The Canon EOS Rebel T3i is a DSLR released in March 2011 and has risen to be one of the most popular DSLR camera’s on the market. Through a combination of high end features and a very competitive price, it has proven popular not only with keen photographers, but also with people eager to record video. Able to record full HD video, with a bright 3″ LCD screen and a huge variety of lenses, this is without doubt one of the best DSLR cameras to hit the market.
The big advantage of the Rebel T3i is that you get the best of both worlds. You get a great stills camera which has lenses for every occasion plus a HD video camera all on one attractive package.
What’s In The Box?
The Canon T3i, also known as the 600D, will arrive with the body, the battery and charger, a USB cable, an AV cable, a strap and the EOS solution disk which has some very useful utilities on. If you want your T3i to come with a lens, then there are packages which will provide you with a lens at a bit of a discount.
This camera is considered a compact DSLR as it is just 5.2″ wide, 3.9″ high and 3.1″ deep without a lens attached. The 60D is much more expensive and bigger, making this a nice size to carry and hold. It is of a similar weight and size to the cheaper T2i and does feel like a solid, well made camera. If you have larger hands then you can find the compact DSLR cameras a bit small and fiddly and you may be better suited with a Canon 60D instead.
What’s Inside The T3i?
The Rebel T3i has an 18 megapixel sensor together with a DIGIC4 processor, which are also found in the 60D and the T2i. These make for excellent performance from the camera.
Whilst the camera does have a single SD card slot which will take SD, SDHC or even SDXC cards it does not ship with a card so you are either going to have to use an existing card or purchase one when you get your camera. The best type of card to get is a class 10 SDHC card which you will definitely need if you are planning on shooting any HD video.
I would recommend a 32GB SDHC card because they have fallen to a price point where they are pretty cheap. Typically you can get around 2 hours of HD video on a single 32GB card. If you are going away then I’d recommend buying a few cards, at the current pricing levels they really are affordable.
The LCD Screen
One feature of the T3i which can be particularly helpful is “Live View Shooting”. This uses the LCD screen to show you what the videos and photos you are taking looks like; which is very helpful if you don’t have a field monitor. The 3″ LCD screen is perfectly usable in bright light, being clear in full sun and can be flipped to lay flat on the camera back. Alternatively you can position it at different angles depending on where you are shooting from.
However, do remember that this monitor will reduce your battery life somewhat quicker than if you weren’t using it. The level of brightness on the screen is also a factor in battery consumption. However, spare batteries aren’t too expensive and the twist and flip screen is useful!
The controls are easy to use with your your fore finger and thumb and don’t take a lot of effort to master, unlike some cameras where you need a Doctorate to understand the controls. Even so, you will still find the manual a valuable resource, so it’s worth keeping it close to hand.
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Great For Beginners
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this camera is the fact that it is so easy for a beginner to use and get very professional results from. It is such a well designed camera that the beginner can pick up this camera, set it to “intelligent auto mode” and use any of the “creative zone modes” to take excellent photos right out of the box!
The camera helps you as you select each mode it gives you a useful description of what that mode does. Unlike some cameras where it is full of jargon, these descriptions are actually easy to understand and helpful. It will really help you accelerate your ability to take quality pictures and use the Rebel T3i.
At the end of the day it has a very simple point and shoot interface that is easy to use and enable any novice to take great quality photographs. This in itself is one of the reasons why this camera is proving so popular with its owners.
At the end of the day, the specs of a camera are important, like the processor, lens quality and so on, but what matters to most people more is the ability to take good quality photos. For a novice photographer, having a camera like this that allows them to achieve good quality photos easily is a real bonus.
Incredible Photo Quality
The photo quality from this camera is brilliant. You can select anything from ISO 100, used for well lit scenes all the way to ISO 6400 which is used at lower light levels. This very easy to select and move between ISO levels. You will, however, notice a small degradation of picture quality from ISO 1600 onwards.
The camera has a 9-pt autofocus system on it which is very fast and accurate for your photos. It does struggle a bit at lower light levels though.
The T3i can auto-focus for you when you are recording video, though it can take a few seconds for it to find its focus. The auto-focus also makes a bit of noise which is going to appear in your video. Unfortunately as well you will find that the auto-focus uses up the charge in your batter a lot quicker.
Unfortunately the auto-focus isn’t really much good for recording video, but there are a lot of positives about the Rebel T3i that outweigh this one negative. For example, the optical image stabilization works extremely well.
The Battery Life
The battery life is also very good, though you need to take in to account the factors we have discussed already which influence how long the battery will last between charges. Typically you can get between 400 and 600 shots from your camera before you need a recharge. Video does use more battery, particularly if you are using the LCD screen too.
I would recommend you buy some spare batteries, and if you get the OEM batteries they aren’t too expensive and are easy to get hold of. I would recommend, if you want the best battery life the Zeikos Battery Power Grip which is surprisingly affordable. This tray allows you to really extend your battery life and even has space for 6 AA batteries so that you can power the camera when you are really stuck for power. This is a particularly handy feature if you are on holiday or out for a day and taking a lot of pictures.
