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Box Photo

The Canon T3 comes packaged body-only or with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens along with:

  • manuals/software
  • USB cable
  • neck strap
  • LP-E10 battery
  • battery charger
  • lens/body caps

As we saw with the 18-105mm kit lens tested with the Canon T3i, the lenses included with Canon's entry-level DSLRs are not very sharp, and suffer from serious sharpness falloff at the edges. The kit lens is actually not that bad wide-open through f/10, while most zoom lenses peak at f/8-f/10. Canon offers a great range of affordable prime lenses, especially their great 50mm f/1.8 lens (retail price less than $150), so your best bet is to grab a better lens, even if you're looking for affordability first.

The Canon T3 makes use of a 12.2-megapixel APS-C size CMOS image sensor, with a basic low pass filter with fluorine coating in front of the sensor. The sensor does not offer a physical dust reduction system, like some higher-end Canon models, so anything on the sensor must be properly cleaned manually. The camera can also map dust on the sensor and remove it digitally through software.

The image sensor on the T3 appears to be built off of that found in the Canon XSi, offering 12.2 megapixels of resolution, a small reduction from the 15 megapixels offered by the T1i. This is really no huge difference, as there's little you can do with 15 megapixels that you can't do with 12.2, though the T3 did not resolve detail well with the 18-55mm kit lens.

The T3 features an optical viewfinder, offering approximately 95% coverage. For exact framing, the liveview mode makes use of the effective area of the sensor, giving 100% coverage. The optical viewfinder has a diopter range of -2.5 to +0.5 m-1, with a magnification of about 0.8x. It's not a perfect viewfinder, but it's a superior option to shooting with live view, especially for focus speed. As with other Canon DSLRs, below the viewfinder there is a line of shooting information including exposure compensation. When manually focusing, if you hold down the shutter release button halfway, the focus points will light up along with a green focus confirmation dot when focus is achieved.

The T3 uses a fairly basic 2.7-inch rear LCD, with just 230k dot resolution. It's functional for manually focusing, and it provides a good amount of information, with some measure of control available through the "Q" menu on the screen. The display also reacts well to changes in exposure, providing a good idea of the relative brightness of the final image as you adjust settings. We'd liked to have seen a higher resolution screen, but there's nothing notably low-quality about the monitor that would give us too much pause.

The T3 features a built-in pop-up flash, with a guide number of approximately 9.2 meters (30 feet) at ISO 100, and 13 meters/43 feet at ISO 200. Every Canon DSLR back to the Canon XS has had a guide number of 13/43 at ISO 100, so it's clearly a cost-cutting and battery-saving move to add a less powerful flash. As with just about every other built-in flash, we'd recommend avoiding using it if possible, but the lower power does tend to wash skin tones out less than usual.

Flash Photo

The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.

The T3 has an input/output section on the left side of the body of the camera, behind a rubber flap that clicks into place. The section includes a mini-HDMI output, a standard mini-USB output (which can also be used as an AV output with the included cable, and a remote cable release jack. There is also a hot shoe on the top of the camera, useful if you require a more powerful flash. There is no mic input jack, though most entry-level DSLRs omit that, so it's unfortunate though not unexpected.

The T3 makes us of an LP-E10 Canon battery. It has a capacity of 860 mAh. It's slightly smaller than some other models of Canon batteries, likely to make room for SD card, which has found a home in the battery compartment rather than on the side of the camera. The battery offers decent life, and through all our testing we didn't find much of a need to charge it except for every few days or so despite moderate usage.

Battery Photo

The Canon T3 features some internal memory for saving settings and the like, but requires an SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card in order to record images and video. The frustrating thing is that the memory card slot has been relocated to the battery compartment, meaning it's often blocked by tripod plates. It's probably not a huge issue for most people, but if you do a lot of tripod shooting and card swapping (like, say, if you review cameras for a living), it's a bit of a pain.

