Canon EOS 100D Review
Canon EOS 100D Introduction
The Canon EOS 100D (called the Digital Rebel SL1 in North America) is the smallest and lightest APS-C DSLR ever made. The 18 megapixel 100D / SL1 offers a 'Hybrid CMOS AF II' system with 80% frame coverage, a 3” ClearView II capacitive touchscreen LCD screen, a 63-zone metering sensor, 9 AF points, standard ISO settings of 100-12800 (expandable to 25600), DIGIC 5 processor and 4fps continuous shooting. The 100D's video mode offers 1080p Full HD recording at 24/25/30fps and 720p HD capture at either 50 or 60fps, with full manual control over exposure and gain. The Canon EOS 100D is available body-only for £579.99 / €739.99 / $649.99 or in a kit with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens for £709.99 / €909.99 / $799.99.
Ease of Use
The new EOS 100D / Digital Rebel SL1 is the smallest DSLR camera that Canon have ever made. Measuring 116.8 x 90.7 x 69.4mm and weighing just 407g, it sits between the EOS M compact system camera and the EOS 700D in both size and price. Despite its tiny dimensions, the control layout will be instantly familiar to anyone who's used a mid-range Canon DSLR before, commendably offering most of the external controls that the previous generation EOS 650D offered.
The main attraction of the EOS 100D will also be viewed as its main drawback by some potential users - shrinking the overall package has inevitably led to some compromises in terms of the ergonomics, most notably the handgrip. We could only fit a couple of our average-sized fingers around the grip, with a little finger supporting the base of the camera, which doesn't offer as much support as usual. This is fine when the EOS 100D is fitted with a small lens like the EF 40mm pancake that we had in for testing, but is insufficient for some of the bigger and heavier EF lenses. Still, at least the camera is compatible with Canon's vast range of EF-S and EF lenses - you're definitely spoilt for choice in this regard.
In terms of build quality, the Canon EOS 100D / SL1 certainly feels solid enough for a consumer-grade DSLR, although as you'd perhaps expect not in the same league as the semi-professional EOS 60D and 7D models. Like all of Canon's APS-C digital SLR cameras, the EOS 100D / SL1 is compatible with the manufacturer's entire line-up of lenses, including both EF and EF-S glass. When changing lenses, EF lenses need to be aligned with the red dot on the lens mount, whereas EF-S lenses must be aligned with the white square.
The 1,040,000-dot resolution of the rear LCD panel is identical in resolution to the 650D's display. The screen has an aspect ratio of 3:2 - i.e. identical to that of the sensor - so the photos fill the screen completely, with no black stripes along the top and bottom. Unlike the 650D, though, the screen is fixed in place rather than articulated, so you can't tilt it to the side.
On a more positive note the 100D is the latest EOS camera to feature a touch-screen. It supports a variety of multi-touch gestures, such as pinching and swiping, for choosing shooting modes, changing settings, tracking faces, selecting auto-focus points, and focusing and taking a picture in Live View mode. In playback you can swipe to move from image to image and pinch to zoom in and out, just like on an iPad or other tablet device. The ability to focus and take the shot with a single press of your finger on the screen makes it quick and easy to capture the moment, although holding the camera out in front of you and waiting for the sluggish Live View AF system does slow things down a little.
The EOS 100D's top-mounted shooting mode dial has a multitude of letters and icons. The so-called Creative Zone features Programmed Auto (P), Shutter Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av), and Manual (M) modes. The fully-automatic Scene Intelligent Auto mode analyses the scene in front of you and automatically picking the best settings, much like the systems used by lot of digital compacts.
The camera also has a Creative Auto mode which is targeted at beginners who have grown out of using the Scene Intelligent Auto mode, allowing you to change a few key settings using the LCD screen via a simple slider system for changing the aperture and exposure compensation, or Background and Exposure as the camera refers to them. Creative Auto has been extended with the introduction of Basic +. Essentially a more extreme version of the well-established Picture Styles, this offers nine options including Standard, Vivid, Soft, Warm, Intense, Cool, Brighter, Darker and Monochrome, all of which can be interactively tweaked to suit your taste.
Two other notable shooting modes are HDR Backlight, which takes three shots at different exposures and combines them into one with greater shadow and highlight detail, and the Hand-held Night scene mode which again takes multiple images at fast shutter speeds and blends them together for a sharp result. There's also a host of scene modes including Flash Off, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait and, oddly enough for an interchangeable-lens camera, a close-up mode as well. The majority of these scene modes allow users who do not want to fiddle with shutter speeds, f-stops, white balance or ISO settings to let the camera know what type of photo they are about to take, which helps the EOS 100D / SL1 to optimise these settings for that particular subject. We struggled to see the point of the close-up mode though, as the quality of one's close-up shots depends more on the use of the right kinds of accessory - such as a macro lens and possibly a ring flash - than any camera setting. The Feature Guide in the EOS 100D's menu system usefully provides a brief description of each setting and its effect.
In the Creative Zone, the photographer gets to set a lot of shooting variables, including white balance, sensitivity, AF mode, exposure compensation, drive mode and so on. Most of these functions have their own dedicated buttons - ISO on the top panel, the rest on the back - while others can be set on the interactive status screen accessible via the Q (quick control) button. Examples for the latter include file quality settings, metering mode, flash exposure compensation and Auto Lighting Optimiser.
