Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2019
This is the camera I suggest to first time buyers more than any other camera, with the main reasons being that it is simple to learn but has a good amount of features for its price. It isn’t much more expensive than other entry level cameras, but has more features than the Canon base models like the T6 and T7, all things I will cover in the review. As with all WOFG reviews, I will cover the pros/cons, offer advice, and also offer some comparisons and suggestions at the end of the review.
Note – The SL3 has been released as I am writing this review. I am going to cover what is different at the end, in case you are someone that wants to know if it's worth the upgrade. I plan to get an SL3 to review, so lookout for that.
First the Pros, so many!
1. Price – Not as cheap as a base model (T6/T7), but not as pricey as higher models (T7i, 77D). I think this is one of the strong points of this camera. If you are getting a camera for the first time and can afford the additional 100-150 USD, the SL2 is a better place to start than the T6/T7. Due to the release of the SL3, the price of this camera likely will start to drop, making it an even better deal.
2. 24mp Resolution – For stills, this is just about perfect on a crop sensor camera, making sharp and colorful photos. Uses the same processor as the more expensive T7i and 77D, and has the same IQ. I will let the images do the rest of the talking.
3. Easy to use – Layout is simple and intuitive. Anyone that has never used a camera will be able to learn on the SL2. To make it even easier, it has a guided menu system that will tell you what each mode does. I always say that the biggest hurdle for new shooters is just learning how their camera works and what all the different modes do. The guided menu all but solves that problem, and is the best in the industry. No one else caters to beginners like Canon. For those that already know cameras or no longer need the guide, the menu can be disabled.
4. Good for video – If you've not heard of Canon’s Dual Pixel AF, you should look into it. It's the industry leading video focus, and it is great for vloggers. The SL2 has it, and it works well. Combined with a flip out touchscreen, external mic jack, and face tracking, this compact little camera is a good place to start if you want to do vlogging.
5. Compact – One of the smallest DSLR’s available. In spite of its size, it is also ergonomically sound, having a beefy enough grip for someone with large hands to get a good hold on it (like me). It feels comfortable in my hands, unlike the M50, which I can barely hold.
6. Creative Filters – These are a neat feature that allows the user to add effects to their photos without the need for post processing software. There are several, the most notable of which are probably the HDR modes (standard, vivid, bold, and embossed). HDR takes a series of 3 shots, and combines them into one super shot, and depending on the mode applies certain effects. They can be fun to use, especially for landscapes. There are other filters too, like Fisheye, to simulate super wide distortion, or Miniature, to simulate tilt-shift lenses. These are nice as those lenses cost thousands of dollars on their own. I didn’t play with these a lot myself, since I use Lightroom, but I used them enough to say that they are easy to use and kind of fun. They make it so that people that don’t do post processing can add some interesting effects to their photos straight from camera.
7. Scene modes – These take some of the guesswork out of knowing how to set up the camera for different uses. Kids playing soccer? Sports mode. Kids playing at the park? Kid mode. Want a photo of the whole family? Group mode. Want to shoot some photos of your daughter before prom? Portrait mode. Each of these modes will focus the settings on the specific event the mode is for, and will give you a better chance to get good shots than just using auto mode. Things like wider aperture for portraits, or narrow aperture for landscapes. Someone just learning might not know how to do these things, so this helps on your way to learning. Realistically, you can do all the same things in Av, Tv, or M mode, as long as you know how to set the camera up for what you want to do. If you don’t know what Av, Tv, or M modes are, then use the scene modes until you have a better understanding. Or keep using them if you prefer. It's up to you, and it's nice that it's a feature on the camera. It's part of the reason why I suggest the SL2 as a learning camera; it is designed to teach you how cameras work.
8. Wi-Fi/NFC/Bluetooth - This is for use with the Canon Camera Connect app (awesome!) Check it out if you haven’t. It lets you use your phone as a remote, as well as a live view monitor that can change camera settings. I love it. It can even share photos straight from the camera to your phone, or whatever device, so you can upload to social media or share with friends. Best camera app in the business. Takes a little effort to set up, but there are lots of videos on YouTube on the subject. Also, there is a dedicated button to toggle the Wi-Fi off and on, to save battery life when you aren’t using it.