Memory Photo

The K2000 accepts inexpensive, easy to find SD cards.

Media Photo

Typically, with a DSLR lens we like to see sharpness over over 1000 lw/ph at a variety of apertures and at least in the center of the lens. The T3's 18-55mm kit lens could barely crack 900 lw/ph in the majority of our test shots, and only barely cracked 1000 on average in two. The lens is sharpest at the wide angle from the maximum aperture of f/3.5 through f/8, but even then it only has a sharpness measurement of around 1200 lw/ph in the center of the lens. Given the way they price DSLRs, it likely will make no difference in price to get the 18-55mm kit over body-only, but buy a better lens to get the most out of your camera. More on how we test sharpness.

The Canon T3's optical stabilization performed fairly well in our shake testing, though didn't provide any substantial improvements. Canon employs an in-lens stabilization system, moving a lens element to counteract any camera movement. This hasn't proven as effective as in-camera stabilization in our testing, though there are other benefits to using this type of stabilization in DSLRs. The main benefit is that it stabilizes the image as it's seen through the viewfinder, as well as in the final image. Sensor-shift systems merely stabilize when the final image is taken, making framing difficult while the camera isn't stationary.

The T3 offered perfect 100.2% saturation levels and a delta C color error of approximately 2.8 with its faithful color mode setting. Almost all the color modes kept the average color error under 4, usually emphasizing specific colors depending on the mode. The color modes are all customizable, with slider settings to adjust sharpness, saturation, contrast, and color tone on a +/- 8 scale, along with three user-defined settings. More on how we test color.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The T3's color accuracy was beat only by the Nikon D5100, and was right in line with what we saw from the slightly higher end Canon T3i. In truth, most of our comparison cameras came in right around the same score, with only the Sony A33 falling behind the group and the Nikon D5100 pulling slightly ahead. With a color error of under 3 for almost all the cameras, these are all very accurate cameras.

The most accurate color mode on offer is the faithful setting, as we have seen with other Canon DSLRs. The other modes all tend to emphasize specific characteristics of the image in order to change the image. Most of them emphasize sharpness specifically, with only the neutral and faithful modes offering no added sharpness. The neutral mode was less accurate under our lab lights, but the faithful mode is specifically tailored to a color temperature of 5200 kelvin (our lab lights are 4700 kelvin, but we use a custom white balance that accounts for some of the difference).

The only lighting condition that the T3 had any real trouble with was the same that we see with all DSLR cameras: tungsten lighting. Tungsten filaments used in common household lightbulbs give off a very warm light that is often not well accounted for by automatic white balance metering. In daylight and compact white fluorescent settings, however, the T3 was superb, and it's custom white balance handled tungsten light very well.

Automatic White Balance ()

The automatic white balance returned very little error under daylight conditions, off by just 66 kelvins on average. Under compact white fluorescent lighting, that error jumped up to 133 kelvins, but would still be considered very minor. The aforementioned tungsten lighting was not handled particularly well by the automatic white balance meter, with an average error of 1673 kelvins. Still, the strength of the camera under daylight and fluorescent lighting was enough to keep the T3 scores high in this category.

Custom White Balance ()

The T3's custom white balance worked very well in all lighting conditions, with the most egregious error found under tungsten lighting again. However, that error was still just 184.5 kelvins on average off of the ideal, which is a very accurate result. The next worse error was found under daylight conditions, where the T3 returned an average color error of 125 kelvins. This was worse than the camera performed with its automatic white balance, which isn't terribly uncommon for daytime lighting as many automatic white balances seem tuned to handle daylight well in particular. Under compact white fluorescent lighting, the T3 had a color error of just 70.33 kelvins, giving it another great score.

Overall, the T3 just mopped the floor with the field here, offering the most accurate custom and automatic white balance systems of any of our comparison cameras. The results were closest to the T3i, though that camera didn't perform quite as well in custom white balance settings. In general, though, we found the T3 to be very accurate in diagnosing white under a variety of lighting conditions.

