It’s time to really shake off the winter blahs and take some photos and video with the new Canon T3i DSLR. Is it worth the trip outdoors? We charge the battery and find out in our full review below, so read on.
Features and Design
Take a quick glance at the Canon EOS Rebel T3i and you’ll hardly be surprised at its form and style. It looks just like many other entry-level and mid-range DSLRs on the market. Look closely at the back of the T3i, however, and you’ll see one of its coolest features: a 3-inch vari-angle LCD screen rated an impressive 1 million pixels (before you go wild, realize this is pixel count is just slightly more than the 921K of Nikon’s D7000). The key point is its flexibility compared to the Nikon, which has a fixed screen. With the Canon, you can hold the camera over your head or aim low while pressing the shutter. This opens a world of new angles for your photography, and you should definitely make use of it if you buy this camera. At the very least, you can turn it around so the screen is protected as you shoot with the optical viewfinder.
Like every DSLR, the most important feature on the front is the lens mount. In this case, the all-black T3i has a Canon EF mount and accepts over 60 EF-S lenses. Also here is a remote sensor on the very comfortable grip with a nicely textured surface, a 4-pinhole mic, lens release and depth-of-field preview buttons.
On the top is the hot shoe for accessories, which sits behind the auto pop-up flash, the mode dial, power switch, display and ISO buttons as well as jog wheel to make menu adjustments. The shutter is angled on the grip. The mode dial is typical for Canon, with a mix of common scene and manual options as well as a movie setting. The newest is “A+” — Scene Intelligent Auto — which is a souped-up smart auto. Here the camera analyzes the subject in front of it and adjusts Picture Style Auto plus the Automatic Lighting Optimizer, auto white balance, autofocus and automatic exposure. We found it worked well, but there are plenty of tweaks available for Picture Styles once you move out of A+.
The back of the T3i has that great screen and an optical viewfinder with 95-percent coverage and 0.85x magnification. It’s not the brightest viewfinder we’ve ever used, but it’s definitely workable. It’s surrounded by a rubber eyecup and a nearby diopter control lets you adjust it to your eyesight. You’ll also find the usual blizzard of buttons including Menu, Info, Live View, Exposure Compensation, Q, Playback and Delete. The four-way controller gives quick access to AF, Picture Styles, burst/self-timer and white balance. In the top right corner are two buttons to enlarge or shrink the size of your images during playback. Also here is a comfortable thumb rest with a textured finish and tiny speaker.
On the right side of the camera is a compartment for your SD card (it accepts SDXC) while the left has two rather flimsy doors. One gives access to A/V and mini-HDMI outs, while the second has inputs for mics and remotes. The bottom of the Made In Japan DSLR has a metal tripod mount and battery compartment. The camera measures 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 (W x H x D, in inches) and weighs 18.2 ounces (body only). For comparison, the popular Editor’s Choice 16-megapixel Nikon D7000 has similar dimensions but weighs 6 ounces more as it has a beefier frame and ruggedized build.
The T3i is a well-designed (for the most part) DSLR that’s easy enough to pick up and start shooting. Mastering all of its intricacies will take time, of course. If you just want to fire away in A+, by all means do so, but it would be a shame not to tweak it.
What’s in the box
The camera body and whichever kit lens you choose (our review sample had the 18-135mm stabilized lens). You also get a hefty 324-page owner’s manual, strap, body cap, USB and A/V cables, battery and charger. The battery is rated 550 shots without the flash, 440 using the flash 50 percent of the time, per CIPA. These are solid specs and unless you’re recording video all day long, the battery should survive an extended outing in the field. You also get two CD-ROMs. One is the EOS Digital Solution Disk with Mac and Windows software for editing photos and developing RAW files. The other is the software instruction manual. We charged the battery, loaded a 16GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC card and went on our merry way.