If you are buying your first DSLR camera, the available options that are out there can be pretty overwhelming. In this article, I’d like to walk you through the important similarities and differences between a few of Canon’s entry level DSLR cameras, currently the Canon EOS Rebel SL1/100D, Canon EOS Rebel T5/1200D, Canon EOS Rebel T5i/700D and Canon EOS Rebel T6i/750D. While this won’t be an in-depth technical review, it will be a practical, hands on review that should give you enough information to make an informed decision about which of these cameras will work the best for your current needs.
1) How I Reviewed The Cameras
The way that I reviewed these cameras is by actually taking them out and using them. I walked around and photographed scenes that caught my eye. When I needed to test particular aspects of the cameras, I found scenes that worked for what I needed to know. I almost primarily used aperture and shutter priority modes so that I could get a good feel for how capable the camera’s light metering system was (although there were a few occasions when I used manual mode). I only used the kit lens that came with the camera or the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. All images were shot in the RAW format and edited in Adobe Lightroom.
2) Technical Specifications
When it comes to comparing DSLRs, most significant differences can usually be spotted when comparing the technical specs. I’m not going to list all of the specs for these cameras here, as they’re almost identical and won’t really have any impact on your experience while using them. I will list the most important specs and any that differ between the models (with the better specs shaded darker blue).
|Camera Feature||Canon SL1||Canon T5||Canon T5i||Canon T6i|
|Sensor Resolution||18 Million||18 Million||18 Million||24.2 Million|
|Max Image Resolution||5184×3456||5184×3456||5184×3456||6000×4000|
|Autofocus Points||9||9||9, 9 cross-type, center dual-cross||19, 19 cross-type|
|Viewfinder Magnification||Approx 0.87x||Approx 0.8x||Approx 0.87x||Approx 0.82x|
|Display Screen||3 inch Rear LCD, touch||3 inch Rear LCD||3 inch Rear LCD, touch/swivel||3 inch Rear LCD, touch/swivel|
|Metering Modes||Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center-Weighted||Evaluative, Partial, Center-Weighted||Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center-Weighted||Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center-Weighted|
|Continuous Shooting Rate||4 fps||3 fps||5 fps||5 fps|
|Weight (Body)||370 g||434 g||525 g||555 g|
3) Real World Use
Let me start out by saying that for my professional photography I use a Nikon D810. I shoot in manual mode and only use prime (non-zoom) lenses. This matters because shooting with these cameras and a zoom lens was so much different than what I’m used to. Since I’m a Nikon guy, using a Canon took a bit of getting used to, so how intuitive and user-friendly these cameras are really made a big difference.
The only significant changes I made to the camera settings before I started using them was to set them to shoot in RAW (by default they are set to capture JPEG images). Everything else remained unchanged from the factory settings.
3.1) First Impressions
The biggest difference between these four cameras is found in the size of the SL1 compared to the others. It is by far the smallest camera. This makes it the lightest camera, but for my hands it felt way too small. I did find that I could easily stick it in my jacket pocket, which is something that I can’t say about any of the other cameras I reviewed, so if having a small, portable DSLR is important to you, you might consider the SL1.
All of the cameras have a similar menu system and information display. The T5i and T6i have a better button configuration and both have a dedicated ISO button on the top of the camera (the T5 has it on the back and the only way to change ISO on the SL1 is through a menu setting). The T5i and T6i also both have buttons that are more tactile, which makes a big difference when you want to change settings without having to look at the camera.
Both the T5i and T6i also have swiveling rear LCD screens. I have personally never owned a camera with this feature before, so I was excited to try it out. All of the cameras except for the T5 also have touch screens. To my surprise, I found myself occasionally using this feature to quickly make selections and change settings.
3.2.1) Hands On Use: Handling
Once I started using the cameras, I found it hard to tell the difference between the T5, T5i and T6i. Of course, the SL1 stuck out like a sore thumb because it is so much smaller than the other bodies and has more of it’s controls buried in menus versus having dedicated buttons on the camera body itself. The T5 is smaller than the T5i, especially in the grip. If you’re doing a lot of shooting and have larger hands, this is going to be a big deal. The T5i and T6i are roughly the same size (although the T6i is a bit larger).
