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In the Field with the Canon Rebel SL1


Canon Rebel SL1

This review is purely written subjectively. Here you will find no photographs of walls, stuffed animals, or ISO charts. I will not hit every feature of the camera, there are plenty of other sites dedicated to technical reviews. By writing this, I hope to answer any questions or concerns regarding using the Canon Rebel SL1 in the field that you might have.

A snail shell rests on the leaves of the forest foliage at Schramm State Recreation Area.

Why did I purchase the Canon SL1?

I currently own a Canon 5D, a Canon 5D Mark II, a Canon 50D, and a Canon G10. Because of it’s full frame high megapixel sensor, I currently use my 5D Mark II as my scenic landscape and close-up nature camera. Because of its frames per second and crop, I utilize the 50D for my wildlife photography. The G10 is my walk-around and movie capture camera. The SL1 is a crop sensor with 18 megapixels so the photo quality will not best the Mark II. The fps and buffer is worse than the 50D so my potential of missing a great wildlife shot is higher. It’s bigger than the G10, not really by much, unless you’ve got a big lens on it. So, where does the Canon Rebel SL1 fit? Simple, I needed something with a decently high resolution, something with what I could capture images with high enough quality that I could sell, but at the same time as small and light as possible. For sometime, I’ve been looking for a camera that I could grab at moments notice, in an unassuming kit to grab some images. When I go to the College World Series, for instance, those cameras stand out way too much, and are big to lug around. When I hike in the backcountry of Colorado for days on end, losing weight in the pack is essential and I hate leaving the wrong lens behind. The SL1 is the perfect balance of weight and picture quality.

How is the capture experience?

Once I received my SL1, I decided to take it out and photograph subjects that I would have normally captured, nature and wildlife images. I loaded it up with my 50 mm macro lens and my 500 f/4 and headed out to Schramm State Recreation Area to see how it would perform.

Two goslings huddle together as a third keeps watch at Schramm State Recreation Area in eastern Nebraska.

During this time of the year at Schramm, the flowers are blooming and goslings are waddling around the ponds. For most shots you can get close enough to the goslings without bothering the parents with just a 300mm. On this day I went all out with my 500 f4/l and walked around without a tripod or monopod. At first it was different getting used to having the only a little more than weight of the lens, but I found the reduction surprisingly nice. With less weight I felt I was able to move around easier to get low and get some shots of them. In this case I hit the limit of 4 fps quickly, but the buffer emptied in enough time to not cause me too much pain.

A blue heron stands silently at Schramm State Recreation Area in eastern Nebraska.

After working with my fuzzy, young subjects for a while, I saw a heron had come to visit the ponds. Quietly, I moved a bit closer. This made him a bit nervous and he would take off and fly to the other side of the ponds. When he took off, I tried multiple times to capture him in flight. Here, one limitation of the camera affected my ability to get a good flight shot – the viewfinder size. The SL1′s viewfinder is small, especially in comparison to a 5D Mark II and it makes tracking moving subjects more difficult. I’m sure it’s something I can adjust to a degree, but it is a disadvantage. I also reached the buffer on the shots and it just would not empty fast enough. Of course, this isn’t a 1D Mark X or even a 50D so I didn’t expect that, but I still wanted to see how it would handle this real-world situation.

A row of redish bleeding hearts grow outside the museum at Schramm State Recreation Area.

Lastly, I moved on to the blooming flowers, bleeding hearts and columbine. For these images, I mated Canon’s newest camera to Canon’s oldest EF lens, the 50 CM. The autofocus on the 50 CM isn’t the best, scratch that, it’s terrible, but on the SL1 it seemed to perform well on the static subjects, almost better than on my 50D.

How is the picture quality?

Of course, everything hangs on the picture quality. On these images, I didn’t really push the ISO and I didn’t really test the dynamic range, but from my experience the picture quality on these images was top notch. I was impressed by the sharpness and color fidelity. I had always hoped that my G10 would be my compact image capture device, but I never felt the quality was there, especially above ISO 200. On the Rebel SL1 I used ISO 200 to 800 and could barely tell a difference. I did not test the JPG as I never use JPGs and am a firm believer that once the basics of photography are mastered that is the first thing that should change in a workflow.

How was the movie capture?

