Shooting Experience

Canon’s EOS Rebel SL2 (200D) is one of two low-priced DSLRs that I consider truly compact and portable, with the Nikon D3400 being the other. It’s not quite as small as some mirrorless cameras, but in any case the ‘compactness’ ends as soon as you replace the kit lens with something larger. For example, you may want more telephoto power if you are photographing your vacation.

The SL2 is also one of Canon’s entry-level DSLRs, which means that many users will never leave Auto mode or remove the 18-55mm F4-5.6 kit lens. As such, I decided to spend most of my day shooting just like someone who bought the SL2 and used it out of the box, albeit with a telephoto lens since that is more suited to my subject. Some of the telephoto options include the EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM and the EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM. If you bought the camera body-only, then the first lens is the better choice, as it covers a longer range and is a bit faster at the wide end, (very) slightly aiding low light performance.

I grabbed the camera and (since the two lenses mentioned above weren’t available) Canon’s full-frame 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM lens and headed to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. As a volunteer, I know the zoo like the back of my hand so I know where I’ll be able to get the shots I’m looking for.

Patas Monkey. ISO 250 | 1/400 sec | F6.3 | Canon 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 @ 168mm equiv. Image cropped (view original). Photo by Jeff Keller.

As I headed through the South Entrance I put the camera into its Scene Intelligent Auto mode which, as its name implies, selects the scene mode appropriate for what is happening in the frame. If a subject is moving, the SL2 will switch to continuous autofocus (and you’ll be expected to keep the subject under the focus point) and it may switch to HDR if the scene is backlit. You won’t actually see what scene was chosen except in live view. Despite being fully automatic, the camera does allow for Raw shooting, which is nice, though entry-level users probably have no idea what Raw is.

Brown bear with humans in the way. Converted from Raw using ACR (view original JPEG / download Raw). ISO 160 | 1/160 sec | F4 | Canon 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 @ 48mm equiv. | Straightened and cropped. Photo by Jeff Keller.

Speaking of live view, I had to crank the LCD brightness up a notch right away, as it was just too dim even under the smoke-filtered sunlight that has plagued Seattle for the last week. The fully articulating 3″ LCD did its job in the above photo, allowing me to get above the heads of the smartphone-carrying masses in front of me as I attempted to capture at least a portion of a brown bear going for a swim.

Humboldt penguins. ISO 200 | 1/400 sec | F6.3 | 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 @ 168mm equiv. Photo by Jeff Keller.

Shooting in Scene Intelligent Auto mode worked just fine, and there’s generally no reason for the beginner to venture away from that spot on the mode dial. There were some occasions in which I switched over to the scene modes, such as for close-up shots like the one below.

Spicebush Swallowtail (I think). ISO 320 | 1/400 sec | F5.6 | 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 lens @ 165mm. Photo by Jeff Keller.

In hindsight, I didn’t even need to switch to a macro scene mode for this shot, as the camera isn’t actually adjusting the minimum focus distance of the lens, as would happen on a fixed-lens camera. In other scene modes, however, the SL2 will switch over to continuous AF with subject tracking or adjust the Picture Style to emphasize colors or contrast.

Something nice that Canon offers on the SL2 is Feature Assistant. On by default in all modes, though mainly visible when shooting with the viewfinder, it’s more than a pretty UI – it’s something you can use to learn how to better use your camera. It explains the effects of adjusting aperture and shutter speed, why you’d want to use a certain shooting mode and what exactly is being adjusted in each scene mode.

While it’s not very discoverable, if you set the aperture to wide open, a button reading ‘More background blur’ will appear, and tapping it will give you the tutorial shown in the video below. (And note the ‘buy a nicer lens’ suggestion in there.)

Canon has quietly put a little hint regarding tripod use on the aperture and shutter speed adjustment screens. The areas on the adjustment bar that are gray are situations in which Canon recommends using a tripod which, in this case, is below 1/60 sec and above F11. If no tripod is needed, that section of the bar is black.

I noticed that the SL2 in tends to use higher ISOs in the Auto and Scene modes than I would have chosen if shooting manually. My evidence-free guess is that Canon is ensuring faster shutter speeds by raising the ISO to avoid blur and the inevitable disappointment that follows. Since the average SL2 owner likely won’t be viewing their images at 100%, they (probably) won’t notice the extra noise. (You can manually adjust the ISO or set the max sensitivity the camera will use in Auto ISO but, again, most beginners won’t have any idea what any of that means.)

Steller’s Sea Eagle. ISO 1600 | 1/200 sec | F5.6 | 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 lens @ 168mm equiv. Photo by Jeff Keller.

Sending my photos over to Facebook was ridiculously easy, since the SL2 maintains a Bluetooth connection with my Galaxy S7 edge. I just load up the Camera Connect app on my phone, choose ‘Images on Camera,’ and then two devices set up an ad hoc Wi-Fi connection. While loading the ‘high resolution’ version of an image is a bit slow, the whole system works very well.

ISO 1600 | 1/80 sec | F4 | Canon 24-105mm F3.5-5.6 lens @ 38mm. Photo by Jeff Keller.

Overall, the SL2 suits the beginning or casual photographer quite well. It has a very simple interface if you want to use it, as well as the traditional Canon menus if you don’t. Its Auto and Scene modes always seemed to make appropriate choices, and the resulting photos were in-focus, well-exposed and with pleasant ‘Canon’ colors, though they are slightly noisy. And when it was time to share my photos, it couldn’t have been any easier. Based on my experiences thus far, I’d definitely recommend the SL2 to friends and family looking for an easy-to-use and portable camera.

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