Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D vs Nikon D5200 – Comparison

May 25, 2013

Canon SL1 100D and Nikon D5200 cameras with cloud background

In this article I will compare the Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D (world’st smallest DSLR) versus Nikon D5200.  In previous comparisons that I’ve done on the SL1 I found this camera an excellent choice for beginners and enthusiasts on a budget, love its image quality and features. Now I will put the SL1 against the Nikon D5200, one of my personal favorite Nikon entry-level cameras and we’ll see which one comes on top. OK, without further ado, let’s begin!

I will start with a short introduction to each camera and continue to the side by side comparison after the camera introduction section.

Canon Rebel SL1 / EOD 100D

Canon had surprised many photographers when it announced the Rebel SL1, the smallest DSLR camera in the world with APS-C size sensor. This caused some people to raise an eyebrow, thinking who needs a smaller DSLR camera, is the Canon EOS 1100D size isn’t small enough? – The thing is that for the target audience that SL1 / 100D is aimed for, the smaller the better. I can tell you from my own experience that I was very intimidated with the size of the D70s when I first saw it, but after some time I learned to appreciate it size and ergonomics. Canon hopes to attract beginners that are making their first step into the DSLR world.

Until you compare the Rebel EOS SL1 / 100D alongside the Nikon D5200 or other entry-level DSLR cameras, you just can’t comprehend how small it is. Take a look at the image below, a screenshot via camerasize.com which shows the difference in size between the EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 and Nikon D5200.

Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 and Nikon D5200 on top of a human hand

Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 and Nikon D5200 size comparison (via camerasize.com)

In terms of price, the EOS Rebel SL1 is prices around $650 (last checked on Amazon – 5.25.2013), much higher than the T3/1100D ($350) and very close to the Rebel T5i / EOS 700D ($750). The SL1 was criticized for its higher price tag and that it actually compete against the 700D / T5i due to the very close price tag. The SL1 is aimed mainly toward novice photographers but advanced photographers will find  this camera very useful for their needs as well.

The SL1 features a 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, Digic 5 image processor, 4 fps continuous shooting speed, 3-inch high resolution touch-sensitive screen, Hybrid CMOS AF II,63-zone dual-layer metering system for enhanced light metering accrucaey (each layer is sensitive to different wavelengths of light), 9-point AF system (center point cross-type), new Kids, Food and candlelight scene modes and Full HD video recording. For an entry-level camera it’s pretty decent camera that will certainly appeal to beginners. The thing is that for $100 more you can get the T5i / 700D that comes with better AF sensor with all points are cross-type, has articulating display, 1fps faster burst, built-in stereo mic and better batter life (see Canon Rebel SL1 vs T5i comparison for more details). If you find that those extra features appeal to you, you might as well take a look at the Canon Rebel T5i / EOS 700D, you might go with this camera instead. Furthermore, I think that Canon should put more effort into releasing a new EOS M mirrorless camera, instead of releasing a smaller DSLR camera. That aside, I really like the overall design and features of the SL1, and also the great IQ that I will talk about later on this article.

The SL1 have many new useful features, including the ‘Lens Aberration Correction’ tool that correct light falloff and color fringing based on the lens used. The “Feature Guide” feature will give you a short explanation about each important settings in the menu, helping beginners pick up the new settings fast and get learn how to operate the camera, even if they are complete newbies to digital photography. This is not replace experience or going for a photography course, but certainly can help out when you are confused in choosing which settings to use and when. You can disable this feature if you don’t need or don’t want to see textual guide.

The Canon 100D / SL1 feature a new drive system with smaller motor for reduces shutter unit size; the components on the motherboard has been squeezed into a tighter area to reduce the size of the main board, even the CMOS sensor module has been reduced and all lead to a more compact camera. The downside of this is that the camera can’t carry a battery as large as the 650D or 700D (440 shots, CIPA), but you still get good 380 shots (CIPA) performance.