As I mentioned, the menus in all of the cameras are very similar. Of course, the T6i has a lot more options than the SL1 (it’s a more advanced camera), but navigating the menus feels exactly the same. Navigating through images that I’d taken also felt very similar across all of the cameras. They are all responsive while zooming in on and scrolling through images.The T5 has a lower-resolution screen, so images don’t look nearly as clear or vibrant on it compared to the other three cameras.
3.2.2) Hands On Use: Shooting
A big difference between these cameras is the kit lens that comes with each camera. All of the lenses have the same focal length range (18-55mm) and have IS (image stabilization), which can help you to capture sharper images in low-light situations. The T5 has Canon’s older 18-55mm IS II kit lens, while the other three cameras have Canon’s newer 18-55mm IS STM kit lens. I found the newer lens to be both quieter and faster at acquiring focus than the older lens. The image quality did not seem to change between the different lens models.
If you want to get a different look in your images while using the same camera, you might consider buying a new lens as well. A lightweight, inexpensive lens like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 can completely change the look of your images. For example, take a look at this image. It would be impossible to create with the kit lens.
Not only does a lens like this give you the capability to create different looking images, but (much like IS) it also allows you to photograph in low-light situations without raising your ISO. How does it do that? It has a larger aperture than your kit lens, which lets more light into the camera (you can read more about what an aperture is here). So why do I even bother showing you images like this when they’re not something that the basic camera+kit lens can create? To show you that, by simply changing lenses, these cameras are capable of creating images like you’ve never created before!
If you tend to shoot bursts of RAW images (maybe of action or a once in a lifetime moment), you’ll appreciate the slightly faster frame rate of the T5i and T6i. Not only do they capture images faster, but they also write them to the memory card more quickly. I tested all four cameras and here’s how they stacked up:
– T5: The slowest all around. It has the slowest frame rate (3 fps), as well as the smallest buffer (6 RAW images before it filled up).
– SL1: Has a faster frame rate (4 fps) and can shoot 8 RAW images before the buffer fills up.
– T6i: Ties for the fastest frame rate (5 fps) and can shoot 7 RAW images before the buffer fills up.
– T5i: Ties for the fastest frame rate (5 fps) and can shoot 8 RAW images before the buffer fills up.
You’ll notice that the T6i’s buffer fills up faster than the T5i’s, which is no surprise since it has a higher resolution sensor than the other three cameras. To get the best performance out of this camera, you’ll want to be sure to use fast memory cards if you plan to shoot bursts of images.
What about focus with moving subjects? If you have children or pets you plan on photographing, this can be an important feature of any camera you plan to purchase. I tested them out at a parade and on my cat walking towards me and, surprisingly, all of the cameras did a decent job at tracking and photographing motion. Of course, your results may vary depending on the lighting conditions and how fast your subject is moving, but based on my experience you should be able to photograph slowly moving subjects with any of these cameras.
3.3) Other Features
As I mentioned earlier, the T5i and T6i have rear LCD screens that tilt and swivel. I took the T5i to a parade and found myself using the tilt function of the screen quite a bit while trying to photograph over the heads of people who were standing in front of me. Unfortunately, that also meant I was shooting with live view, which meant the focusing system was slower to acquire focus, especially on moving subjects. I did end up missing many shots, either because the image was out of focus or the camera simply never took a photo because it couldn’t acquire focus.
One feature that the T6i has that the others do not is built in Wi-Fi capability. After downloading the Canon Camera Connect app to my iPhone, I was able to use my phone to view the images on the memory card, download them to my phone and even use my phone to remotely change the camera settings and take photos!
4) Image Quality
As for overall image quality, I couldn’t really tell any difference between cameras while editing properly exposed images. Surprisingly, they all seem to have similar light metering and dynamic range capabilities. I found I was able to recover comparable amounts of shadow and highlight information from similar images taken by each camera. I did notice that when photographing the exact same scene with all four cameras set to Program Mode, the SL1 tended to miss the correct exposure more often than the other three cameras did.
An important factor for cameras is their high ISO performance. While the SL1, T5i and T6i max out their normal ISO rage at ISO 12,800, the T5’s limit is ISO 6400. When shooting at ISO 6400, they all perform similarly. When I took the SL1, T5i and T6i up to ISO 12,800, it definitely increased the noise in the images, but it’s nice to know the reach is there if you ever need it, as the images definitely were not unusable. Personally, I’d try to keep the ISO at 3200 or below on any of these cameras, but in a pinch feel free to use the full ISO range on any of them.
