Canon SL2 Image Quality Comparison vs Canon SL1, Fuji X-A3, Olympus E-M10 III, Nikon D5600 and Sony A6000

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Design

Much like its other Rebel compatriots, the Canon SL2 is very much aimed at beginner and entry-level photographers. The ultra-compact nature of the SL2’s design, however, makes it an enticing option for those looking to get their first DSLR, or upgrading from a compact fixed-lens camera, and who want that tried-and-true DSLR experience without a lot of bulk. In a way, the compact Rebel SL2 serves as an alternative to the generally small, svelte mirrorless cameras; those who want an easy-to-carry DSLR, one that gets them into the vast Canon ecosystem, should look no further than the Canon SL2.

As for the design details, the Canon SL2 is still constructed mostly from polycarbonate plastic, but it nevertheless feels very solid in the hands. The build quality is very nice, despite the entry-level category. The SL2, in fact, features an improved grip that’s slightly larger than the SL1’s grip, so the camera fits better in the hand. Plus, the grip has a more “grippy” texture, one that’s more similar to other EOS DSLRs. The increased size, if ever so slight, gives the controls a bit more breathing room, while the layout of the buttons and dials are, more or less, unchanged. The SL2 also gains an articulated LCD screen, a nice upgrade from the fixed LCD of the SL1, as well as improved battery life and, finally, comprehensive wireless connectivity.

Canon SL2 Review -- Product Image

Image Quality

The more significant upgrades come to the imaging pipeline. The SL2 gains a 24MP APS-C sensor, much like most other crop-sensor EOS models nowadays, plus it gets a notable image processor upgrade, going from a DIGIC 5 to a DIGIC 7 chip. The image quality, in and of itself, is quite good and is a noticeable improvement over the SL1. The new 24MP sensor helps put the SL2 up on a more level playing field compared to other modern APS-C cameras. However, compared to many rivals, the SL2’s image quality isn’t quite as good, though still not bad by any means. Sharpness, dynamic range and high ISO performance still lag behind some others in this class of camera.

Like most Canons, straight-from-camera JPEGs at default settings tend to be on the softer side, likely due in part to the optical low-pass filter in-place over the sensor, yet images display visible sharpening artifacts. Thankfully, the SL2 now includes Canon’s newer “Fine Detail” Picture Style, which offers more refined sharpening and detail processing, but for optimal quality, processing from RAW is the best choice. For high ISOs, the SL2’s 24MP sensor is pretty similar to other 24MP crop-sensor Canon cameras; good performance, but, again, lagging behind some rival cameras.

Video, too, is underwhelming in some ways, as it is yet another Canon camera that doesn’t offer 4K video. The SL2 does, however, gain 60p recording at Full HD, whereas the SL1 topped-out at 30p. Quality-wise, Full HD footage is decent for this class of camera, though nothing eye-popping. Fine detail is lacking, especially at higher ISOs, and the dynamic range appears limited.

Canon SL2 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM: 135mm (216mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 100.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. 

Performance

Overall, despite the entry-level classification, the Canon SL2 is a fairly nimble camera with really good overall performance on most counts. Standard, through-the-viewfinder autofocus is rather bare-bones at only 9 AF points with a single cross-type point, but despite that, the AF system is very fast. Shot-to-shot times are also quick, and the top continuous burst rate is decent at 5fps. It’s far from the fastest camera around, but for an entry-level camera, it’s quite good and should suffice for capturing most general-purpose action moments. Buffer depth for JPEGs is pretty good for this class of camera, at 22 frames in our testing. However, RAW buffer depth is quite shallow, at a paltry five frames when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG.

While video quality may not top the charts, what does work extremely well for video (as well as Live View shooting, in general), is the Dual Pixel CMOS AF — another new upgrade for the Rebel SL2. Dual Pixel AF has worked very well in other Canon cameras we’ve reviewed, and the SL2 is no exception. Live View focusing is fast, accurate and the touchscreen interface makes it a breeze to put focus right where you want it.

Canon SL2 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM: 250mm (400mm eq.), f/6.3, 1/500s, ISO 640.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image. 

