In this article I will compare the Canon Rebel SL1 / 100D versus Canon’s mirrorless camera, the EOS M. That’ will be a classic DSLR vs Compact System Camera comparison. In this article you’ll learn about the differences between the two cameras and learn about the the fine line between Canon’s most basic entry-level DSLR camera and its first Compact System Camera – Let’s Begin!
MILC vs DSLR
If you are interested in learning more about the the differences between Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera and DSLR cameras, I recommend reading my MILC vs DSLR article, where you can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each one. To keep things short, many photographers who decide to buy a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera do that for various reasons but the main reasons is mainly the size of the camera and lenses. The whole idea behind mirrorless cameras is to create a camera that is capable of delivering DSLR-like quality photos, but without the burden of carrying a bulky and heavy reflex camera.
Indeed, there are some entry-level cameras that are relatively very small compare to mid-range and pro grade DSLR cameras. On the other hand, there are some mirrorless cameras that are relatively large in comparison to other mirrorless cameras. With the Canon EOS Rebel SL1, Canon designed the world’s most compact and lightweight DSLR camera. Canon designed this camera to appeal to beginners who are intimidated by the size of DSLR cameras and prefer having a smaller-size camera. Don’t expect it to me the size of a compact camera, but it’s indeed much smaller than the T4i for example.
As you can see from the above image, there is a big difference between the T4i (back) and SL1 (front). The thing is that with both cameras you’ll still need a camera bag to carry the camera around, you can’t put it in your pocket. Still, this might convince some people who have seconds thoughts about getting a DSLR, to buy a DSLR camera instead of a compact system camera.
Here are some comparison specs:
Canon EOS Rebel T4i is 14% (16.3 mm) wider and 10% (9.1 mm) taller than Canon Rebel SL1.
Canon EOS Rebel T4i is 14% (9.4 mm) thicker than Canon Rebel SL1.
Canon EOS Rebel T4i [575 g] weights 41% (168 grams) more than Canon Rebel SL1 [407 g] (*inc. batteries and memory card).
Whether or not the SL1 / 100D size will convince you to buy a DSLR camera for the first time or not, there are many things that you should know about the Canon EOS M and Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D before making your final decision. We’ll now jump straight to the camera introduction section where you’ll learn about the key features of each camera; later on, I will compare the EOS M against the SL1 side by side so you can clearly understand the differences between the two cameras.
Canon EOS M
Canon EOS M is the first Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera for Canon and the only mirrorless camera as for the time of writing this article. As a MILC, this camera doesn’t employ a reflex mirror as in SLR/DSLR cameras. The mirror is used to reflect the light to the optical viewfinder and let the photographer see what the lens sees. This mirror takes quite a lot of space inside the camera body. In MILC cameras this mirror and the reflex mechanism is removed and therefore allows camera manufacturers to create much more compact cameras. The absent of the reflex mirror means that you don’t get to have an optical viewfinder. Instead, those MILC who do have a viewfinder use an electronic viewfinder instead, which contains a tiny screen that streams the image data from the camera image sensor. The EOS M doesn’t employ a built-in electronic viewfinder though, and I will talk about this later on this article.
For many photographers, it seems that Canon joined a bit late to the party. There are already a very wide range of excellent MILC cameras from manufacturers like Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Nikon, so the competition is very rough. Whether or not Canon would be able to compete against its rivals in this market, only time will tell.
Canon has decided to use an APS-C size sensor in this camera like Sony did with its NEX cameras,Pentax did with its K-01 (discontinued) and Samsung with its NX cameras. It’s worth mentioning that most MILC camera manufacturers have decided to go with a smaller size sensor: Olympus and Panasonic with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, Nikon have chosen a 1-inch CX sensor in its 1 Nikon cameras, which is much smaller than a micro four thirds. Pentax has chosen to go with even smaller 1/2.3″ sensor in its Pentax Q mirrorless cameras.
We’ve seen in many reviews that the size of the sensor has a direct implication on the image quality. It’s more accurate to say that the size of the pixel is what counts towards higher image quality. The bigger the pixels the more data (light photons) can be gathered in each photosite and that leads to higher dynamic range, more accurate colors, higher light sensitivity that reflects upon the camera’s high ISO performance. On of the main downsides of having a larger sensor is that the limit lens manufacturers to create more compact lenses.
