The interchangeable lens camera market has shifted significantly over the past couple of years. Where once the bulky DSLR was the undisputed king, now smaller, compact system cameras are making significant headway into stealing the crown.
Canon finally introduced its own CSC in the shape of the Canon EOS M last year, but now it has also released the EOS 100D also known as the Canon SL1, which is the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR. In fact, it’s around 25 per cent smaller than the Canon EOS 650D, and 28 per cent lighter.
Unlike the Canon EOS M, it has the same traditional DSLR stylings, but the majority of the interior electronics have been downsized. The major exception to this is the sensor, which remains APS-C sized and features 18 million pixels. Canon says that this is a new sensor, but it should put in the same kind of performance as the one in the EOS 650D/700D.
The sensor is a hybrid CMOS AF II sensor, the second generation of the type of sensor which was found in the Canon EOS 650D and Canon EOS M. This uses phase detection pixels on the sensor to assist with autofocus when shooting video or using Live View. Autofocus points cover approximately 80 per cent of the sensor, which should make for more accurate focusing, right the way across the frame.
Canon is aiming the 100D somewhere between the EOS M and the EOS 650D. Its small body size has led to the tagline, "A DSLR you’ll never want to leave behind." It also has a lot of fun features, designed to appeal to the beginner user. These include creative functions such as Kids’ mode, Candlelight mode and Food mode.
There’s also a range of digital filters, the same as those found on the Canon EOS M and Canon EOS 650D. For the first time, however, you can now see how these effects will be rendered on the screen (when shooting in Live View) before the shot is taken. There’s also Dual Shot Mode, which records one image with the filter, and one without, should you change your mind at a later date.
Despite being roughly the same size as some of the compact system cameras on the market, the Canon EOS 100D still has room for an optical viewfinder that boasts 0.87x magnification and 95% coverage.
It has a smaller battery than the 650D/750D, which Canon says is capable of around 380 shots – the same as the EOS M. The inbuilt flash has a guide number of 9.4, compared with the 650D’s number of 13.
Like both the Canon EOS 650D and Canon EOS M, the Canon EOS 100D has a capacitive touchscreen. It is fixed, unlike the 650D and 700D, which have articulating screens. Other features include 4fps shooting, Full HD movie recording and Intelligent Auto.
The Canon EOS 100D will go on sale for around £569 (around US$858 / AU$827) body only, or £699 (around US$1,054 / AU$1,016) with the new 18-55mm kit lens, which was announced at the same time.
Build quality and handling
As the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR, the first thing you immediately notice about the Canon EOS 100D is its size. Compared with other entry level cameras at this price point, it is indeed very small, with a body size roughly the same as something like the Panasonic G5.
That said, despite its small size, the button layout of the Canon EOS 100D is very good, not feeling cramped or awkward. It has a good chunky grip, making it feel secure in the hand, even when shooting one-handed. The majority of the buttons can be accessed with the thumb, and if you’ve ever used a Canon DSLR before, you’ll be immediately at home here.
A mode dial on top of the camera can be used to quickly flick between the different settings, including fully automatic, fully manual and semi-automatic (such as aperture priority and shutter priority) modes. Here you’ll also find the creative settings modes, which is the place to access the digital filters.
Movie mode, which used to be incorporated onto the mode dial of older Canon DSLRs, is now accessed via the on/off switch. Push the switch further past the "on" point to put it straight into recording mode. This is a lot quicker than having to push the mode dial all the way around, and makes capturing off-the-cuff movies a lot easier.
As you might expect, there are fewer buttons on the back of the 100D to directly access certain settings. However, there is a button to access a Quick Menu, which enables you to scroll through the most commonly used settings, such as white balance and metering. You can use a combination of the arrow keys and the scroll dial on the front of the camera to make changes or, if you prefer, a combination of the touchscreen and the scroll dial.
The Canon EOS 650D was the world’s first DSLR to feature a touchscreen. It’s a feature that’s becoming more and more commonplace on cameras, and is particularly useful for very quickly changing the settings.
But it perhaps really comes into its own when reviewing images, enabling you to swipe through shots and pinch to zoom to quickly check accurate focus. When shooting in Live View you can also use the touchscreen to change the focus point or activate the shutter release – something which is particularly useful when creating movies, or using the camera from a more awkward position, or on a tripod.
One of the great things about the Canon EOS 100D’s design is that if you don’t like touchscreens, you don’t have to use it. It’s a good enhancer to the usability of the camera, rather than a necessity. Everything that can be done via the touchscreen is also possible using physical buttons.
To change the autofocus point, when not in Live View, a direct access button can be found at the top-right of the back of the camera. After you’ve pressed this, you can use the arrow keys to move around the frame to the point you want to use.
It would be fantastic to see Canon incorporate a way to use the touchscreen to change the autofocus point when not in Live View to speed things up here.
Performance and early verdict
As always, it’s very difficult to give extensive thoughts on a camera’s performance at the hands-on stage of the review process, but we’re pretty excited by the Canon EOS 100D. What the Canon engineers have managed to achieve in shrinking down the key components of the DSLR is pretty remarkable, and with a sensor that is claimed to be similar in performance to the Canon EOS 650D, we should also see excellent image quality.
Those who are put off by the electronic viewfinders on many compact system cameras will enjoy using the OVF provided on the Canon EOS 100D. Although quite small, it still gives a clear and bright view. The screen also seems to be a good performer, not suffering too badly from glare and reflections, while the touchscreen is very responsive.
Although we’ve only had limited access to the camera, autofocus performance seems to be particularly good, locking onto subjects and focusing very quickly. We were impressed by the hybrid AF performance of the Canon EOS 650D, so we’ll be keen to see if this is the same case for the Canon EOS 100D.
Again, we haven’t been able to fully assess the digital filter effects, but we have used them before on previous cameras. It’s pleasing to see Canon including them on this camera, since we think it will suit the target audience perfectly.
It’s also good that Canon has included both the ability to preview the effect and a Dual Image mode – we’ve lost count of the number of times we wished we could remove a digital filter that seemed like a good idea at the time. Some of the effects will be more appealing than others, depending on personal preference. Miniature and Grainy B&W have found favour with us before.
This is a very interesting new camera, and it’s great to see a company like Canon responding to the march of the compact system camera, rather than ploughing on with predictable DSLR designs. One area where the company still won’t be able to compete with the likes of Micro Four Thirds cameras, though, is the size of lenses.
Although Canon does make some small optics, most notably the 40mm pancake lens, you’re still not going to find this to be an overall system that is significantly lighter and smaller. That said, the average consumer who might be considering the Canon EOS 100D is arguably unlikely to purchase a large variety of different lenses.
We’ll be updating this review with more information as soon as a full production sample of the Canon EOS 100D becomes available. Watch this space.