The T3i will be available in March, 2011 at a cost of $799 for the camera body only. An 18-55mm kit lens can ship with the camera for a total of $899, and there's a larger 18-135mm kit lens that brings the total to $1099.
The Canon Rebel T3i looks and feels like other previous Rebel cameras from Canon. The large, protruding grip on the right side of the camera sticks out quite far and provides a very good grip for those who can accommodate the camera's size. The entire camera is coated in black paint job and the majority of the T3i's body is comprised of hard plastic. There is some rubberized material on both the left and right side, which does more to aid gripping than add style points. The biggest improvement with the T3i, though, comes in the form of the flip-out LCD on the back of the camera. Canon has included this feature before on the 60D, but this is the first time it has been featured on a Rebel.
The LCD on the T3i features a 3-inch screen, a 1.04-megapixel resolution, and a fun new flip-out hinge (called Vari-Angle). While this hinge may not sound like much, it really makes a huge difference when it comes to using the camera. By tilting the LCD slightly, you can avoid having to crouch or turn your body to get that high-angle shot. When shooting video this becomes a great benefit, particularly when the camera is mounted to a tripod. You don't have to get down eye-level with the camera in order to see what you are recording. You can simply tilt the LCD, stand up straight, and glance down at the screen to view the frame.
There's a small viewfinder on the T3i located just above the LCD. The viewfinder eyepiece isn't bad, but it's also not the best we've ever seen. The cool thing is, if you prefer to shoot with the LCD instead of the viewfinder, you can.
The camera features a pop-up flash that opens when you press the flash button, or it can be set to automatically activate when needed (in auto modes). We didn't get to try out the flash too much on the camera, but it does tuck in away nicely on the top.
The ports on the T3i are located on the left side, in two groups, both of which are covered by rubber plugs. One of the groups houses the HDMI and AV/USB ports, while the other is for the wired remote and microphone input. The T3i also has an accessory shoe (on its top) and a memory card slot on the right side.
The T3i uses the same battery, modelname LP-E8, as its predecessor, the Rebel T2i. The battery fits in a compartment on the bottom of the camera.
You can take pictures to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards with the T3i. Cards can be inserted via the memory card slot on the right side of the camera.
The T3i certainly has lots of modes and controls, but it isn't overly difficult to use. Canon even added a new option called "feature guide" that gives tips and/or advice about whatever setting you have selected in the menu system. Canon also updated the Scene Intelligent Auto feature to include more automatic scene modes that the camera can put to use. Autofocus, brightness, flash, and color tone can all be set automatically according to the specific scene you are shooting with.
For more advanced users who aren't quite ready to use fully manual controls, you can select specific scene modes yourself using the mode dial. There's also the Creative Auto mode that allows you to set picture effects and adjust things like color depth, brightness, or use various filters while shooting.
In our limited time with the T3i, we thought that it handled very well. The right-side grip was both comfortable and easy to grasp, and the camera never felt too heavy in our hands. The T3i is around 30g heavier than the Canon T2i, but this extra bulk isn't all that significant (its total weight is around 570g).
We love the Vari-Angle LCD for shooting video, and it also helps when shooting photos. The viewfinder is decent as well, but if you are capturing shots at a high or low angle, you may be better off flipping out the LCD.
The T3i has a few different auto modes, some of which give the user more options for control than others. The Scene Intelligent Auto (represented by the green "A" on the mode dial) is the cameras most thorough auto mode. When using it, the T3i will automatically select a scene mode based on the measurements the camera takes within the frame. Basically, you don't have to do anything but point and shoot (the flash will even pop up automatically if needed).
Other auto modes, like the Creative Auto mode and Program mode, give you more flexibility and control. You can apply filters and adjust various settings in Creative Auto, while Program mode gives you full access to the camera's menu but keeps things like shutter speed and aperture automatic.
You can record Full HD video with the T3i (1920 x 1080 resolution) using a 24p, 25p, or 30p frame rate. There's also a 1280 x 720 HD record mode with options for 50p or 60p recording, and a standard definition 640 x 480 mode that can record 25p or 30p. The 25p and 50p frame rates are meant for PAL system recording, so they're only really useful if you're shooting in a country that uses that format (or if you'll be using your footage overseas).