9. Uses all EF and EF-S lenses - If you are already a Canon shooter and have some lenses, you can use them on this camera, as well as any other EOS camera. Be aware that EF-M and RF lenses cannot be used or adapted. Those are for Canon’s mirrorless cameras.
10. Other stuff – Decent burst at 5fps, though only useful in jpeg mode (raw fills the buffer too quickly). Pop up flash built into the camera. Good design, so it looks nice as you use it! I know it might not matter, but being in public with a camera draws attention, so it helps to look good. Available in a white finish too, if you want something different. Supports UHS-1 SD cards. Face detection in live view works for video and stills. Button layout is within reach of your thumb, and is intuitive.
Cons - Most this info is part of the listed specs of the camera, and thus not worth the removal of a star. If I take one off, I will explain why. Otherwise, it is up to the user to know what they are getting and how to use it.
1. Small Battery – For stills this isn’t a issue, unless shooting primarily in live view mode. For video, this can become an issue if you want to shoot a lot of video. It is the price you pay for a compact system. I would recommend a second battery for videos or traveling.
2. No Dedicated Back Button Focus (BBF) – This is a button on the back of the camera that can be used to activate your focus. More advanced shooters like it since it gives them some interesting options for shooting modes and methods. A beginner isn’t likely to miss it, and in fact, I don’t suggest it to beginners as it takes some getting used to, and even some knowledge of more advanced shooting techniques. The camera can be set up to swap the AE lock button to be used for back button focus in the event someone wants to learn how to use it. I would take a star off for this, but as it is not an advertised feature for the SL2, I don’t feel that would be fair. Beginners might never notice, but more advanced users might take a pass on the SL2 for this missing feature alone.
3. 9pt AF is a bit thin – When the SL2 was released it had the same 9pt AF system all previous rebel cameras had, while in the meantime the T7i got a huge upgrade to the 45pt AF system the 80D has! While I wasn’t expecting that same thing in the SL2, I did feel that the 19pt AF system used in the 70D could have found its way into the SL2, since it would seem they were no longer going to be using it. It shouldn't be that big a deal to a beginner, but the added points can really help with composition once you start to learn the finer points of that.
4. Buffer is pretty shallow – If you want to shoot action on this camera, the 5fps burst mode will help, but, as I said earlier, this is only doable in jpeg mode. If you want to shoot raw, the buffer will run out after 5 shots. If you aren’t doing post processing, then there is no reason to shoot raw. Still, I wouldn’t call this an action oriented camera, due to the shallow buffer and mediocre burst rate. I did use it at a soccer game, and got plenty of good shots. (I unfortunate had to remove those photos from my samples though, since Amazon keeps rejecting the review when I try to use them for some unknown and undisclosed reason)
5. Other stuff – Bulb is not selectable on the mode dial (Use Tv mode and slow the shutter until the Bulb mode comes up). Max shutter speed is 1/4000 sec, which I doubt will ever matter to anyone using this camera. I have personally never had to shoot faster than 1/4000 sec. No battery grip, at least not from Canon. Vello makes one, but I have no experience with it so I can't speak on it.
I really didn’t find a lot of cons on this camera; save for wanting one with more features and functions. But that is the point, it’s a camera meant for beginners at a price they can afford. So you lose the faster burst rate, the deeper buffer, the faster max shutter, the additional controls, etc. But what is left is still a very good camera that someone learning the game can use for a long time. It has better features than the base models like the T6 or T7, and even though it is more expensive, it takes longer to outgrow, which in a way can save the money of having to upgrade. It’s simple enough to learn, but still useful long after you have mastered the basics. This is why the SL2 is the camera I suggest more than any other to people getting a DSLR for the first time. Also, it is just a fun camera to use; I had a blast reviewing it!
