The Best DSLR Camera for Traveling: The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (100D)

The Best DSLR Camera for Traveling: The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (100D)

Photographing on Ios, Greece. Photo credit: The Mochilera Diaries

My passion for photography started when I was a teenager. And despite the fact that much of my college years were spent inside lecture halls rather than darkrooms, my interest in photography has extended into my adult life and my travels.

Now, photographing the world around me is one of my favorite things to do, and one of the most common questions I receive is about the camera gear that I’m shooting with, and what I think is the best camera for traveling.

Despite what many people think, I’m not using a top-of-the-line, professional camera that costs $2,000, or even half that. The body of my camera actually costs less than a quarter of that price.


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Because I travel so often, I’ve had to find a way to balance the quality of my equipment with size. As someone who travels a lot, the oftentimes bulky equipment that so many people travel with just doesn’t make sense for me.

And for some reason, I see so many people walking around with expensive, unwieldy camera equipment that they don’t know how to use. Here’s the deal: unless you’re a professional photographer, it’s entirely unnecessary to spend all that extra money on a big, shiny camera.

Spending more doesn’t mean you’re getting better quality images—it just means you’re getting more advanced features. And unless your skill level has developed beyond the technical capabilities of your camera, there’s no need to spend more for the sake of these top-of-the-line features.

The Church of St. John at Kaneo. Ohrid, Macedonia.

The Church of St. John at Kaneo. Ohrid, Macedonia.

With all of this in mind, I set out to find the best camera equipment I could, at the best size and price. Sure, mirrorless cameras are one way to go, but they’re also much more expensive.

My research brought me to the conclusion that the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (also known as the 100D in the UK) is the best DSLR camera for traveling. It’s the same size as a mirrorless (maybe even smaller) and it’s very affordable. I’ve been shooting with it for nine full months, and I couldn’t be happier.

Every photo in this article was taken with the SL1.

Bedouin Camp, Petra, Jordan.

Nighttime long exposure at a Bedouin camp outside of Petra, Jordan.

How Big is the Canon EOS Rebel SL1?

There are multiple factors to consider when purchasing a camera for traveling, but the most important to me is the size. I travel carry-on only everywhere I go, and I’ve been able to do so partially by keeping the size of my camera gear to a minimum.

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR camera. It’s 4.6 inches wide, 3.57 inches tall, and has a depth of 2.74 inches, excluding the lens.

To put this into perspective, it’s about as wide as an iPhone 4 is tall, and it’s about as tall as a cigarette lighter. This comes together to form a camera that is both extremely small and has a wide range of functionality.

And let’s not forget get that body of this camera weighs just 14 oz (less than a pound).

What are the Most Important Features?

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 boasts an 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 5 Image processor. There’s a 3” touchscreen LCD on the back for shooting or previewing, and it records full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second (fps).

In layman’s terms, it has a sensor and an image processor which are both of excellent quality, with many other features that will rival any other professional camera on the market.

In fact, this camera is exactly the same as the famed Rebel T5i, with a few modifications to make it smaller. It doesn’t have WiFi or a flip-screen and it does have a slightly slower shooting speed.

Unless these are features that you absolutely need, there’s no reason not to pick the SL1. Oh, did I mention how small it is?

Full list of features:

  • 18 MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 5 Image Processor
  • 3.0″ 1.04m-Dot Clear View II Touchscreen
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps
  • 9-Point AF and Hybrid CMOS AF II

  • Native ISO 12800, Extended to ISO 25600
  • 4 fps Shooting for 28 JPEG, 7 Raw Files
  • 63-Zone Dual-Layer Metering System
  • Scene Intelligent Auto Mode
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

Visit the Canon product page for more information.

The Crop Frame vs. Full Frame Sensor Debate

One thing that people often debate over, especially in the travel photography field, is whether to use a camera with a crop frame sensor or a full frame sensor (the EOS Rebel SL1 has a crop frame sensor). Despite this debate, the answer to “which is better?” is very simple: neither one. They’re different.