White balance control is available on the T3 through the menu and by pressing the dedicated WB key on the rear control pad. When in live view or movie recording mode, white balance must be set using the "Q" menu on the screen. Setting a custom white balance is a bit of a pain, as it has been on other Canon DSLRs. The custom white balance setting is only available through the full menu, and it can only take a custom reading from an image that is on the memory card. This means that you have to first take an image, go into the menu, tell the camera to use that image (with no option to emphasize a particular area, so the neutral object should fill the entire frame) and then set the camera to use custom white balance. There aren't multiple user-savable white balance settings, either, which is a bit of a step back from what many interchangeable lens cameras offer.

The T3 performed very well in long exposure testing, better than the rest of our comparison group. It was able to put up good results at speeds as short as one second and generally was consistent, returning results that did not degrade appreciably as we extended the shutter to thirty seconds. The results were not quite as good as during shorter shutter speeds—color accuracy and saturation took a small hit—but this is common for DSLRs. More on how we test long exposure.

The T3 was able to keep noise to an absolute minimum in long exposure testing, with noise never rising above 0.7% even in exposures reaching 30 seconds. There was also less of a spike in color error on long exposures than with other cameras, with a minimum color error of 2.88 and a maximum of only 3.15. Saturation hung firm right at 105% of the ideal across the shutter speed range as well, though this was a slight uptick from our dedicated color testing.

The consistency with which the T3 returned solid results across the testing range earned it top marks in our comparison group. The T3 outperformed all the others by a solid margin, including more expensive models from Nikon and Canon themselves. The Sony A33 was the worst of the lot, while the Canon T3i, Nikon D5100, and Pentax K-r all had decent, if unspectacular results in long exposure testing.

The noise reduction on the Canon T3 is more subtle than it is with other cameras, but it doesn't need to be aggressive with this camera. With noise reduction disabled, the camera shows just 0.52% noise at the minimum ISO speed of 100, rising to just 2.14% average noise at ISO 6400. Compare that to the maximum noise reduction setting, which returned 0.44% noise at ISO 100, and 1.02% noise at 6400. Those aren't major swings, and really the low and medium noise reduction settings are fine enough. The major culprit with the T3 is noise in the red channel, which spikes to over 3% luminance noise and 2.5% color noise at ISO 6400. On average, however, noise is not a major concern. More on how we test noise.

The T3 offers three levels of noise reduction, but they’re hardly needed, as noise doesn’t even cross 2% until ISO 6400. There are specific color channel noise issues, but in general noise was kept to an absolute minimum on the camera in our testing, better than even the more expensive T3i.

The comparison cameras all performed well in handling noise, as one would expect from entry and mid-level DSLR cameras. Only the NIkon D5100 performed better, and even then only slightly. The worst in our group was the Pentax K-r, which had a particular issue handling high ISO speeds. The Canon T3 and T3i both kept noise low throughout the ISO range, though the T3 showed a small improvement overall in handling red channel noise.

The Canon T3 offers ISO options ranging from 100-6400, with an option to cap the maximum ISO at any of the full stops from 400-6400 through the menu. The ISO can quickly be changed by pressing the dedicated ISO button, which is also the up key on the four-way controller. In live view, you must first press the "Q" button to access the live menu, and navigate down to the ISO option to adjust sensitivity.

The Canon T3 posted very good dynamic range results, keeping more than seven stops of clean dynamic range at ISO speeds as high as 400, only dropping to 6.79 at ISO 800. Things fell off more dramatically from there, dropping down to 2.94 stops at ISO 6400. These are very good results, especially from an entry-level DSLR, and they're right on par with what we usually see out of Canon's higher up models. More on how we test dynamic range.