Summary

The Canon Rebel SL2 is an interesting model among Canon’s family of easy-to-use, entry-level DSLRs. It shares many of the features, particularly the imaging pipeline, with the more expensive Canon T7i but comes in at about $200 less and remains uniquely more compact. But the SL2 is a much more full-featured camera than the recently-announced Canon T7, which comes in at the same price point (though the T7 includes a lens). The T7 uses an older DIGIC 4+ processor instead of the SL2’s DIGIC 7, it doesn’t offer Dual Pixel AF, and the T7 has a lower-res, non-articulating LCD, among other differences.

Overall, the improvements to the SL2 over the predecessor are significant, though perhaps not groundbreaking compared to the current camera market as a whole. The higher-res sensor, Dual Pixel AF, faster processor as well as design and ergonomic improvements make for better image quality and a better shooting experience compared to the SL1. As the mirrorless world continues to gain steam, though, the SL2 does feel a little stale, lacking some key features like 4K video and super-fast burst shooting, and having image quality that, overall, isn’t as good as some rival cameras. Plus, since it’s still a DSLR, the SL2 is not as svelte and compact as some competing mirrorless cameras.

That being said, the Canon EOS ecosystem is vast, with lenses for pretty much any subject matter. If you’re wanting to move up in the photography world without breaking the bank (or your back), the Canon SL2 is a nice entry point into the EOS family. It’s comfortable, easy to use, and is extremely small and lightweight for a DSLR. Plus, it captures pleasing photographs, all things considered. Keeping in mind the entry-level category and compact size, the Canon SL2 is a nice little DSLR, and one that deserves a thumbs-up as a Dave’s Pick.

Pros
  • Higher resolution and better image quality than SL1
  • Much improved dynamic range over its predecessor
  • Accurate and pleasing color
  • Supports Fine Detail Picture Style for better JPEG sharpening than default settings
  • “White Priority” Auto White Balance options helps avoid overly warm colors in incandescent lighting
  • Quick power-up
  • Swift cycle times
  • Fast AF speeds
  • Low shutter lag
  • Decent 5 fps burst speed for its class
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF provides excellent live view/movie autofocus
  • Compact body with good ergonomics for the size
  • Slightly larger grip for better comfort & security
  • Tilt-swivel touchscreen LCD
  • Decent optical performance from new kit lens
  • In-camera HDR modes
  • Full HD movies up to 60p
  • In-camera time-lapse movies
  • External mic input
  • Wired remote jack
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • Much improved battery life
  • New “Feature Assist” user interface helpful for beginners
Cons
  • Dynamic range and high ISO performance still not quite as good as leading competitors
  • Shallow buffer depth when shooting RAW images (5 frames)
  • Default JPEGs a bit soft
  • Small pentamirror optical viewfinder not very accurate
  • OVF only offers 9 AF points (with only 1 cross-type)
  • No 4K video
  • Video quality is okay overall, but soft at higher ISOs
  • No clean HDMI out
  • No headphone jack
  • No IR receiver (but supports BR-E1 Bluetooth remote control)

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Canon SL2’s image quality to its predecessor’s, the SL1, as well as against several competing ILC cameras which all sit at similar price points or product categories: the Fuji X-A3, Olympus E-M10 Mark III, Nikon D5600 and Sony A6000.

NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera’s actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera’s respective sample image thumbnail page: Canon SL2, Canon SL1, Fuji X-A3, Olympus E-M10 III, Nikon D5600 and Sony A6000 — links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Canon SL2 to any camera we’ve ever tested!

Canon SL2 vs Canon SL1 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 100
Canon SL2 at ISO 100
Canon SL1 at ISO 100

The Canon SL2 features a new, higher-resolution 24-megapixel APS-C sensor compared to the older 18-megapixel sensor in the SL1. The increase in resolution is definitely visible, as the SL2 displays better detail than its predecessor here at base ISO, with improved color and contrast as well. The SL1 does a little better in our tricky red-leaf swatch, though, however that’s partially because the SL2’s higher resolution resolves more of the individual threads which it likely treats as noise and tries to suppress, blurring the subtle leaf pattern more in the process.

