Top positive review
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A great little DSLR worth your consideration.
on May 25, 2011
Final Update, 8/27/14
Even though this camera was released back in early 2011, it still is a wonderful and simple camera to use which delivers excellent image quality under any shooting conditions.
The camera has a glossy plastic finish which doesn't exactly exude quality or make it feel like a high-end camera. But construction on this camera is very tight. The plastic is light-weight but its not flimsy like you would expect. There is no rubberized handgrip, which I think was a mistake to omit this on this camera. Especially since its predecessor (and its competitors) have them. Outside of that, the hand grip is a very nice size. The one upshot to the lightweight plastic is that the camera feel very light with the kit lens attached.
One thing you have to watch out for is that the camera feels very out of balance when attaching a heavier lens. The Canon EF-S 18-200, while a good performer optically when paired with the T3, feels way too front heavy. And this will be true with a lot of the pro-grade Canon lenses that you attach to the T3. That said, this camera is a perfect DSLR for hiking due to its light-weight design (when used with the kit lens). It doesn't weigh you down or make you feel like you have a boat anchor around your neck.
The buttons and menu system have the typical degree of straight-forwardness found in most Canons. Canon's menu system is easy to learn and navigate through. That makes the T3 a good candidate for a student or someone that wants to learn photography in general and wants a camera they can grow with. Of course it offers full Auto mode but when you're ready to try and manipulate the more advanced manual controls, the Canon Rebel T3 is about as unintimidating as they come. It's also a great entry into the DSLR realm for hobbyists currently using an advanced point and shoot (and can be found for almost the same price as some advanced point and shoots).
With the exception of burst shooting, this camera's performance is excellent. Excellent start-up, shot-to-shot, and autofocus performance. It has 9 autofocus points compared to its predecessor's 7 points. I do not reccommend this camera as a budget action shooter. It has a slow continuous burst rate (2.7fps) and a very limited buffer. The Nikon D3200 shoots at 4 frames per second, but that is currently retailing for $200 more than the T3. So you'll have to decide whether or not that feature is important to you.
The camera comes with a nice, chunky battery which delivers excellent battery life. The viewfinder is 95% coverage and I found it to be satisfactory, some people say its really cramped but personally I think it's alright. The screen resolution is rather low at 230k, but in real-world use it's not as bad as you would think, and somewhat viewable in direct sunlight. I think both the viewfinder and the LCD are of better quality than the ones found on the Nikon D3100. And overall, the T3 is faster and more fluid than the D3100. After having shot with both cameras, I personally think the T3 is more enjoyable to shoot with... despite the D3100's better plastic and more advanced spec sheet.
The camera ships with the standard 18-55 kit lens but I suggest buying the kit which includes the additional 55-250 lens. The kit lens is sufficiently sharp but it might be worth investing in the newer 18-55 STM lens, as it is reportedly sharper than the 18-55 lens included with this camera.
Despite having a sensor that is of lower resolution than the newer Rebel SL1 and Rebel T5i (12 megapixels is still plenty for everyday use), the camera has image quality that pretty much matches or exceeds those cameras in most areas. It takes a very clean shots up to and including ISO1600 and has excellent dynamic range, color reproduction, and exposure. The camera does a nice job of balancing noise reduction with detail retention up through about ISO3200. And despite being 2 1/2 years old..it still competes very well with newer models on the image quality front.
The movie mode, while delivering solid video quality, is rather limited. It's 1280x720 HD and there are very limited manual controls. It's more like something you would use for quick clips rather than longer videos or movies. I think the Rebel T5i & SL1 are better choices if you're equal parts into videos and photos as they have far better video modes than the T3 does. But if you're main interest is stills photography, this probably won't matter much to you.
The Rebel T3 may not be the sexiest camera around but it is a simple, enjoyable camera to shoot with that delivers nice results with minimum effort and it appeals to a broad range of folks from DSLR newbies, to hobbyist, to even professionals looking for a light-weight backup to their higher end gear. At its current price, it is a great value and I highly reccomend it.
This camera was replaced by the Rebel T5 back in March. The T5 has a number of improvements over the T3. However.. image quality, autofocus performance, and battery life are not among them. Plus I have seen T3 kits at $300 or less lately. It's still a great buy even though it's a 3 1/2 year old camera at this point.