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Rebel SL1 image quality issues


Since receiving my Rebel kit for Christmas when it came out years ago, I have been rather unimpressed with its still image quality. Generally speaking, all shots appear to be out of focus along with random color saturation issues. Admittedly, my knowledge of DSLR is very miniscule, having only shot 35mm (an A-1 purchased new in the 80's, LOL) and medium format many years ago. I enjoy motorsports photography mainly, but use this camera for standard family snapshots where quality isn't front and center to me.
I've dabbled only a little in the quest to clean up the (what I'll call latent) images with settings in the camera body, but have had little to no luck.
I next to never use it for video.

Images are not short or long focused. They can be somewhat cleaned up with a photo editor, but seemingly every one needs done and have never had an image that totally impressed me even afterwards. Same/similar results come from either the 18-55 and 75-300 Canon brand lenses, although the short one is generally better. I believe that I did not edit either of the 2 bottom pics shown that were taken with the long lens. Top one may have been edited, short lens used along with a little bit of fill flash. All 3 pics were shot ISO 100, 1/60sec. shutter priority. I've tried all of the basics carried over from my A-1 days... program, shutter priority, aperture priority, full manual exposure, manual focus, ISO change... no discernible difference. Sharpness, color balance, brightness and contrast are issues.

My guess is that I'm missing something in basic setup of the body. I understand focal speak, but the electronic part has me lost.
Is there a software update available?
I haven't ruled out the "need" for a more professional, more advanced, newer body to get what I'm looking for.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!






Like you, I started my photography with the Canon A-1 and Nikon F3, bodies.  In some ways I still shoot with techniques that served me well.  Given you said you are not familiar with some of the digital aspects of photography, I hope you will consider some points that may improve things for you.

By default, focus systems use a matrix of points, and the camera tends to focus on the one that finds something closest to your camera.  The problem with that is that it might now work for what you really want to focus on, or even cover your range of subjects if you are using an open aperture, rendering a shallower Depth of Field (DoF).

So, here is how I have set up my systems for the thick end of 20 years, and for me, this has worked well for all formats of photography but wildlife in particular.

I use a single point of focus, which I have set to the centre of the camera.  I then disable the shutter button from enabling focus, this leaves the AF button on the back to set focus - this is called Back Button focus and for many photographers (but not all) is a game changer because it allows one to separate the focusing from the shutter actuation.  I also set the focus system to Servo.  I then set single point metering in the centre and assign that to the * button on the back of the camera.

For lots of info on BBF, see this link and watch some videos:
(5) back button focus - YouTube

This is how it works.  I find my subject, to which I point the centre of the camera and tap the rear AF button - if I tap it then focus will lock but not change, but if I continue to press it, the focus will follow the object I selected.  I then find something that has a mid-tone in the light range and tap the * button to lock exposure, I then compose my image and press the shutter button, to get the image.  It takes a while to get used to, but once it becomes familiar it is very fast and extremely precise.

IF you decide to stick with your current camera:
I also agree with Newton - the EF75-300 range of optics IMHO, is pretty dismal - all of them.  So, for general purposes I would recommend the following:

For a lower investment:

If you want to use just one lens most of the time, or even to replace the 18-55, then the 18-135 STM or USM lens is a great choice.  It will offer much more range without having to change lenses, but can be used well to complement the EF 70-300 that Newton and I both respect.  For more reach, the EF 70-300 IS USM MkII - a brilliant optic, with good build, and stabilization.  I did an analysis of the selection of the various versions of this (sans the very expensive DO version), which you can reference here: 70-300 Canon Lenses In-Depth Analysis - Canon Community

If you keep the 18-55 lens, the EF-S 55-250 IS STM lens is an excellent optic that is cheap and has image stabilization - something you definitely want in a telephoto lens.

If you change your camera:
Since we don't know your budget, it is challenging to be too definitive in suggesting a replacement overall, however, I would recommend considering the following for your purposes.

The RF 8 is a full-frame camera that has the same sensor as the much higher-end R6MKII camera, and features like subject tracking, eye tracking and a lot of other features.  You need to do your own homework and research what features work for you - we can suggest what we think, but you're making the investment.

