Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D vs Rebel T3i / EOS 600D

June 6, 2013

Canon Rebel T3i and SL1 DSLR cameras on a green defocused background

In this article I will be comparing the entry-level Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D versus Rebel T3i / EOS 600D which is a consumer-level digital SLR camera.  The T3i was announced almost two and a half years ago, but it’s still the most popular DSLR camera on Amazon as for the time of writing. The SL1 / 100D is a new model which was announced on March 2013. I know many photographers who are debating between the two cameras and having very hard time making a choice. In this T3i vs SL1 comparison review I will do my best to give you the important details that you need to know about before making a decision and better understand the differences, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each camera compare to the other model. That way, you the differences will be clearer and you will be able to make a smarter buying decision without regretting your choice later on.

I will start as usual with a short introduction to each camera, so you can better understand what type of camera you actually comparing and than to the side by side comparison itself.

Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D

Canon Rebel SL1 camera

Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D camera

Announced on March 2013, the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is the smallest and lightest digital SLR camera in the world among other APS-C DSLRs.  This is an budget entry-level digital SLR camera aimed towards beginners to DSLR photography and those who are moving from point-and-shoot to DSLR. It’s small size will certainly appeal for newcomers who might feel intimidated by large DSLR cameras, so this is a great model to welcome new photographers to the world of DSLR photography.

As small as it is, the camera is of course much larger than your conventional compact point-and-shoot camera, yet it combines a wide range of features which allow you to benefit from your creative mind and come up with gorgeous photos and video and share your creation with your friends and family. This is also the perfect DSLR camera for the family photographer who intend to share it with other family members who have little or no experience in shooting with this type of camera. This camera will also appeal to photographers on a low budget, who prefer buying a DSLR but cannot afford buying a mid-range camera, and also for those who prefer investing more money on a secondary lens or a better lens than the kit lens and prefer investing less in the camera body.

The SL1 / 100D utilizes a 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor and Digic 5 image processor, 4 fps burst speed, 3-inch LCD, Hybrid AF II, 64-zone dual-layer metering system, optical viewfinder and can record video in full HD 1080p resolution. The camera feature a 9-point AF points and was designed to offer quick and accurate autofocus performance for both stills and videos. For those of you who are new to the DSLR photography world, this might sound way too complicated to understand, so to keep things simple for now, just know that the SL1 despite its lower price, does have a wide range of high-quality features that doesn’t shy a mid-range camera.

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 sells for $649.00 on Amazon as for the time of writing (body only, without a lens) and $799.00 for the body plus a 18-55mm EF-S IS STM lens (prices as for 6.5.2013, check out Amazon for latest prices).  The Canon EOS Rebel T3i, which is #1 Best Seller in the Digital SLR cameras category sells for $549.00 (body only) and $600.00 for the body plus the EF-S 18-55mm IS II lens kit (last checked on B&H Photo Video website, 6.5.2013).

So the SL1 is actually more expensive than the T3i by $100, and that’s understandable considering the T3i/600D release data, and this camera already been replaced by two new models: Rebel T4i / 650D and the T4i was replaced by the Rebel T5i / 700D. The 650D actually doesn’t directly replaces the 600D but adds another model for users to choose from.   This is something that you need to consider as well, knowing that the newer SL1 model will actually cost you more than the T3i, ~$100 more. In general terms, a newer camera utilizes new technologies to make it more attractive to customers. There are places where a cheaper camera can outperform older and more expensive models in some degree, but there is a time window until the older model gets a replacement too.

As I mentioned, this camera is aimed towards beginners. As so, the SL1 / 100D has a feature called “Feature Guide” with a purpose of helping beginners get familiar with the camera functions by showing them textual description for the common used settings, so you won’t need to dig into the user manual in order to know how to operate the camera for the first time and for the period of time you get to know how to operate it.

The Canon Rebel SL1 also comes with a feature called Basic+. This feature was first introduced with the Canon EOS 60D0 DSLR in 2010. It was designed to help newbies and those with zero experience achieve satisfying results by fine tuning the results that you get when using the automatic basic scene modes. For more information, I recommend visiting the Basic+ explanation page on Canon Europe website, which also include some sample images that better demonstrate what can be achieved using this function.

