Canon EOS Rebel SL2: A Budget-Friendly, Lightweight DSLR [Review]
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 is an entry-level DSLR camera that balances features, affordability, and ease of use extremely well. It is the latest in the Rebel series, one of the most successful lines of DSLR cameras around. The Rebel SL2 is the successor to the lightweight and budget-friendly Rebel SL1. While the SL2 has gained a few ounces over the SL1, it’s also gained some excellent upgrades. The beginner DSLR market is very competitive with lots of great camera options. How does the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 match up? Let’s find out.
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Table of Contents
- Technical Specifications
- Build Quality
- Image Quality
- What additional features does the EOS Rebel SL2 have?
- How does the EOS Rebel SL2 compare to the Nikon D3400?
- How does the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 compare to the Canon EOS Rebel SL1?
- MSRP: $549.95 body-only and $699.95 with kit lens.
- Kit Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS STM f/4.0-5.6 lens. IS refers to the in-lens Image Stabilization of the kit lens. STM refers to “Stepper Motor,” which is the type of autofocus motor used by this lens.
- Sensor: 24.2 MP APS-C sensor (sized approx. 22.3 x 14.9 mm)
- Number of Autofocus Points: 9 Phase Detection autofocus points. Phase Detection uses paired sensors to detect the differences in light reaching them from the subject. The lens is then adjusted by the autofocus system for proper sharpness.
- Built-in Flash: Yes, with 9.8 m (32 foot) range at ISO 100. This ISO level is the lowest level of light sensitivity. Increasing the ISO will increase the effective flash range.
- Continuous Shooting: 5 fps
- ISO Range: 100 to 25,600 (with digital boosting up to 51,200)
- Video Recording Capability: Full HD 1920×1080 (60, 30, 24 fps), HD 1280×720 (60, 30 fps), and SD 640×480 (60, 30 fps). HDR video at Full HD resolution 1920×1080 (30 fps). The Rebel SL2 also has a built-in stereo microphone. For users that prefer an external mic, the SL2 also has a microphone jack.
- Image Format: JPEG and RAW. JPEG is the image format most people are familiar with. A JPEG is a compressed file that takes up less space on a device’s memory. RAW is the uncompressed image file created by your camera and takes up more memory than a JPEG. It takes special software to view RAW files off-camera. But they are the best for image editing, as they contain all of the original image data.
- Wireless Connectivity: Yes; Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/NFC (Near Field Communication). The Rebel SL2 can be remote controlled using the Canon Connect App available for Android and iOS. This allows you to send photos from your camera straight to your smart device for easy sharing. The NFC connection allows for fast pairing to Android devices and Canon’s Connect Station CS100. The Connect Station is a wireless storage device capable of holding up to 1TB of data.
- Battery Life (CIPA rating): 650 images per charge
- Weight: 453 g (1.0 lb / 15.98 oz)
- Dimensions: 122 x 93 x 70 mm (4.8 x 3.66 x 2.76 in.)
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 has a scuff and drop-resistant hard plastic body. On the back of the body is a rugged textured thumb grip combined with a deep handgrip. With such a lightweight camera, the user feels quite secure shooting with a single hand. The button layout is simplified for the beginner, with 9 buttons on the back and 4 on top, including the shutter. The exposure dial and multi selector are in the usual places. But the SL2 has a dedicated video switch rather than the Exposure Mode dial. It is located as an option on the On/Off switch. Having a clear distinction between photo and video modes is a small, but very user-friendly change.
The SL2 also has a dedicated Wi-Fi button for instant access to smart device communications. In most cameras, it takes navigating a few menus to locate and enable this feature. The Rebel SL2 is all about clear access to common features. Lastly, the 1,040,000 pixel touchscreen is fully articulating, which means it can flip out and both up and downwards. The touchscreen can be used for menu navigation and selecting autofocus points.