The Canon EOS M enjoys a wide range of useful features, including a 18.0MP APS-C CMOS Sensor, Digic 5 image processor, Hybrid AF (phase detect AF + contrast detect AF), 1080p Full HD video recording, A+ Auto mode 3:2 wide 3-inch Clear View II 1040K-dots touch screen with smudge resistant coating and multi-touch operation. compatibility with Canon EF and EF-S lenses with EF-EOS M adapters, Multi-shot noise reduction and many more useful functions.
I really liked the Canon EOS M design and it seems that Canon did put a good amount of effort and planning in order to release a camera that can be attractive in this very competitive market. The EOS M will appeal for those who have trust and prefer buying into a Canon brand product, those who already have EF / EF-S lenses and thinking of using it with this camera (you’ll need an adapter for that), those who favor Canon optics and those who are finding the EOS M to best suit their needs in terms of features, camera design and performance and of course those who see the EOS M as a well-deserved camera to replace their DSLR camera.
The fact that Canon have chosen to go with a large APS-C sensor, means that Canon aims for the highest image quality and didn’t want to sacrifice this by going with a smaller sensor. This also means that we’ll see lenses that are larger in size due to this large sensor. Having said that, we’ve already seen some Sony NEX lenses that are very compact in size, like the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS (SEL-P1650), as we do expect most lenses to be more compact with cameras with a smaller sensor, many people that purchase an entry-level camera will probably use one or two lenses, so for some people this might not be an issue at all. Telephoto zoom lenses are much bulkier, even on a Micro Four Thirds camera, but having a camera with a smaller size sensor does give lens manufacturers more room to work to minimize the size of the lens by using advanced optical design.
If you count the size of the camera body into account (and you should), you can see that the EOS M with a 18-55mm lens is much more compact than a Rebel SL1 with a 18-5mm lens – having some doubts, take a look at the image below.
In the above image you can see how slim the EOS-M body is compare to the SL1 body, that’s a huge difference that cannot be easily ignored. Furthermore, you can see that Canon was able to create a more compact lens considering the fact that the sensor is now closer in distance to the lens (18mm) – that also helps lens manufacturers produce more compact lenses as well. The image above speaks for itself and gives you a very clear observation of one of the main selling points that Compact System Cameras have over DSLR cameras – and the SL1 is the world’s most compact DSLR camera, so I haven’t compared it to larger DSLR cameras!
The Canon EOS M does lack a few features that some of you might want to have in your next camera, this includes a built-in flash and electronic viewfinder (EVF). Whether it’s a big disadvantage, you are the one to decide. I personally almost never use the camera built-in flash, maybe at times which I use it to fill shadow areas in portrait shots. Most CSC cameras on the market do not have an EVF, and this is a features that can be found on more expensive models like the Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Fujifilm X-E1, Panasonic Lumix G6 and GH3.
An EVF and especially an optical viewfinder is one of he main reasons why many photographers prefer buying a DSLR camera over MILC. The EOS M is aimed toward beginners and enthusiast alike, and those who decide to buy the EOS M wouldn’t mind not having an EVF and can enjoy the camera by composing their shots via the rear LCD alone. The SL1 rear LCD is of a very high quality, high resolution and have anti-reflection coating that makes this screen work very well even in bright daylight. I do expect Canon to release a new EOS-M model with an electronic viewfinder (rumors are speaking about a removable EVF) and of course this camera will cost more than the current model. Canon needs a mirrorless camera with EVF to compete against the Fuji X-E1 and Sony NEX-6 and NEX-7 cameras.
The Canon EOS M utilizes a new EF-M mount which was designed exclusively for Canon EOS-M cameras. Canon also introduced two new EF-M lenses for this mount, including a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and 22mm f/2.0 STM lenses. This is probably one the biggest disadvantage that the EOS M have compare to its competitors, offering only two lenses in its EF-M lens range. You do have the option to mount your current EF-S / EF lenses using the EF-EOS M mount adapter, but I think many people who buy this camera want to do that. So as for the time of writing this article, this is probably the biggest cons, so take that into consideration.
Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D
Announced on March 21, 2013 – the Canon Rebel SL1 is Canon’s and the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR camera to date. I remember the first time I’ve seen my fathers Nikon D70 camera. I wasn’t shooting with a DSLR back then, and I was stunned by the bulkiness of this camera. Of course after some time I’ve got use to it and I found it very convenient to use and learned to appreciate its ergonomics superiority, especially when shooting with telephoto-zoom lenses.
