CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
Great feel in the hand; impressive video capabilities; good manual.
Obtuse user interface
Canon’s latest Rebel T3i offers a robust feature set, a staggering 18MP APS-C sensor, good control over your photography, and an impressive array of movie modes.
At just a little more than 18 ounces, the T3i feels very good in your hand. The body design is balanced and textured rubber coats both front and back. If you attach a lens larger than the 18–55mm kit lens, the balance does tilt forward, but the body still feels natural while using it.
Autofocus seems a touch slower than on the Nikon D3100 in dimly lit conditions, but overall focus speed is good in most lighting. Auto white-balance works well, even in flickering fluorescent light, until you start pushing to higher ISOs and shutter speeds, where that familiar yellowish cast will occasionally creep in. Fluorescent lights are often a problem with auto white-balance schemes, but Canon seems to handle it a bit better than most. There’s also a nifty “intelligent auto” that sets most of the exposure but lets you play around a bit with depth of field and also control the flash.
At its maximum shooting speed of 3.7fps in raw image mode, the buffer filled after six shots and took about seven seconds to empty. That’s about average for a unit of this class, but you will want to manage your continuous shooting carefully or risk losing some of the action.
Video settings are very flexible and include both 1080/30 and 720/60 HD modes, plus a plethora of others. At 1080/30, the T3i generates large files with high bit rates—in excess of 40Mb/s—which is a testament to the video capture abilities of the unit.
Where the T3i falls down a bit is in the user interface. Take ISO settings, for example. If you want to push the ISO beyond the maximum 6400, you need to navigate to one of the top menu tabs, select Custom functions, click through to the second custom function, and then enable ISO Expansion. If Nikon menus are too long vertically, Canon menus have too many tabs, some of which contain nested functions. Also, rotating the main dial while simultaneously pressing other buttons can be an interesting exercise in frustration.
Once you’ve figured it all out, however, the T3i is a pleasure to use. Image quality is generally quite good, though the T3i suffers from serious luminance and color noise at its highest ISO setting (12800). Even at both ISO 3200 and 6400, luminance noise is still somewhat distracting (although no worse than the D3100 at ISO 3200), but color noise is minimal at ISO 6400 and below.
The built-in flash can act as a master unit if you own Canon external flash units, offering great flexibility in lighting. On its own, it’s a typical pop-up flash, mostly useful for fill or when you’ve got nothing else.
In the end, the EOS Rebel T3i is a terrific value at about $850 with the 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 image-stabilized kit lens. And Canon’s rich array of lens choices gives you tremendous options as you explore your own photographic inclinations.
$850 (online) w/18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II, Canon.com
|Sensor||18MP CMOS APS-C|
|Maximum Photo Size ||5184x3456|
|Autofocus||9-point (cross type)|
|File Format ||CR2 (raw), JPEG|
|Storage ||1 SD slot, SDXC capable|
|Viewfinder||Pentamirror (95 percent coverage)|
|Shutter-Speed Range ||1/4000-30 sec|
|Flash Sync ||1/200|
|Maximum Continuous Shooting Speed||3.7fps|
|Scene Modes||5 (portrait, landscape, close-up, night portrait, moving subjects)|
|Maximum ISO||6400 (can push to 12800)|
|Shots with Battery Charge||550|