REVIEW: Canon EOS 100D, The World's Smallest DSLR

Written by Paul Nuttall     22/05/2013 | 12:11 | Category name i.e.STILL CAMERAS

Key Features: 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor; ISO 100-6400, expandable to 25,600; 3-inch, 1040k-dot LCD screen; 1920 x 1080 HD video capture; TTL 63-zone SPC metering system

The Canon EOS 100D comes as a direct response from the camera giant to the growing popularity of Compact System Cameras (CSCs). But the 100D is part of the company's EOS DSLR range, standing between the 1100D and the 600D. It now bears the distinction of being both the smallest and the lightest DSLR in the world. 

But is this little dynamo enough to coax people back from the fashionable world of CSC? 



Features
Despite being the smallest and lightest DSLR in the world, the Canon EOS 100D is by no means stripped back in order to make that grade. In fact, it has much the same specification as Canon's larger triple-digit models. 

For instance, the Canon EOS 100D sensor is the same resolution as the EOS 700D, although the 18MP APS-C Hybrid AF II CMOS sensor is smaller and thinner sensor to help make the 100D smaller than typical DSLRs.

The sensor itself has an ISO range of 100-12,800, extendable to 25,600 in the 'H' setting. The sensor, as the name suggests, features built-in phase-detect autofocus (AF) technology and as a result supports continuous AF when recording HD video. 

The 100D supports HD video capture at a range of frame rates - including 30, 25 and 24fps - as well as offering the option to shoot at 50fps, albeit at the lower 1280 x 720 resolution. Those serious about video recording will love the inclusion of a 3.5mm mic port on the camera's body, too.



One of the ways the Canon has miniaturised the 100D is shrinking the camera's component board. Despite this, the Canon EOS 100D still has the top-end Canon DIGIC 5 image processor that offers a burst speed of up to 4fps, with a claimed burst depth of 28 JPEG files or 7 Raw images.

The AF system not only benefits from the phase-detect AF presence on the sensor, but also features Canon's tried and tested 9-point AF array with one cross-type AF point housed in the centre. 

As for metering, the 100D features Canon's 63-zone SPC system - the very same that has produced such excellent results on other Canon DSLRs, including the Canon EOS 7D. Any issues with exposure can be addressed through the exposure compensation system, which has 1/3 stop increment adjustment over /-5EV.

At the rear of the Cannon EOS 100D sits the impressive 3-inch, 1,040k dot LCD screen, which is a huge improvement on the Canon EOS 1100D. Above it, meanwhile, sits one of the major selling points of a DSLR ahead of a CSC, namely an optical viewfinder. Although coverage isn't a full 100%, at 95% it's entirely respectable, and it also benefits from dioptre correction and depth of field preview.

Another selling point of the Canon EOS 100D over CSCs is that it adopts Canon's EF-S lens mount, meaning it can be used with both EF and EF-S lenses that you might already own if you're a seasoned Canon owner.

There's a built-in flash on the Canon EOS 100D with a guide number of 13, although once again Canon owners will no doubt be pleased with the presence of a hot shoe that supports Canon's EX series of speedlights.



Unfortunately, one feature that is lacking is any kind of Wi-Fi functionality; something which is becoming ever more prevalent in DSLRs as photographers look to combine their camera with their smartphone or tablet. It's not a deal breaker, but a point worth noting when considering what to buy.

Design
As mentioned earlier, some clever trickery with the inner workings of the Canon EOS 100D has resulted in the camera being quite startlingly small. 

But just how small is it?



Compared to the Canon EOS 650D (700D pictured above), the 100D is nearly 10mm smaller in height and over 15mm shorter in length. In fact the Canon EOS 100D is even smaller than some competing CSCs, as it's around 30% lighter and 20% thinner than the Panasonic Lumix GH3.

It's impressive feat for a DSLR, even more so considering build quality isn't sacrificed to achieve it. Canon has replaced stainless steel with an equally sturdy but much lighter aluminium alloy, while the polycarbonate resin, and carbon and glass fibre, provide a hardy yet lightweight feel. Add to that the overall quality finish - including various rubberised elements around the body - and the Canon EOS 100D feels much nicer in the hand than the EOS 1100D.