A full frame camera has a 35mm digital sensor, which is the size which has been accepted as the standard gauge of film since 1909, mostly due to its balance in cost and image quality. In the digital age, there is no particular reason why a full frame sensor is better or worse than a crop frame.

Prague, Czech Republic.

View from the top of the Charles Bridge Tower in Prague, Czech Republic.

A crop frame sensor is smaller than 35mm. This essentially crops the edges of the picture from the field of view and slightly zooms in on your image. So with a full frame sensor you have a wider field of view, and a crop frame sensor effectively increases your focal length.

If you’re a professional photographer, there are very specific reasons why it might be beneficial to use a full frame or crop frame in various shooting settings. However, for most people, the difference is trivial. I consider myself a semi-professional photographer, and I’ve been shooting with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1, which is a crop frame.

Frankly, if you have the right lenses, it’s not going to matter.

It’s also worth noting that full frame sensors are a whole lot more expensive, which is part of the reason why the crop frame Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is such a great deal.

Vieques Sunset

Sunset on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

How Much Does it Cost?

Especially given the number of features, this camera might be one of the best-priced pieces of photography gear I’ve come across. It’s extremely affordable, and retails for $700 USD.

However, on Amazon, you can buy the full camera kit (body, 18-55mm lens, and accessories) for $500.

If that’s not a bargain, I don’t know what is. Plus, at this price, you’ll be able to put your extra dollars toward the thing you’ve actually been saving for: travel!

BUY IT NOW

My Favorite Lenses

No travel photographer’s kit is complete without extra lenses. In fact, the lens usually makes more difference than the body. The standard 18-55mm lens that comes with the SL1 is wonderful and versatile, but if you want to take your photos to the next level, here’s what I recommend.

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II Ultra Wide Angle Lens

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX IIEspecially for shooting landscapes, a wide angle lens is a requirement for any travel photographer’s kit. The Tokina 11-16mm UWA is my favorite lens, and I never leave home without it. It’s made specifically for crop frame cameras, and it’s an absolute must for shooting large, panoramic vistas.

I had also considered the Canon 10-22mm, but that lens is an f/3.5, meaning it doesn’t do as well in low light. This is something I wasn’t willing to sacrifice. Tokina is a great brand, the lens is built extremely well (no plastic mount!), and it’s very, very crisp.

Especially for the price (about $435 USD, marked down from $1,360 retail), this wide angle lens simply can’t be beat.

BUY IT NOW

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Fixed Focal Length Lens

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 IIThe crisp quality of a fixed length lens is remarkable; the Canon EF 50mm is particularly great for street photography and portraits of people. Commonly referred to as the “nifty fifty,” it has become favored by photographers all over the world due to the quality to price ratio.

The lens has a plastic body and is very lightweight, so it’s not exactly durable. But it’s only $110 USD and the photo quality is surprisingly amazing. It’s also so small that, when attached to the SL1, the whole setup feels like a point-and-shoot. I’ve traveled with this lens for almost a year and I absolutely love it.

In fact, I’ve used this lens to take some of my favorite photos, like the one below.

BUY IT NOW

Banana lady in Quito, Ecuador.

Banana lady in Quito, Ecuador. Shot with 50mm lens.

Final Takeaway on the Canon EOS Rebel SL1

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 isn’t a top-of-the-line camera, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s very small, takes high quality photos, and is extremely affordable. Given the size to quality to price ratio, the Rebel SL1 is definitely the best DSLR camera for traveling.

You can see from my photos that many shots taken with this camera rival any other professional camera. I use Adobe Lightroom to post-process all of my photos, and I’ll talk more about this in a future article, but if you’re looking for a camera to take with you on your next trip, I don’t think you could pick a better one than this.


READ NEXT: 11 Tips to Make Planning Your Travels a Million Times Easier

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38 Responses to The Best DSLR Camera for Traveling: The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (100D)

  1. Rhyme June 14, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    Interesting reading. Im just wondering why are you not using some zoom lens like 55-200 or something like that?

  2. Anna Marie May 17, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    Thanks, this is very helpful. I have a camera that’s just too bulky and end up leaving it home and using my phone. I’m looking for something that’s small enough to travel with but takes good pictures too.