The SL1 / 100D enjoys a wide range of advanced features, including a 18.0-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, Digic 5 image processor, 4 fps burst, 3-inch touch screen LCD, Hybrid AF, 63-zone dual-layer metering system, full HD video recording, optical viewfinder and many more creative and and smart features that are aimed for beginners who are taking their first steps into the DSLR photography world. You can sue the SL1 like an automatic camera when using the scene Intelligent Auto mode, which automatically sets the lighting optimizer, white balance and exposure to give great results every time.
Another great feature is called “Background Simulation” which make its easier for beginners to preview the effect of a blurred (or sharp) background on the photo. Another features is called “Effect Shot”, in which the camera captures two shots simultaneously, the first one without the effect and second with an effect applies and allows the photographers to choose between the two without destroying the original image.
The Canon Rebel SL1 features a 9-point AF system in including a cross-type f/2.8 center point . The camera utilizes a Hybrid CMOS AF II AF system that brings fast and accurate autofocus for both stills and videos in Live View. Hybrid AF means that the camera takes advantage of both phase-detect AF and contrast-detect AF to provide a faster and more accurate AF performance. The phase-detect AF points exists on the sensor itself and assists in predicting the subject location and helps the camera focus better on a fast moving subject that moves across the frame. The AF areas covers 80% of the frame, helping photographers capture the moment without missing an important shot. The AF performance is very important for photographers in all levels, but mostly for those who shoot fast moving subjects like sports shots. This is probably the most problematic thing to measure because it depends on the camera’s AF sensor and lens as well. Most people rely on the opinion of people who have use the lens for some time and already tried other cameras to have their reliable decision about how good the AF performance of the camera really is.
The Canon EOS 100D as designed and aimed towards beginners. This is probably the most important aspect that Canon engineers took into consideration. One of the neat features that is automatically enabled in the camera (can be disabled) is called “Feature Guide”. This shows a short description for many functions of the camera to helps beginners learn and understand which feature to use and why. It might sound unnecessary for many photographers, and it might be, but for beginners this is a very important feature, like a private photography tutor that helps them gradually understand how to use their DSLR camera.
The Canon EOS 100 D / Rebel SL1 is compatible with the optional GPS receiver Canon GP-E2. This is a rugged lightweight design GPS receiver that attaches to the camera using the camera’s hot shoe or via a USB terminal (only with the EOS 7D) and also has an on-board electronic compass and can even act as a stand-alone GPS logger.
With a size that is approximately 25% smaller than the EOS Rebel T4i, touch-screen, Optical viewfinder and plenty of features that will appeal to beginners, the SL1 really stand out from the crowd and it’s easy to understand why many photographers are still debating between the SL1 and a mirrorless camera. For me, the optical viewfinder in DSLR is a big plus, and I personally can’t find myself shooting without it. I really like the SL1 design, look and feel but as small as the camera is, it’s still much larger than a compact system camera and therefore you’ll need a small camera bag to carry it around anyways. One of the biggest advantages that the SL1 has over the EOS-M as for time of writing this article, is that Canon DSLR cameras have a much wider lens selection.
Another reason why many people would pick up the SL1 over the EOS M is due to function accessibility. DSLR cameras were designed by default to satisfy advanced photographers needs. One of the most needed features is having fast access to popular functions. The SL1 has a mode dial at the top and a ISO button that gives photographer a fast access to modifying the exposure settings without diving into menus, although this is still an option on the SL1.
Another cool feature that Canon included in the SL1 are special scene modes, including kids and food that are pretty cool to have and will bring those food photos to life with vivid colors for gorgeous presentation. The ‘Kids’ scene mode will enforce the camera to use a faster shutter speed to make sure that the camera will capture the subject sharp. The camera will change the aperture and ISO to allow it to get the shutter speed needed to effectively freeze scene.
All in all, I find the Rebel SL1 to be an evolutionary camera in terms of its size and weight, and a magnificent photographic equipment for both beginners and even for enthusiast photographers on a budget. As for the time of writing this comparison, the SL1 (body only) costs approx. $650 ($800 with the 18-55mm EF-S IS STM lens), and the EOS M costs approx. $495 with the EF-M 18-55mm IS STM lens. Therefore the EOS M is much less expensive than (roughly $250-$300 less) the SL1.
Canon Rebel SL1 / 100D vs Canon EOS M
Now that you’ve given some overview of each camera; let’s now compare the two cameras side by side in order to better understand how the two cameras differ. I will also add some side notes to better explain the differences between the two cameras so you will have a better knowledge in understanding whether or not a specific feature can be disadvantage (or an advantage) for you specific shooting habits. Remember, the “Best” camera is the one that best fits your type of shooting habits.