The SL1 lacks GPS, but is compatible with the Canon GP-E2 GPS receiver. For approx. $240, this GPS receiver doesn’t come cheap, but it comes with electronic compass, allows the camera to sync with the built-in atomic clock, can act as a stand-alone GPS logger and provides longitude, latitude, elevation, direction and UTC embedded in the image EXIF data.

The Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 can serve as a backup body to the Canon 7D and other cameras. A friend of mine is a wedding photographer and bought the SL1 has a backup camera, but I would personally buy the Canon EOS 60D which have more feature, quicker access to settings and it’s all around a better camera. Furthermore, I wouldn’t upgrade my T4i to the SL1. The SL1 isn’t a step up over the T4i, and you probably want to look at the T5i instead. The SL1 is aimed towards those whom the SL1 is their first DSLR camera and from this point you can just go up and upgrade to better bodies that Canon offers. If you find yourself not needing the extra features that the T5i offers, the SL1 / 100D will give you roughly same image quality and very good performance, all in a more compact and lightweight camera body.

Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200 dslr, bronze

Nikon D5200 upper entry-level camera (bronze)

The Nikon D5200 replaces the D5100 which was introduced on April 5, 2011.  The Nikon D5200 is aimed for novice photographers, but enthusiasts will find it very appealing as well. It’s a great camera for those who find the D3100/D3200 lacking some of the features that they need and don’t mind paying $200 more to get a better camera. The D5200 was also designed to compete against Canon’s excellent Rebel cameras, including the Rebel T3i and T4i that as for the time of writing this article, are conquering the top 1st and 2nd position on Amazon Best sellers in Digital SLR cameras (last checked: 5.25.2013). The Nikon D5200 is positioned in the 11th position, below the Nikon D5100 in the 9th position which is sold for $200 less by now.

As you can see, the Nikon D5200 is an important model that should provide Nikon more boost in sales and help Nikon be competitive in the entry-level DSLR market.

The Nikon D5200 was optimized and built from the ground up to provide excellent performance and creative options for both stills and videos. At the heart of the D5200 you find a 24.1 MP DX-format CMOS sensor (same resolution as the D3200 and the D7100). Some people criticized Nikon for going with such high resolution, considering the target audience that might won’t take advantage of this resolution at all, and this can reduce the camera’s high ISO performance (lead to more noise) and result in larger image file size. On the other hand, 24.1MP will give you plenty of room for cropping, and many enthusiast photographers will find it very useful when editing their photos in photo editing software.

The Nikon D5200 costs $200 less than the Nikon D7000. You can read my full Nikon D5200 vs Nikon D7000 comparison to read about all the differences between the two cameras. To keep things short, the D7000 has a lower resolution (16.2MP), fixed LCD (vs articulated), 100% coverage and larger VF, 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed (vs 1/4000 sec), faster 1/250 sec flash X sync speed (vs 1/200 sec), only 1080p24, dual card slot, environmental sealing against moisture and dust, much stronger battery (1050 vs 500 shots) and better build quality. So all in all, that certainly worth $200 for some photographers who will take advantage of those features.

Other features include compatibility with the optional WU-1a wireless adapter, 1080p video recording with stereo sound, 39-point wide-area autofocus system, 5 fps burst, improved and very intuitive user interface, compatible with the new WR-R10 and WR-T10 wireless remote controls, Active D-Lighting and also inherits the 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor from the D7000 I also likes the function button on the left side, which can be set to allow full access to one of 14 available camera settings.  All in all, a great arsenal of useful features that will appeal to both novice and advanced photographers.

Nikon D5200 product video:

Now that you got a basic understanding of the key features of each camera and learned about the two cameras stand in the DSLR ecosystem, let’s continue to our side by side comparison..

