Recently Canon launched what is claimed to be the world's smallest DSLR, the EOS 100D, also known as the SL1 in the North American market. To me, this is an important announcement as it suddenly puts a big wall in front of the onslaught of mirrorless cameras against their bigger brethren. For the past year a number of photographers have been commenting on the abilities of the small micro four thirds subset of cameras, in particular the Olympus OMD-E-M5 and the Panasonic GF3. These small, tiny some would say, cameras are capable of producing images that very nearly match that of full sized APS sensor DSLRs at a fraction of the weight and size - although not of the cost it must be said.
The downside to the mirrorless cameras has been limited autofocus ability and the lack of an eye-level viewfinder. This has been changing rapidly though with Nikon's V1 and 2 having fantastic AF along with a decent electronic eye level viewfinder (EVF) - in this stable, although without the AF performance, can be included the Panny GF series, the Oly OMD-E-M5, Sony's NEX 7 and 6, and Fujifilm's XPro-1 and EX-1 (with the XPro-1 having an optical viewfinder, or OVF, as its party piece). Additionally some of the Sony NEX range as well as some Pannys and Olys that lack the EVF can have an auxiliary bolt-on EVF added, at a cost obviously. When one considers that a camera like the Sony NEX5 along with Samsung's stable of mirrorless cameras have APS-C sized sensors, suddenly mirrorless looks very attractive in terms of image quality and portability, even if the AF seems lacking.
Enter Canon's diminutive 100D. The camera is actually physically smaller than the OMD-E-M5 and Sony NEX7 (albeit thicker from front to back). It sports the same 18mp sensor as the also newly announced 700D, loses virtually nothing in terms of handling to its physically bigger brother, and even has a marginally larger viewfinder than the 700D. Including batteries the camera weighs only 407g (the OMD-E-M5 weighs 425g with batteries)! This thing is tiny. Yet - and this is important - because it has an optical viewfinder and is a true SLR with swinging mirror, the camera accepts every EOS lens ever made, without an adapter. Better yet, it works with the newer STM enabled lenses to give full AF during video recording.
Enthusiasts have been clamoring for a small capable DSLR for a long time now. Nikon users have been wanting an FM styled digital equivalent practically since digital emerged. I would suggest that perhaps an EM styled equivalent would be a better bet as it is closer to the size that we are seeing with the mirrorless cameras. The EOS 100D is the closest we have gotten to such a camera. Some might bemoan the plastic body, but this is what allows the camera to be so light. The fact that it accepts all the EOS lens lineup means that as a small backup body it remains unparalleled. Even the EOS M requires some sort of adapter and doesn't have a EVF.
For Nikon users the D3200 doesn't compete as a second small body in the same way. The live view abilities are simply not as good as Canon's entry level cameras. Although the AF abilities of the D3200 are arguably better than the entry level Canon's, it becomes a moot point when the smallest prime lenses that can be used on the D3200 are all old manual focus Ai lenses or non silent wave (AFS) AF lenses - meaning manual focus on the entry level Nikons. Top this off with the fact that there is no effective way to check depth of field (there is no dof preview nor live view dof checking) while the Canon has both live view dof and a dedicated dof preview button.
Now, although mirrorless cameras have made a dent in the sales of DSLRs it is interesting to note that it hasn't completely destroyed entry-level DSLR sales. Value for money, mirrorless is actually overpriced. I can't verify this, but I also suspect that a very large number of mirrorless sales are actually to people who already own a DSLR. In other words, I suspect that someone entering photography is still looking at a DSLR as the logical entrance point rather than a mirrorless. This makes sense when you consider the price of the D3200 or the EOS 650D. The entrance price to mirrorless is coming down though, so this will likely change.
What the EOS 100D signifies then is potentially a new breed of highly competent, very small DSLRs, something we haven't really seen since the late 80s (Pentax aficionados would argue that Pentax have been producing small competent SLRs all along...and they would have a point). I would still prefer to see an FM or EM styled all metal manual focus camera with a full frame sensor of course. However, the EOS 100D is in my mind a very good step in the right direction. Now all we need is a set of small competent fast primes to match the size of the diminutive camera and its APS sensor. Somehow I'm skeptical this will happen. For the time being if you want a small camera with a comfortable range of small prime lenses, then Olympus and Panasonic are probably your best bet. Now, if Canon build some small light primes to match their new camera, then we may just have one of the best travel cameras ever made in the EOS 100D.