Even if you have no prior experience in photography and all your experience come from automatic P&S cameras, Canon designed the SL1 to be super user friendly and easy to use. You can start in fully automatic mode (auto mode), continue to the Basic+ (Basic Plus) mode and of course jump to using the manual exposure mode (full control over the exposure) in order to get the exact shot that you are looking for (intended for advanced photographers). This camera let you grow with it, not limiting you in any way – when you feel limited and feel that it’s time to move on forward and learn new skills, this camera will give you all the freedom you want to be more creative and expressive.

Of course there is more to it then what I’ve mentioned in this overview, but I will write more about those features in the 100D vs 600D side by side comparison section later on.

Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D

Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D

Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D

The Revel T3i was announced on February 7 ,2011. As for the time of writing, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i capture the first position in the top 100 and in the top 100 for 834 days. This is Canon’s most popular DSLR camera, followed by the Rebel T4i / EOS 650D and Nikon D3200 in the third place.  If you are interested in the T4i or Nikon D3200, I recommend that you read my my Canon SL1 vs T4i vs Nikon 3200 comparison.

The T3i is a very popular camera because it appeals to a large audience, it now sells for a very attractive price, it already gotten excellent rating in many reviews, a great DSLR camera for both stills and videos and proven to be an excellent perform in image quality comparison test.  People who buy this camera are those who want more flexibility compare to entry-level models, those who care a lot about image quality, those who search to upgrade from an entry-level camera and those who search for a great HDSLR camera. The is a top performer in many categories and I am not surprised why this camera is Amazon #1 best seller. I know many people who preferred buying the T3i over the T2i, 60D and even the 7D.

The T3i is an advanced camera that sits below the Canon 60D, which is a mid-range DSLR camera. It features a 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with image quality that is on par with more expensive model like the 60D and 7D. It comes with a 63-zone dual-layer exposure metering system to determine the correct and optimal exposure for most situations. It has 9 AF points with only the center is cross-type. The 60D for example has all of its AF points cross-type, this helps the camera focus better when shooting vertically.

Before we continue, I recommend viewing this excellent Canon EOS Rebel T3i (600D) hands-on review by DSLRVideoClassroom, enjoy!

At the back you’ll find a fully articulating 3-inch Vari-angle LCD (3:2 aspect ratio) with 1040K-dots resolution, one of the best displays on the market.  This is one reason why this camera attracts so many videographers, a feature that is sometimes no present in many entry-level and mid-range DSLR cameras. Furthermore, the T3i has an improved EOS full HD movie mode that offers manual exposure control and can record movies at 30, 24 and 25 frames per second. The Movie Digital Zoom and Video snapshot are also two feature that are favorite among beginners.

As the SL1, the T3i also comes with the “Feature Guide” to help beginners start learning all the camera’s settings and features without getting lost in long and complicated user manuals. Furthermore, you also get to have the Basic+ function, same as in the SL1. The T3i like the SL1 gives you full control over exposure (ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed) and doesn’t stand between you and the image that you want to capture.

The T3i has a multi-aspect function which allows you to capture an image in different aspect ratios, including the standard 3:2 ration, 1:1, 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio to fit the aspect ratio of a HDTV screen.

The Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D has gotten dpreview.com Silver Award. Dpreview.com mentioned its excellent image quality and image details, excellent LCD, etc. This is the best affordable DSLR camera for the enthusiast photographer With 779 customer reviews on Amazon and 4.5 stars, so many people can’t go wrong. This is a camera that you won’t be disappointed with, a camera that proven to be among the best of what Canon has to offer.

Nevertheless, we are here to compare the excellent model against Canon’s latest model, the SL1. You are probably asking yourself: “If the T3i is so good and even cheaper than the SL1, why bother buying the SL1?” – Good question, and I am here to compare the two and show your the cons and pros of each camera, so you can understand the differences and understand yourself which camera better fits your shooting style and specific photography hobby/professional needs.

If you are debating whether or not to buy the T3i or the T4i, I recommend reading my Canon T3i vs T4i comparison.

OK, now that you have some basic understanding about the two cameras we are comparing here, it’s time to move on to the side by side feature’s comparison section.