Nikon D5200 vs Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1

As I demonstrated earlier in a size comparison image, the 100D/SL1 is smaller than the D5200, actually 9% narrower, 7% shorter, 11% thinner than the D5200 and weights 27% (148 grams) less. Is it a big difference? – No, but the difference in size becomes more obvious when you compare the SL1/100D versus the Nikon D7000 or Canon EOS 7D.  I would probably wouldn’t pick up the Rebel SL1 over the D5200 because it’s smaller, not at all. When comparing those two cameras it’s important to understand all the differences between the two cameras and than make you final decision.

The Nikon D5200 costs $50 more than the SL1, very small difference and therefore the comparison will concentrate on which camera offer better features.

Canon Rebel SL1 100D and Nikon D5200 side by side

Canon Rebel SL1 100D and Nikon D5200 side by side size comparison

Canon Rebel SL1Nikon D5200
AnnouncedMarch 21, 2013November 6, 2012
Build QualityAluminium alloy and polycarbonate resin with carbon and glass fiberMostly made from polycarbonate plastic
Sensor18.0 MP (effective)
APS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm(
CMOS

Dust Reduction System
24.1MP (effective) Nikon DX Format
APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
CMOS

Dust Reduction System
Stills Aspect Ratios1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:93:2
Canon SL1 offer 33.8% higher resolution. Considering roughly the same sensor size, the pixel density on the D5200 is higher, and whether or not this has negative implications on image quality or not, we'll check it out in the image quality section later on. The SL1 also offers a wide selection of aspect ratios. I personally love shooting in 16:9, and it's nice to know that we have the option to shoot in 16:9 without the need to crop the image in photo editing software later on.
Image ProcessorDigic 5Expeed 3
ISO100 - 12800 (25600 with boost)100 - 6400 (25600 with boost)
SL1 has a higher native maximum ISO, both cameras can shoot up to ISO 25600 in boost mode. Higher ISO comparison later on .
AF Sensor9-point AF (cross-type f/2.8 center point)

Hybrid CMOS AF II AF system
39-point (nine cross-type)

Multi-CAM 4800DX
Hybrid CMOS AF II AF system combines the advantage of both contrast-detect AF and phase-detect AF, also offers fast continuous AF during movie recording. The AF sensor covers 80% of the frame. The center cross-type point helps the camera focus more accurately whether you are shooing in portrait or landscape position. For best performance you should use Canon STM lenses which offer smoother and quite operation which is optimized for video recording.

The Nikon D5200 utilizes the same AF system as the D7000. I've been shooting with the D7000 for two years and it's blazing fast, you can expect exceptional AF performance. The D5200 has the edge here over the 100D/SL1.

Considering the fact that the D5200 has more AF point and 9 of them are cross-type, this leads to more accurate AF performance than the SL1 for subject tracking, and also more precise AF when shooting vertically. Cross-type AF points can determine focus for both horizontal and vertical dimensions.

It's worth mentioning that the Nikon D5200 lacks autofocus motor that kind of limit your lens selection. The SL1 also lacks internal AF motor, but all Canon cameras do have an internal AF motor. The good news are that all latest Nikkor lenses do have an internal AF motor. Some older lenses (some are much cheaper) don't have an AF motor and therefore won't autofocus on Nikon's entry-level DSLR cameras. What Canon did was to cut off previous mount and start using modern mount starting 1987.

If you have old Nikon lenses, they might not autofocus on the D5200 so take that into consideration.
AF Assist LampBy built-in flashYes
Light Metering Sensor63-Zone Dual-layer2016 pixel RGB color-sensitive
Metering MethodsEvaluative metering
Partial metering
Sport metering
center-weighted average
3D color matrix metering II
Color matrix metering II
Center-weighted
Spot metering
The Nikon's 2016 pixel light metering sensor result in more finely-tuned exposure, but having the option to shoot with both cameras I can say that I did get over exposed images at some occasions with the D5200, but I was very impressed with the D5200 metering overall. So the D5200 has a more sophisticated light metering sensor, but there in practice I didn't find the D5200 doing a much better job than the SL1.
LCD3-inch
1040K-dots
Fixed
Touch Screen

Anti-smudge coating
3-inch
921K-dots
Fully Articulated
NO Touch Screen
One of the strengths of the D5200 as a HDSLR camera, having a fully articulated LCD screen that can rotate 180-degrees on the x-axis and flip 180-degrees in the y-axis so the screen can face forward for self-portrait shots. The articulating screen is very useful for composing shots above your head or below the waistline and one of the most requested features by video enthusiasts.