The T3 performed well enough in our comparison group, falling behind only the Nikon D5100. It slightly outperformed the T3i even, though not by any considerable margin. We found the camera tended to underexpose in our controlled lab setting, though it was more accurate when metering outdoors and didn't require as much tinkering. As a result, our lab tests kept more detail in the highlight areas without easily being blown out. Given the budget price of the T3, the dynamic range results are pleasantly surprising without much noise before ISO 800.

The noise reduction on the Canon T3 is more subtle than it is with other cameras, but it doesn't need to be aggressive with this camera. With noise reduction disabled, the camera shows just 0.52% noise at the minimum ISO speed of 100, rising to just 2.14% average noise at ISO 6400. Compare that to the maximum noise reduction setting, which returned 0.44% noise at ISO 100, and 1.02% noise at 6400. Those aren't major swings, and really the low and medium noise reduction settings are fine enough. The major culprit with the T3 is noise in the red channel, which spikes to over 3% luminance noise and 2.5% color noise at ISO 6400. On average, however, noise is not a major concern. More on how we test noise.

The Canon T3 offers ISO options ranging from 100-6400, with an option to cap the maximum ISO at any of the full stops from 400-6400 through the menu. The ISO can quickly be changed by pressing the dedicated ISO button, which is also the up key on the four-way controller. In live view, you must first press the "Q" button to access the live menu, and navigate down to the ISO option to adjust sensitivity.

The T3's phase detection autofocus system works well, with nine cross-type AF points. The center point is cross type at f/5.6, so it will work very well, even with the kit lens. The camera by default makes use of contrast detection AF when in live view or recording video, which is frustratingly inaccurate and slow. It's typical of entry-level DSLRs, however, so it's no worse than the other cameras in this class. The menu does include a face detection mode as well as the "Quick AF" function, which will allow you to compose in live view and then, by holding the shutter button halfway down, swings the mirror back down to make full use of the phase detection autofocus system. It's far faster to use Quick AF, though the screen goes blank while focusing and the mirror must return up with focus achieved before the photo can be taken, so your subject may move in the interim.

The T3 performed very well in long exposure testing, better than the rest of our comparison group. It was able to put up good results at speeds as short as one second and generally was consistent, returning results that did not degrade appreciably as we extended the shutter to thirty seconds. The results were not quite as good as during shorter shutter speeds—color accuracy and saturation took a small hit—but this is common for DSLRs. More on how we test long exposure.

The T3 was able to keep noise to an absolute minimum in long exposure testing, with noise never rising above 0.7% even in exposures reaching 30 seconds. There was also less of a spike in color error on long exposures than with other cameras, with a minimum color error of 2.88 and a maximum of only 3.15. Saturation hung firm right at 105% of the ideal across the shutter speed range as well, though this was a slight uptick from our dedicated color testing.

The consistency with which the T3 returned solid results across the testing range earned it top marks in our comparison group. The T3 outperformed all the others by a solid margin, including more expensive models from Nikon and Canon themselves. The Sony A33 was the worst of the lot, while the Canon T3i, Nikon D5100, and Pentax K-r all had decent, if unspectacular results in long exposure testing.

The Canon T3 required 12 lux of light to record an image that registered 50 IRE on a waveform monitor. This isn't particularly sensitive, but it's a low enough amount of light that in most practical situations that don't involve the inside of a dark bar, you'll be able to record usable images.

There's an average amount of chromatic aberration visible in the sample photos out of the Canon T3, with blue-green fringing very visible when looking at 100% resolution. If printing or sizing down, this will really not be a problem. The fringing is most apparent in high contrast areas. This is especially the case with highlighted backgrounds, such as leaves set against an overcast daytime sky.

As with most 18-55mm kit lenses, there is moderate barrel distortion at the wide angle, with little to no real distortion at the middle and telephoto parts of the zoom range. We found around 2.94% barrel distortion at the widest shooting angle of 18mm, with distortion all but gone by 35mm. At 55mm, this changed to a very slight pincushion, measuring just 0.35% alteration.