The available white balance settings are Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Custom; there is no way to enter a Kelvin value manually. You can fine-tune any of the presets using the White Balance Correction feature. The ISO speed can be changed by pressing the ISO button and turning the control wheel in front of it. You do not have to hold down the button while turning the wheel. The ISO speed can be set from ISO 100 to ISO 12800 in full-stop increments. If you turn ISO Expansion on in the Custom Functions menu, you can even dial in ISO 25600; a boosted setting. Auto ISO is also available. The chosen ISO speed is also displayed in the viewfinder.
The EOS 100D / SL1 offers a range of three auto focus modes (One Shot, AI Focus and AI Servo) and there's a 9-point AF module. Unlike the more expensive 700D model, only the centre sensor is a cross-type, rather than all of them. One Shot AF is equivalent to AF-S, while AI Servo is the same thing as AF-C on other manufacturers' models. AI Focus is similar to what some other camera makers call AF-A in that it automatically switches from One Shot AF to AI Servo if a still subject starts moving. As regards AF point selection, it can be done manually by hitting the AF point selector button first, then using the four-way controller to select the AF point. The chosen/active AF point lights up in red in the viewfinder. In use, we have found the AF system to be pretty quick even with the 40mm pancake lens, although the focus motor was a bit loud for our tastes.
There are a number of drive modes available on the Canon EOS 100D / SL1. These include Single Shot, Continuous Shooting, Self-timer and Remote Controlled Shooting. In Continuous Shooting mode, the camera can take pictures at a speed of 4 frames per second for up to 28 Large Fine JPEGs or 7 raw files, a slower rate than the 650D, but for more images.
The metering modes offered by the camera include Centre-weighted, Evaluative, Partial and Spot. The difference between Partial and Spot metering is that the former uses 9% of the frame area, whereas the latter uses only 4% (still a bit too much for spot metering, but there you go). Both of these selective metering modes are midtone-based; there is no highlight- or shadow-based spot metering available as with some rivals. In use, we've found that the Evaluative metering mode provided fairly good exposures with a variety of subjects, thanks to the advanced 63-zone metering sensor. When shooting contrasty scenes, it is worth using the Evaluative mode in conjunction with the Auto Lighting Optimiser feature, accessible by hitting the Q button and using the interactive status panel.
The Live View button is within easy reach of your right thumb. Using this button it is easy to enter Live View, but it takes a surprising amount of time for the camera to actually display the live image (think several seconds). A grid line display and very useful live histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure, and you can zoom in by up to 10x magnification of the image displayed on the LCD screen. Focusing in Live View via a half-press of the shutter release as normal.
There are three auto focus options in Live View, including Quick, Live and Face Detection. The use of the Quick mode briefly interrupts the live view feed as the mirror is momentarily lowered so that the AF sensors can be engaged, and it also involves a lot of mirror slapping for the same reason. Live view mode circumvents this problem by employing a contrast-detect method. While this is slower, and sometimes it may still take up to three seconds for the camera to lock focus in this mode, we have found that about half a second was enough most of the time. This is still too slow for anything that moves - use the optical finder and the regular auto focus module for that type of shooting - but it is perfectly OK with still subjects. Obviously, you can also opt to focus manually - the large and high-res screen is a real boon to those who do this on a regular basis. As noted above, you can even magnify into the live image, by up to 10x, which allows very accurate focusing.
Live View is also used for the Canon EOS 100D / SL1's movie mode. If you turn the On / Off switch to the third position denoted by the movie camera icon, the camera will enter the Live View Movie mode automatically. The EOS 100D has a large choice of frame rates, offering a choice of 24, 25 or 30fps when recording Full HD video clips, and 50/60fps when shooting at 720p or VGA resolution. Note however that the available frame rates are also dependent on what you have set in the menu under "Video system": NTSC or PAL.
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The EOS 100D / SL1 can continuously adjust the focus during filming when used with Canon stepping motor (STM) lenses, an important upgrade on previous EOS cameras. You can also initiate auto focus at any time while recording a clip. However, be warned that the microphone can pick up the sound of the focus motor, and the subject might even go out of focus for a few seconds. Setting a small aperture and relying on depth of field for focus is a better idea. Of course you may wish to utilise the DSLR's ability to produce footage with a shallow depth of field, but in that case, it might be a wise idea to purchase a couple of third-party accessories that make manual focusing and focus pulling easier.
Unlike the ESO 700D, tThe EOS 100D's built-in pop-up flash doesn't feature a built-in Integrated Speedlite Transmitter for controlling up to two groups of off-camera Speedlites without the need for an external transmitter. Note that it also doesn't have a more advanced PC Sync port for connecting the camera to external lights, all of which rather limits the 100D's use in studio environments. There's is the expected hotshoe for use with one of Canon's external flashguns.
There is a built-in microphone for stereo recording on top of the camera, and you can connect an external microphone equipped with a stereo mini plug to the camera's external microphone IN terminal. The Video Snapshot feature allows short clips of 2, 4 or 8 sec to be merged into a single movie file, for footage that is short, easy to edit and of similar lengths to the clips used in most TV programmes. The clips are saved to a Video Snapshot Album and you can even add a soundtrack in-camera.
The EOS 100D runs on the same proprietary LP-E12 battery as the EOS M which, according to measurements that conform with CIPA standards, provides enough power for 350-380 images when using the optical viewfinder. The battery can be charged in the supplied LC-E12 charger. Also in the box is a neck strap, a software CD and a user manual, which Canon thankfully provides in printed form, in several languages.
That concludes our evaluation of the EOS 100D's ergonomics, handling, feature set and performance. Let's take a look at its Image Quality next.