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 has a 24.2 Megapixel APS-C sized sensor. APS-C sensors are the second largest image sensors available; only 35mm full-frame sensors are larger. Larger sensors have a larger surface area to collect light with. And more light means more information for the camera to work with, which improves image quality. Large sensors like that of the SL2, also give better control over depth of field, which is how much of an image is in sharp focus. 20-24 MP is standard to today’s DSLR market, but is also a lot more than most users need. 24.2 MP is enough for 300 pixel per inch uncropped prints up to 13 x 20 inches in size. 24.2 MP also leaves plenty of room for significant cropping of an image without losing too much sharpness.
The Rebel SL2 has surprisingly good low light performance. The native ISO is fairly high, with a maximum value of 25,600. Normally extreme ISO values are to be avoided, as image noise rapidly makes such photographs unusable. “Noise” is a term for the speckled, grainy artifacts that show up in photographs where the light levels are too low for proper exposure. There are other sources of image noise, but improper exposure is the most common one.
Fortunately, the SL2 comes with Multishot Noise Reduction to help with this. MSNR is increasingly common on Canon’s latest cameras, both DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. The camera takes four images simultaneously, using the first as a baseline. The extra information in the next three is used to help reduce the amount of noise in the original image. Multishot noise reduction allows higher ISO values to be used with less image noise compared to other cameras.
What additional features does the EOS Rebel SL2 have?
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 is designed around easy use for the beginner DSLR user. And Canon’s Feature Assistant helps accomplish just that. Feature Assistant is an interface option that can be enabled on the camera. It describes exactly what adjusting a specific setting will do with descriptions and graphics.
For example, adjusting shutter speed with Feature Assistant shows an icon with a blurred moving subject on one half and a sharp subject on the other. Slowing your shutter speed moves an arrow towards the blurred subject. Likewise, aperture adjustments are clearly explained with text and images. Widening the aperture from f/5.6 to f/2.8 will move the arrow closer to the subject with a blurred background. With Feature Assistant, you can get the results you want and learn exactly what each setting accomplishes at the same time.
The Rebel SL2 has some excellent videography options. When recording video, the SL2 has electronic video image stabilization to prevent motion blur from ruining your movie. Unfortunately, the image stabilization does not extend to Photo Mode, which is a feature more and more entry-level cameras have nowadays. Image stabilization is incredibly useful when shooting handheld, as it reduces or eliminates blur from hand shake. Many Canon lenses have built-in image stabilization, including the kit lens of the Rebel SL2.
The SL2 can also create timelapse movies, which are low frame rate videos showing gradual change over a fast period. This allows for videos of clouds racing across the sky or evening city lights shifting at night. With up to 99 hrs, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds of recording time, you could even create a video of a seed sprouting.
The SL2 also has HDR (high dynamic range) video recording. HDR video recording takes multiple frames and combines them, exactly like HDR photography. HDR video pulls details from areas that would be washed out by bright light. Similarly, areas of dark shadow still show usable levels of detail. HDR video is ideal for scenes of high contrast, like a subject moving through the shadows of buildings on a sunny day. Finally, this camera also comes with a Video Snapshot mode. With this mode, the user can piece together a series of clips in-camera to create a single movie.
How does the EOS Rebel SL2 compare to the Nikon D3400?
Target audience, price, and feature-wise, the Nikon D3400 is a clear competitor to the Canon EOS Rebel SL2. While the Nikon D3400 is also an intermediate level camera, both are well suited for a beginner DSLR user. Nikon and Canon are also the two most popular DSLR camera brands in the world. How do they match up?
Advantages of the Canon EOS Rebel SL2
High resolution, fully articulating screen: The LCD screen of the SL2 can be adjusted in any direction. The LCD of the Nikon D3400 is fixed in place. The screen resolution is also slightly lower (1,040,000 vs 921,000 pixels).
Low-light performance: Both cameras have a native maximum ISO of 25,600. But with Multishot Noise Reduction, the higher ISO values are actually practical to use. The Canon SL2 can also digitally boost its ISO to 51,200. But even with MSNR, the resulting images are going to show significant grain at that high of an ISO value.