In movie mode you can adjust settings like aperture and shutter speed manually. In addition, the camera has a new digital zoom feature that can magnify the image up to 10x. This feature is new to the T3i and it is different than the "Movie Crop" function found on previous Canon models. The digital zoom works with HD recording and takes advantage of unused pixels on the sensor in an effort to "blow-up" the image (with minimal or no loss in image quality). It sounds a bit like an advanced or intelligent zoom function you see on certain camcorders.
Canon also incorporated a Video Snapshot mode on the T3i, which is something the company has offered on its consumer camcorders for around two years. Video Snapshot allows you to capture clips at limited lengths of 2, 4, or 6 seconds. Then the camera will incorporate all these clips into one file that you can add music to afterwards.
There is a drive mode on the T3i and the camera has the capability of snapping 3.7 frames per second when it is used. The camera also has a burst mode that is capable of taking 34 JPEG images in the Large Fine quality setting, or 6 RAW images. These drive/burst mode specs are identical to what the Canon T2i offered.
Being a dedicated DSLR camera, the Canon T3i has plenty of manual controls—and many are even usable in video mode. You can adjust controls using the camera's rotatable dial and there's also a directional pad on the back for further control. The menu system on the T3i is long, but it is laid out incredibly well and its design is both stylish and easy to read.
Obviously, you can focus using the manual lens ring on the attached lens, or you can use one of the many autofocus systems on the T3i. There's a 9-point AF system and there's a center AF point at f/2.8. We found the autofocus to be quick and accurate during our time with the camera and we never ran into any trouble. Using the manual focus ring can be a bit tricky because of the T3i's bulky frame, but if you're used to lugging around a DSLR it shouldn't be a problem.
The ISO range on the T3i is 100 - 6400 with an extended range up to 12,800 using the high ISO settings.
The camera has the traditional white balance presets, as well as custom modes and a Kelvin color temperature manual setting. We didn't get much of a chance to play with these options, but we assume the white balance controls are similar, if not identical, to what Canon had on the T2i.
You can set exposure from -3 to +3 in 1/3 EV increments. For auto exposure, the camera uses iFCL 63-zone Dual-layer metering (same as the T2i).
Being a DSLR, the T3i has plenty of manual shutter speed controls. The range goes from 30 seconds to 1/4000 of a second, with the inclusion of a bulb option as well.
Aperture settings for the T3i depend on what lens you have attached to the camera, but you can always set aperture manually (as long as the lens you have attached isn't a fixed focus lens). To set aperture manually, you must put the camera in aperture-priority or full manual mode. With the 18-135mm kit lens, the aperture range is f/3.5 to f/22.
The T3i can take up to 18-megapixel photos, which was the same resolution the T2i offered. This means its largest images will be 5184 x 3456, although there are plenty of smaller size options available as well. Multiple aspect ratios are also offered in the form of 1:1, 4:3, or 3:2. You can take JPEG images or RAW images with the T3i.
The Creative Filters that were featured on the Canon 60D will now be present on the Canon T3i as well. There's also the Creative Auto mode that allows you to adjust settings on filters to make them more or less effective.
The Rebel T3i doesn't have a ton of new features compared to previous Canon models, but the updates it offers are both useful and interesting. Let's start with the rotatable LCD, which is the most obvious update (on the surface, at least). We're happy to see Canon employ this feature on the T3i, as we loved having it on the Canon 60D—particularly when shooting video on a tripod.
Speaking of video, the T3i has a number of new video features, including Video Snapshot and a 10x digital zoom that works with HD recording. Video Snapshot isn't the most useful feature, and we've seen it before on Canon's Vixia line of consumer camcorders, but some users may like its ability to limit video clips to a specific length (2, 4, or 6 seconds).
Since the T3i has the same 18-megapixel image sensor as the Rebel T2i, we don't expect to see much of a difference in image quality between the two cameras. What we will look for is improvements to the camera's intelligent auto mode and scene selection offerings, both of which Canon claims to have been updated extensively.
The Canon Rebel T3i will be available in March for $799 (body only), or for $899 with a 18-55mm kit lens. A 18-135mm kit lens can be bundled with the T3i instead, at a cost of $1099.
Meet the tester
Managing Editor, Video@nematode9
Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and Reviewed.com's head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.See all of Jeremy Stamas's reviews
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