Canon T3i (600D) vs SL1 (100D)

In this section you will be presented with a T3i versus SL1 comparison table. Here you can get a very clear view of the differences between the two cameras in a very simple way. You might find yourself going over this table again and again, and that’s fine. Not all photographers, especially in-experience photographers know what to look for in their next DSLR camera. For this reason I am adding some side notes that will help you better understand the differences between the two, so you know the implications of having or not-having a specific feature and how one feature differ from the other when comparing the two cameras one against the other. OK, let’s begin.

Canon T3i and SL1 size comparison

Canon T3i and SL1 side by side size comparison

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As you can see from the above T3i vs SL1 comparison table, there are many differences between the two cameras.  The T3i might be more favorite among video enthusiasts who will prefer having a fully articulating screen instead of a fixed screen as on the SL1.  The Hybrid AF on the SL1 will appeal to beginners who might be composing their shots via Live View, and that also because the SL1 has a touch-sensitive screen, so this will attract people to shoot more in Live View and therefore take advantage of the Hybrid AF.  Advanced photographers won’t be so excited about this feature and won’t mind not having those features and get the T3i instead.

Both cameras offers plenty of useful features that will help in-experienced photographers pick up the camera function quickly and star shooting great photos from day one.  If you want to progress your skills, you know that both cameras offer enough flexibility and manual exposure shooting option to let you express yourself in the most creative way. without any hard limitations.

The SL1 might appeal more to the family photographer and those who don’t intend to edit their photos. With the SL1 you have plenty of creative filters to play with, the lens aberration correction feature and peripheral illumination correction, the new special scene modes and background simulation mode that will help you be creative without being a guru in image editing.  The option to attach the optional GP-E2 is certainly a great plus for those who travel a lot and upload their photos to image sharing social networks that allows them to sort, search and share images based on the location that the photos were taken.

Both cameras have the same light metering and AF system so we can expect the same performance from both cameras. I really like the SL1 and the question is whether or not those extra features and the smaller size and weight does worth the extra $100? – In the next section I will inspect the image quality, so it’s not smart jumping to a fast conclusion, but all I can say right now is that the SL1 might be the better option for beginners, and I’m sure that newbies will find the touch-screen useful, and the beginners functionality, scenes and effects, and the smaller camera size and weight, all being very attractive features for beginners.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean that this camera is only for beginners, not at all, there are many amateurs and experienced photographers that might prefer having a smaller DSLR with those features, so it really depends on personal preference. I just assume that experienced photographers might find the SL1 features not that useful and they might prefer getting the T3i  for its improved ergonomics (especially useful when using long and heavy lenses), articulating screen (I found it very useful), E3 connector and better battery life.

Vertical Battery Grip

Another thing that I want to add here is that the Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D doesn’t have an official Canon vertical battery grip, however, I’ve visited Amazon and found that Amazon sells a the SL1 with 32GB card, battery, case, remote, tripod, accessory Kit and for my surprise, in the kit there is the Zeikos BG-E8 battery grip. So I assume that this grip is compatible with the SL1, although I didn’t make any further query about it. Having said that, even if that battery grip fits, it ruins the whole idea of getting the Rebel SL1 for its small size (if that’s what you are after).

The T3i does have an official Canon grip, the Canon BG-E8 which is compatible with the T2i, T3i and T4i. There are other thirds party grips for the 600D / T3i  that are much cheaper, so you might want to check them as well before you buy.

I owned a battery grip for every Canon DSLR that I had, including the T3i. I have big hands so I found the batter grip to be an excellent accessory that really improved the grip that I have on the camera, and it is very useful when I use my Canon 70-200mm F4 IS lens, which is long and a bit heavy, so it better balances the weight and improved stability.

Image Quality / High ISO Performance

This is probably my favorite part in all this review. I am an image quality fanatic, I dislike images with noise and find that irritating to say at least. I find myself shooting quite a lot of images at high ISO, and therefore I prefer buying a camera that has a great high ISO performance, so I can confidently increase the ISO sensitivity, knowing that the implication on image quality won’t be so disastrous and I will still be able to get usable images.

In this section I will analyze the images from imagine-resource.com, because right now its the only place that I’ve found to have lab quality sample images of the same scene that I can compare the two cameras one versus the other.

