Back in 2003, Canon changed the digital camera market with the first sub-£1000 DSLR, the EOS 300D. This was a fully functioning SLR that was easy to use for beginners, but advanced enough for those skilled photographers looking for a way into digital.

Fast-forward some 15 plus years and the far more affordable Canon EOS 250D (or Rebel SL3 in the USA) follows that formula. It is an entry-level DSLR that caters to the new or progressing photographer or videographer, yet its features and image quality make it suitable for a wide range of users.

The traditional handling makes manual control much easier than on smaller mirrorless cameras, while the Canon EF lens mount provides compatibility with hundreds of high-quality lenses without the need for an adapter. The 4k video and fully tilting screen mean this will also be a popular camera for video bloggers.

Design

  • 3-inch 104k-dot LCD vari-angle touchscreen, optical finder
  • Guided shooting and creative modes
  • Lens mount: Canon EF/EF-S
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • 3.5mm mic in
  • SD card slot

For existing Canon users, the look and feel of the 250D will be very familiar. The brushed black plastic finish feels robust and both buttons and flaps feel solid, with no rattles. There's a deep grip for your right hand and, provided you're not using one of the pancake lenses, a natural place for your left hand on the lens.

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With what is actually quite a small camera by DSLR standards, Canon hasn't been shy with the buttons on this model. On the top, there are quick buttons for the ISO and screen display next to the main aperture/shutter speed dial and a traditional shooting mode wheel. There's no top LCD panel or aperture preview button – but these aren't really missed here.

On the back, a Q button in the centre of the four-way multi-function dial gives access to the main shooting models, while additional buttons provide direct access to live view (that's real-time preview on the rear screen), exposure compensation, exposure lock, focus point and more. The touchscreen display means that you can actually access many of the shooting features quicker with a touch of the screen. This is also true for the focus point selection, especially when using the camera's live view.

By default, both the rear shooting screen controls and menu are set to a guided mode. This provides a colourful visual guide to the mode you are in and helps to explain what the available adjustments will do to your shot. For instance, in Aperture value mode, that changing the aperture changes the background between blurry and sharp. Advanced users can change these screens back to the standard Canon displays, without the tutorial advice or bright colours.  

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One of this model's stand-out features is the vari-angle screen. The 3-inch display is mounted on a bracket that allows it to be flipped and twisted for viewing above, below, to the side and – most importantly – from in front of the camera. It's easy to dismiss this as a gimmick for the selfie-obsessed (though everyone loves a good selfie sometimes), but it's a handy feature for those looking to shoot video and present to camera.

Video shooters also get the choice of the in-built stereo microphone or a 3.5mm mic input and an HDMI output, but sadly there's no headphone jack. Stabilisation for the EOS range takes place in the lenses rather than the body, and though the available kit lens is stabilised, this is something to consider when buying extra lenses.

Performance

  • 9-point AF system with optical finder (f/2.8 centre point, f/5.6 others)
  • 143-point Dual Pixel AF with live view (3,975 point manual selection)
  • 12 scene modes, 10 creative filters (including 4 HDR modes)
  • 5 frames per second (5fps) continuous shooting
  • AI focus, One Shot and AI Servo focus modes
  • Battery: 1020 shots (finder), 300 (live view)

The EOS 250D's focus system combines both a 9-point phase detection system, when using the optical viewfinder, and a 143-point Dual Pixel AF system for live view.

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Both do a great job at providing fast and accurate focusing, though a 9-point system feels a little limiting these days – there are cameras with dozens of points for better and more complex subject tracking and pinpoint accuracy.

When in live view mode you are able to manually select your focus point from anywhere on the touchscreen. This means that rather than the 143 auto selectable points, you actually have closer to 4,000.

Despite being a consumer model, the focus systems can take advantage of higher-end lenses, providing greater sensitivity at the centre point with an f/2.8 lens. That means if you have a lens with a wide aperture – so more light can enter, which gives greater control over blurred background – there are no limitations here.

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As is standard with all Canon EOS models, the 250D offers three focus modes: One Shot for static subjects; AI Servo for moving subjects (continuous focusing); and AI focus mode that dynamically changes between the two depending on the subject in the frame.

We tried out the continuous focusing and focus tracking at a local air show and were impressed with the camera's ability to keep up with very fast-moving subjects. Granted, this is not a system that would compete with pro cameras but, particularly in live view, the results were impressive.

For those who are not confident enough to use the camera's manual or priority shooting modes, the scene modes allow you to setup the camera to suit your type of shot. There are 12 distinct options here, from portraits and group shots, to food photos and handheld night scenes. These are practical functions that will allow a new users to get better results and even offer some degree of control, mainly in the form of a brightness slider. And with the guide mode in place, each comes with a short description of what the camera is actually doing.

