It may be the smallest and lightest DSLR currently in production, but does the 18-million-pixel Canon EOS 100D have what it takes to meet the demands of the enthusiast photographer? Find out in our Canon EOS 100D review...
Canon EOS 100D at a glance:
- 18-million-pixel APS-C size CMOS sensor
- Digic 5 processor
- ISO 100-6400 (expandable to ISO 25,600)
- 4fps shooting rate
- 3.2in, 1.04-million-dot touchscreen LCD
- Street Price around £570 (body only)
- View our product shot gallery of the Canon EOS 100D
Canon EOS 100D review – Introduction
With increasing numbers of potential DSLR owners now opting for compact system cameras, many manufacturers are now rationalising their DSLR range rather than expanding it. With Canon’s EOS M being one of the newest compact system cameras on the market, it is perhaps surprising that the company has now unveiled the EOS 100D, said to be the lightest DSLR available with an APS-C sensor. Surely this compact DSLR will cannibalise sales of the EOS M? Having spent some time with the Canon EOS 100D, things start to make sense.
Photographers will often say they want the image quality and handling of a DSLR, but not the size and weight. At first glance, a CSC is the obvious answer, but the two types of camera are not quite the same beast. A CSC can handle very differently to a DSLR, while features like focusing can be slightly compromised.
With the Canon EOS 100D, Canon has worked within the limitations of the EOS system to pack as much of the SLR mechanism – the mirror box, prism and shutter – into the smallest body it can, without compromising handling. The result is a DSLR that is arguably the smallest we have seen, with the possible exception of the Olympus E-420, which uses a smaller four thirds sensor. The Canon EOS 100D is certainly an impressive feat of engineering, but to be a success it must be straightforward to use and have image quality to justify the price.
Canon EOS 100D review – Features
At the core of the Canon EOS 100D is an 18-million-pixel, APS-C-size CMOS sensor. Canon has been using an 18-million-pixel CMOS sensor for a few years now, and this latest version features a hybrid phase-detection AF system built onto the sensor. We have already seen this used in the Canon EOS M compact system camera, and the EOS 650D and new EOS 700D DSLRs. The EOS 700D is really just a reprised version of the EOS 650D, with little in the way of new features.
In fact, the Canon EOS 100D and 700D are remarkably similar, both having the same resolution sensor, a 3in, 1.04-million-dot touch-sensitive LCD screen, and a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600. Both can also shoot video at a resolution of 1080p at 30fps.
As well as the obvious difference in size between the two cameras, there are a few other notable variations. Whereas the rear screen of the EOS 700D is articulated, the EOS 100D has a fixed monitor, which helps to reduce the size of the body. Meanwhile, the EOS 700D has a maximum shooting rate of 5fps compared to the 4fps rate of the EOS 100D.
The differences between the two cameras become even more interesting when their respective prices are taken into account. The Canon EOS 100D costs around £570 body only, while the EOS 700D is almost exactly the same price. Both sit above the EOS 1100D, which has only a 12.2-million-pixel sensor. The Canon EOS 100D therefore occupies a strange space in the market. In many ways it is the equal of the EOS 700D, but is smaller and lighter – it almost offers photographers an ‘EOS 700D Lite’.
Personally, I feel that the EOS 100D stands alone in the Canon EOS line-up. Its size and weight make it unique and it can be viewed as an alternative to the EOS 700D or EOS M, rather than a model above or below. It also makes a great secondary camera for those with a full-frame EOS DSLR, such as an EOS 5D Mark II or 5D Mark III, or an EOS-1D X. Its design makes it an ideal complementary camera to these larger models.
The Canon EOS 100D’s size also makes it less intimidating for entry-level users, and for those using a DSLR for the first time, there are modes designed to offer a helping hand. Built into the camera is a useful feature guide, which shows exactly what each different function of the camera does, and the effect that changing them has. The intelligent auto mode will automatically select the correct scene mode and change the exposure settings for the best result. Plus, there are more than ten scene modes available for manual selection, along with a range of creative filters, which include toy camera, grainy black & white, and miniature mode.
Canon EOS 100D review – Build and handling
The Canon EOS 100D consists of an aluminium alloy core, surrounded by a combination of polycarbonate resin, carbon and glass fibre to add strength while keeping the body as light as possible. I was happy to have the camera slung over my shoulder all day, and at just 407g, including battery and card, the weight was hardly noticeable.
Despite the small size, I found that the Canon EOS 100D handled well. As with compact system cameras, the buttons have all been strategically placed to maximise their number while ensuring ease of use. Also, the handgrip has not been compromised, being almost as large as would be found on the other cameras in the EOS range.
One really nice ergonomic feature is the way the top-plate is slightly larger on one side, where it meets the handgrip. This affords more space on the top right of the camera in which to position a couple of buttons, notably the ISO sensitivity control, right next to the shutter button. The grip also has a slight groove for the middle finger, which helps to provide additional purchase.
Changing settings is fairly straightforward, with the camera’s quick menu providing access to those that are used the most. As the Canon EOS 100D sports fewer buttons than would be found on a higher-level camera, I found myself using the quick menu to change the majority of settings, except for ISO and exposure compensation, both of which have dedicated buttons.
