Top positive review
263 people found this helpful
So much camera for so little money
on September 28, 2011
BEFORE YOU START READING: This is a pretty comprehensive review of the T3i and some lenses at the end of the review. Be prepared to read a lot, or just skip to the other reviews that say things like "Great camera, takes pretty pictures of babies!" if that is more your style. I have tried to offer an unbiased and comprehensive review of the T3i.
The T3i / 600D is such an excellent buy. Let me get this out of the way first though, it only has a few small advantages over the T2i, so if you don't need the things I'm about to list, then save some money and buy the T2i. For me though, I absolutely needed the following:
T3i advantages over the T2i
*Flip out LCD screen
*Digital zoom in video mode
*Adjustable Audio levels in video mode
*Built in flash control
*In camera guide (Ok, I didn't need this feature but it is great for beginning DSLR users)
The T2i will still offer the exact same image quality and processing. The only main difference is that the T3i is much better for video as a result of the things listed above. My review will be on the T3i, but if you are only plan on using your Camera for still images, you can save $100 or so with a T2i. I use my camera a lot for video so the T3i was an essential upgrade for me.
Ok, now on to the T3i full review! Excellent image quality and potential movie quality HD video (it's all about the lenses). The camera shoots pretty sharp images with the 18-55mm kit lens. It has amazing sharpness and contrast with the 50mm f/1.8 lens that I bought additionally for $107. (Prime lenses, i.e. non zoom lenses will always offer sharper images and perform better in lower light settings due to a wider aperature.) If you are dissatisfied with pictures from this camera, then get a better lens or learn how to use it better. It is definitely NOT the camera itself. The T3i is capable of world class quality images/video if fitted with the proper lens and in the hands of a good photographer.
The botton layout and overall camera functionality is a 10/10. I have no complaints at all and everything just makes sense with the location and useability. It has dedicated buttons for almost every fruntion and the menues are quick to access and it is very easy to adjust settings. It has good locations for all of the ports and the battery/memory card slots.
The LCD is super bright, detailed and the best in the Canon line at this time. The flip out feature is amazing if you are shooting overhead or have your camera low to the ground. It may help you avoid crawling in the mud for that great shot. It is also nice for self portaits and any other time you won't be directly behind the viewfinder/LCD screen.
The quick burst mode allows me to take 8-9 photos in rapid succession, so it is great for action / sports photography. The 18-55mm kit lens that it comes with is great for non professional photographers and offers amazing image quality compared to my old Canon Powershot S5. Eventually if you want to get into more serious photography, you will want to upgrade the kit lens to something better with a lower aperature rating. (aperature essentially means how much light your lens takes in. This has two benefits, it allows you to shoot in darker settings, and allows you to have a faster shutter speed set.)
The 1080p HD video can be shot at 24fps or 30fps. It also has standard video recording options as well. The camera has a dedicated video mode selection and can be set to manual mode in the menu for a full customization of settings including shutter speed, aperature, ISO, ect. The video this thing shoots is just stunning. A small note though about the T3i and all other DSLRs on shooting video. When using them for video, there is a max video size that SD memory cards will allow you to use. When shooting in 1080p HD video a typical limit to videos are either around 12 minutes or 4GB, whichever comes first. These are the stats for this camera, but all DSLRs have similar numbers. You can extend the time by shooting in standard definition, but it still has a cap. Most videographers shoot in shorter sequences anyways, so this isn't really an issue. It is just something to take into consideration if you want to do interviews or other long scenes. Again, this goes for all DSLR videography though, and not just the T3i.
The build quality is good for what it is; a pro-sumer camera. It doesn't feel cheap by any means. It is a lighterweight DLSR and does not feel as solid as the pro level DSLRs but it costs MUCH less. The T3i still has a solid construction. Though, I would not want to drop it or leave it out in bad weather. I got a Delkin Pro Skin for the T3i, and a battery grip and it feels much more like a pro level camera now and feels better balanced with larger lenses. It is not sealed, dustproof and waterproof like the 7D or the 5D. The 60D has a better build quality and not much more expensive. It is also worth checking out. The 60D is slightly better for stills photography while the T3i is slightly better for shooting videos. You can see a number of reviews and comparisons on youtube.