One of my defined primary uses of the SL1 was to capture HD movies, mainly home movies. The G10 was solely standard definition and although I could get movies with the 5D Mark II, I found that it was a bit bulky to carry to my daughters’ events. The SL1 fits nicely into a small bag and allows me to get the quality video I want without going gear overboard. I am mainly a stills guy, but I feel like the quality of video is high and has a lot of potential. Filmmakers will be a little more discerning in this area, but it was a big step up for me from my G10 for sure.

What are the negatives?

The downsides I ran into when using the SL1 are the buffer, which I expected, the small viewfinder, the lack of AF micro adjustment, and the lack of ISO choices. I’ve heard you don’t need the AF micro adjustment when using contrast AF, which is fine, except when photographing moving subjects, then it’s too slow and traditional AF is what you need making this a negative for me. Also, although I don’t use the incremental ISOs much I sometimes choose them when I need just a little more speed without going to the next full ISO.

What are the positives?

Since I’ve only used Canon cameras that had a quickdial, the interface on the Rebel SL1 was a little different for me. Once I realized the capability of the SL1′s touchscreen, I was sold. To be honest, when I first read about it, I thought it was a novelty and wouldn’t really change how I use the camera, but I was wrong. I loved being able to quickly choose my settings or pinch-zoom my photographs to quickly check for sharpness. So much so that I would look for the feature on any new camera I purchase. Lastly, I like the range I can compensate for exposure. On my previous cameras, I could only go down or up 2 stops, on this camera I can move 5 stops in any direction, although bracketing is still limited to 2 stops.

A singular Columbine grows in the shade of a tree at Schramm State Recreation Area.

Do I recommend the camera?

If you’re a novice, this camera has everything you would need and more from. If you are a professional looking for the lightest weight camera with the highest quality image files, this is the camera for you. The SL1 will not replace my other cameras, it is only meant to compliment them when I need a small, light kit. Using this camera is a joy and I look forward to seeing what can be done with the Canon Rebel SL1.

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While growing up, Derrald’s parents took him on several trips across the United States to numerous national parks. It was on these trips that Derrald grew a love for the outdoors which we wished to explore and share with others. Photography was a natural result, an endeavor that Derrald began at a young age and continued to explore in years to come.

While pursuing a Bachelors degree at Creighton University, he enrolled in all of the photography courses. With these courses he learned the fundamentals of chemical darkrooms, light, balance, and exposure. After college he continued to explore the art and develop his own technique and style and choose to focus on nature and scenic photography as his primary subjects, although he is not hesitant to point the lens at anything.

Amongst the images of majestic mountains and the crashing waves of the ocean, one can find photographs of the prairies, lakes, and wetlands of the American Great Plains and Midwest. Some of these images are the artist’s favorites as they show the expansive heartland of the United States and the subtle beauty of the area surrounding his home. Through the right balance of subject, composition, and light, Derrald strives to transport the viewer into the composition.

Derrald has won numerous awards and exhibited in several solo and group shows regionally. His work has also appeared in several regional and national magazines, calendars, websites, and postcards. He continues to live and work in Omaha with his family.

Visit Derrald’s website Journey Of Light Photography to read his other articles.   His images may be ordered from his store at

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Photographing a Waterfall in a Flash Flood: A Lesson in Visualization

Flash Flood in Entrajo Canyon, Utah

Several years ago, even before we moved to Moab, I discovered a little side canyon while exploring one of the many four-wheel drive roads in the area.  As I do with all locations I stumble across that have photographic potential I made a mental note and went on my way.  A few weeks ago I returned to the canyon to determine if it still held the potential I remembered from my first visit.  While there I couldn’t help but imagine a torrent of water pouring over the cliff and landing in the pool in a great swirl of mist.   I knew it would only take one good thunderstorm to produce the flash flood that would make it all happen.  This being monsoon season in the desert, I didn’t have to wait long for rain to fall.

On Friday my family and I decided to visit the canyon to see if the recent bout of precipitation was enough to kick start the waterfall.  We arrived in a light sprinkle and I was disappointed to find a dryfall where I’d expected to see the falls.  We stuck around for a while, I threw rocks in the pool with my son and we left to drive down the road to the creek.  Less than ten minutes later we returned to the little canyon.  As we approached I heard the distinctive roar of a powerful waterfall emanating from the canyon.  At the wash I caught my first glimpse of the red, muddy water quickly filling the pool and then rushing toward us – a formidable creek appearing where seconds earlier there had been a dry wash.  I whipped out my iPhone 4S and recorded about 30 seconds of video as the water approached and then passed directly under our vehicle.

