Best Canon SLR: 8 cameras reviewed

Beginner, enthusiast and pro bodies covered

Canon EOS 1100D/Canon EOS Rebel T3

Price: £299/US$499/Aus$457 with 18-55mm IS II kit lens

Best Canon DSLRs: 8 tested

Key spec: 12.2Mp APS-C format CMOS sensor, 720p video, 9 AF points (1 cross-type), max shooting rate 3fps, 2.7-inch 230,000-dot LCD

The Canon 1100D hit the headlines when it was originally launched, some three years ago, bringing relatively exotic features to the entry-level sector of the market. It is still available as the most inexpensive route into Canon SLR photography but, in some ways, is starting to show its age.

Its 12.2Mp image resolution is outclassed by all other current models, which have at least 18Mp resolution. Similarly, while it features a video capture capability, it's only 720p instead of the full 1080p sported by all other cameras in the range. Both of these issues are addressed by the new entry-level 1200D which are waiting to review in full.

On the plus side, the 1100D boasts a smart iFCL (intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) metering system that was originally introduced in the 7D camera. Also, like the 100D and 700D, there's a 9-point autofocus module with a cross-type sensor at the centre. This gives greater accuracy by resolving detail in both horizontal and vertical planes.

Again though, the 1100D doesn't quite match the later 100D and 700D, as the central AF point doesn't have a high-sensitivity capability for increased performance with wide-aperture lenses (f/2.8 or wider). There's more bad news around the back, where the LCD is a bit on the small side at 2.7 inches, and has a relatively low resolution of just 230k pixels. Most other beginners' cameras typically have a larger 3.0-inch screen with a 1040k resolution, as well as offering touchscreen operation which is lacking on the 1100D.

Another omission is that there's no mirror lockup custom function, so mirror-bounce can be a problem when trying to get sharp, tripod-mounted shots, especially when using macro or long telephoto lenses. Overall, the 1100D is a simple camera that's easy to use. It's also £110 cheaper than the 1200D, making it pretty good value if you can get by without the newer camera's greater resolution and updated features.

Best Canon SLR Canon EOS 1100D

Pros

Remarkably inexpensive to buy and very beginner-friendly.

Cons

It's a bit of a poor relation in terms of specifications.

Read our full Canon EOS 1100D/Canon EOS Rebel T3 review

Canon EOS 100D/Canon EOS SL1

Price: £400/US$599/Aus$649 body only

Front

Key spec: 18.0Mp APS-C format CMOS sensor, 1080p video, 9 AF points (1 cross-type), max shooting rate 4fps, 3-inch 1,040,000-dot touch-sensitive LCD

An exercise in downsizing, the 100D is the most compact and lightweight D-SLR that Canon has ever made, yet still features plenty of upscaled attractions, especially compared with the older 1100D. It has a higher-resolution 18Mp image sensor and a bigger, more detailed 3-inch 1040k LCD that adds touchscreen operation. The DIGIC 5 image processor is also a generation newer.

Continuous shooting has a maximum speed of 4fps (frames per second) in both JPEG or raw quality mode, whereas the 1100D drops from 3fps to just 2fps when you switch from JPEG to raw. Video capture resolution is also boosted to 1080p. Better still, the redesigned image sensor uses a selection of its photosites (which equate to pixels) to enable phase-detection autofocus, making continuous autofocus possible when shooting video. Stills and video resolution aside, the 100D also beats the new 1200D in all the specifications and features we've mentioned so far.

Another beginner-friendly advantage is the Scene Intelligent Auto shooting mode, as featured on similarly recent cameras including the Canon EOS M, 700D and 70D. A step up over the older and more basic 'green square' full auto mode, it analyses scenes as you're composing shots, not only checking brightness, contrast and colour, but also detecting faces and watching out for movement. It really helps to give consistently great results in simple point-and-shoot photography. There are plentiful scene modes too, that go far beyond the basic sports, portrait and close-up modes. These are available via a dedicated 'Scn' position on the main shooting mode dial, delivering further options like Kids, Food and Candlelight.

Naturally, you can adjust all shooting parameters in the more advanced 'creative zone' of the shooting dial that includes the usual P, Av, Tv and M options. The cherry on the cake is a big boost in sensitivity range. Compared with the 1100D's ISO 100-6400, the 100D stretches to ISO 12800 in its standard range, and all the way to ISO 25600 in expanded mode, again beating the newer 1200D.

Rear

Pros

Very compact for a D-SLR, good touchscreen, versatile scene modes.

Cons

Relatively few direct access controls, body can feel a bit cramped if you have big hands.

Read our full Canon EOS 100D/Canon EOS SL1 review