SL2 vs SL1
The SL2 is only the second camera in Canon’s series of lightweight entry-level DSLRs, with the first being the Canon Rebel SL1 from 2013.
The SL2 improves upon its predecessor in a number of important ways, all outlined in the table below. It is important to note that you generally cannot buy the SL1 new any more, and you likely will need to purchase it used. Still, if you are looking for a less expensive alternative at an even lower weight, it can be a good one to get – although the feature set is starting to get outdated at this point.
|Canon SL1||Canon SL2|
|Announcement Date||March 2013||June 2017|
|Continuous Shooting||4 fps||5 fps|
|LCD Tilt-Flip Capability||No||Yes|
|Dual Pixel AF||No||Yes|
|Battery Life||480 photos||650 photos|
|Weight (with battery and card)||407 g||453 g|
SL2 vs Other Canon DSLRs
In some ways, the SL2 is more like a “mini Canon Rebel T7i” than it is like the SL1. The SL2 and the T7i share an impressive number of features, including their sensor, dual pixel autofocus, and a tilt-flip touchscreen. The biggest differences are that the T7i has a better autofocus system and frame rate, while the SL2 weighs slightly less and costs about $200 less. Here is a comparison of the SL2 versus the T7i, as well as other DSLRs in Canon’s Rebel lineup:
|Canon T6||Canon T7||Canon T6i||Canon T7i||Canon SL2|
|Announcement Date||March 2016||February 2018||February 2015||February 2017||June 2017|
|Continuous Shooting||3 fps||3 fps||5 fps||6 fps||5 fps|
|LCD Tilt-Flip Capability||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Dual Pixel AF||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Battery Life||500 photos||500 photos||440 photos||600 photos||650 photos|
|Weight (with battery and card)||485 g||475 g||555 g||532 g||453 g|
|Price (late 2018, with 18-55mm kit lens)||$450||$550||$600||$850||$650|
Compared to Nikon D3400 and D5600
The Canon SL2 is priced between Nikon’s D3400 and D5600 entry-level DSLRs. In terms of build quality, it leans more toward the higher-end D5600 (which also is made of quality materials and includes a tilt-flip LCD). As for feature set, it is more similar to the lower-end Nikon D3400, which has a 9-point autofocus system and a number of missing menu options.
Before I make any suggestions, take a look at how the SL2 compares to the D3400 in terms of image quality. Here are crops from ISO 800 to ISO 6400 with both cameras (SL2 on the left, D3400 on the right):
As you can see, the D3400 is ahead by about a stop, with the D3400 at ISO 6400 looking akin to the SL2 at ISO 3200. That difference is significant, but it probably shouldn’t make or break your decision. Both of these cameras are excellent in image quality. The D5600 has the same sensor as the D3400, so it is also very good at high ISOs.
The D3400 is $400, and the D5600 is $700 – both prices with kit lens. The Canon sits at $650 with a lens. I think all these cameras are priced about where they deserve to be, with the Canon perhaps a bit more expensive than its specifications would suggest. That extra price isn’t due to weight savings, either; the SL2 weighs 453 grams, while the Nikon D3400 and D5600 weigh 395 g and 465 g respectively.
Which of these three camera setups is the best? I like Canon’s 18-55mm kit lens more than Nikon’s – not really in terms of image quality, but ease of use and ergonomics. The SL2 also wins out in its live view autofocus due to Dual Pixel AF. The Nikon D3400 and D5600, in turn, have somewhat better image quality and longer battery life. The D5600 also has a noticeably better autofocus system. By a slight margin, taking price into account, I would lean toward one of the Nikon DSLRs. Still, you can’t go wrong with any of these three cameras.
Compared to Mirrorless Options
If your heart isn’t set on a DSLR, and you’re willing to go mirrorless, there are a few other important options to consider. I can’t cover everything on the market below, but I will mention the most important entry-level cameras from three major mirrorless players, as of June 2018:
- The Olympus E-M10 III is arguably Olympus’s closest competitor to the Canon SL2. It has 8.6 frames per second to the Canon’s 5, a 16-megapixel sensor, and a tilt screen. The autofocus system on the E-M10 III is also on the high end of things, with 121 focusing points, far more than the SL2. The Canon wins on battery life and image quality (due mainly to the larger sensor, though the extra pixels play a role as well). Because the SL2 is priced the same (with the Olympus and Canon both at $550, body only), I would tend to pick the Canon. However, if sports are your main focus, the Olympus could be the better option.
- The SL2 is at about the same level as the Fuji X-A5. The two cameras have the same sensor size, which negates the Canon’s image quality advantage compared to the Olympus. The X-A5 is billed as Fuji’s most entry-level mirrorless camera, but it still has several nice features, including a slightly faster frame rate than the Canon (6 fps vs 5 fps) and an excellent autofocus system (91 focus points, and a hybrid phase-detect/contrast-detect system). On the downside, it doesn’t have a viewfinder, and the battery life is less than the SL2’s (410 frames vs 650). At $600 with a kit lens, the X-A5 is a very good value – the same price as the Canon. Both are good choices, and it depends upon whether you care more about a viewfinder and battery life or autofocus speed.
- Last is the Sony A6000, which offers some of the best specificatiosn for a mirrorless camera at this price range. This $450 mirrorless camera (body only) has 11 frames per second, 179 autofocus points, and a very lightweight form factor – just 344 grams. It also has a particularly bad battery life (360 photos versus the SL2’s 650), but it packs a lot of technology into a small camera. Between the two, the SL2 has a more flexible tilting screen (with the A6000’s not flipping completely around), a more rugged form factor, an optical viewfinder rather than electronic (which could be a pro or a con), and better battery life. The Sony A6000, in turn, offers better autofocus (though not as much as the specifications may lead you to think), and its main advantages over the SL2 are weight and price. I would tend to say that the Canon comes out ahead, ignoring price, but it is up to your personal needs. After all, you won’t find many cameras with such a large sensor that are as small and lightweight as the A6000.