The SL1 does have a gorgeous screen but it is a fixed screen and cannot be rotated at all. The SL1 has the advantage of being a touch-sensitive screen, although some photographers might see this as a disadvantage, depends who you ask. I think that beginners will find the SL1 touch screen very useful for navigating through menu settings and using the touchscreen to autofocus and taking the shot.
ViewfinderPentamirror

95% coverage
0.87x magnification

-3.0 to +1.0 m¯¹ diopter adjustment
Pentamirror

95% coverage
0.78x magnification

-1.7 to +0.7 m¯¹ diopter adjustment
SL1 features a bit larger VF with more flexible diopter adjustment
Shutter Speed30 - 1/4000 sec30 - 1/4000 sec
Built-in FlashYes (9.4m at ISO 100)Yes (12m at ISO 100)
External Flashvia Hot-shoevia Hot-shoe
Flash X sync1/200 sec1/200 sec
Continuous Shooting4 fps5 fps
Exposure Compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±2 (3 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)±2 (3 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
WB BracketingYes, 3 framesYes, 3 frames
Video1080p30
1080p24
720p60
480p30

Monaural sound
1080i60
1080p30
1080p24
720p60
640x424 pixels 30 fps

Stereo sound
Both cameras offer 30p and 24p 1080p video recording, the D5200 also feature 1080u60 The D5200 has a built-in stereo mic, the SL1 has mono mic. Both cameras have a 3.5 mm mic jack which allows you to connect and external stereo microphone to improve the video audio quality
WirelessYes (via Eye-Fi Connected)Yes (via Nikon's WU-1a Wi-Fi unit(
Remote ControlYes (RC-6)Yes (ML-L3 or WR-R10)
Battery Life (CIPA)380 frames500 frames
Dimensions117 x 91 x 69 mm (4.61 x 3.58 x 2.72″)129 x 98 x 78 mm (5.08 x 3.86 x 3.07″)
Weight407 g (0.90 lb / 14.36 oz)555 g (1.22 lb / 19.58 oz)
GPSoptional (using GP-E2)optional (using GP-1)
Shooting ModesKids, Food, Candlelight, Night Portrait, HDR Backlight, Portrait, Sloe-up, Creative Auto, Sports, Flash Off, Handheld Night SceneAutumn Colors, Beach / Snow,Blossom, Candlelight, Child, Close-up, Dusk / Dawn, Food, Landscape, Night Landscape,Night Portrait,Party / Indoor,Pet Portrait,Portrait,Sports,Sunset
Button LayoutD5200 has more buttons and also a function (Fn) button that you can custom to one of 14 available setting to gain fast access and modify those quickly. The SL1 has a more simplified design as this camera is aimed towards beginners. I like the SL1 ISO button at the top which gives yo ua quick access for changing the ISO without diving into the menu system. I also personally prefer the my wheel dial at the back as on the D5200 and not on the top as with the SL1, but that's a personal preference.
Hand GripThe D5200 has much thicker grip and has more depth. The SL1 grip is much more shallow.
Battery GripNot AvailableFrom 3rd party manufacturers (ie. Photive grip and Bower XBGN5100)

There are plenty of differences between the two cameras, here are the higlights..