Other suggestions – It wouldn’t be a WOFG review without other suggestions. But, different from my other reviews, this is mostly comparisons to other cameras that are similar but have important differences. This will help decide what is best for you. Since this is not a full blown review of these cameras, I am not going to be covering the specs unless I feel it relevant to the comparison; this review is already long enough as it is.
1. Canon T7i/77D – I’m going to combine these two together, since they are almost the same. Compared to the SL2, they have a larger set of features at a higher price. I think the most important difference is the 45 pt AF system (T7i, 77D) vs the 9pt AF system (SL2). For things like sports and wildlife, the more robust AF system is quite helpful, as is the faster burst of 6fps and a deeper buffer for longer burst in raw, if post processing is your thing. The 77D has a lot more controls on it too, including a dedicated back button focus, a second scroll wheel, and several quick access buttons (it is the replacement for the T6s, and is just a step below the 80D). For the most part, the 77D is overkill for a person learning the game, as you won’t likely have a need for all the features and controls for a long while. The T7i is about the same for a beginner as the SL2, only with the better AF system but also a higher price tag. Both are also larger bodies, but the T7i is still fairly light and compact for a DSLR, while the 77D is a larger overall camera. If you are buying your first camera, the SL2 will be fine for a lower price. By the time you develop the skill you need to require the better features of the T7i or 77D, there are likely to be better cameras out there that you might prefer anyway. And if you are not going to be shooting action on the regular, the 9pt AF system is serviceable. Most low key shooting, like portraits or landscapes, will not require the additional AF points. Something to note – I have seen the T7i and 77D on sale for as little as 650 USD, which is a great deal, but does not come with a lens. This is not ideal for someone that has no lenses, as you need one to take photos. So for the usual price of 600 USD for the SL2 and a lens, I would still say that is a better deal for a beginner.
2. Canon M50 – The little mirrorless that could! I personally like the SL2 better for one simple reason; the M50 is too small for me to hold. I can hold the SL2 just fine, as the beefier grip just makes it more ergonomically sound. The M50 has the curse most small mirrorless cameras have, in that it is just too small. If you have small hands though, it might be fine. The price on this has started to really come down, so at times you can get one for close to the same price as the SL2, and really, it isn’t a bad option. Other than ergonomics, there are a few pretty big differences. For one, the AF system of the M50 is better than any other camera mentioned in this review. Two, it has an EVF, which gives a much better preview of what your shot will look like before you shoot, allowing you to make adjustments without having to “chimp”. Three, it also has 4K video, but it really isn’t very good for it, I would never suggest it as a 4k camera, so this is a wash. For HD video it is basically the same as the SL2. For IQ, it is about the same when compared with the same lenses. At its higher price, I would only suggest it over the SL2 if you insist on a mirrorless camera, or you put a lot of value in the better AF system as well as the EVF. At the same price as the SL2, it’s hard not to suggest it. One thing to note, the M50 has a different lens mount than most Canon cameras, the EF-M mount. The lenses it uses are not compatible with anything but other EF-M cameras, and is also not compatible with the new full frame mirrorless cameras either. For this reason, I really suggest sticking to the EF and EF-S mount lenses, since they will still be useful if you ever start moving into the higher level systems, while EF-M lenses will lock you into the small mirrorless system for Canon. If you do get an M50, then I would strongly recommend the adaptor for the EF and EF-S lenses that can be bundled with it for 50 USD (otherwise it is 200). This does increase the cost of the M50, but dramatically increases your lens selection, as there are only 8 EF-M lenses, most of which are overpriced and mediocre, and I don’t see them adding a lot more.