The T3 rendered motion fairly well, with its major issue being trailing across the frame. In our motion test this is most visible in the train's face and the monochrome pinwheel. There is little signal interference or aberration visible in the rest of the motion, however, despite the video being just 720/30p. Given that this is Canon's first sub-$600 DSLR with HD video, it's not a bad effort. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The T3 offered very smooth motion, right in line with what we saw with the other cameras in our comparison group. There's not much choppiness to be found in these DSLRs. There is, however, still serious issues with rolling shutter and ghosting. The 720/30p video on the T3 doesn't do it any favors in this department, though artifacting is not much of an issue. The T3i had more artifacting, though less ghosting and trailing.

The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens on the T3 proved to be very soft in our still resolution testing and that holds true here. The camera and kit lens could manage just 450 lw/ph of horizontal sharpness, and 500 lw/ph vertically. The combination also created a pronounced moire effect with pretty obvious chromatic aberration at the highest spatial frequencies. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

The Canon T3 required 12 lux of light to record an image that registered 50 IRE on a waveform monitor. This isn't particularly sensitive, but it's a low enough amount of light that in most practical situations that don't involve the inside of a dark bar, you'll be able to record usable images.

The button design on the T3 reflects the changes in philosophy from Canon since the XS was released. The buttons are not dedicated round lumps, but shaped indentations that flow together nicely. There is a dedicated live view/record button, as well, and all the controls are now placed on the right side of the camera's backside to ease single-handed operation. There are actually no buttons at all that require a second hand to operate, as even the flash release has been moved to just behind the control dial. The buttons offer less travel than the previous round versions, but they have a nice audible click and there's enough separation that pressing the wrong one is a rare issue.

The Canon T3 has a variety of color profiles that are available, as well as three user-defined settings that can be saved and called upon easily. These profiles are accessed by pressing the "Q" button on the rear of the camera, accessing a list of the major color modes, along with sliders for adjusting each.

The menu is the same tabbed setup we've come to expect from Canon. We like the tabs because they do not require vertical scrolling to see extra options, and they are color coded to indicate whether the page affects shooting, playback, or custom settings. The T3 also offers a custom "My Menu" tab where users can deposit any of the menu settings onto a single tab for easy access. There is no dedicated help button, though, so some novices may feel the menu is more complicated then they are used to at first.

The T3 does not include much for a printed manual, offering just an 80-page quick start guide that goes over functions and settings that will be basic for anybody who has used more than a basic point-and-shoot in recent years. The camera does come with the same extra learning materials on macro and stabilized photography that we saw with the T3i. They're basically extended sales pitches for accessories from Canon, but they do have some good tips that will help beginners understand the interplay of equipment, scenery, and photography more.

The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the Canon T3 is the chintzy feel of the grip and body. The grip is a smooth, ultra-thin rubberized material with no texture. While your hands are unlikely to slip from the grip, it provides only a bare minimum of control and comfort, and is a big step down from even the Canon XSi, let alone the other T-series Rebel DSLRs from Canon.

Handling Photo 1

The T3's best asset is its light weight, which makes it is easy to carry around and use for an extended period of time, even at odd angles, without feeling tired of its heft. This is mostly owed to the nearly universal use of plastic on the body, so it's a bit of a trade-off. Overall, we were left underwhelmed by the body design of the T3 compared to rival models from Nikon, Pentax, and Sony, though the relative lack of weight of the camera body will be attractive for many people in this price range.

Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3

The button design on the T3 reflects the changes in philosophy from Canon since the XS was released. The buttons are not dedicated round lumps, but shaped indentations that flow together nicely. There is a dedicated live view/record button, as well, and all the controls are now placed on the right side of the camera's backside to ease single-handed operation. There are actually no buttons at all that require a second hand to operate, as even the flash release has been moved to just behind the control dial. The buttons offer less travel than the previous round versions, but they have a nice audible click and there's enough separation that pressing the wrong one is a rare issue.

