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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!






Are these pictures taken in JPEG or RAW. If JPEG set the quality to large. I recommend shooting in the RAW format. Along with using Canon's free editing software. Called Canon DPP or Digital Photo Professional. A RAW File is not viewable alone. It must be converted to JPEG or some other format to be viewable. I also recommend resetting the camera back to factory default. Including custom functions they're NOT reset when you do a factory reset.


Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

It was set to JPG, as I do not know what the RAW format is and what it does.

I see in the settings that it gives a choice for RAW only, or RAW/JPG. Advantages or disadvantages to either?

RAW takes the image straight from the image sensor without any kind of processing. Your camera has to do work to convert the image from RAW to JPEG. If the camera is set to JPEG. Which means you are more limited to edit your photos. With a RAW File you can do as much editing as you can and not ruin the picture. This is because it's the raw image from the image sensor without any kind of processing.


Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D

I personally use RAW+JPEG (but a note on that below).  Gives best of both worlds where you have the original image data (RAW) with maximum flexibility to edit.  Along with a JPEG image in case you need to share your photos immediately after an event.

RAW+JPEG can lead to slowdowns, especially for cameras with only a single card slot.  Since the camera needs to save two files and a single card can only write so fast.   So if you're planning on using continuous shooting often, your best bet is just to choose one format (RAW would definitely have my highest recommendation).  Though if your SD card is slow and you really need to maximize continuous shooting, you may need to switch to JPEG (smaller files so the card can keep up better when having to save all those images).

One final note on RAW... it requires software to view (e.g. Canon's own DPP or Adobe Lightroom to name a couple).

For my setup, I use Adobe Lightroom to manage all my photos and to perform any basic edits to the RAW images.  The edits though are not saved to the file, so you always have the original RAW image.   You can then output from Lightroom, DPP, etc to say JPEG for sharing to others, putting up on a web site, etc.   For more complicated edits, I rely upon Photoshop.  Same workflow though; RAW file stays unchanged and when done with the editing, I now export to JPEG for publishing.


Camera: EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L
Lighting: Profoto Lights & Modifiers

Not applicable

I think photos 2 and 3 need more contrast in the image. In the camera is a Picture Style menu where you can customize image settings such as contrast. The same corrections can be applied with a photo editor out of camera. But if you are trying to make a better out of camera photo, the Picture Style menu is the place to start.

I have many hundreds of shots that are very similar in quality to these 2. Even with editing, they are unacceptable to me most times. I have not, however, used any of the Picture Style menu choices that you mentioned. These may be what is holding me back, along with changing from JPG to RAW format.

These are the things that are all new to me, things that aren't a part of good 'ol film photography 😊

Thank you!



Hello, MotoArts, and welcome to the Forum!

"I haven't ruled out the "need" for a more professional, more advanced, newer body to get what I'm looking for."

And that may well be your best option. To be honest, I am not surprised at the IQ of your images given the lenses you are using. The shots aren't terrible, but could be better with more capable glass. The SL1 is a bit long in the tooth, but still capable. The EF 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS STM is a fairly capable lens, but the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 is probably, IMHO, one of Canons worse. It is the 1st iteration of that series (I think) and lacks IS, but that isn't all that makes it undesirable (I won't go into all that). I also noticed that in 2 of the 3 images that you shared, the focus point is at the bottom of the AF point array and the EXIF data suggests that you manually placed it there. I would suggest that you use the center point. I would also up the shutter speed which may mean upping the ISO as well to maintain your desired aperture. All of your examples were at 1/60th, that's pretty slow and probably added to the softness of the shots.

Screen shots from DPP 4 to show your active focus points, the red rectangles.

SL1 Focus Point-1.jpgSL1 Focus Point-2.jpg

I would strongly suggest looking at some of the newer R series cameras and RF glass. But if you aren't ready to do that, I would at least take a look at the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM II ($599 U.S.), it should work well with the SL1. You can also work on your focus technique, maybe switch to one point without servo. I would also start using Raw and download Canons free Digital Photo Professional to spiff up your shots. All three examples you've posted could have been made a lot better using it, maybe not focus, but sharpening, saturation, color tones, contrast. All of this can be adjusted in camera styles, as mentioned by 5DIV, but you have more control in post editing, AND, it's quite satisfying and enjoyable messing with it and bringing some life into your photos 🙂


EOS R5, R6, R6II. RF 15-35 f/2.8L, 50mm f/1.2L, 85mm f/1.2L, 100mm f/2.8L Macro, 100-400mm, 100-500mm L, 1.4X.

Thank you for the welcome!

Over the years of dabbling with this camera, most all of the out-of-camera shots that have irked me have come from the longer lens. Not all, but probably 90+%. Being the digital noob, I just kind of assumed that this setup would yield out of the box shots to knock your socks off. Been up and down the standard "film" settings, AV, TV, M, P... and all yield the same flat, odd contrast and color. Focus, to me, isn't much the issue. Tried that manually, too. For these submitted shots, I chose the 1/60 TV to retain the camera choosing a high f/stop, considering the subject of the day. Have tried the other way as well, same result... so I kinda ruled out focus an/or DoF as the thorn in my side.

A note regarding the red squares also. If I changed it somewhere along the line, I don't see how to change it back in the settings.

I do notice consistently soft overall pics with the 75-300 vs the little guy. 

I'd really like to explore and exhaust the capabilities of this body and/or lenses. My worries of the 75-300 lens being an issue may be true, along with basic training on digital equipment. If I can't truly get what I need, then I'll move on. Knowing that my cellphone takes WAY higher quality shots out of the gate that require literally zero editing irks the daylights out of me!

Yes it is true. All of Canon's EF 75-300mm lineup is if low quality. They were all soft and had okay AF. Most lack IS or Ring Type USM AF Motors. If you're looking to replace that lens. Look in to the EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 IS II USM lens. 


Current Gear: EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm F/2.8L USM, EF 24-70mm F/2.8L USM, EF 70-200mm F/2.8L IS III USM, EF 50mm F/1.8 STM, EF 85mm F/1.8 USM, 470EX-AI & 600EX II-RT

Retired Gear: EOS 40D