Canon Announces EOS Rebel T5i, Compact Rebel SL1

March 21, 2013

By Josh Root

Canon today announced the newest generation of its popular and affordable Rebel DSLR line, the T5i. The rebel has long occupied the market position as not only an entry path into the DSLR world for photographers moving up from fixed lens cameras, but also as an economical backup for professional shooters on a budget.

While the Rebel DSLRs have not always had the same top of the line features that we see in Canon’s higher-end cameras, they have broken ground of their own as well. For example, 2012’s Rebel T4i was the first DSLR to come equipped with a touchscreen LCD and was the first Canon DSLR to have continuous autofocus in video mode and live view.

However, don’t expect any significant evolutionary changes in the T5i. With only modest changes, this is one of the more minor upgrades to a product line that we have seen. The main changes between the T4i and the T5i are that the new camera offers real-time preview of Creative Filters in Live View mode, has a redesigned new mode dial that turns 360 degrees, and was given a new  body finish. The sensor, LCD, HD video and Hybrid-AF system are all the same as the T4i. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Canon will be dropping the T4i but will leave the T3 and T3i on the market.

Along with the T5i, Canon announced a new compact EOS DSLR, the Rebel SL1. With its diminutive 4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7 dimensions, the SL1 is being billed as the “smallest and lightest DSLR ever.”  Essentially a scaled down version of the T5i, the SL1’s main difference from its bigger brother is that it has an upgraded version of Canon’s Hybrid-AF system with a larger coverage area (approximately 80 percent of the frame). The SL1 also has a fixed LCD vs the T5i’s articulated one and has slightly slower continuous shooting speed and battery life (due to using the smaller battery from the EOS-M).

Perhaps most impressively, the SL1 achieves its size reduction while still retaining most of the standard Rebel external controls. One of the biggest frustrations about many mirrorless cameras for serious photographers has been the lack of external controls and reliance on button presses and menu scrolling. You do lose most of the standard grip on the front, but this is compensated for by a clever offset shutter button. Now, don’t be confused, the SL1 isn’t a 5D MKIII. But if the external controls and touchscreen LCD work for you on the T4i, then the SL1 offers virtually the same level of control in a significantly smaller package.

So is the SL1 going to stop people from continuing the trek towards the small and light mirrorless systems? I’m not sure. In reality, the SL1 isn’t significantly smaller than some of the other DSLRs out there. Yes, it’s smaller than the standard Rebels by a decent bit. But the Rebels have never been the most svelte models in their market segment, so it is hard to say what this will mean to a person deciding between the EOS and Micro Four-Thirds systems. However, where we think the SL1 will really shine is for those photographers who are already heavily invested in the EOS system. If you are an EOS photographer who is looking for a compact travel or carry-everyhwere body, this might be your best bet and would be significantly cheaper than investing in a whole new mirrorless system. Plus, if Canon would follow this up by coming out with a line of fast, compact, prime lenses like we have seen in many of the mirrorless systems, they might really be on their way to stemming the mirrorless onslaught. 

Both new Rebel bodies will be available in April, with body-only prices of $649 (SL1) and $749 (T5i). Each will also be paired with the new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens and priced at $699 (SL1) and $799 (T5i).