Canon Rebel T3i Review – Photography 101 DSLR

Canon Rebel T3i Overview

One of the largest names in the digital SLR camera market, Canon, returns with another iteration of their best entry-level cameras: the Canon Rebel T3i, also commonly known as EOS Rebel T3i / 600 D. It comes as a follow-up to the EOS Rebel T2i / 550 D iteration of the beginner-friendly camera that had come out a little more than just a year before.

Affordable and with an extensive list of improvements and features meant to serve as an accessible gateway into professional photography and videography, the Canon Rebel EOS T3i is very much resembling the Canon EOS 60D bigger brother. However, it comes at a much lower price than its counterpart and is directed at a different consumer segment – classifying as an entry-level camera, as opposed to the mid-range category that the EOS 60D falls into.

However, it’s vital to mention that put right next to its previous generation counterpart – the Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i, there’s not much change in terms of hardware and technical specifications. While this may come as a surprise to some, it seems like the reasoning behind that is the fact that it packs some extra attention to detail when it comes to video recording instead. If anything, it feels like the Canon Rebel T3i is more of a transition camera between the T2i and the EOS 60D who aims to ease the way of new photographers into the trade and giving them the chance to learn everything step by step without sacrificing the huge amounts of money that you would otherwise have to spend.

Canon Rebel T3i Design

Canon Rebel T3i Size, Weight & Material

In terms of dimensions, the Canon Rebel T3i is a little larger than its predecessor, the Rebel T2i / 550 D, but pales in comparison to the mid-range EOS 60 D. While the entry-level DSLR features a 133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7 millimeter W/H/D size, larger than the 550 D which is only 128.8 x 97.5 x 75.3, the 60D expands all the way to 144.8 x 104.1 x 78.7. As a result, the weight has changed a small degree as well, as the 600 D gained 58 grams over its predecessor – from 525 grams to 583.

The body of the Canon Rebel T3i / 600D is made of various alloys and materials, but remains along the same lines of the build of its predecessor: polycarbonate covers the stainless steel skeleton of the camera, while fiberglass made up the more delicate portions of the device. The sides of the camera are covered in patterned leather patches to improve the grip dramatically – also slightly distinctive in comparison to the 550D which only featured leather on right hand side. There is also another portion covered in leather on the camera back right on top of the thumb rest that is meant to prevent any accidental button pressing when using the camera – it’s narrower and differently shaped than the one on the Rebel T2i.

The sensor has been bestowed with an anti-static coating on its surface. In order to help with dust reduction, there is a low-pass filter vibration that starts when you turn on the camera which you can interrupt manually, as well as an entire dust-removal program included in the camera. By recreating a realistic mapping of the specks of dust present on the sensor, the program notifies you if there is any remaining dirt that it didn’t manage to remove by itself and allows you to do it yourself manually once you pinpoint the exact location.

Canon Rebel T3i Button & Control Placement

Given that the Rebel T3i has brought an articulated screen as one of the major improvements over the T2i, the layout and positioning of all the buttons and controls on the back of the camera have changed in the slightest bit. Because of the screen handle that digs into the area that previously held two controls, everything has been shrunk a little and moved slightly to the side. The 4 directional controls are clumped closer together around the Set button and the Delete control has changed shape and moved closer towards the screen.

Canon Rebel T3i Front

As a last mention regarding the camera back that has suffered changes, the Menu and DISP buttons that were previously present on the T2i have now turned into Menu and Info; the DISP button has been moved on the top area of the camera and serves as an ON/OFF function for the screen while the Info control provides you the ability to cycle through a number of display options and other types of information.

The top of the camera feels narrower than the 550D despite the dimensions saying otherwise. Because of the way it’s constructed and the addition of the DISP button, it gives the Canon Rebel T3i DSLR a more clumped feel, but a rounder look to the edges when seen from above. There is a noticeable increase in depth on the 600D, making it longer back to front. The mode dial is nearly identical to the 550D model but features smaller indents going all around the wheel, making it easier to turn and use. The set of options present on the mode dial is the same as we’ve seen on the 550D, with the small exception that Creative Auto has been moved and that we get a new icon: A+, also known as Scene Intelligent Auto.