In addition, there is a customisable function button, and with ergonomics clearly a high priority on this camera, it can be easily pressed by the thumb when shooting.
Canon EOS 100D review – Metering
Although the Canon EOS 100D’s 63-segment evaluative metering appears underwhelming compared to the 425-pixel RGB metering sensor of the Nikon D3200, it is in no way a compromise. Using the evaluative metering mode when shooting landscapes in bright sunlight, the Canon EOS 100D produced nice bright images. True, some highlight detail was blown out in images of bright clouds saved as JPEG files, but all this lost detail could be recovered in raw images.
I rarely had to use the exposure compensation feature. When I did require an image to be a little brighter, I found that I could increase the evaluative metered exposure by 0.3EV and highlight detail in raw files still wasn’t blown out.
Only when shooting in an underground bunker, lit only by torches, did I find that I needed to reduce the exposure compensation by 2EV to keep the scene dark. It is obviously the role of evaluative metering to make images look bright and visible, and in a situation like this the metering will try and brighten the scene.
However, with the exposure compensation feature easily accessible on the rear of the body, and partial, spot and centreweighted metering also available, it is easy and quick to achieve the required exposure.
Image: The highlight details in the clouds look lost in the JPEG image, but are easily recovered from the raw file
Canon EOS 100D review – Dynamic range
Typically, the dynamic range of Canon EOS DSLRs with APS-C-sized sensors measures lower than that of many counterparts. For example, the EOS 650D employs a variant of the 18-million-pixel sensor used in the EOS 100D and, according to the results at DxO Mark (www.dxomark.com), this has a dynamic range of just 10.62EV. While this figure seems many EV lower than some rivals, I found that in practice it made little difference to the majority of my images.
As discussed in the Metering section, there seems to be sufficient headroom in the highlight areas to overexpose slightly from the nominal meter reading and recover some highlight detail that otherwise appears blown out.
It is in areas of shadow that there is less detail, with noise being introduced as these shadowy areas are lightened. For this reason it is best to produce images that are slightly lighter, thereby giving areas of shadow as much light as possible before darkening them when processing the raw file.
Canon EOS 100D review – White balance and colour
In general, the Canon EOS 100D’s AWB setting worked well, though it produced rather a clinical neutral colour under tungsten light.
The usual array of Canon picture styles is available and it is possible to set three custom styles. I’m a big fan of the colour produced by Canon cameras and the EOS 100D doesn’t disappoint. In particular, I found that blues skies looked nicely saturated and took on an almost polarised appearance.
I don’t know whether this has anything to do with the lens coatings, but I suspect that it is more than likely due to the way the sensor and processor adjust the contrast curve and blue colours in images, regardless of which picture style is selected.
It is clear why EOS cameras are popular among landscape photographers, despite their slightly more restricted dynamic range compared to rival brands.
Image: This shot was taken inside an abandoned Douglas DC-3 plane. The scene was lit with three Canon Speedlites controlled by the ST-E2 wireless controller
Image: Colours produced by the Canon EOS 100D are excellent, and I particularly enjoyed using the monochrome setting with the red filter effect
Canon EOS 100D review – Autofocus
While the Canon EOS 100D may have only nine AF points, I didn’t find it a hindrance. All nine points are placed around the centre of the frame, with the centre AF point being a more sensitive cross-type.
I usually prefer to have a few more AF points to play with, but the furthest points on the Canon EOS 100D are placed about as far from the centre of the frame as you would ever want your subject to be, and in either orientation there are AF points on the rule-of-thirds intersections.
In terms of speed, the Canon EOS 100D proved very snappy and quiet. Even with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, focus was almost instant in good light. In dim light the performance of the centre AF didn’t seem to drop and it was just as quick to find focus. However, the furthest AF points were slower and did hunt a little.
Given that the light was very dim and AF assist was switched off, the drop in accuracy was forgivable, especially given the camera’s price and target market.
When using the screen for live view, there is the standard option to magnify a portion of the image for precise manual focusing. The Canon EOS 100D can also perform tracking AF and face detection when using live view.
The hybrid AF system is used in live view mode, and is based on the same system found in the EOS M compact system camera and the EOS 650D. It uses a combination of contrast-detection AF and on-sensor phase detection.
Although I didn’t have an EOS M to test alongside the EOS 100D, from memory the Canon EOS 100D did seem a little more responsive when focusing in live view compared to the compact system camera. Obviously, it wasn’t as fast as when using the standard phase-detection mode through the viewfinder, and it did hunt a little.
Nevertheless, for most situations in which photographers will want to use live view – for landscapes, still lifes and macro shots – it will be fast enough and I certainly wouldn’t let it be a deal breaker when deciding whether to buy the camera.
Canon EOS 100D review – Noise, resolution and sensitivity
Image: These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens lens set to f/8 . We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.
With a variation on the 18-million-pixel sensor that has been used in a number of Canon EOS cameras, there was nothing too surprising about the images produced by the EOS 100D.