Nikon D5200 Advantages

  • Higher resolution sensor (for those who need higher resolution)
  • 39-point more sophisticated AF system with 9 cross-type sensors
  • Full articulated LCD
  • Stronger built-in flash
  • Faster burst (by 1fps)
  • 1080i60 video recording
  • Built-in stereo mic
  • Compatible with a dedicated Wi-Fi unit (WU-1a)
  • Better battery life
  • More buttons for faster access to useful camera settings
  • Battery grip available via 3rd party manufacturers
Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D Advantages
  • Higher maximum ISO sensitivity
  • Higher resolution LCD
  • Touch screen (some will find this a disadvantage though)
  • Larger viewfinder
  • More aspect ratios for stills
  • Smaller and lighter

The Nikon D5200 is the more advanced camera overall and I am sure that many photographers will appreciate its fully articulated display, 39-point AF with 9 cross-type sensor (inherited from the D7000), built-in stereo mic, better battery life and better ergonomics. These are important features that I’m sure many photographers will find useful. I find the D5200 more suitable for the advanced photographer who needs to step up from the D3200 / D3100.  The SL1 by design was aimed towards novice photographers, and its smaller size will be appreciated by many newcomers.

Image Quality – High ISO Noise Comparison

magnifying glass on imageImage quality is one of the most important aspects when comparing two cameras one versus the other. In this section I will write my image quality analysis based on sample image comparison done via imaging resource comparometer tool.  Here are my analysis results:

  • ISO 100 – Nikon has a warmer tone as expected. Both cameras produce very clean images, but the SL1 image look much sharper and more details are visible (see the shirt and hair details). It’s interesting to see if that continues on in higher ISO sensitivities. The D5200 result in a larger image, but the smoother look actually result with the D5200 having less detailed image
  • ISO 200 – same as ISO 100, both images are very clean, SL1 is sharper and D5200 produces smoother image, but all in all great IQ from both cameras
  • ISO 400 – noise is visible in mid-tones and dark areas but nothing to worry about – excellent IQ so far
  • ISO 800 – Canon SL1 / 100D has less noise than the D5200, and SL1 image is sharper
  • ISO 1600 – SL1 much cleaner image. Both cameras maintain contrast and color reproduction is excellent, even at ISO 1600
  • ISO 3200 – same trend as before, Canon SL1 image is cleaner but the Nikon has the advantage here with its higher resolution that helps the camera better maintain file details (see the doll’s hair). Nikon D5200 shows much higher degree of chroma noise
In my observation, the Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D did perform better than the Nikon D5200 in the High ISO test. The SL1 produces more pleasing JPEG images, which are sharper and cleaner as you climb up the ISO scale. I was troubles with the Nikon D5200 sharpness. Although I don’t know with which lens the image was taken (most probably with a 50mm prime lens), I went to dpreview to see if the smooth look appears on their website too. Unfortunately I encountered the same results after viewing some D5200 sample images on dpreview. I compare it versus other Canon DSLR cameras including the T3i, T4i, and T3 (SL1 is not available yet) and indeed, the D5200 image look softer. I don’t know whether it’s because Nikon took a less aggressive approach to sharpening, but I don’t think that’s the case – Why you ask, because there are details in the SL1 image that can’t be seen on the D5200 image, and sharpening increment can’t help the camera resolve those details. Is see that as a disadvantage. I can think of one reason that can cause this, maybe the lens resolution isn’t enough to match the sensor’s resolution. Whatever the reason is, the SL1 wins here for its excellent high ISO performance and very sharp and detailed out-of-the-box JPEG images.
Let’s take a look as tome sample videos.
First is a Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D sample video (29.97 fps, RODE VideoMic, Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L lens, Edited with Apple iMovie’09)

Gorgeous video image quality!

Another Canon EOS 100D video sample taken with the 18-55mm STM lens by dpreview

Excellent exposure, great sharpness, beautiful natural colors – Just Gorgeous – I’m Impressed!

Nikon D5200 test video using Nikkor 50mm F1.8G lens (Edited)

Wow! – superb video quality!, no doubt that the D5200 is an excellent HDSLR camera. Colors, sharpness, exposure – Brilliant!