Canon Rebel T3i Top View

Canon Rebel T3i Viewfinder, Screen & Other Components

The viewfinder of the Canon Rebel T3i maintains the pentamirror build that we could find in its T2i predecessor, which however has suffered a very small decrease in magnification – from 0.87x to 0.85 – which is hardly noticeable in realistic terms. The viewfinder is good and does its job well, while it may lack a little in comparison to the more expensive pentaprism viewfinders. In terms of the information that it displays, things have remained identical to the EOS 550D. To give you the complete list: AF information, shutter speed, aperture value, ISO speed, AE lock, expore level, spot metering circle, exposure warnings, AEB, flash status, high-speed sync, FE lock and exposure, red-eye reduction light, white balance correction, SD card information, maximum burst and highlight tone priority.

The articulated screen is one of the main focuses of the Canon Rebel T3i. One of the features that Canon started using again only a few years ago, it is particularly useful for a number of situations. With a 3:2 aspect ratio and a 1040k dot display, the screen can be swiveled and tilted at pretty outstanding angles that will allow you to use the camera from more unorthodox positions and even when situated on a tripod.

Canon Rebel T3i Side

Taking a tour around the other parts of the camera, we can find the Canon Rebel T3i battery door at the base of the camera that encloses in it a LP-E8 battery pack. Moving upwards on the right hand side you find a memory card slot that is compatible with SD, SDH and SDXC memory cards. On the opposite side there are two ports hidden behind a rubber flap – one is a regular 3.5 mm headphone jack while the other is a custom RS-60E3 port destined for wired remote control. A little further to the right on this side and you can find the A/V OUT USB and AV combined socket and a mini-HDMI under another rubber flap.

Canon Rebel T3i Features

Hardware. In terms of hardware the EOS 600D hasn’t changed a lot since its previous iteration, the 550D. The Canon Rebel T3i maintains the same DIGIC 4 image processor that we’ve seen in its predecessor, which allows capturing 14-bit RAW imaged. There are no changes to the sensor to speak of; the same 18 MP APS-C CMOS sensor has been used in the Canon Rebel T3i, which comes with a sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400. As a side note for those interested, the range is expandable to 12,800. That makes up for a maximum image resolution of 5,184 x 3,456, at a pixel pitch of 4.3 micrometers. The Canon Rebel T3i can shoot up to 3.6 frames per second in L/F JPEG or RAW formats, the count lowering to 3.3 frames per second when shooting RAW+L/F JEPG.

Canon Rebel T3i Menu

Autofocus. The 11-point CMOS sensor that the Canon Rebel T3i packs doesn’t come close to the AF levels of professional cameras. It has a working range of -0.5 to 18 EV at low ISO and can predict movement in order to increase the speed of the autofocus for distances of up to 8m. There is only one cross-type focus point at the center, and given the small number of points overall, this camera will be more proficient in shooting still images than very dynamic video capture such as filming sports. The longest focus duration that the sensor takes is 3 to 4 seconds when the camera is in Live Mode.

Canon Rebel T3i Sample

CA & A+. Something that we have mentioned earlier in the design section is a modification that we’ve noticed on the mode dial that now displays an A+ icon. This is something that replaces the old Green Zone Auto icon; you will find here information regarding Autofocus, Auto White balance, the Auto Lighting Optimizer and Picture Style Auto.

Canon Rebel T3i Dial

The CA interface is similar to its design on the previous Canon Rebel version, being the place where you can control a number of settings for your shooting session. You can adjust the exposure, type of flash, resolution, drive mode and picture style in this section. There is a certain degree that suggests why this camera is directed at entry-level photography: the menu is made easily accessible and more intuitive for the new user by switching the names of various concepts into simpler ones – aperture becomes exposure level that you can set from brighter to darker, and things such as shutter speed are translated into how blurry you wish for your background to be.

Canon Rebel T3i System

Image processing. There is a number of features that we can add under this rather generic feature – some of which we have mentioned in the previous point. While most are also supported by the Canon Rebel T2i, there are two new additions to the 600D: creative filters and Basic+.

There are various post-editing you can do to the photos you take with this camera. Highlight tone priority is a feature that has increasing the effective dynamic range of the camera as its purpose. This is done by providing extra protection in highlights and maintaining a more level amount of exposure.

Canon Rebel T3i Image Processing

The Auto Lighting Optimizer is something that will prove to be particularly useful, especially when shooting still images that contained shadowed areas. What it does is simply bring out details and increase the contrast in shadowed areas that were caught in the picture, making those portions look less dark post-processing. The CanonRebel T3i Auto Lighting Optimizer comes in 4 levels.

