath the body—though there’s room for the fourth finger, it felt most comfortable under the camera. We liked that the top of the grip essentially connects to the side of the finder hump. This provides a good level of leverage for angling or pivoting the body.
A nicely rubberized area on the camera back provides a scooped out area for your thumb, making the camera about as comfortable as you can expect from a body this size; it also keeps your thumb separated from the two control buttons on the upper right of the back, preventing accidental presses.
If you’re hoping to use the SL1 for sports shooting, you may find the burst rate of 4 frames per second a little on the slow side. The AF does a reasonably good job of keeping up with moving subjects, though you can expect a few more soft shots than with the tracking systems in one of Canon’s more expensive bodies, such as the EOS 60D. For most parents shooting their kid’s field hockey or lacrosse games, though, the SL1 should do fine. If your child turns out to be a track and field star in high school, you might want to step up to a faster burst and fancier AF tracking.
Other features seemed on course for a consumer-level DSLR. But given the strong competion at this level, as well as Canon’s demonstrated capabilities, we found a few things lacking. Built-in Wi-Fi, for instance—the drive toward connectivity is unstoppable at this end of the market, and we feel the SL1 should have met that demand. An articulated, or at least tilting, LCD monitor is another feature we missed here (in its defense, the fixed touch screen probably saves space).
Continuous AF during video shooting was on par with most ILCs, though our brief hands-on time with a preproduction EOS 70D, which includes Canon’s new Dual Pixel CMOS AF, made us think that this soon-to-be-released DSLR will become the new gold standard for AF while shooting video, at least for amateur shooters. As far as video quality goes, the footage we shot was quite nice. Persnickety videographers might notice some compression artifacts, but for the average family, the SL1 will produce very pleasing footage. There’s even a stereo microphone input in case the built-in mono mic isn’t enough for you.