Another important test of a camera’s sensor is how well you’re able to recover an underexposed image shot at high ISO. To test this, I underexposed the same scene by 2 stops with each camera while shooting at ISO 6400. After using Lightroom to adjust the exposure to the correct value, only the T6i produced acceptable results. The other three demonstrated color shifts and extreme noise.
5) Overall Thoughts
At the end of the day, the T5 is the only camera out of these four that I would not recommend. When comparing it to the other models, it’s obvious that it simply has less advanced technology and is less capable than the other three. Those other three cameras (SL1, T5i and T6i) are all capable cameras and fill different needs. They’re easy to use, produce great images and are relatively inexpensive.
To get even more out of a camera like this, using a lens like the 50mm f/1.8 will give you the ability to photograph in even lower-light conditions than the kit lens’ built-in IS, while at the same time giving your images a completely different look due to the shallow depth of field made possible by shooting at an aperture of f/1.8. This combo (kit lens + 50mm lens) has gotten many photographers (myself included) started down the enjoyable path of photography.
That’s not to say that these cameras are perfect. Of course, being entry level cameras, they don’t have the more advanced features that more expensive cameras have. They also don’t have any of the ruggedness that more expensive, professional grade cameras have. That means you’ll have to be careful around bad weather and rugged conditions to protect them from getting wet or banged around.
6) Additional Images
Here’s a few additional images for you to look over before getting to the conclusion. As always, be sure to click on them for the best image quality.
If you’re buying your first DSLR, one of these cameras is going to work great for you. While all of them have similar image quality, they do have their differences as well.
If you want something small, lightweight and inexpensive, you can’t go wrong with the SL1. It is a very capable camera, but still very user friendly. Although the T5 does cost less, it’s not as capable of a camera due.
If you want a larger, more advanced camera than the SL1, but don’t want to spend extra money for features like Wi-Fi and a higher resolution sensor, the T5i might be a great choice for you. Of course, if you want the latest technology and a high resolution sensor, the T6i would be the camera for you.
I can’t recommend purchasing the T5. Although it is currently the least expensive of these four cameras, it is also the least capable. On paper it is more advanced than the SL1, but it will ultimately limit your photography more than even the basic yet more capable SL1 will.
For full camera specifications, current pricing or to purchase a camera, please visit the B&H website:
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
Canon EOS Rebel T5
Canon EOS Rebel T5i
Canon EOS Rebel T6i
Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM lens
This article is very much helpful. But still I have question on it should I ask here ?
Sir…. I’m also a beginner and have canon EOS 1300D or it might be call Rebel T6. i want to know that it is good for beginner or not?
I have used several different brand cameras over the years. My first camera was a Minolta, don’t remember the exact one as this was back in the 80’s. I have used both Canon and Nikon but prefer the Canon cameras. For me I think the pictures came out really nice. I have Canon Rebel EOS K2 (film); the T3; T5 and T6, recently I just purchased the T6. The pictures all look great to me. I tend to buy more Canon products to include their printers because of the customer service I have always received from them when I need to contact them.
Hi, sorry my English, I do not speak it, I am Canon T5 user, last month I shoot several photos with d7000, it was surprise every shoot had sharp image, instead with my Canon I had to review it first by every shoot if this one was blurred, That is the big difference: the sharp of Nikon camera.
I’m torn between the SL1 and T6 for a first dSLR. I know this wasn’t directly compared but wondering about some professional input. I would be using it for personal use of events, family/friends as candids, small group pictures, architecture, and landscape shots on vacations. (I know that’s a wide variety)
Hi Katie, having not used the T6, I can’t comment on it directly, but looking at the specs, I think the SL1 is still a better camera to get. It seems to have more advanced technology and better specs. You shouldn’t really notice any difference between the two cameras for the uses you mentioned.
Thank you for the input. I look forward to taking some photos with my new camera!
The T5 is newer than the SL1. This is mentioned incorrectly a few times in the text.
So it is. I’ll get that changed.
Was a bit surprised that you chose to test only Canon entry level DSLRs, if it was meant to be a guide for beginners to chose their (possibly first) DSLR.
Other readers have addressed this, and you have explained your reason for this, so let that rest.
