When the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 was announced, it came as a bit of an unexpected release. Afterall, just a few weeks back, Canon was riding high on the initial reviews of its first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R. Still, for fans of the APS-C camera, seeing a newly announced entry-level Rebel camera signified that Canon was not abandoning their EF mount any time soon. We got a chance to review the SL3 and asked ourselves the question: What’s it like using a compact DSLR in a mirrorless camera world? 

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Canon EOS Rebel SL3 Tech Specs via Announcement Post 

  • 24.1-megapixel CMOS APS-C-sized sensor 
  • DIGIC 8 Image Processor 
  • 4K Video 
  • 3.0-inch vari-angle LCD touchscreen 
  • Feature Assistant that guides and offers tips for more effective shooting 
  • Continuous shooting mode up to 5.0 fps 
  • Digital Lens Optimizer that corrects optical shifting automatically, even without a computer 

Ergonomics and Design 

One of the major pain points of many entry-level mirrorless cameras are their anemic grips. From an ergonomics point of view, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 offers a beefy grip that’s not too big and is super comfortable to shoot with. Make no mistake, it’s a joy to hold this camera – it feels secure in your hand and thanks to button/control positioning, everything feels intuitive and easy to access. For anyone who’s ever shot with a Canon camera before, this will feel as natural as breathing. I found it a joy to work with during my walk along the Brooklyn Promenade. 

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If video is more your thing, the Canon SL3 features a flip-out, 3-inch vari-angle LCD display. Yes, it’s the fully articulating kind that’s made for vlogging. It’s bright, adequately responsive, and its touch-autofocusing capabilities often worked faster than a half-press on the shutter button.  

Performance & Menu 

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If you’ve never owned a camera before this is your section; the Canon SL3 was designed specifically for people looking for their first “real” camera. Though never explicitly mentioned in any of their marketing materials, the menu speaks for itself. The SL3 has easily one of the most user-friendly menu systems I’ve ever seen in a camera. If you need lots of guidance, are unsure of what specific settings on your camera do, or simply would rather not have to overthink things, this menu system is made for you. Once you add in the wow-factor that the huge step-up in image quality the 24-megapixel sensor is to any smartphone, you’ll be hooked. The SL3 is a gateway drug into the world of photography. 

From a performance standpoint, the SL3 checks off all the boxes that you’d expect from a jack-of-all-trades camera body: there’s the typical Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Program mode options as well an intelligent Scene, Auto, and Creative Filters that you should expect from an enthusiast camera. For the would-be YouTube celebrities, the SL3 can shoot 4K video at 30 fps (only) as well as Full HD in 60 and 30 fps.  

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Afraid of handing your camera to a stranger for a photo op? Switch the SL3 into Program mode and use like a point-and-shoot.

During my test I made it a point to only use the included kit lens, an 18-55mm f4-5.6 lens – if you’re new to photography you probably haven’t given much thought to a lens upgrade yet. And that’s fine as you’re learning; the lens won’t blow you away but will be able to handle everything from family gatherings to travel photos.  

Aside from the menu, the next feature that I found to be pleasantly simple to set up was the wireless connection. Whether connecting to my iPhone directly or using it within my home’s wireless network, total set up time took a few minutes (mostly downloading an app and trying to remember my router’s password) and we were ready to go. Best of all, social media-sized images were transferred in seconds – a feat that I can’t say is the same across manufacturers. This has been by far the most pleasant experience transferring files outside of slapping the SD card into a reader.  

Not So Great 

Have you been shooting for a while or willing to spend more on an APS-C mirrorless? Then this is not the camera for you. While the SL3 is more than capable for getting you started, more experienced users may find some of shortcomings too much to deal with.  

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The good thing about a “non-Pro” camera is that no one will give you a second look shooting on the streets.

For starters, the SL3 uses a 9-point Autofocus system when using the viewfinder. All AF points are concentrated at the center of the frame limiting composition and slowing down autofocusing speeds. The next major issue with the viewfinder is its diminutive size. One of the draws of DSLR systems is the bright, large viewfinders that they’re typically coupled with. It appears that in an effort to minimize the overall size of the SL3, Canon had to make some tough decisions and opted for a smaller viewfinder. This makes nailing focus when using the viewfinder, a chore and more work than it should be. 

Another odd low-point was the camera hot shoe. While convenient to have a flip up flash, I tried to pair the SL3 with my manual Flashpoint Zoom Li-Ion for some food photography and was disappointed to learn that it was incompatible with this camera. Ironically enough, the external flash and transmitter worked perfectly with a Canon EOS RP that I’m currently testing.

On the software/performance side of things, while the SL3 is the only Rebel camera to offer 4K video, the heavily cropped (video records from the center of the frame only) image and singular option for frame rates make this a very nerfed recording option. Again, for the difference of a few more dollars you could get an upgrade mirrorless body and have more recording options.  

Who Is This For? 

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Yes, you can shoot for the Gram. #foodporn

The question comes down to where you are on your photographic journey. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the glitz and glam of full-frame mirrorless offerings from Canon or any of its competitors, is cost prohibitive for someone starting out. The EOS Rebel SL3 provides a number of higher-end features: 4K video recording, Mic jack, wireless connectivity, and wealth of lens options; at a price that’s tough to beat. For creatives getting their start, the SL3 provides great image quality, connectivity, and the benefits of Canon’s storied EF lens lineup. If vlogging is your thing, outside of your phone there’s very little competition for a decent starter kit – get you an inexpensive mic, some LED light panels, and your good to go. Beginners shouldn’t have to compromise on quality and thankfully, the SL3 delivers on most fronts.  

For more advanced photographers, the SL3 is a nice addition to your bag when you need a lightweight travel camera that’s not conspicuous; beyond that, the SL3 is very much the last of its kind – a compact DSLR in a mirrorless world.  

You can pick one up from Canon as a kit for $699. For more Sample Images check out the gallery below.

Sample Images – Canon EOS Rebel SL3 w/ 18-55mm IS STM