Another Nikon S5200 sample video but showing the special effects (color sketch, miniature effect, selective color, silhouette, Night vision, High key and Low key (shot with Nikkot 14-24mm F2.8, Nikkor 70-200mm VR II F2.8, Nikkor 24mm F1.4)

I was watching those videos and I was taken away for a long trip to a new place, somewhere peaceful, I can dream, I can create, I can live! – There is not limit what you can achieve with those cameras with with a bit of imagination. I am working hard on those comparison, but for a single moment I can just fly away to another country and surround myself, even for a few moments, in a peaceful environment, relax to the sound of a Piano (bravo for Gianfranco Corigliano for this video!).

Conclusion

It was hard to wake up from such a relaxing video, but here were are. So there you have it, two impressive entry-level cameras, the Nikon D5200 and the Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D – Which one should you buy. The Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 is an amazing camera and I’m sure it would be popular among novice photographers who are making their first steps into the world of DSLR photography.  The SL1 smaller size and touchscreen will certainly appeal to audience that this camera is aimed for. I found the SL1 to outperform the D5200 in high ISO tests after inspecting sample images on various camera reviews’ websites. The SL1 JPEGs are sharper and have less noise when you climb up the ISO scale. The SL1 lacks an articulating screen, which is quite ashamed considering how good the video quality is, and the camera has a mono mic, so that something that I’ll missed on the SL1.  The SL1 was designed from the ground up to please beginners, and you can see that by the camera design, button layout and camera guide and auto functions.

The Nikon D5200 is also an entry-level camera, but closer to be a mid-range DSLR than an entry-level one in my opinion. It has more buttons that allow faster access to favorite functions, including a Fn function that can be programmed to one of fourteen camera settings for quick access. The camera is larger than the SL1, but it’s not necessary a bad thing. You’ll find it very useful for balancing the camera when mounting long and heavier telephoto zoom lenses. I have large hands, and I found the D5200 to be much easier to hold – ergonomics is important, so don’t ignore it.

The D5200 has a higher resolution sensor, but I found JPEG output to be on the soft side out-of-the-box compare to the 100D output. The D5200 inherits the amazingly fast and accurate AF sensor of the D7000, and trust me that you’ll be blown away with the AF performance of this camera. The D5200 was designed to be a great stills camera, as well as an excellent HDSLR camera. You get to enjoy a fully articulating display, 1080i60/1080p30,24 Full HD video recording, built-in stereo mic and very good battery life. Video quality is just superb, and you’ve seen the videos above, so you know what this camera is capable of in the hands of a creative photographer.

Those of you who are fanatic about image quality will probably prefer the SL1, due to its impressive JPEG IQ. Video enthusiast will prefer the D5200. If you are just starting out, the SL1 is a great camera to start with.   I wouldn’t buy the SL1 only because it’s smaller, the difference in size doesn’t justify it. If it was a mirrorless camera it would probably be a complete different story, but it isn’t.  Now that you know the cons and pros of each camera, it’s your time to make a decision. I know it’s not easy, but the many of the differences are laid out in front of you. I think that both cameras deliver excellent performance and will satisfy the needs of both novice and advanced photographers alike.

If you want my opinion, I would probably get the D5200. I am really impressed with its features and I know that I would take advantage of its unique features. The D5200 is $50 more expensive than the SL1, and I think that for $50 you get some features that definitely worth that price difference. I can even say that the SL1 was probably prices a bit too high, and that put the D5200 in a relatively very tempting position, and as you can see, I was tempted to get the D5200 over the SL1 :)

If you have questions or want to write your own experience, please do so by commenting below. I would be glad to hear what you think about those two cameras. Thank you for spending time reading this comparison and I hope that you find it useful. If you do, please share it with your friends.

Check latest Prices and Purchase from:

Nikon D5200: B&H, Adorama

Canon Rebel SL1 (EOS 100D): B&H, Adorama

 

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