Buttons Photo 1
Buttons Photo 2

The T3 uses a fairly basic 2.7-inch rear LCD, with just 230k dot resolution. It's functional for manually focusing, and it provides a good amount of information, with some measure of control available through the "Q" menu on the screen. The display also reacts well to changes in exposure, providing a good idea of the relative brightness of the final image as you adjust settings. We'd liked to have seen a higher resolution screen, but there's nothing notably low-quality about the monitor that would give us too much pause.

The T3 features an optical viewfinder, offering approximately 95% coverage. For exact framing, the liveview mode makes use of the effective area of the sensor, giving 100% coverage. The optical viewfinder has a diopter range of -2.5 to +0.5 m-1, with a magnification of about 0.8x. It's not a perfect viewfinder, but it's a superior option to shooting with live view, especially for focus speed. As with other Canon DSLRs, below the viewfinder there is a line of shooting information including exposure compensation. When manually focusing, if you hold down the shutter release button halfway, the focus points will light up along with a green focus confirmation dot when focus is achieved.

The Canon T3's optical stabilization performed fairly well in our shake testing, though didn't provide any substantial improvements. Canon employs an in-lens stabilization system, moving a lens element to counteract any camera movement. This hasn't proven as effective as in-camera stabilization in our testing, though there are other benefits to using this type of stabilization in DSLRs. The main benefit is that it stabilizes the image as it's seen through the viewfinder, as well as in the final image. Sensor-shift systems merely stabilize when the final image is taken, making framing difficult while the camera isn't stationary.

The T3 offers a range of shooting modes that will be very familiar to anyone who has used a Canon DSLR in the past two years. There are the typical shutter/aperture-priority, program auto, and full manual modes. Complementing those are the full automatic, automatic (no flash), and Canon's "creative auto" mode. There are also fully automatic scene modes for portrait, landscapes, macro, sports, and night portrait, with a fully automatic movie mode as well.

The T3's phase detection autofocus system works well, with nine cross-type AF points. The center point is cross type at f/5.6, so it will work very well, even with the kit lens. The camera by default makes use of contrast detection AF when in live view or recording video, which is frustratingly inaccurate and slow. It's typical of entry-level DSLRs, however, so it's no worse than the other cameras in this class. The menu does include a face detection mode as well as the "Quick AF" function, which will allow you to compose in live view and then, by holding the shutter button halfway down, swings the mirror back down to make full use of the phase detection autofocus system. It's far faster to use Quick AF, though the screen goes blank while focusing and the mirror must return up with focus achieved before the photo can be taken, so your subject may move in the interim.

The 18-55mm kit lens on the Canon T3 has a hard AF/MF switch, so there's no constant MF override. The camera does offer a hard focus stop at both ends, though as expected there's no focus scale and the hard stop is a hair past infinity. When in live view, manual focus is aided well by a 5x and 10x digital zoom option, triggered by the zoom in/out buttons located just above the thumbrest. There is no peaking function.

The T3 offers a fairly basic setup of picture quality and size options. There are ten total options, including "fine" and "normal" quality large, medium, and small JPEG settings, RAW shooting, and RAW+JPEG. There are also two extra small settings that are really only useful for images that will be put online, as they're just 2.5 and 0.3 megapixels, respectively.

The Canon T3 offers average shot-to-shot speed for an entry-level DSLR, though there isn't much of a buffer restricting continuous shooting. The camera isn't the fastest gun, but it will feel quicker for anybody stepping up from a non-interchangeable lens camera.

The T3 comes with basic single and continuous drive modes, selectable by hitting the left button on the back control pad. This menu also yields the self-timer options. The continuous shooting mode works in every JPEG setting as well as in RAW shooting, though shooting at RAW reduces the shot-to-shot speed.

The T3 fires shots at just a hair less than 3 frames per second, though there is a bit of a buffer depending on how fast you are shooting. Firing off at shutter speeds under 1/500 of a second actually tend to yield less of a buffer (usually in excess of 20 shots can be continuously taken), whereas shooting at faster speeds tends to reduce the buffer to approximately five shots at a time.