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As you can see from the above SL1 vs EOS M side by side specs comparison table, there are a lot of differences between the two cameras.
Canon EOS M Advantages:
- Much smaller and lighter
- slower minimum shutter speed
- More AF points, including 9 of cross-type which is very useful for subject tracking
- Slightly faster burst, but in real life you won’t notice the difference
- bundled with a 90EX flash
- Built-in stereo mic
- Has waterproof housing
Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D Advantages:
- Improved ergonomics when using larger and heavier lenses or flash mounted on the hot-shoe
- Optical viewfinder
- More mechanical controls to offers faster access to popular used camera settings (P/A/S/M dial, ISO button, etc.)
- Built-in Flash
- Silent shooting
- Kids & Food special scene modes
- Larger buffer that can store more JPEG images per single burst (28 vs 15)
- Better battery life
- More flexible exposure compensation
- Much, much larger lens selection (well, EOS M have only two lenses as for 5.25.2013)
- Hybrid CMOS AF II
The SL1 will certainly appeal to those who want a camera with an optical viewfinder, don’t mind carrying a relatively larger camera, want a built-in flash, can take advantage of the larger battery life and manual controls that the 100D offers. The EOS M main selling point is its smaller size of course, but has more AF points (9 of them are cross-type) that should lead to better subject-tracking performance, comes with a bundled flash which is nice and allows you to record Full HD videos with stereo sound.
I think that most of you should ask yourself whether or not you can live without a viewfinder. For me having a viewfinder gives me a more intimate connection with the subject that I’m shooting and certainly helps when shooting in very bright daylight when the sun is behind you. Both cameras offer full manual control over the exposure, but the SL1 offers a dedicated ISO button plus a P/A/S/M mode dial at the top that will give you easier and quicker access to those needed functions.
Both cameras utilize a 63-zone TTL metering sensor but the SL1 features a 63-zone Dual-layer metering sensor which each layer is sensitive to different wavelengths of light, and this should improve the light metering performance in various type of scenes. Another difference is that the SL1 / 100D features a new improved Hybrid CMOS AF II with increase AF area that covers 80% of the frame compare to the older model that covers much less. According to Canon, this performance is enhanced if you use Canon’s new STM lenses.
Many photographers choose to buy a DSLR for fast action photography like sports or even shooting kids running around in the park. Mirrorless cameras are well known for their very fast single-shot AF performance, DSLR are better in general when switching to continuous AF (aka AI Servo). I have to admit that after shooting with many Compact System Cameras, I was blown away by how fast the contrast-detection is. It seems that Canon and other companies just can’t get close to the CDAF performance with their DSLR cameras. If you don’t do a lot of fast-action photography, Compact System Cameras won’t disappoint you and give you very high single-shot AF performance. According to many opinions that I’ve read regarding the two cameras, the SL1 AF performance is much faster than the EOS M.
The EOS M will certainly appeal to travelers who need a compact camera due to lack of space in their backpack. I also think that the EOS M can be an excellent backup camera for enthusiast and pro photographers as well. The main debate on the web is when Canon will release a second version of its EOS M camera (people called it M2, and EOS M is called M1). I think that the SL1 is far superior to the EOS M and aimed towards more advanced photographers who can take advantage of its more advanced features, whether it’s the AF performance, lens selection, improved Hybrid AF sensor, silent shooting, more advanced controls and optical viewfinder.
The image quality is in important factor for everyone who buys a DSLR or Compact System Camera. The IQ depends on the lens, camera image sensor and image processor (oh, and of course the photographer itself!). The best thing that can be measure the sensor performance is inspecting the dynamic range, color accuracy and the amount of noise in high ISO sensitivity.
I went to imaging resource comparometer page to compare the Canon EOS M versus Canon Rebel SL1 (EOD 100D) in terms of its high ISO performance. Here’s my observation’s conclusion:
- ISO 100 – Identical. Both cameras produce very sharp and clean JPEG images. The EOS M photos are a bit more vivid, but just a bit. Excellent IQ
- ISO 200 – same results here as ISO 100, sharp image without any visible noise
- ISO 400 – no news here, same gorgeous looking image, sharp, well saturated and clean (very little noise, but almost not noticeable)
- ISO 800 – noise start kicking in and noticeable at mid-tones and shadow areas and image still looks excellent and very usable of course. Can’t find any camera that performs better than the other
- ISO 1600 – noise is clearly visible, we start losing fine details but overall IQ is very good. Here I can see a very slight advantage for the SL1, image is a bit more cleaner. Advantage: SL1
- ISO 3200 – much more noise, I would probably shoot with these the SL1 and EOS M below ISO 3200 to get the best IQ. SL1 shows less noise (look at the neck) but overall very close performance, slight Advantage: SL1
The IQ degrades quite drastically as we climb higher in the ISO sensitivity scale. At ISO 6400 and up it both cameras produce very noise images and I would use them only for emergency or for the web (after passing them through noise reduction software). The SL1 image does look a bit less noisier from ISO 1600 and up. The difference is very small so it’s hard to even count it toward the SL1, but it is there.