Canon SL2 vs Fujifilm X-A3 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 200
Canon SL2 at ISO 100
Fujifilm X-A3 at ISO 200

Both these cameras use 24-megapixel Bayer-filtered APS-C sensors, so resolving power is closely matched. The X-A3 image is however sharper and crisper, although sharpening halos around high-contrast edges are even more obvious than from the Canon. While noise is quite low from both cameras at base ISO, chroma noise is a bit higher from the SL2, however luma noise is higher from the X-A3, though keep in mind the Fuji’s higher base ISO of 200. Colors are generally a bit warmer and brighter from the Fuji.

Canon SL2 vs Nikon D5600 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 100
Canon SL2 at ISO 100
Nikon D5600 at ISO 100

Here we compare the Canon SL2 to possibly its closest rival, the Nikon D5600. Both cameras have 24-megapixel APS-C sensors but the Canon’s sensor has an optical low-pass filter which the Nikon does not, giving the Nikon an edge in per-pixel sharpness. However, much of the Nikon’s crispness above is due to different approaches to processing, with the Nikon sharpening more effectively by default, though it does generate slightly more obvious sharpening halos. Noise is a little more visible from the Nikon, and both cameras offer pleasing default color reproduction.

Canon SL2 vs Olympus E-M10 III at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 200
Canon SL2 at ISO 100
Olympus E-M10 III at ISO 200

Above we compare the 24-megapixel APS-C SL2 DSLR to the 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds Olympus E-M10 III mirrorless camera, which both sell for about the same price at time of writing. As you can see, the higher resolution SL2 does resolve a bit more detail, however the E-M10 III image is much crisper, with better contrast and somewhat brighter colors. Sharpening halos are also quite visible from the Olympus, but it uses a tighter radius than the Canon, arguably making them less objectionable. Noise levels are similar, despite the E-M10 III’s higher base ISO.

Canon SL2 vs Sony A6000 at Base ISO

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 100
Canon SL2 at ISO 100
Sony A6000 at ISO 100

Although we believe the Sony A6000’s 24-megapixel APS-C sensor has an optical low-pass filter, it must be a fairly weak one. Again, the big difference here is in processing, as the Sony’s default sharpening is more advanced than the Canon’s, producing a crisper, more detailed image with almost no sharpening artifacts, though noise appears to be a little higher. We prefer the color from the Canon, though, as it is more accurate with less of a yellow to green shift.

Canon SL2 vs Canon SL1 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon SL2 at ISO 1600
Canon SL1 at ISO 1600

Here at ISO 1600, we can see the SL2 continues to deliver better detail, contrast and color than the SL1. The SL2 displays just slightly higher luminance noise levels, however the noise “grain” is a little more consistent than from the SL1. Both cameras blur our troublesome red-leaf swatch pretty heavily, though.

Canon SL2 vs Fujifilm X-A3 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon SL2 at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-A3 at ISO 1600

The Fuji X-A3 comes out ahead here at ISO 1600, producing a cleaner, crisper image with better detail, although interestingly, chroma noise is actually a little higher from the Fuji, and more noise reduction and edge enhancement artifacts are visible.

Canon SL2 vs Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon SL2 at ISO 1600
Nikon D5600 at ISO 1600

The Nikon D5600 retains more fine detail in the mosaic crop, with fewer noise reduction artifacts as well. Overall, the D5600 continues to produce a sharper, crisper image, and the noise grain from the Nikon in the shadows is also tighter. The SL2 does a better job with our difficult red-leaf pattern, though.

Canon SL2 vs Olympus E-M10 III at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon SL2 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-M10 III at ISO 1600

The E-M10 III produces a cleaner, crisper, brighter image here at ISO 1600, though its more aggressive default noise reduction has introduced some distracting artifacts in the form of small clusters of black pixels in the mosaic crop. Overall, though, we prefer the E-M10 III’s image quality here, despite the lower resolution.

