The body design
In spite of the fact that the SL1 is much smaller to any DSLR that has come out of the Canon assembly line, it surprisingly offers a bunch of physical controls. There is a dedicated exposure compensation button, exposure lock button as well as an ISO button at the top panel among others. To save precious real estate space the movie mode now sits as the third option on the power switch. Press that and then press the record button at the rear of the camera to start recording. Additionally the Q option now is merged with the SET button at the center of the rear wheel. The remaining buttons on the wheel has however no dedicated role to play. The top mode dial now can spin 360 degrees without stop just as in the Rebel T5i.
AF system and AF points
The EOS SL1 carries the same old 9-point Canon AF system with a center cross-type point at f/2.8. Cross-type AF points are capable of locking focus on a subject faster compared to a standard AF points. Additionally, Canon has incorporated the Hybrid CMOS AF II system in this camera. This combines both contrast-detect and phase-detect AF technologies to improve the auto-focusing performance. This means the camera is highly responsive when tracking subjects during movie mode or when shooting stills in live view.
The fixed touch-screen
The 3″ ClearView II LCD touch-screen is non-articulated making it a bit of a damper compared to other Canon entry level DSLRs. Especially when Canon is trying to compete with MILCs this would have been a major USP. Overall though, the touch-screen is very responsive. In fact the capacitive screen works like a charm even when you are trying to shift through the menu in a hurry, giving the distinct feeling that it is a very user-friendly feature. The center SET button also brings up the fabled Q (Quick) menu of Canon and that opens up the entire controls of the camera at your fingertips.
The SL1 has a pentamirror powered viewfinder that offers a coverage of 95% of what the sensor sees. This is slightly smaller than what other optical viewfinders offer. This generally creates the problem of inability to make a precise composition. So when composing always leave some margin around what you see through the viewfinder because you will capture additional items in the final picture. There is a dioptre adjustment dial which allows you to set the brightness between -3 and +1.
Continuous shooting speed
The SL1 has a burst rate of 4 fps at one-shot AF or Ai-Servo AF. The buffer overruns in about 28 shots as per Canon specifications. While this may be okay for shooting a playful pet or even your kid enjoying a sunny afternoon out in the park, this is in no way suitable for fast action or sports photography pursuits. At 4 fps it is at best humble. If you set the camera to shoot at silent-mode, when the mirror flips up and locks before the shot is taken, burst rate comes down to a modest 2.5 fps.
The EOS SL1 comes with a built-in flash. Canon rates the guide number at 9.4 meter, which is again a feeble flash, especially if you are going to take a group shot in low light conditions. However for portraiture or for fill-flash uses it is a handy flash to have.
An interesting feature that will make most photographers happy is the proximity sensor. It is located directly below the hot-shoe at the back of the camera. It certainly helps save a lot of battery when you are looking through the viewfinder.
The EOS SL1 is compatible with Canon’s infra-red based remote controller the RC-6. The sensor is located on the right hand grip area.
The camera is compatible with UHS-1 cards. It also accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. Additionally, it is also eye-fi compatible making it possible to remotely transfer images shot with the camera.
The movie mode and Live-view features
The SL1 was launched along with the Rebel T5i and both the cameras boast the Movie-servo feature. What it means? Well, when shooting video the camera is likely to keep tracking as a subject walks into or away from the frame. In real world the feature is not that quick and compared with something like the dual-pixel CMOS AF system of the Canon EOS 70D, this is quite slow.
There is no built-in stereo sound recording like the Rebel T5i and videographers will have to be content only with a mono mic on the top left hand side of the hot-shoe. However, you can plug in an external stereo mic.
This is certainly a small DSLR which has been designed with the sole purpose of miniaturization of all that is best about a DSLR and to compete directly with Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras that are threatening the entry-level DSLR market. Functional, simple and cost effective are what summarizes this camera in a nutshell. While professionals will never opt for one of these, the camera suitable for someone who is migrating from a point and shoot and is looking for similar size but better controls.