Here are my observation results:

  • ISO 100 / ISO 200 – Both cameras produce amazingly detailed image, just WOW! – color reproduction and contrast are excellent, really enjoy looking at those images.  No noise is visible in both images
  • ISO 400 – very little noise in dark areas, almost not noticeable – excellent IQ overall.  Can’t tell the difference between the two sample images
  • ISO 800 – Noise start kicking in more in the dark areas and now also in mid-tones, but still relatively very clean image, sharp and contrast is well maintained. The SL1 / 100D does result in a slightly sharper image and with a bit less noise, but not a significant difference – Impressive IQ!
  • ISO 1600 / ISO 3200 –  I am less impressed with ISO 3200.  Here we can see the strength of the DIGIC 5 image processor in helping reduce noise while still keeping fine details. The SL1 image quality looks better than the T3i. So until now both cameras perform equally well, but when we pass the ISO 800 sensitivity, we can start seeing te difference between the two cameras. Advantage: SL1
  • ISO 6400 – SL1 looks much better than the T3i, but both of have lots of noise. Advantage: SL1

I can say with confident that both cameras have excellent IQ at low ISO, but things change when we pass the ISO 400 mark. The SL1 does a better job in retaining cleaner images past the ISO 400 sensitivity.  If you care about high ISO performance, you will find the SL1 to be a better fit. It is understandable considering the fact that the SL1 is a modern camera, utilizing Canon’s latest DIGIC 5 image processor that is know for its improved NR algorithms, and we can see the result in practice.

High ISO Performance Winner: Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D

Before we go to the conclusion section, let’s take a look at two sample video taken with the T3i and SL1.

Canon Rebel SL1 sample video by BedfordCamera:

Canon Rebel T3i sample video by Chad Soriano:

 

Conclusion

So there we have it, two very popular entry-level DSLR cameras. The Canon Rebel SL1 really impressed me, and not only because of its small size. Despite being the smallest DSLR camera in the world, this little camera packs many useful features that are mostly aimed towards beginners. If you don’t mind not having an articulating screen, you find yourself taking advantage of the touch-sensitive display, you need a digital guide to help you out learning all the camera’s features and looking for a camera that can take great high ISO images, the SL1 / 100D is probably the right camera for you.

The T3i / 600D will appeal for both stills and video enthusiast that are searching for an affordable HDSLR camera.  The T3i has great low ISO image quality, but impress less with its high ISO performance. It got very good battery life, very useful articulating screen for shooting images above shoulders and below the waist line, it’s large size can come as an advantage for those who intend to use large and heavier lenses (ie. telephoto zoom lenses). Considering its affordable price, I recommend this camera for the more advanced photographer, because this camera is closer to a mid-range DSLR than an entry-level one.  I would also buy this camera if you intend to invest more in the lens and want a cheaper body and you cannot afford or don’t want to pay more for a mid-range DSLR.

The T3i / 600D is Amazon’s #1 best selling DSLR and for a good reason. It’s been a few years since it was released but the fact that this camera keeps selling, that tells something about this camera.  Experience photographers will probably won’t be needing the touch-screen, prefer an articulating screen and improved ergonomics.

I think that it shouldn’t be too hard to choose between the two. If you want my opinion, I would probably went with the T3i because I know that can  come home with more creative shots when I use the articulating screen, I don’t shoot a lot of high ISO image and I might be processing those high ISO images anyway with NeatImage. Furthermore, I have long telephoto lenses, and I know it will feel much more comfortable using those lenses on the T3i + grip, so for me the decision is quite easy. Now it’s your turn to make a decision. Each one and one of you have different needs, you just need to understand what you need and the answer will come quickly. Try to eliminate the features that you don’t need and find the camera that have the features that you really want to use and those that will be beneficial for you.

I hope that you find this comparison interesting and useful. If you do, please don’t forget to share it and if you have any questions, please write them in the comment section below – THANKS for reading.

Buy from B&H Photo Video:

Buy Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D from B&H here

Buy Canon Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D from B&H here

Oh, one last thing. If you are just starting out and having trouble deciding which lens to purchase, I recommend starting with the 18-55mm Kit lens, which will give you a useful zoom range to get started, and it will cost less – that until you gain more experience and know exactly which lens to by next. If you don’t mind spending more, I highly recommend buying the Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S IS STM lens. This lens have very fast autofocus, it’s very sharp and offers better zoom range than the 18-55mm. This might be the only lens that you’ll use on your camera, depends on your specific shooting habits of course.



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