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The Creative Filter option allows you to create Instagram-ready images, straight from the camera, and the 250D has 10 options to choose from. While some, like the water painting effect, are a little cheesy, we found the toy camera effect (with its choice of three colour tones) and the grainy black and white effect to give pleasant results. There are also four levels of HDR effect – that's high dynamic range, to boost shadows and keep highlights in check – to suit those looking to control contrast or create hyper-real images.

The battery is Canon's LP-E17, a 1,040mAh rechargeable pack that has featured in many of the company's consumer cameras, from the EOS 750D to the EOS M3. Here it promises up to 1070 shots using the viewfinder, or 320 using the live view. However, we found that even after a week of casual shooting, it was still showing a full charge.

Image quality

  • 24.1 million-pixel APS-sized CMOS sensor, ISO 100-25,600 (51,200 high mode)
  • Shooting modes: Raw (14-bit), Raw+JPEG (Fine, Normal), JPEG
  • Video: 4K (3840x2160, 24/25p), HD (1920x1080, 60/50/30/25p)
  • 384-zone evaluative metering via live view
  • 63-zone dual-layer metering via viewfinder

The sensor used in the 250D is a 24.1 million-pixel APS-C sized unit, which is fractionally less populated than the 24.2 million-pixel sensor in the previous 200D (SL2) model. Notably, however, this new sensor is not the same as the 24.1 MP model in the EOS 2000D. The ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 25,600, with a high mode of 51,600 (the same as the 250D), is still decent for a budget camera – put to use when you need to ensure exposures can be made in dimmer conditions or want to freeze subjects better by using a faster shutter speed.

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Overall, the images produced by the 250D are really impressive and are a great reminder why it's worth using a DSLR over a compact camera or phone. Images remain free of noise up to ISO 3200 when shooting in JPEG, while some noise is visible in the Raw files from ISO 800.

That's not to say the higher settings are unusable. Our images at ISO 6400 still looked extremely detailed, and when noise reduction was added in Photoshop Lightroom, the pictures looke great. When shooting at 25,600 ISO images do lose some detail but they manage to keep a decent contrast and colour reproduction. When choosing the high-1 setting of 51,200 ISO (which must be turned on in the custom menu) – as is apparent in our Chicago skyline shot – colours do become more washed out and even less detailed. A setting best avoided if you can but if it's the difference between getting the shot or not in very dark situations, it could be a lifesaver.

The live view metering has been upgraded from the 315 zones in the 200D to 384 zones here, while the viewfinder metering remains a 63 zone system. This is a more than capable system and produces a balanced image in all but the most extreme lighting (when using the evaluative setting).

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The camera also features Canon's latest Digic 8 processor, as seen in the EOS R, RP and 90D. This is responsible for the 250D's biggest new feature: the introduction of 4K video shooting. As well as Full HD (1920 x 1080) video at 25fps (or 29.97fps, 50fps and 59.94fps), it can shoot 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.98fps (or 25fps, but not at the higher 29.97 frame rate of the 90D or 5D Mk IV).

Video in HD quality looks crisp and very smooth. However, while moving up to 4K will give you more detail, that is at the expense of a cropped-in image and a rather prominent rolling shutter. This is both an issue for those looking to do pieces to camera – your 18mm wide angle becomes around a 29mm equivalent – and for those looking to capture moving subjects.

Verdict

The key to a good entry-level DSLR is providing easy-to-use functions for those less skilled. Whether they are trying a DSLR for the first time or looking to progress from basic auto shooting to more creative work, the camera needs to provide a route in and a way to learn more. It should also still be a great camera in its own right, delivering top quality and performance for every level of shooter.

The 250D fulfils all of this. It can be easily picked up by a new user, teach the progressing photographer, and still give top quality images for all. The multi-directional screen and video functionality make this an appealing offering for those looking to combine still and video shooting too. Especially those looking to capture themselves on camera.

Images from the camera look great and although this isn't the most advanced camera in its price range, it is still very capable. The addition of 4K video capture may tempt users but this isn't the ideal camera for those looking to do lots of creative video shooting at 4K. However, HD video performance is very good. 

Also consider

Pocket-lintNikon D5600 review image 1

Nikon D5600

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Nikon's enthusiast DSLR offers a similar spec to the Canon EOS 250D, with a 24.2 million-pixel sensor, 3.2-inch multi-angle touchscreen and 5fps shooting. It lacks the 4K video, but still offers a solid 50 or 60fps in 1080p. It also has a 39-point autofocus system and 3D Colour Matrix II metering.

Pocket-lintCanon EOS M50 review image 1

Canon EOS M50

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The mirrorless EOS cousin to the 250D features the same 24.1 million-pixel sensor and Digic 8 processor. Though it lacks a true viewfinder, it does have a high resolution electronic one and a vari-angle touchscreen. There's 4K video here too and with the M-series lenses it will take up less room in your camera bag.

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