It has great auto settings, though I CERTAINLY recommend learning how to really use your camera and you can take your photography to a whole new level. Having said that, IF you choose to only use the full auto / creative auto settings, you'll have a jaw dropping quality point and shoot camera. Again, I would recommend learning the settings, but for those of you who want great quality photos for birthdays and family get togethers, the T3i will exceed your expectations and is still very easy to use, thanks to the "In Camera Guide." If you really want to use your camera to the best of it's abilities, spend some time reading through the manual, watching how to videos on youtube and read online articles on improving your photography. There are an incredible amount of resources available online for free. spend some time, do the work and it will definitely pay off in the long term.
The accessories that come with this package are great for beginners too. I'll eventually be upgrading the tri-pod and the camera bag, but they will certainly be in use for a while until I decide to spend the big bucks on nicer gear. The 16gb card is great, the gear bag is decent quality, the screen protectors were a nice touch and the extra battery is an essential item for any photographer.
Overall, the T3i was the perfect camera for my needs. Of course I would love to have a 7D or a 5D, but it is much smarter to spend money on better lenses than to get too hung up on the camera body. Overall, I would recommend the T3i 100%. I am completely satisfied with my purchase, how much I spent, and the value I really recieved from such a great quality camera.
Here is an bonus list of lenses worth buying to build your collection. I will provide a list of lenses that are great for the value, and a list of my want but will probably never be able to afford lenses.
Great lenses for the value (notice I didn't say cheap, but excellent for the value):
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Zoom The kit lens that comes with this package. (The only reason not to buy this lens if if you are upgrading to a more expensive lens pretty quickly. This is probably THE BEST value lens around, Period. It has good contrast, sharpness, and overall image quality. There is definitely room for improvement, but at the price, this thing is a steal. This lens will suit many peoples needs for a long, long time. For photographers on a budget, this lens is a must have.)
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II - $110(BEST lens for the value aside from the 18-55mm kit lens)
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto - $390 (A super great lens for indoor and darker settings. More expensive the than 50mm f/1.8 but if you have the money, this lens is worth the upgrade).
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom - $670 (MUCH better than the Canon 18-55mm kit lens. Not cheap, but an excellent substitute for the Canon 17-55 f/2.8 and about $440 cheaper than the canon with only slight differences in image / video quality. Some people even prefer the Sigma. This is a great lens with excellent walk around ranges. This will be my always on lens for probably 90% of the time. This or the Canon 17-55 are a must have for video users).
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM - $400 (Great 30mm prime lens at a decent cost.)
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Medium Telephoto - $400 (Great for macro photography and a decent telephoto distance.)
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM - $570 (One of the best lenses for micro/macro photography)
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom - $675 (One of the top rated telephoto lenses around and a must for sports photographers.)
A lens that isn't quite as good but definitely deserves some attention:
Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II LD SP Aspherical (IF) Zoom - $460 (A cheaper alternative to the Canon 17-55 and the Sigma 17-50mm. It is still better than the Canon 18-55mm kit lens. It has great image quality but lacks the Image stabilization that the other two offer (which is essential if you want to use your camera as a handheld often). Tamron offers an IS version of this lens, but tests have shown that it isn't quite as sharp and it is slower than the Sigma and Canon and the autofocus isn't as good. Based on the research I've done online, I'd prefer to buy the Sigma for $50 more than the IS (well Tamron calls it VC) version of this lens.) All that said, this is an excellent lens at a good price if you plan on using a tripod most of the time.
Amazing lenses that are expensive list:
Tokina 11-16/2.8 AT-X 116 PRO DX - $720 (Best wide angle lens around, in many people's eyes.)
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Standard Zoom Lens $1600 (One of the best lenses on the market if not THE best. Great image quality, excellent contrast. The only thing this baby is missing is Image Stabilization.)
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM - $1075 (Excellent range, Image stabilization, contrast and picture quality. One of the best lenses after the Canon 24-70mm. For some it may be the best, if they need the IS.)
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM - $1100 (Not to be confused with the 18-55mm Canon kit lens. Many people consider this to be THE best lens available for APS-C body cameras, i.e. T2i, T3i, 60D ect. The only downside is that this lens CANNONT be used on full frame cameras. i.e. 5D, 1D.) It is essentially an L quality lens as far as image quality goes. Amazing quality sharpness, contrast, minimal fringing and flaring, and just a fantastic lens. It does lack the L lens quality build though.
Final Note: This is not a comprehensive list, nor am I a professional photographer. I am simply a guy who did a ton of research and wanted to contribute and give people a decent place to get started with camera and lens selection. I certainly encourage each of you to do you own research and find out what suits your needs best. You can certainly find cheaper cameras and lenses out there. I take photography pretty serious and want the best quality images/videos possible for a reasonable price. In most cases, you really do get what you pay for. Thanks for reading.