Generally, the sensor captures a good amount of detail, though as we’ve noted numerous times with Canon cameras, there can be quite a big difference between the detail that can be resolved in raw files and that which is present in JPEGs produced in-camera. A slight tweak to the local contrast and sharpening settings really brings out the finer details in images, which can otherwise be lost in JPEGs.
At the lowest sensitivity settings, the Canon EOS 100D is able to resolve up to around 28 on our chart. If you are shooting raw images there is a slight improvement, but it can’t resolve much higher. However, the lines are more defined, especially after a slight sharpening.
A hint of colour noise can be observed in the shadow areas in JPEG images taken at ISO 800, though this doesn’t really become a concern until about ISO 3200. I have said it before, but I find it odd that camera manufacturers don’t do more to remove colour noise altogether from in-camera JPEG images, given how easy it is to reduce it in raw files using post-processing software.
It is also at ISO 3200 that luminance noise starts to become noticeable, and it appears that luminance noise reduction also becomes stronger here, as there is a drop in detail resolution. I’d suggest that ISO 3200 is about as high as anyone would really want to shoot.
I took some shots in very low light at ISO 6400 and ISO 12,800 and there is a lot of luminance noise reduction applied to JPEG files. Colour noise is also visible in some areas in the form of slightly purple and green-looking blotches.
Overall, image quality is perfect for the fair-weather photographer. For those that like to shoot in low light, the Canon EOS 100D does seem to struggle at higher sensitivities, and time will have to be spent editing the raw files to get the best from the camera.
Image: Although the Canon EOS 100D resolves a fair amount of detail, raw images must be captured to really get the most from the camera
Image: Heavy noise reduction is applied to JPEGs. The difference is clear in this ISO 6400 image, with heavy smudging, a lack of detail and coloured green and purple bruising still visible. None of which is evident in the raw image
Canon EOS 100D review – LCD, viewfinder, live view and video
For a DSLR that is so small, the optical viewfinder seems surprisingly large. As we would expect for a camera at this level, it doesn’t offer 100% field of view, but the 95% coverage is reasonable, as is the 0.87x magnification. The viewfinder is also bright and clear.
The rear touchscreen matches the quality of the viewfinder. It measures 3in and is made up of 1.04 million dots. In all but the brightest light it is possible to see the images on the rear screen, and I had no problem adjusting settings via the menu. When the light is too bright and reflections are an issue, the optical viewfinder is the first port of call.
Although the screen isn’t articulated, it does have a very wide angle of view. The on-screen image is still visible at an angle of around 160°, though doing so makes precise composition a little tricky.
Despite its size and target market, the Canon EOS 100D doesn’t scrimp on video quality, the tiny camera being able to capture full HD (1080p) at 30fps. Sound is mono only, though anyone serious about video can use the camera’s external mic socket on the side of the body to attach a higher-quality microphone.
Canon EOS 100D review – Compact body
To create the smallest DSLR currently in production, Canon had to go back to the drawing board. Rather than use existing parts from other cameras in the EOS range, parts such as the shutter mechanism were completely re-engineered to make them smaller. To reduce the size of the main circuit board, the components that populate it are more densely packed than would be the case with a conventional DSLR.
The secondary mirror is also smaller, and even the sensor itself hasn’t been overlooked, it being slightly slimmer than the previous generations of Canon’s 18-million-pixel, APS-C-sized sensor.
The LP-E12 battery used in the Canon EOS 100D is also smaller than in a typical DSLR, though it is still rated at between 350 and 380 shots. In practice, the number will be less than this due to images being checked on the rear screen once they have been captured.
Canon EOS 100D review – The competition
I might seem odd to pick two Canon cameras as key competitors, but the Canon EOS 100D sits in a slightly odd place in the EOS range. Canon users looking for a smaller, lighter alternative may be tempted by the EOS M, but the size and weight of the EOS 100D is going to appeal too, especially as it is compatible with existing lenses.
Sitting above the Canon EOS 100D is the EOS 700D, which has a very similar specification, but a larger body, which may also suit some photographers.
Aside from Canon, Panasonic’s new Lumix DMC-G6, which is a DSLR-style CSC, is around the same price as the Canon EOS 100D and also has a good specification. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6 review here.
Canon EOS 100D review – Our verdict
I really enjoyed using the Canon EOS 100D. In terms of size, it certainly doesn’t feel like the body is much of a compromise and it packs in all the features that would be expected from a mid-range enthusiast DSLR.
Even used with slightly larger lenses, it is still comfortable to hold. Indeed, I even tried it with a large telephoto lens attached, and was actually glad that some of the extra weight that would have been added by a camera like the EOS 7D had been reduced by the use of the Canon EOS 100D.
The image quality provided by the 18-million-pixel sensor is good, without being exceptional. Colours are excellent, and in good light at low sensitivities the camera performs well, though it suffers a little more than I would have hoped at higher ISO settings.
Overall, the Canon EOS 100D is a great little DSLR. Those who are considering a SLR-style compact system camera may have to have a rethink.