Button design and arrangement around the body is pleasing, too. The model's d-pad is smaller than some that we've seen in similar Canon DSLRs before, but this does allow for the ample touchscreen.

Also of note is the neatly arranged top plate, which features an On/Off switch located around the mode dial that also offers quick access to the 100D's movie capture mode. Indeed, there aren't that many physical controls, with only one scroll dial as opposed to two on larger cameras. To compensate, several buttons have a dual purpose - in manual mode photographers must depress the AV /- button in combination with the top plate dial to change settings, for example.

Those with larger hands might find the Canon EOS 100D a little on the small side, but on the whole there's very little to fault about its handling and its compact size adds a welcome and impressive dimension.

Performance
Just as the Canon EOS 100D's compact size doesn't impede too much on its build quality or handling, its performance doesn't suffer much.

AF performance is respectable. Although the Canon EOS 100D only has one cross-type AF point in the centre of the frame, as opposed to the full nine in the Canon EOS 700D, it didn't pose too many problems in testing.

The 100D's Live View function is something of a saving grace here, too. If you find the 100D struggling to acquire the correct focus point, simply switch to Live View and select the desired focus point on the model's touch screen LCD.

The touch screen itself is truly first-class - it's as good as smartphone or tablet. Not only is it responsive, but the calibration of the various settings means that you have direct access to a range of the camera's functionality straight from the screen. The icons on the screen, while small, are perfectly responsive. The fact that the monitor also supports swipe and pinch to zoom gesture control makes it a pleasure to use.

The Canon EOS 100D met its claimed 4fps burst speed most of the time during controlled testing conditions, although the camera's buffer offered 

varying levels of results. With a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC card the Canon EOS 100D captured four JPEG and Raw files before slowing. Setting the camera to capture just Raw files also allowed for four files before the buffer was full. However, if you set the camera to shoot solely JPEG files you can shoot to the card's capacity with no worries about the 100D slowing.

The 18-55mm IS STM kit lens helps video capture immensely. When shooting, the stepper motor (STM) in the lens allows for perfectly smooth transitions of focus when shooting. Not only that but the motor is completely silent, removing any threat of a noisy focus motor affecting the video's audio.

One pain with previous EOS DSLRs was that there was no way of previewing any of the model's creative filters before applying them. The good news is that Canon has listened to these criticisms, and the EOS 100D offers Live Preview of any filters through the model's Live View system.

Image Quality
As the Canon EOS 100D features many of the nuts and bolts of Canon's triple-digit DSLR line-up, we had high expectations for its image quality. And, on the whole, the 100D delivers.

The 63-zone SPC metering system can be trusted to deliver accurate exposures in a variety of conditions, managing to record scenes faithfully and displaying no signs of under or overexposure.



If you're looking to boost detail in either shadow or highlight areas, an 'Auto Lighting Optimiser' setting is available at three different strengths - low, standard or high - and these offer results akin to an HDR backlight control option.

Colours are vivid and accurate, too. There's no sign of colour cast, while the camera's auto white balance also performs well, with only the slight tendency to err towards cooler or more neutral tones.

The 100D's 18MP sensor captures an impressive level of detail, producing images that you'd have no issues cropping in on. To resolve the very highest amount of detail, we advise you shoot Raw, or Raw and JPEG.

ISO performance is another area where the 100D excels. Noise is absent entirely between ISO 100 and 800, and even when it begins to appear at ISO 1600 it remains manageable. ISO 6400 is the setting at which noise begins to be an issue, although even ISO 12,800 is still usable when absolutely necessary.

Verdict
The Canon EOS 100D is an excellent DSLR that presents an interesting alternative to CSCs in terms of specification and size, as well as fitting in well with Canon's entry-level DSLR selection. 

Although it's a lot more expensive than Canon's current entry-level DSLR - the Canon EOS 1100D - it's a far superior DSLR in terms of design, performance and build quality, and if your budget can stretch to the $900 mark then there's no contest between the 1100D and 100D.

The 100D is more like the Canon EOS 700D when it comes to price; while the 700D is better specified than the 100D, if size is imperative to you than the 100D wins out here as well.

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Pros & Cons

Pros:

-Good design including rubberised handgrip -Creative filters feature live preview -Strikingly small body

Cons:

-Similar price to the Canon EOS 700D -AF system only features one cross-type point -Small design means small battery