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Canon launches compact, super-light DSLR

Canon introduces ultra-portable, full-featured DSLR to take on the interchangeable lens market dominated by Sony and Olympus.

Canon's Rebel line of DSLRs will soon host a sleeker, smaller, thinner model: the Canon EOS Rebel SL1--SL for Super Lightweight. This new camera, designed for entry level shooters as a step up from a point and shoot or camera phone, has the same traditional DSLR technology as the company's other Rebel cameras, but in a dimunitive body. It is Canon's answer to the compact interchangeable lens revolution that has rocked the camera world over the last couple of years.

The Rebel line also has a brand new flagship model, the T5i, which replaces the T4i in the lineup, though the company will be retaining the T3i and the T3 as well. A new high-end fixed lens camera, the PowerShot SX280 HS which replaces the SX260 HS, and a new kit lens variation in the EF-S 18-55mmF3.5-5.6 IS STM complete the slate of new Canon offerings.

SL1 means super lightweight

At 14.6 ounces when loaded with memory card and battery, the SL1 is 23 percent lighter and 38 percent smaller than Canon's outgoing Rebel T4i. At 4.6 (w) by 3.57 (h) by 2.74 (d) inches, it's targeted to beginners who have thus far been reluctant to step up to a DSLR because of the size and weight of current models.

The new SL1 is also designed to compete with the exploding interchangeable lens camera market, now dominated by Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, and Fuji, whose mirrorless models are much smaller and lighter than traditional DSLRs, and which are increasingly popular not only with aspiring amateurs, but with photo pros as a second camera. Canon sees the SL1 as a better camera than those mirrorless competitors because of its construction, inherent balance, and familiar feature set.

"Entry level users have been reluctant to move to DSLRs--they understand the quality, but it was the size that prevented them from moving up to a DSLR," said Ben Thomas, Canon's marketing manager. "We positioned this camera for someone who wants to step up from a point and shoot or camera phone--they want the image quality and the speed, but they don't want to carry around a large camera."

The SL1 features an 18-megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor (the same sensor as Canon's EOS M and EOS 650D) paired with a Digic 5 image processor, a 3-inch 1.04 million dot touch screen LCD, 9-point center cross-type auto focus system, Movie Servo AF for continuous AF tracking of moving subjects, four frames-per-second burst mode, and an ISO range of 100 to 12800 (expandable to 25600) for photos and 6400 (expandable to 12800) for video. The Sl1 has a mono mic, though you can add a stereo mic if you need one.

A new hybrid CMOS auto focus system and a wider phase detection area provide quieter, smoother, faster focusing with continuous auto focus. In Live View, there are 31 different phase detection tracking points on the screen.

The key aspect of this camera is that it's a DSLR. "You still have a viewfinder, you still have that 95 percent coverage when you're shooting through the viewfinder, and you're going to have that full functionality," Thomas said. The SL1 has the same LCD screen as the T4i, but it is fixed, not vari-angle. The screen supports multi-touch operation, including a touch shutter. The camera is shaped very much like a Rebel and will come in a package that includes a STM EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens.

The SL1, which goes on sale in April, will cost $650 for the body only and $800 with the 18-55mm kit lens. While an 18-135mm zoom is available for the camera, it is $400 and not sold as part of the kit.

Rebel T5i

The latest Rebel flagship model, the 18-megapixel T5i, replaces the current T4i in the lineup and will co-esist with the current T3i and T3 models. Most of the camera specs are identical to its predecessor in terms of weight, size, and image quality--the camera is 5.2 by 3.9 by 3.1 inches and weights 20.5 ounces. The new model differs in four basic areas: lens choice, exterior coating, creative filters, and a revised mode dial.

In addition, when you purchase a T5i, you have a choice of camera kits in either the new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM or the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens. With the previous model, if you wanted to use an STM lens, you had to buy the 18-135mm model separately.