  3. Nikhil March 14, 2017 at 4:01 am #

    What about NIKON D5600 … Please share your views

  4. Cameo March 5, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    Awesome! I really enjoyed this post and your fantastic photos! Wow, so beautiful. Thanks for the great info – I’m traveling to Costa Rica in August and need a nice, smaller camera than the DSLR I have currently. I think this could be one! Gracias!

    Cheers,
    Cameo

    • Jeremy Scott Foster March 16, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

      I love this camera especially for its size. I hope it works out for you!

  5. Linda Stansberry November 17, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    My husband is and airline pilot and I’m a pro photographer. I lugged my 2nd camera (a heavy 6D with batter grip & 24-105 lens) to Ireland and it about killed me. I knew there had to be a better way! I’m so glad I found this article!! Great info!! I did my own comp btwn the Rebel T6 and this and this looks like a far better camera. What really sold me is that I can us my EF lenses!! YAY! I have a fish eye, but like your review on the Tokia wide angle too, plan to pick one up as well.

  6. Andre November 12, 2016 at 10:59 pm #

    I gotta say, this was a super helpful post. It’s so hard to get some real, helpful recommendations on cameras and lens, without the helpful comparative insight . Everything is typically either super neutral, or super biased. Thanks for putting this together. I’m set to get the SL1 for our honeymoon to New Zealand.

    • Jeremy Scott Foster November 13, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

      Happy to hear it helped, Andre! I love this camera, and know you will too!

  7. Adira July 16, 2016 at 1:15 am #

    This is a really helpful article on a subject for which there is little concrete matter out there. What are your thoughts on the 18-200 MM lens to go with the Canon Rebel as an all-purpose lens? Thanks!

  8. Debbie Brooks-Dabney June 11, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

    I completely agree with your recommending the Canon SL1. What an incredible camera! I travel a LOT,….and capturing those moments are important to me. This camera has it all,….small, lightweight, beautiful photos. The perfect camera for a traveler!

  9. Ooty Tour Packages May 16, 2016 at 4:05 am #

    Thanks for the great advice.

  10. Amanda Williams October 16, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Thanks so much for this post. I bought the 100D (I’m in Europe) after reading this post and I love it! Great recommendation.

    • Jeremy Scott Foster October 24, 2015 at 6:19 am #

      Fantastic! Have fun with it. I definitely think it’s the best camera for traveling 🙂

  11. Jewel September 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    I just started using the SL1 and I have to agree–it is FABULOUS for traveling!

  12. Alan September 14, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

    I think i will buy this camera for my future trip to zanzibar in december. Great post.

  13. Joel September 10, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    First, great article! I have the new version of the nifty fifty and it’s my go to lens for portrait pics. It is amazingly sharp and has a great bokeh, plus light to carry. My wife and I carry a T2i (our first DSLR) and a 7dM2. I mainly use the 50mm on the T2i and the pics come out awesome.

    Good recommendation on the wide angle. I have Canon’s 10-18/4.5-5.6,though it’s much slower that your Tokina’s. I use a tripod if shooting at night.

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 17, 2015 at 12:51 am #

      Yes, I love my nifty fifty! Some of my all time favorite shots were taken with that lens! Thanks for letting us know your experience with it 🙂

  14. Mark - The Time To Go Is Now September 6, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

    Good timing on this article. Just finished up a 16 month trip with only my Galaxy 4 and a Sony point and shoot. I wanted a DSLR but didn’t really have the money. I didn’t want to carry it either. But there were so many times on the trip where I thought, “I really wish I had a real camera right now.” I was able to get some good stuff but will definitely be buying a DSLR before my next big trip. Thanks for this because it is a good place to start my search.

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 17, 2015 at 12:50 am #

      I know that struggle! If you want to get any shots you can be proud of on your travels, you definitely need a “real” camera.

  15. Liat September 4, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    How timely! I just traded in my giant 7D for the SL1 last week before I flew out to Colombia. It’s been great. I agree with everything you said.