3. Canon SL3 – This is the new model, just released, and it is almost the same camera as the SL2. The biggest differences are as follows: The SL3 adds 4K video, but it is the same as the M50 in that it is not ideal (heavy crop, no dual pixel), and like the M50 is not what I would suggest for a 4K camera (I actually use my phone for 4K video, as it is better than anything I currently have). The SL3 also has a different AF system when using live view, where it is basically the same as the M50, which is pretty great (Only in live view though, it has the same 9pt AF in the viewfinder). Using this AF system you gain eye detect AF along with face tracking, and that is becoming a popular feature in new cameras as it makes portraits a little easier. The new model also has a newer processor, the DIGIC 8, which isn’t that big of a deal, it just adds 1 stop higher max ISO (which you will never use) and slightly cleaner images at higher ISO (likely won’t see a difference). I can’t speak too far on the SL3, since I have only been able to use one at a store, but once I have one in my hands I can do a full review, including a breakdown of the differences with the SL2. For the most part though, it is the same aside from those 2 things I mentioned. At launch, it is only 50 USD more than the SL2 at 650 USD with the 18-55mm lens (down from 750 USD, which will be the normal price). At the intro price, I would say it is a better deal just to gain the improved live view AF system. Keep in mind though, the SL2 price likely will start to drop pretty quickly, and I would bet we will see them for as low as 450-500 USD before too long here, once Canon pushes to clearance them out. If that is the case, unless you really want the latest model, it would be a great bargain, since that would make it cheaper than even the T7.
Compared to the Canon T6/T7 – As I said before, I would suggest the SL2 over either of these models to anyone that is getting their first camera. You just get a lot more camera for not much more money. Here are some of the differences: A flip out touchscreen, dual pixel AF for video and live view, silent STM focus support, a mic jack, more dynamic range, a more compact body, higher resolution (T6 is 18mp, but the T7 is the same as the SL2), more creative filters, better ISO (both higher max ISO and better processing at high ISO), Bluetooth, faster mem card support, better burst; it just goes on. For the additional 100-150 USD I really think the SL2 just holds up longer. As a more advanced user myself, I have had a lot of fun testing the SL2 the last couple of months, a testament to how good it is. So if you are looking to get your first camera and are not sure what to get, I would skip the T6/T7 and go for the SL2 instead. If you already have a T6/T7, and it is working for you, there is no reason get another camera unless you really can’t do what you are trying to do with what you have. Those are both competent cameras, and if you have already spent the money then there is no reason you can’t still learn the game on them. All I am saying here is that for someone looking to learn, you can do it on any of these cameras, and that for the little more it cost the SL2 is going to hold up longer, thus making it a better deal in the long run. What I would suggest instead of a new camera is get some lenses instead, expand what you can do, and push what you have until it can’t do what you need it to do anymore.
Lastly, I want to suggest some lenses for beginners since this is a review for a beginner camera and I run across a lot of people that are not sure what to get. All these lenses will work on the SL2, as well as any other Canon APS-C camera as described in the review (In case you have a different camera and wanted to know if these would work for it). These are not in any specific order of preference.
1. EF 50mm F1.8 STM – This should be your first lens, other than the one that comes with your camera. For 125 USD, it can’t be beat. The wide F1.8 aperture and 80mm equivalent angle of view makes it ideal for portraits that have that classic look. Possibly the best value in all of photography!
2. EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM – The newest version of this lens, it’s probably the best telephoto you can get for less than 1000 USD. Great for soccer games, wildlife at the park, or whatever you like. There is an older version, the IS II, which is cheaper, but is completely outclassed by the newer IS STM model. Bundle the IS STM for 200, otherwise it is 300 USD, but can be found used for 150 or less.
3. EF-S 10-18mm F4-5.6 IS STM – At 300 USD it is less than half the price of the EF-S 10-22mm that it is often compared to, and has the advantage of IS. Image quality is nearly identical too. This lens is great for landscapes, large machinery, real estate, architecture, or even some fun distortion shots. Often discounted to 280 or less.
4. EF-S 24mm F2.8 STM – Adds better low light shooting to your kit on a budget, and is an all-around a great lens. Makes a great compliment to the 50mm F1.8, having a wider angle of view with a fast aperture.
All these lenses will add something different to your kit, are highly rated, and affordable. Always invest in lenses before a new camera. Also, all my sample images for the review were taken with these lenses, as well as the 18-55mm that comes with the SL2. So I stand by this assessment.
That is all I got, all that is left is to check out the images. Thank you for reading my review! For more gear reviews, check out my profile by simply clicking my name, and if you found this review helpful please remember to click the helpful button. Thanks again!