Peripheral Illumination Correction is a feature that automatically applies corrections for each lens you use for the camera according to a recorded database in order to remove vignetting – a darkening effect produced by some lens towards the corners of the image due to the way the lens are constructed. You can manually disable or enable various profiles if the camera does not detect the correct one automatically.

Creative filters are one of the new features you’ll find in addition to the classic 550D ones and native to the more advanced Canon 60D. To list a few of the filters that you would be able to use on the Canon Rebel T3i: Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Miniature Effect, Fisheye mode, Grainy Black & White and more. The fisheye mode for example is a filter that tries to replace the distortion created by a fisheye lens and translate it into a digitally-rendered effect.

Canon Rebel T3i Image Settings

Custom functions. One feature that is really worth mentioning in this section is the ISO expansion which you can do via the custom function – which will pump up the maximum ISO to a value of 12,800. It’s also good to know that the Canon Rebel T3i also offers a much wider exposure compensation range in comparison to other comparable cameras: +/- 5.0 EV.

Multi-aspect. Also a feature incorporated into the Canon Rebel T3i that most aspiring photographers will appreciate is multi-aspect – basically the ability to shoot in a wide variety of aspect ratios. Because it removes a lot of the effort of having to work with post-processing and cropping, many beginners and even professionals will approve of being able to shoot in 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, and even 1:1, highlighting the image format clearly as soon as you start shooting. On the Rebel T3i camera, it’s known as Multi Aspect Mode.

Flash. The flash packed in the Rebel 600D is an auto pop-up E-TTL II auto flash, not very different in quality next to what we have seen so far in DSLRs. While it features a guide number of 13 meters at ISO 100 and an X-sync of 1/200 second, it lacks a number of possibilities that a professional camera would not forget in its construction. The Canon EOS Rebel T3i DSLR flash is capable of functioning as a wireless flash controller; this is something some of you may have already seen on more advanced Canon DSLRs. Also known as Integrated Speedlite Transmitter, it is a relatively new feature that allows you to control a maximum of two groups of flashes – not as proficient as the 3 groups we find on the more advanced cameras – which you can select from a total of 4 channels and a radio spread of 8:1 to 1:8.

Physically-wise, the flash of the Rebel 600D is placed higher in order to not create as little shadowing as possible with larger classes of lenses. Additionally, the hot shoe that older users will have already been accustomed to on Canon DSLRs is present here as well and compatible with a number of flash units.

Movie recording. Thankfully, the Canon Rebel T3i is capable of recording movies as well – and while not much has really changed as the Rebel camera family progressed, there are some thing worth mentioning about this aspect. Firstly, similarly to the point that we’ve discussed about auto-focus to begin with, the process that the camera requires in order to focus on the subjects of what you’re about to shoot takes a considerable amount of time. The camera does considerably worse with moving subjects or heavily dynamic settings, having a hard time at focusing on a subject even after detected.

The Canon Rebel 600D is limited to roughly 30 minutes of video capture or 4 GB size. Depending on whether you choose to shoot in 720p or 1080p, the video may vary more than you expect, as you can shoot approximately 12 minutes in the higher quality setting. While shooting in 720p can be done at 60 frames per second, 30 fps is the limit when shooting in 1080p. Alternatively, the camera has its own protection system that will automatically turn it off if it’s overheating (normally something that occurs during long periods of video shooting).

Audio level control is yet another feature that you can make use of on the Canon 600D – there is a total of 60 volume levels that you manually select through to minimize sound distortion and clipping. There are two stereo channels in charge of audio capture and the audio level of both can be controlled on the spot. In addition, there is also a Wind Filter setting that you can enable or disable for videos that you shoot outdoors when necessary.

Canon Rebel T3i Price & Verdict

There is a great number of things a less experienced photographer will find on the Canon Rebel T3i that can not only ease their way into professional photography but also give individuals a good chance to experience with various aspects of the trade in a user-friendly manner. While it doesn’t come close to its bigger brothers in terms of DSLRs, it does pack a lot of features and capability that you wouldn’t expect in an entry-level device.

As the most iconic downsides however, auto-focus is relatively lackluster in terms of consumer expectations; because of it, video quality has a lot to suffer as well in some situations and shooting photos will imply a considerably longer setup phase.

Canon Rebel T3i Lens

There are a few variations you can get the Canon Rebel 600D in: body-only, it will cost you $799.99, however the price will differ depending on which Canon Rebel T3i lenses you choose. You can purchase the Rebel T3i with the 18-55mm IS II kit lens for $899.99, but the 18-135mm IS kit lens will spike up the price to $1,099.99.

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