  16. Paris Lordi September 3, 2015 at 9:58 am #

    While the Mk II was more suited to specific photographic disciplines, the Mk III is a much more well-rounded, versatile DSLR, thanks to boosts in many aspects of its performance. The autofocus and low-light improvements make it one of the best cameras around for shooting at high sensitivities.

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 3, 2015 at 11:25 am #

      The Mark II and III are both fantastic cameras, but they come at a high price and are much more bulky. For traveling, I don’t think these cameras are ideal.

  17. Escaping Abroad September 3, 2015 at 5:17 am #

    Nice read.. you’ve made a good case for the Canon! I’ve been traveling with the mirrorless Sony’s for the last few years and have been quite happy with their tiny size and excellent image quality. One thing you mentioned about this Canon that would possibly put me off is the slow shooting speed, as I like the ability to capture fast moving subjects.

    Right now you can pick up a Sony A6000 for a tad more than that Canon, and it has a lot of neat features the Canon doesn’t – like extremely fast continuous auto focus (for wildlife and fast moving subjects) in combination with 11 FPS shooting, 24.3MPs, etc.. it’s also got you beat slightly on weight and size, but not by a lot surprisingly!

    I will say one gripe with Sony was the lacking lens choices but they’re starting to improve with more selection now. I have to say at just $500 and with all the lenses Canon has this is certainly a good choice! And you’re photos back that up!

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 3, 2015 at 11:24 am #

      The shooting speed isn’t actually that slow for a DSLR, it’s just slightly slower than the T5i.

      Mirrorless is definitely one way to go, and the Sony a6000 is a great choice for that (and for only a couple hundred extra bucks). As long as they have the lenses to go with it, another fine selection!

  18. megan August 31, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

    where and how much editing do you do to your photos?

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 1, 2015 at 4:04 pm #

      I do edit my photos using mostly Lightroom and some Photoshop. I’ll get into more of this in a future article, but if you have specific questions, just let me know!

  19. Shawn Rosvold August 31, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    Cameras are so subjective, so I admire your guts in putting this out there. I am about to invest in a new camera, and I’ve been doing a lot of research. I ditched my big expensive Nikon because I was tired of carrying an 8 pound weight around my neck. My wife bought me a Sony NEX 3 which is a nice camera for most purposes. She won a Samsung DV300F which, for a little pocket camera, takes amazing photos. But they’re not quite what I’m looking for; something about the size of your Rebel, but with a lens that will also allow me to take wildlife photos in a package that is not going to give me neck pain when I travel light. And I think I’ve found it. The Canon Powershot SX60 HS. Here are the specs: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/digital_cameras/powershot_sx60_hs#Specifications

  20. Suze - Luxury Columnist August 31, 2015 at 8:35 am #

    Fabulous shots, Jeremy – I like the banana lady the best but they’re all really good. I’ve heard such great things about the Canon IOS but am quite taken with my Panasonic

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 1, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      Thanks! I love that shot, too. Of course, cameras come down to preference, and if you like your Panasonic, I won’t tell you otherwise!

  21. Lou August 25, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    Great article! I’m a part time professional photographer and am planning to get rid of my stuff and travel next year and create a business around photos. My biggest dread…. carrying around a heavy SLR camera!! I absolutely hate it. This is giving me something to consider, I was thinking of going all out and upgrading, but maybe just for travel I would consider something like this. Interesting indeed 🙂

    • Jeremy Scott Foster September 1, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

      What kind of upgrade did you have in mind? Oftentimes an upgrade means bigger 😮

      This is a really great camera, and many of my professional photographer friends have one as their backup for when they can’t use their primary equipment. It does the job more than well!

      • Lou September 1, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

        Upgrade to the big one: Canon 5D Mark III. It says it’s 30.3oz for the body only. I’m so torn…

  22. Gwen August 24, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    Thanks for this great advice as I am looking for a camera and it is so hard to choose.

    My Samsung phone takes nice photos but I am now wanting more from a photo.

    Keep travelling and blogging ?

    Gwen

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