Waterfall in Entrajo Canyon II, UtahI parked on the other side of the knee deep creek and started scouting for a way to get back to the waterfall that didn’t involve crossing the flooded wash.  There wasn’t one.  I decided that if I wanted an opportunity to make the photos I’d visualized I would have to cross the wash not once, but twice.  The water wasn’t deep and the wash was wide enough that the flow wasn’t dangerously swift.  I crossed with ease and walked up stream to the second crossing.  This one was narrower, which meant the water was deeper and with a stronger current.  I entered the stream and found myself knee deep at the mid-point.  At the other side I was excited to discover that I had a splendid view of the waterfall!  I set up my tripod and went to work making images for half an hour from beside and in the middle of the flooded wash.

Though I certainly don’t advocate standing in the middle of a flooded wash, the lesson here is simple:  Keep an open mind and think creatively when you’re out exploring.  You never know what photographic wonders you might discover!

If you’re interested in watching a 30 second clip of the waterfall and resultant floodwater here’s a link to it on YouTube.  It’s just a handheld video on my iPhone 4s with no editing but still it depicts some interesting weather phenomenon.

Equipment Used: Canon 5D MKII, Canon 24-105mm lens, Induro CT213 tripod, Acratech GP ballhead, Singh-Ray Ultrathin Circular Polarizer, Adobe Lightroom 4, Nik Software Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 4.

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bret edge

 Bret Edge is a nature and adventure photographer in Moab, Utah. His interest in photography evolved as an extension of his life long passion for the outdoors. He is an avid hiker, backpacker, mountain biker and canyoneer. A visit in 1999 to an exhibit featuring photographs by Ansel Adams, Jack Dykinga and David Muench stoked Bret’s creative fire such that he immediately purchased his first SLR camera, a Canon Rebel. In the years since, he has traveled extensively throughout the American West creating a diverse portfolio of dynamic images.

Bret’s work has appeared in magazines, calendars, travel guides and advertising campaigns. His clients include Backpacker magazine, Popular Photography, the Utah Office of Tourism, Charles Schwab & Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.

While Bret enjoys seeing his work in print, he receives the most satisfaction by helping others realize their potential as photographers. He accomplishes this by leading several group workshops each year and guiding photographers on private photo excursions. For information about his workshops and guided excursions, visit To view a collection of Bret’s images, visit  Bret lives in Moab with his wife, Melissa, their son Jackson, and two All-Terrain Pugs named Bierstadt and Petunia.


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Japanese Macaque 3

Japanese Macaque

A little over one week ago, I returned from co-leading my Japan Wildlife Photography Tour and have been busy editing my images. This is one of my favorites of a Japanese macaque, also known as a snow monkey, taken at Jigokudani Monkey Park near Nagano. We spent 3 days photographing the monkeys at the famous hot springs where they enjoy soaking in the man-made hot tub. It was a beautiful experience to spend so much time so close to these photogenic animals, but it was definitely not a remote, wildernessexperience like I am used to. Fresh snow would have enhanced the photography, but none fell during our visit. So, I spent my time observing and waiting for something interesting to happen. This female was one of the only macaques that dipped her head below the water’s surface while swimming in the pool. When she popped back up, she had this crazy hair dew which I found very compelling to photograph. I created this image with my Canon 5DmkIII and 300mm f2.8 IS II lens with a 1.4X Tele-Converter III. I processed the RAW file using Aperture 3, Photoshop CS6, and Nik Software’s Color Efex 4‘s White Neutralizer filter.

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Jon Cornforth photographing surf on the North Shore of OahuJon Cornforth is an award-winning wilderness photographer whose images have been recognized internationally for their masterful composition and incredible detail. He’s compelled to express the beauty of the natural world through his photography, traveling all year, challenging himself in new locations and documenting the unique creatures who live there. All of his images are captured in the wild. He believes in supporting environmental groups and raising awareness through photography. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, Daisy, daughters, Maddy and Chloe, and Boston terrier, Buni.

Click here to visit Jon’s website. 

Cornforth Images are copyright protected. Cornforth Images are available to be licensed for a fee and can not be used without permission. 



Posted in: Nature Photography

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