The self-timer on the T3 consists of options for 10 seconds, two seconds, and a user-selected amount of up to 10 continuous shots fired after a 10-second delay. These are all available through the left control on the rear D-pad, in the same menu as drive mode settings.

The T3's phase detection autofocus system works well, with nine cross-type AF points. The center point is cross type at f/5.6, so it will work very well, even with the kit lens. The camera by default makes use of contrast detection AF when in live view or recording video, which is frustratingly inaccurate and slow. It's typical of entry-level DSLRs, however, so it's no worse than the other cameras in this class. The menu does include a face detection mode as well as the "Quick AF" function, which will allow you to compose in live view and then, by holding the shutter button halfway down, swings the mirror back down to make full use of the phase detection autofocus system. It's far faster to use Quick AF, though the screen goes blank while focusing and the mirror must return up with focus achieved before the photo can be taken, so your subject may move in the interim.

The 18-55mm kit lens on the Canon T3 has a hard AF/MF switch, so there's no constant MF override. The camera does offer a hard focus stop at both ends, though as expected there's no focus scale and the hard stop is a hair past infinity. When in live view, manual focus is aided well by a 5x and 10x digital zoom option, triggered by the zoom in/out buttons located just above the thumbrest. There is no peaking function.

The Canon T3 has a variety of color profiles that are available, as well as three user-defined settings that can be saved and called upon easily. These profiles are accessed by pressing the "Q" button on the rear of the camera, accessing a list of the major color modes, along with sliders for adjusting each.

The T3 compresses 720/30p videos into .MOV files using MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression, with linear PCM audio recording. For video, compression is a variable bit rate, though we found our motion tests typically coming in between 20 and 30 Mb/s. The video quality is generally good, and looked quite smooth playing back on multiple macs in the office as well as through the camera itself. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

There simply aren't any real manual controls to speak of on the T3, unfortunately. Only 720p recording is available, and only at a frame rate of 30 or 25fps. There are options for adjusting exposure compensation, white balance, picture style, as well as activation of the auto lighting optimizer and highlight tone priority. After that, nearly no other customization options exist that pertain to video. There are no options to control aperture, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, or anything similar in video on the T3, befitting its classification as an entry-level DSLR.

Auto Controls

The T3 has a dedicated movie record setting, which unfortunately precludes the use of any digital filters or scene modes. The only adjustments one can make to the video being recorded are to change the picture style settings, which will enhance sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone. All the same picture styles that are available in still shooting remain in video, including the three user-defined options.

Zoom

As with other DSLRs, zoom is limited only to manually rotating the zoom ring on the lens. There is no cropped digital zoom with the T3, so you'll be left without many options if your lens doesn't do the job on its own. The same 5x and 10x focus assist zoom is available by pressing the zoom in button near the thumbrest, but during recording the view automatically returns to normal.

Focus

The T3 offers autofocus during video recording, but only in the form of loud, obnoxiously slow contrast detection. Your best bet for sharp video with any sort of moving subject is to change to manual focus and know what you're going to be focusing on ahead of time. If you're recording something such as sports, you're unfortunately out of luck, as with no real aperture control there's little hope of making up for poor video autofocus.

Exposure Controls

The only real control afforded to users by the T3 is exposure compensation, which really is no control at all. It will allow you to rein in brightness, or preserve highlight detail, but as for actually controlling how your subject is is represented on video, there's simply no options that amount to more than hoping for the best.

Other Controls

The T3 does bring over some of its automatic correction menu options from still shooting to video, including highlight tone priority, peripheral illumination correction, and auto lighting optimizer. These all generally try to preserve a more uniform brightness across the scene, either accounting for extremes in exposure or vignetting in the lens itself. The T3 also offers all the same custom and automatic white balance settings in video that it does for still shooting.