A single optic to go with that would be the RF 24-240 IS USM.  I have a fair bit of expensive L series glass, but loving using this super zoom lens for its flexibility - really for many situations, it's all I need.


cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris


In a previous replay you mentioned that you come from the film world, and that you are not familiar with digital photography.  Digital photography was designed to emulate the film photography experience.

Your camera can save digital images that it captures in one of two formats RAW or JPG.  The JPG file is a standard format that was created before the rise of digital cameras.  The RAW file format is unique to each camera manufacturer.  

A RAW file is the digital equivalent of film negative.  A JPG file is the digital equivalent of a film print, similar to what would a Kodak Instamatic might eject, which would develop in a minute or two.  

This difference between JPG and RAW files is crucial to understanding post process of a digital image.  You can do a LOT with a film negative (RAW) in a darkroom to create a hard copy print (JPG).  

You were very limited in what you do with a hard copy print to improve the image quality.  Working with digital images is not all that different.  You have many available options when working with a RAW to create a digital JPG.  Your options are very limited when working with a JPG to create a cleaner or shaper looking JPG.

I suggest that you set your camera to save as RAW+JPG until you become more familiar with working with RAW files and converting them to JPG files using an app like Canon’s Digital Photo Professional 4.

If you want to take a deep dive into learning digital photography, then I suggest that you set the top dial to P mode.  Once set, find the menu item that resets the camera back to factory defaults.  You want to begin with all the camera settings in a known state.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

At first glance there are two sore thumbs that stand out in your sample photos.  If your shutter speed is 1/100 or slower, then that could explain your soft images.  The other issue is what others have pointed out, the EF 75-300mm is not Canon’s best effort.  But with careful planning you can still capture good images with the lens.

"The right mouse button is your friend."

Thanks Waddizzle, I do believe my next step will be to do just that, a reset with change to RAW/JPG.

I'll keep the lens issue in mind as I proceed, too. Hopefully I can get in some situations where I can swap both lenses and compare back to back in RAW. I really do like the general handling of this whole setup and would love to see it work out.


While there is room for improvement in the camera itself, the biggest issues are the lenses you got in kit with it.

For better image quality... replace that EF 75-300 III. Both EF-S 55-250mm IS STM and EF 70-300mm IS USM II have been recommended and would be good choices (actually any of the Canon 70-300mm with IS and USM would help, if you shop used). I also recommend you get the matched lens hood for whatever lens you choose. That will help with flare (as seen in one of your images).

You mention sports photography, which can require fast focusing with responsive cameras and lenses. Faster frame rates help, too, but I would say are less necessary than higher performance autofocus. There are three primary types of AF drive in Canon lenses. The EF 75-300mm you have uses the slowest (and noisiest) which is called "micro motor". You can tell this type by the lack of either "STM" or "USM" markings on the lens. Those are the other two types of autofocus drive. STM is "stepper motor" and is faster, quieter and smoother than micro motor. USM is "ultrasonic motor" and is the fastest, but not the quietest type. The only lens that I know of that's been offered with all three is the EF-S 18-135mm. The first version used a micro motor. It was revised optically and got upgraded to STM. I don't know how much this improved focus performance. But still later it was upgraded again to USM (appears to use the same optics) and Canon claimed that made it 2X to 4X faster focusing than the STM version. 

Actually the EF-S 18-135mm IS USM was the first lens to get a new version called "Nano" USM. This is both fast like USM and quiet like STM... best of both worlds! Most higher performance lenses that followed use Nano USM (including the EF 70-300mm IS USM "II").

Of course, another part of the AF performance equation is the camera.... The SL1 (also called an EOS 100D) is pretty basic in that respect. It's 9-point AF system dates back to the early days of digital. It shares this with Canon's even more entry-level models. In this system, only the center point is a higher performance "dual axis" type. To get the best out of the camera shooting active sports, restrict it to use only that center AF point. (Also set the AF to "AI Servo" and maybe consider using "back button focusing".) 

Of course, for stationary subjects all this is less of a concern. You are probably less likely to use the EF-S 18-55mm for action photography, so may not need to upgrade that lens. Its image quality is probably more consistent than the telephoto zoom's. (There have been a bunch of different versions of 18-55mm... most seem pretty good optically.)


Alan Myers
San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7DII (x2), 7D(x2), EOS M5, some other cameras, various lenses & accessories