What I really don’t get, is that you shoot in RAW and process in Lightroom. I guess that most potential buyers of these entry level cameras have no experience with RAW shooting and RAW processing – and since they are likely on a tight budget, they would not invest in an Adobe CC subscription or pay USD 140+ for licensed software. They will most likely shoot JPGs only.
They might be quite disappointed when they compare their JPG files with your processed RAW files, which look great.
JPG files OOC from an entry level Canon lacks in quality compared to Nikon, Fujifilm, and even Micro 4/3 cameras (Olympus and Panasonic).
When you test cameras as a buyers guide, you should put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. I think you overshot the target by quite a distance.
“and since they are likely on a tight budget, they would not invest in an Adobe CC subscription or pay USD 140+ for licensed software. They will most likely shoot JPGs only.”
with RawTherapee and Darktable (just to mention two) there open-source alternatives to Lightroom, Dxo and co. And with Gimp theres is a very good open-source software alternative to photoshop.. And they all work on Linux based opertation systems (Ubuntu…).. So you only have to pay for the hardware.
Makes RAW shooting very cost effective.
As a Nikon shooter i like to shoot RAW and i agree that Fujifilm has a realy beautiful in camera jpg-engine. But Canon and Nikon JPGs are more neutral and very nice, too. In addition: Canons a little bit more punchy default contrast may be in some situations nice than Nikons…
True what you mention about the free software – it could have been nice if that option was mentioned in the review, as it was aimed at first time DSLR buyers.
Still, my impression is that many beginners shoot in JPG – at least for a while. That is why I think these professionally processed RAW files could be a bit of a turn-off for some, when they compare their first shots with them.
As a whole, I think John delivered a pretty good review considering he was out of his comfort zone shooting these entry level Canons compared to his usual Pro Nikon gear. He mentioned that himself.
thank your for your comment on the comment :-)
JPG shooting does have its advantages, even some of the “Pro” shooters on the market shoot JPG.
When I started digital, I switched really fast to RAW, mostly due to the relatively bad noise reduction in my first digital Nikon.
Thanks for the software suggestions, Markus. I think that would make a great article!
Thanks for the comment. While I agree that many people who buy their first DSLR will likely start out shooting JPEGs, here at Photography Life we want to encourage our readers to get the most out of their cameras. As we say in all of our entry level courses, we encourage everyone to shoot in RAW, even beginners.
Nice to see that you are open to trying different camera companies. I am curious about the difference between Nikon and Canon RAW files. Did you notice any differences between them? I noticed that the Canon RAW shots are darker in the dark areas, and sort of over exposed in the light areas. Not as even toned as the Nikon. Please give a detailed answer. I am trying to decided which way to go, Canon or Nikon.
Here’s as detailed of an answer as I can give, based on my limited experience working with Canon RAW files…
I work with many different second shooters for the weddings I photograph and many of them are use Canon gear. That means I have experience working on images from the 5DmkII and 5DmkIII alongside images from my D800 or D810 that were taken in the exact same light and conditions. I typically notice that the Nikon files do have more dynamic range, meaning that I am able to recover more shadow and highlight detail. I think this might be what you’re referring to?
That’s not to say that the images taken with Canon cameras are not good. Far from it! I just feel like I have a bit more flexibility in post processing with the images from my Nikon cameras. Now, this could simply be because I’m more familiar with my Nikon D810 and working with it’s files. It is entirely possible that someone who shoots with and edits Canon files all the time could do more with them than I can. In my experience, though, the Nikon files seem to have more dynamic range. I would say that this observation held true while editing the RAW files from the Canon cameras in this review as well.
As far as the “toning”, or evenness of exposure, I personally haven’t really noticed that Canon images have the extreme differences you describe. If I saw two images of the exact same scene, I doubt that I’d be able to pick out which was taken with a Canon vs a Nikon. Hope this helps!
Thank you for the excellent reply. I think with practice, both will yield great results. I will take this information into account and make a decision. So, this is the dynamic range advantage I have noticed with the Nikon. Big advantage in my opinion.
As a nikon shooter i like the extra headroom in the raw files, but with increasing ISO the dynamic range advantages of the nikons gets negligible.
I am a Nikon user, but try to have no bias. It is my understanding that the very latest Canon sensors like the ones in the Canon 80d and 1DX Mk2 have closed the gap in terms of dynamic range. Just food for thought if you are considering an 80d.
