Canon's latest Rebel offers an articulated screen and wireless TTL control for off-camera flashes, a Rebel first.
As you might expect, the tilting LCD also comes in handy when shooting video. While video largely remains the same as in the T2i, with up to 1920x1080p recording at up to 30 frames per second, Canon did add one nice feature: Video Snapshot mode. It lets you record clips of 2, 4, or 8 seconds and will add subsequent clips to the end of the preceding ones so you can string together multiple clips into one longer video file. There are no transitions, but it’s a quick way to make a highlight reel of a vacation or outing without having to do any editing afterwards.
Fans of off-camera flash will like that the T3i is the first Rebel to include wireless control through the built-in flash. You can select from four channels and set output manually for up to two groups in addition to the body’s pop-up. Like most recent Canon DSLRs, the T3i’s 63-zone metering system assists the AF system with color and luminance information when tracking subjects. The T3i did a good job of continuous focus, though occasional frames were a bit soft when tracking faster-moving subjects, especially if the subject changed speed—for example, New York taxis accelerating erratically. Still, we found the T3i’s tracking impressive for its class of camera.
While the T3i doesn’t come across as a major upgrade to the T2i, it’s a thoughtful addition to the line and keeps Canon competitive with the likes of the long-in-the-tooth Nikon D5000. Though due for an upgrade, that Nikon now has no major advantage over Canon at this level of camera body. The T3i beats it on resolving power, high-ISO noise performance, and AF speed. The D5000’s main edge? Its price has dropped enough to make it more comparable to the T2i.
If you own a Rebel and are looking to upgrade, the T3i probably doesn’t make sense unless you envy an articulating LCD and wireless flash control, or if you own a T1i and want full HD video recording and increased resolution—though the T1i’s lower-res 15.1MP sensor had better noise control than either the T2i or T3i.
The T3i makes the most sense for a newcomer who wants all the whiz-bang features Canon has to offer in an entry-level DSLR.
IMAGING: 18MP effective APS-C-sized CMOS sensor captures images at 5184x3456 pixels each, with 14 bits/color in RAW.
STORAGE: SD/SDHC/SDXC stores JPEG, CR2 RAW, and RAW+JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode) up to 34 shots at 3.7 fps; RAW, up to 6 shots at 3.7 fps.
AF SYSTEM: TTL phase detection with 9 illuminated focus points (single center cross-type); single-shot, continuous with predictive AI Servo tracking. Tested sensitivity down to EV –2 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/4000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/2- or 1/3-EV increments); shutter life not rated.
METERING: 63-zone TTL metering, evaluative, partial (9% of finder), centerweighted, and spot (4% of finder), EV 1–20 (ISO 100, f/1.4).
VIDEO: Records at up to 1920x1080 at 30 fps; or 1280x720 at 60 fps in MPEG 4 H.264 MOV format; built-in mono microphone, stereo minijack mic input.
ISO RANGE: ISO 100–6400; expands to ISO 12,800 (in 1-EV increments).
FLASH: Built-in pop-up with E-TTL II autoflash and wireless triggering of optional flash units. GN43 (ISO 100, feet), covers the field of view of a 17mm lens; flash sync to 1/200 sec.
VIEWFINDER: Fixed eye-level pentamirror.
LCD: 3-inch articulated TFT with 1.04 million-dot resolution.
OUTPUT: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, mini HDMI, composite video.
BATTERY: Rechargeable LP-E8 Li-ion, CIPA rating 440 shots.
SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.2x3.9x3.1 in., 1.3 lb with an SD card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $800, body only; $900, with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS II lens.