Canon SL2 vs Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 1600
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 1600 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 1600
Canon SL2 at ISO 1600
Sony A6000 at ISO 1600

The Sony A6000 continues to hold onto more fine detail here at ISO 1600, while producing a sharper image with lower luminance noise, however its anti-noise processing produces a grain pattern that doesn’t look quite as natural and film-like as the SL2’s, and the SL2 continues to produce better color.

Canon SL2 vs Canon SL1 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon SL2 at ISO 3200
Canon SL1 at ISO 3200

Once again, the SL2 delivers better detail, higher contrast and more pleasing color than its predecessor here at ISO 3200. Luma noise appears a little higher from the SL2 in flat areas, however chroma noise is lower, and the noise “grain” appears more consistent.

Canon SL2 vs Fujifilm X-A3 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon SL2 at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-A3 at ISO 3200

The Fuji X-A3 continues to pull away from the SL2 here at ISO 3200, delivering much better fine detail, lower noise levels, higher sharpness (albeit with more noticeable sharpening halos along high-contrast edges) and better contrast (except in our tricky red-leaf swatch where the Canon produces slightly higher contrast). An easy win for the Fuji.

Canon SL2 vs Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon SL2 at ISO 3200
Nikon D5600 at ISO 3200

The Nikon continues to deliver much crisper details here at ISO 3200, though sharpening halos and other edge artifacts are more obvious. The images have similar noise levels in flatter areas however the D5600’s noise pattern is a bit more fine-grained if not quite as consistent. This time the SL2 blurs our red-leaf fabric more than the D5600, but offers slightly higher contrast. Overall, it’s a fairly close race here but we’d give the edge to the Nikon here at ISO 3200.

Canon SL2 vs Olympus E-M10 III at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon SL2 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-M10 III at ISO 3200

Similar to what we saw at ISO 1600, the Olympus E-M10 III still manages to deliver a much crisper, cleaner, sharper image here at ISO 3200, and those clusters of black pixels in our mosaic crop are much less obvious. Impressive performance for a Micro Four Thirds camera.

Canon SL2 vs Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 3200
Canon SL2 at ISO 3200
Sony A6000 at ISO 3200

The Sony’s noise reduction processing does well to remove more noise than the Canon’s, but it appears more aggressive and less natural, and is particularly noticeable in flatter areas such as in the bottle crop. Very fine detail in the mosaic crop looks better from the Sony, though both cameras produce smudging and other noise reduction artifacts. Our infamous fabric swatches prove troublesome for both cameras with NR impacting detail in different ways from each camera. The Sony appears to hold onto more detail in our red-leaf fabric, however much of that apparent detail is heavily distorted and false.

Canon SL2 vs. Canon SL1, Fujifilm X-A3, Nikon D5600, Olympus E-M10 III, Sony A6000

100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 200 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 100 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 200 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 100
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 3200 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 3200
100% crop from Canon SL2 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Canon SL1 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Fujifilm X-A3 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Nikon D5600 test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Olympus E-M10 III test image taken at ISO 6400 100% crop from Sony A6000 test image taken at ISO 6400
Canon
SL2
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
SL1
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm
X-A3
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D5600
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Olympus
E-M10 III
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A6000
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. High-contrast detail is also important, pushing the camera in different ways, so we like to look at it separately. Here the SL2 clearly offers a major improvement over the SL1, not only in resolving power, but also in noise performance as the SL1 obviously resolves less detail at base ISO, and degrades much more quickly as ISO climbs. The SL2 does well against the other APS-C contenders in this group in terms of resolution as sensitivity increases, however it doesn’t quite offer the same amount of crispness as the Fuji, Nikon or Sony. The Olympus E-M10 III performs very well in terms of contrast and sharpness, but detail can’t quite compete with the 24-megapixel APS-C models. The Sony A6000 does very well at base ISO and ISO 3200 in terms of detail and sharpness, and its sharpening algorithm produces the least amount of haloing, however image quality falls off noticeably at ISO 6400, and it also suffers from the most false colors.

(imaging-resource.com, http://bit.ly/2Igbxq3)

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