In general, in recent years, Nikon has led Canon in this area. I think John’s comments were right on. I did quite a lot of sports shooting (2nd shooter using their gear) last year with CanonCanon 1d and Canon 7d mk2 cameras. I felt they had less dynamic range then my Nikons. Regardless, still got great images, so its not a dealbreaker.
Really! Then it comes down to the one you like, and the lenses. Any comment on lens quality in the “affordable” range, i.e. built, sharpness af speed etc?
I have not shot with Canon’s less expensive prime lenses. I do know that Nikon’s very reasonably price F1.8 lenses are fantastic even for professional use. They are light, focus fast, and razor sharp. These lenses are so good that in some circumstances, I prefer them to their F1.4 siblings. For example, in my experience, the 50mm F1.8 (a $200 lens) focuses better in low light then the much more expensive F1.4 version. It also focuses better then the well thought of and much more expensive 50mm Sigma Art. I have considerable experience with all three of these lenses and currently have the Sigma Art and the Nikon F1.8. I sold off the Nikon F1.4. That should tell you how much I like them! Good luck with whichever system you decide on. I really don’t think you can go far wrong.
SWEET! One last question. I also like primes, but Nikon does not put VR on them like Canon does. Do you think they might go to in body image stabilization someday? Again thanks, you’ve been a great help.
I would not count on either Nikon or Canon adding in body image stabilization soon….as much as I would like that to happen. That said, for shorter prime lenses, this not a big factor. It is much more valuable for longer tele-zooms and primes (>100mm). Further, the shorter Canon primes do not have image stabilization either. This is easy to verify with a Google search. In general, you rarely find stabilization in shorter primes from any vendor. Some of the longer ones from both Canon and Nikon do have image stabilization. As far as I know, the only stabilized prime lens shorter then 100mm (roughly) is the Tamron 85mm. Regardless, you should research this carefully. Further, in my opinion, 85mm is about the shortest length where lens stabilization has a big effect unless you are trying to achieve very very low shutter speeds in a low light situation. This would be a highly unusual situation.
Again, don’t sweat this too much. These are fairly minor points in choosing a camera / camera system.
Hi sceptical1 and Stan,
while i agree with the fact that Canon is closing the gap in terms of dynamic range, there is a difference until now. Based on data from DXO the Canon 80D is still lower in terms of SNR and dynamic range (DR) compared to the D5500 (and of course the D7200). But it is mostly pronounced at base ISO (100) and getting negligible at higher ISOs.
The 1DX Mk2 has better DR at base ISO but is a little bit worse at higher ISOs, what makes a comparison of the MK2 and Nikons D5 a little but complex.
But if we talk about camera systems, such technical details like SNR and DR are only small parts of the complete image.
Great article. These cameras sell with different names in markets other than USA. PL is international so please consider updating the introduction with the equivalent names used elsewhere 700D, 750D etc.
Thanks James! That’s a good idea. Will do!
Hi, Please suggest top entry level dslr camera to buy??Thannx.
The title of the article suggests that a novice photographer should choose Canon DSLR, the only question is “which one?”.
– Why should it be Canon? Are there no other other DSLR makers (Nikon)? Is Canon the best?
Just look at the comparison of Canon T6i with cheaper more capable Nikon D5300:
The simplest fix would be to change the name from “Choosing …” to “Comparing …”
Alternatively, it would be very nice to have an introduction as to why one should look at Canon system.
There must be reasons. A lot of people use Canons. Not everyone chooses it by chance or through marketing.
In terms of actual comparison of Canon cameras:
– interestingly the price of cameras is not a part of comparison. Yes, the price will change, but some reference numbers would be nice.
– T5 is discounted as older technology. What does that mean in practice? The mentioned smaller buffer size 6 vs 7 RAW is so negligible it sounds silly, as the difference would be very difficult to notice. For instance Nikon D5300 is not the latest generation camera, yet I would choose and recommend it over the newest D5500.
Thanks for the input, Vitalishe. The article you’re suggesting is much broader in scope. While it would definitely be valuable to many people, that was not the intent of this particular article. I will definitely consider it for a future article, though.
My target audience for this article is people who might be saying to themselves, “I want to buy a basic Canon DSLR. I wonder what the difference is between these basic models? Why does one model cost twice as much as a different one?”
I do like the idea of changing “choosing” to “comparing”. Thanks!