On June 29, Canon finally unveiled the EOS Rebel SL2, the successor to 2013’s Rebel SL1. At a time when mirrorless cameras were making a strong push into the mainstream, the downsized SL1 hoped to appeal to entry-level photographers with its simplified controls and compact design. Despite generally positive reception by customers and the press alike (our Rebel SL1 review awarded the bestselling camera 4 out of 5 stars), Canon seemed to have forgotten about the SL1 in the years after its launch, perhaps to focus more on its burgeoning mirrorless EOS M-series. That is, until now.
The Rebel SL2 pushes the performance and quality of the SL-line forward while simultaneously making it more approachable for beginners. It is built around the now tried-and-true 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor found in the EOS Rebel T7i, EOS 77D, and EOS 80D. That alone is a significant improvement over the 18MP sensor in the SL1, especially as the new sensor includes Dual Pixel autofocus (DPAF) which makes shooting in live-view much, much better. The SL2 also gets the latest Digic 7 image processor. As a result, maximum ISO is now a respectable 25,600 while the burst rate has increased to five frames per second (fps) over four in the SL1.
Several physical changes have also been made. The LCD screen now articulates and includes a selfie mode. The mode dial sits recessed into the camera body and the grip is slightly deeper. A new 18-55mm kit lens is even more compact, thanks to a slightly slower f/4 maximum aperture on the wide end.
All of these features should help to make the camera more approachable, which was clearly one of Canon’s primary goals with the SL2. The camera also gets the new guided menu system first introduced on the Rebel T7i. While experienced photographers will no doubt revert to the standard Canon UI, the guided menu is a nice touch for novices as it visually illustrates the effect of different settings and shooting modes. And those users are, after all, the primary demographic for this camera.
On paper, the SL2 sounds a lot like a miniature T7i, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. One area where it clearly falls behind, though, is autofocus. While live-view performance should be roughly the same on both cameras, the T7i has a big edge when using the optical viewfinder, thanks to its excellent 45-point AF system. The SL2 makes due with just nine points, giving it far less flexibility. The T7i’s AF performance was a major highlight of that camera, and while the SL2’s more limited system may be fine for more casual users, a nine-point AF system in 2017 is pretty lackluster.
Despite that, the SL2 looks to be a big improvement over the original, albeit one that’s arriving very late in the game. However, producing another miniature DSLR still feels like a gamble. In today’s market, the SL2 faces even more competition from mirrorless cameras (including Canon’s own) than did the SL1, and while it looks like a capable machine, its success does not seem guaranteed.
The Rebel SL2 will be available in July at a price of $550 for the body only, or $700 for the kit with the new 18-55mm f/4-5.6 lens.