The exterior coating of the T5i has a more professional look: It's the same color, but with a rougher, coarser texture. When using creative filters, you can preview the shot in real time with the filter applied before you shoot to decide which one to use, rather than having to wait to apply it to a finished shot. The mode dial, which now rotates 360 degrees, has a recessed image on the camera and includes an added Scene mode. It provides a continuous shooting speed of up to 5 frames per second and nine all cross-type AF focus points.

The Rebel T5i lets you shoot video in 1080p full HD in various sizes and frame rates. Plus, when shooting with one of the Stepping Motor (STM) lenses, such as the new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, the camera captures only the stereo sound of the scene being recorded. The camera also features a built-in stereo microphone with manual audio level adjustment.

The T5i will be available in April for $750, body only. Adding an 18-55mm lens kit brings the price up to $900, and adding an 18-135mm zoom brings the price to $1099.

DSLRs compared

The SL1 introduces a new hybrid CMOS AF II (second generation) system that kicks in when you're using the Live View feature--as opposed to the viewfinder--to focus and shoot. In Live View, the camera will use the hybrid CMOS AF. This lives right on top of the CMOS sensor and is only applied when you use Live View. The surface area for that focusing system has been increased by about 80 percent so it takes up a greater portion of the sensor, giving you a wider phase detection area. Since it's wider, whenever the subject is on the outside of the sensor or the frame, the camera has a faster focusing speed.

Thus, in comparison with the T5i in Live View mode, the SL1 will pick up a subject faster because of that new second generation sensor. It offers continuous auto focus, and when you pair it with an STM lens, it's going to give you quieter, smoother focusing.

Both LCD screens offer touch panel functionality with the menu system and controls, making it easy to review and magnify images. A touch shutter on both models lets you pinpoint where you want to focus and take a picture using your finger. Or you can disable the touch panel completely and just use the buttons on the camera.

"The key thing is that Canon is still promotiong DSLR shooting capabilities," Thomas said. "We understand how important it is to shoot with a viewfinder and the controls that you have, that you're not going to get when shooting with an LCD screen. So we're continuing that legacy."

Essentially, if you're looking for faster speed, an all-crosstype auto focus, and a variable angle LCD, the T5i is likely the best choice. If you're looking for a small, lightweight camera that stresses usability and low-light performance, or are upgrading from a fixed lens point and shoot or camera phone, you are in the SL1 target market.

PowerShot SX280 HS

With a long zoom housed in a compact body, Canon's updated PowerShot goes lens to screen in direct competition with smart phone cameras. The PowerShot SX280 HS is Canon's first entré into the Wi-Fi space for the Facebook set. Paired with a free Canon CameraWindow app for iOS or Android, you can connect this camera to smart phones and tablets for the wireless transfer of photos and videos to your device and to wireless printers. You can also connect directly to social networking sites and to Canon's Image Gateway.

The SX280 HS has a spec sheet that closely resembles its predecessor, the SX260 HS. At 4.19 by 2.40 by 1.28 inches at 8.22 oounces, this new model features a 12-megapixel sensor, an ISO range from 80-6400, a 20X optical zoom (25 to 500mm at F3.5 to F6.8), and built-in GPS. Sensor size is 1/2.3 inches. The Hybrid AF and Eco mode help with focus and battery life conservation. A brand-new Digic 6 processor gives the SX280 HS enhanced noise supression in low light.

For the first time in a PowerShot the video shooting format will be MP4 as opposed to MOV. Canon says that will offer significant improvement in image quality, making available 30p and 60p recording. With its predecessor, you were limited to 24p recording, so you'll be better able to capture more frames and fast action.

With the new Digic 6 processor--made for the point and shoots--auto focusing speed as  is 54 percent faster and shooting speed is 57 percent faster than previous models. When shooting in high-speed burst HQ mode, (continuous shooting in high resolution) the camera shoots at 12 megapixels and you can now capture 14 frames per second.

The new PowerShot SX280 HS will be available in April for $330.


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