Stereo Microphone: The built-in stereo mic of the SL2 allows for a more complex sound compared to the mono mic of the D3400. A stereo mic records sound from multiple channels. The result is the impression of sounds coming from different locations; i.e. natural sound. A mono mic only records a single audio channel.
UHS-1 Compatibility: The SL2 can use faster memory cards than the D3400, which is limited to SD/SDHC/SDXC. UHS-1 cards write at a minimum of 10 MB/sec and up to 104 MB/sec. Only the fastest Class 10 SD cards can match a UHS card at write speed.
Feature Assistant: The Rebel SL2 has a simplified menu option designed to assist beginners in creating exactly the type of photo they want.
Advantages of the Nikon D3400
Battery Life: At 1200 images per charge, the D3400 has nearly double the battery life of the SL2 (650 images per charge).
Autofocus Points: The Nikon D3400 has 11 autofocus points vs 9 on the Canon SL2. Slightly more AF points means more areas to target for image sharpness.
MSRP $549.95 vs $699.99 with kit lens: For the budget shopper, the D3400 is significantly cheaper.
Both cameras provide an excellent skeleton to build from. If features are what you’re looking for, the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 has plenty to stand out from the Nikon D3400. But the Nikon D3400 provides excellent image quality for nearly $150 less with a kit lens. Both have a 24.2 MP APS-C sensor, so image resolution is a wash. For sheer value, the D3400 remains a strong competitor to the SL2, and both are worth considering.
How does the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 compare to the Canon EOS Rebel SL1?
The SL2 is a complete overhaul of the SL1 in almost every way. A minor drawback is that it lost the composite plastic-aluminum casing of the SL1. So no more premium metallic feel with increased durability. A second minor point is that the kit lens of the SL2 only opens as wide as f/4.0. The kit lens of the SL1 could open as wide as f/3.5. Lenses that have lower aperture settings allow more light in and allow for more control over depth of field. The difference is slight, however, and any DSLR user will have plenty of additional lenses with varying apertures.
The SL2 gained image resolution, from 18 MP in the SL1 to 24.2 MP in the SL2. The native ISO only went as high as 12,800 in the SL1, with a digital boost to 25,600. Now 25,600 is the native setting for the SL2, with a digital boost to 51,200. The SL2 also gained UHS-1 card compatibility, while the SL1 is limited to lower speed memory cards. And the screen articulates out on the SL2, allowing for more creative photo and video composition angles.
The two cameras have different autofocus systems; the SL1 had a hybrid design with both phase and contrast detection elements. Contrast detection senses differences in color contrast to achieve focus. The SL2 uses a dual-pixel phase detection design, where each AF point is split into two separate phase detection points. Hybrid AF systems tend to provide the best balance between speed and accuracy. But the SL2 will focus faster and accurately enough in most situations with its purely phase detection-based AF system.
The SL2 also has nearly double the battery life of the SL1; 650 shots per charge to 380. While the SL1 was considered “the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR camera,” the SL2 only gained a few extra grams (453 g (1.0 lb / 15.98 oz) over the SL1 (407 g (0.90 lb / 14.36 oz). It’s still in the running as one of the smallest DSLRs on the market. The software features are mostly the same, although Timelapse recording is a new addition.
Lastly, the SL2 has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The SL1 does not; one has to purchase a specialized Eye-Fi SD card. The Eye-Fi card is limited to JPEG transfers but it can send images straight to your computer. The SL2 has a completely modern camera to smart device wireless interface. Overall, there’s little reason not to purchase the Rebel SL2 over the SL1.
With its user-friendly interface and lightweight design, the EOS Rebel SL2 is an excellent first DSLR camera. The resolution, sensor size, and battery life are all in line with other entry-level cameras. The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 also has many strengths, especially videography options like HDR video mode. Its low light performance is also excellent thanks to Multishot Noise Reduction. The Rebel SL2 has just enough creative options to be interesting while remaining simple to learn and operate. Combined with it’s reasonable price, good image quality, and strong Canon brand backing, the Rebel SL2 is a smart purchase you won’t regret.