For over 30 years, the Canon Rebel has been in the hands of photographers who wanted Canon quality at an affordable price. The snootier amongst us will happily turn their noses up in their air at these cameras. But the truth is that no one can deny they were excellent cameras for a beginner. What’s more, They sold at chart-topping numbers for many years. While Canon doesn’t have a current iteration of the Canon Rebel worth discussing, I think everyone can acknowledge this camera’s importance.
Since 1990, the Canon Rebel has set standards for consumers and what they should expect from cameras. We’re using the word consumers specifically because we can all agree it was never targeted at professional photographers. Canon and the industry call them consumers, which has unfortunately become a more derogatory term. These days, it makes more sense to call them passionate photographers.
Rebels were also some of the most confusing cameras to talk about. In America, the Canon Rebel series would have one name. But in the rest of the world, they would be called by another moniker. According to CNET, here’s why Canon used different monikers:
“Most Canon products purchased within Europe, including digital compact and digital SLR cameras, are sold with a European warranty. This means that a product purchased anywhere in Europe, which has a European warranty, could be repaired in the UK under the terms of that warranty. However, many Canon products sold in America or Asia, for example, are intended specifically for those markets. Because there can be variances in specification, parts, voltage, operating protocols etc, an American or Asian warranty would not be valid in the UK.
“We strongly advise consumers who want to buy their product on the Internet to ensure the terms of their purchase (eg price, country of origin, warranty) are very clear, and that they are happy with those terms, before committing.”
The confusion didn’t prevent it from selling really well. Indeed, the Canon Rebel cameras were super popular even when they didn’t stand out. To be fair, Canon left innovation to the higher-end cameras and brought the tech down to the consumer level. Instead, many Canon cameras sold just because of the name alone, coupled with how insanely low the prices were. Canon’s Holiday sales strategies often involved selling tons of Canon Rebels long with lenses, printers, paper, bags, tripods, and other random stuff you wouldn’t need. We’ve reviewed tons of Canon Rebel cameras over the years, and it is the strategy we’ve personally seen.
The Rebel cameras Canon’s closest thing to being the Canon AE-1 with autofocus. It used the Canon EOS lineup of lenses and the Canon EF mount. Any lens made since the Canon EF mount’s inception and into today can be used on the older cameras as long as they’re Canon EF mount. For many years, they sold well. They showed that Canon really understood the customer that didn’t want to get into all the complexities of cameras. Instead, they just wanted great photos. This was the philosophy of the Rebel cameras from the film era and into the DSLR days.
With each iteration, things marginally improved. For most of the mid-2010s, Canon made barely any changes to the lineup of cameras. Eventually, they just didn’t need to try anymore because they’d sell themselves. This was also Canon’s downfall. While the Canon Rebel mainly stayed the same, the rest of the world evolved. Sony charged forward with the incredible Sony a7 series of mirrorless cameras, and they weren’t alone! Apple’s iPhones started to get excellent cameras and used software to make them even better. At the same time, Google began giving consumers great reasons to use their smartphones instead of a dedicated camera. It started with developing artificial “bokeh” to simulate the coveted effect that a DSLR can create. Samsung and others followed along while the Canon Rebel remained a digital time capsule.
In reality, the Canon Rebel lineup was completely capable of shooting professional-quality images for the past decade. But so too has your phone. A modern iPhone can arguably outdo a Canon Rebel camera made in the past five years in most ways. This even goes for flash usage. Hook your iPhone up to a Profoto light via Bluetooth, and you can create studio-quality photos.
Today, Canon doesn’t have a mirrorless version of the Canon Rebel as of this publishing. But we can’t see why they wouldn’t make one. The question for passionate photographers is how they’ll make it a tempting purchase. And the question for most consumers concerns why they’d buy it in the first place if their phone is just so good? My father is a Canon 50D owner and barely uses it anymore. He mostly took it with him when he traveled. But he doesn’t travel anymore. Instead, he’s more than happy with his phone. People these days use photos to communicate. And with your phone being such a great communication device with a camera that pleases consumers, it makes sense. We’ve wondered for a while what a modern Canon Rebel would look like.