Overall the SL1 and EOS M high ISO performance is very impressive, but I am not surprised considering the APS-C sensors. The slightly more saturated images from the EOS M are understandable considering the fact that the camera is aimed towards beginners. I also compared the SL1/EOS M sample images against some Olympus OM-D E-M5 high ISO images and find both the EOS M and SL1/100D to perform better overall, The OM-D has much more aggressive approach to NR and I personally prefer the noise output of the Canon EOS M and EOS 100D which is finder and easier to remove using noise reduction software like NeatImage or Noise Ninja.
The big difference would be of which lens you attach to your camera. Some people might prefer paying less for the EOS M and invest more money on a better lens, but the issue right now is that you actually don’t have a wide selection of lenses to choose from, but in the near future you will (hopefully).
It’s easy to understand why so many people love the Canon EOS M Mirrorless Interchangeable lens camera; it’s a compact camera that delivers image quality that is on par with a DSLR camera. I was a bit troubles with the fact that APS-C sensor in CSC would lead to larger lenses, but the fact that the lens is closer to the sensor can help lens manufacturers produce more compact lenses. Maybe those lenses won’t be as small as Micro Four Thirds or 1 Nikkor lenses, but I think that for most consumers it won’t pose a problem.
The EOS M lacks a viewfinder, built-in flash, has slower AF, only two EF-M lenses (as for the time of writing this article), no silent shooting mode, less buttons for fast access to popular used functions, smaller buffer and not that great battery life either. On the other hand, it has excellent build quality, it’s compact and lightweight, has excellent image quality and impressive high ISO performance, excellent high-res touch-screen that offers full control over the camera using the touch-sensitive screen that in some way compensates for the lack of EVF, external hot-shoe and Kit comes with 90EX flash, 4 fps and full HD video recording. It’s a great camera for beginners and enthusiast on a budget. It can serve as an excellent backup camera and more convenient for travelers and hikers who are searching for a high-quality and advanced compact camera.
The Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D is a superior camera overall. It’s really remarkable that Canon was able to come up with such a small DSLR camera. Small as it is, it’s still much larger than the EOS M, and you will still need to carry a camera bag to carry this camera around anyways. The camera have several advantages over the EOS M, including eye-level optical viewfinder, better battery life, faster AF, built-in flash, silent-shooting, larger buffer in burst mode and improved light metering sensor. The SL1 is the perfect camera for newcomers who are doing their first step in the DSLR world and searching for an affordable entry-level DSLR camera. This is the perfect DSLR camera for the family photographer and those who are planning to take their photography expertise to a new level and those who are coming from point-and-shoot cameras. One of the biggest advantages that you get with the SL1 is the much wider selection of lenses. Canon has every lens that you can think of that is compatible with the SL1, a wide range of EF and EF-S lenses to meet any of your photography habit needs.
If you want my opinion, I would personally go with the SL1. I love the viewfinder, a larger camera isn’t always a bad thing and you will learn to appreciate it when you mount a telephoto zoom lens on both cameras, and there you’ll notice that ergonomic wise the SL1 is a superior camera – mount a flash on it and the difference becomes even more obvious. The very tight selection of lenses is also a reason why I stayed off the EOS M, but I’m pretty sure that Canon will introduce at least three more lenses to its EF-M lens lineup pretty soon. I also like the P/A/S/M and ISO button that give me faster access to modify exposure settings. This is the reasons why I’ve chosen the SL1/100D over the EOS M, you might decide otherwise.
I hope that you find this comparison interesting and hopefully this will help you make a smarter and more educated buying decision. If you do enjoy reading this article, please don’t forget to share it with your friends online. Thanks for reading.
View latest prices & Buy From:
Canon EOS M – B&H Photo, Adorama
Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D – B&H Photo Adorama
If you have questions or opinion about the two cameras, please post your comment below.