The T3 offers the bare minimum of audio recording options during video. That is to say, it does record sound, though not in stereo and not particularly well or with any control. The camera has merely a built-in monaural microphone, located on the front of the camera. The only menu option that even pertains to audio simply allows the user to turn off audio recording. To say the least, we'd recommend a secondary audio source.

Mic Photo

The Canon T3 is an entry-level DSLR camera, coming in at just $499 for the body only. As such, we weren't expecting miracles, though the camera does suffer from obvious cost-cutting in production and a truncated feature-set that keeps the T3 placed firmly below the T3i in the Canon model line. One thing that hasn't been cut is the image quality, as the sensor actually performs very well for this price point.

The spec sheet is a bit limited, though, and the T3 offers less resolution than the T1i, with the least powerful flash Canon has included in some time, a rather poor kit lens, and a grip that is cheaper than every entry-level Canon DSLR as far back as the 300D from eight years ago. The T3 performs as well or better than those cameras in terms of image quality, but Canon seems to be cutting closer to the bone with this model than some of their previous entry-level efforts.

That isn't to say the T3 isn't a good camera, as it offers quite a lot for the price. However, it's a troubling step backward in build quality from previous Canon models. We wouldn't recommend those with a functional XS or XSi be chomping at the bit to upgrade, but those looking for simple operation and solid image quality in a rather inexpensive camera body will be very satisfied with the T3—though we'd recommend picking up a better lens, as Canon offers substantially better options.
The Canon T3 performed very well for an entry-level camera—in some ways marginally upstaging the more expensive T3i—with good color accuracy, decent dynamic range, and very little image noise. We found it to be right on par with nearly every other sub-$1000 DSLR we have tested, with only a poor kit lens and lack of sharpness holding it back. Its best performance came in white balance accuracy, where it handled a variety of lighting conditions without complaint. The T3 is a bit like a luxury car without the options. Sure, it might not have air conditioned leather seats, but it's a solid performer where it counts.
When Canon has released multiple DSLRs that have at least some level of control during video recording, it's hard to believe that the T3's hamstrung video control is anything but SKU differentiation to make the T3i more attractive. This is frustrating, especially because the T3 already has just 720p video and a fixed LCD screen. The quality of the video wasn't poor, as motion was rendered quite well and there was little artifacting. There is some signal interference and color bleeding present, and trailing is a problem with any moving subjects, but the lack of control and 1080p video seems like feature-gouging than a necessity of price.
The hardware on the T3 is a bit of mixed bag of sorts, with a 12-megapixel sensor that performs very well for the price. The camera is saddled by a poor kit lens, however. The Canon lens library provides good lens choices at a range of price points, but it will require more investment so novices may not be willing to upgrade. The camera has a new battery in the LP-E10, and it provides decent life that is only heavily restricted when recording video or shooting in live view. The
Handling is really where the T3 suffers. It's a very lightweight camera, but the shooting experience is hampered by some design choices that seem predicated by cost more than ergonomics. The whole camera just doesn't feel particularly stable in the hand, and the grip is not the plush rubber we've seen on every other Canon DSLR. Instead it's a solid material that has some resistance to it, but has none of the texture or give that we expect with a camera of this type.
The T3 has a fairly standard level of manual control for an entry-level DSLR, with overrides that allow the user to adjust a wide range of shooting settings when taking still photos. The one thing that users stepping up to the T3 may find lacking are the scene modes and digital filters that have become increasingly commonplace on compact cameras. If you're a shooter that likes to express yourself creatively, but only really likes using what is provided in-camera, then a camera like the Nikon D5100 may provide options more to your liking. Those looking for basic the usual automatic modes punctuated by full manual control will like what the T3 has to offer.

Meet the testers

TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

See all of TJ Donegan's reviews
TJ Donegan

TJ Donegan

Executive Editor

@TJDonegan

TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.

See all of TJ Donegan's reviews

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