There is also a DC power unit available for this camera which is worth having if you are using the camera indoors a lot. I would recommend the Canon brand purely for safety and compatibility; the last thing you need is your power unit causing you any problems with your new T3i camera.
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What’s On The Camera?
Anyone who wears corrective lenses will appreciate the dioptric adjustment knob which adjusts the quality of the view finder on the camera. It is a useful feature as it will help you to see things clearly through the view finder.
Whilst there is a built-in microphone on the T3i, it is just mono. Whilst it is good enough for most general video recording, if you are into serious video production then you probably want to use a good quality external microphone. One useful feature of the built-in mic is that there is a very good wind filter built in to it which you can switch on or off through the setup menus.
There is an eighth of an inch stereo input for the external microphone on the side of the camera. If you use the right adaptors you can actually send audio from two separate mics into the left and right channels of the camera directly. You can also manually adjust the recording levels which is another useful, well thought out feature.
There are some other ports on the camera, including a remote control terminal which is very useful. You could pick up a timer remote and use that through this port. There is also a digital AV terminal and a mini HDMI out port, both of which are good to see on the camera. On the other side of the camera is SD card slot with the battery compartment at the bottom of the camera. You can see the complete specs for this camera here.
There is a pop up flash on the T3i which is adequate for most uses. However, for those who want a little bit more, the camera supports the latest wireless flash technologies too.
Recording Video With The T3i
The video quality on the Canon T3i is outstanding, offering full HD video at 1920 x 1080 pixels at 24, 25 and even 30 frames per second. Reduce the resolution down to 1280 x 720 pixels and you can shoot at 60 frames per second, which is useful for any slow motion work you do. Finally you can also record video at 640 x 480 at just 30 frames a second.
When you are using the camera in lower light levels you might find the Canon 50mm F1.8 lens to be useful because it helps produce really good quality videos and photos. Best of all, the lens price is not much over $100.
In move mode you will find the 10x and 3x digital zoom to be useful and the T3i will still produce good quality video when you are using it.
Another interesting feature that is more for fun that anything else is it has a video snapshot feature. This basically takes a number of short video clips and then pastes them all together. I’m not sure just how much use this will be in the “real” world but it is fun when out with friends or at a party.
One thing you do need to be aware of with this camera is that, like many others, it has to protect itself from the heat generated when you are shooting video. It will stop recording video when the movie clip hits a size of 4Gb. If you are recording full HD then this means you can record between 10 and 14 minutes at a time without it stopping. It’s irritating yes, but it’s not too much trouble to restart your video.
Personally I’d rather it did this than overheat and damage the camera, but if you are recording a wedding or speech then it is annoying. However, for most people this will never be a problem as most video clips shot on a digital camera like this are under ten minutes long.
The EOS Utility Software
The software including with the Canon T3i is surprisingly useful and allows you to turn your laptop into a field monitor and control center for the camera using the digital interface cable.
Through the software you can remotely control the camera using a very intuitive interface. It’s nice to see a piece of software that is well thought out and designed. Whilst you can use the software to preview your video, which is useful, this will also drain your batteries, meaning you need to plugged in to the DC power or have plenty of spare batteries to hand.
Who Is The Canon T3i For?
The Canon T3i is really well suited for anyone who wants a camera that is easy to use, reliable and fast that produces high quality (18 mega pixel) pictures and full HD video in a nice, compact package and at a surprisingly affordable price.
For high speed photography you might want the Canon 60D as it shoots at 5.3 frames per second in continuous shooting mode. However, it will cost you a few hundred bucks more and this is really the only serious difference between the two cameras.
The flippy screen makes it a worthwhile upgrade from the T2i and is actually surprisingly useful.
If you are after a small camera to carry in your pocket then the Canon T3i isn’t for you. Whilst it is small for a DSLR, it is still not classified as a small camera. So if you are someone who wants to carry a camera around continuously this may not be the one for you.
If you want to replace your camcorder then the T3i is also not for you. Whilst it produces good quality video it isn’t as convenient as a mini-camcorder. The auto-focus noise and time to focus whilst in video mode is annoying and if you may well be better suited to an actual camcorder as well.
Saying that though, if you are just looking to record some quality video and take quality photos at the same time then the T3i is definitely for you. For most people the ability to take quality photographs is the main feature of this camera and the full HD video a bonus feature.
The Canon EOS Rebel T3i though is a very popular, all-purpose DSLR camera which you can tell from the ratings given to it on Amazon and the fact that it is one of, if not the, best selling DSLR on Amazon. The T3i offers tremendous value for money and is a definite rival for the 60D in pretty much every way.
With full HD video, a very easy to use interface, 18 mega pixel picture quality, a flip and turn LCD screen and many profession features it is a great way for you to get started with DSLR photography for a surprisingly low price!