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Canon EOS Rebel T3 review:

Canon EOS Rebel T3

Lots of people don't mind them, but I dislike the low-end Canon viewfinders. This one in particular is the most claustrophobic I've seen in a long time; it's also got the lowest magnification of any Canon camera in the past few years. It's easy to lose the nine tiny autofocus points against the scene, and I frequently find I've used the wrong point to focus and have to prefocus to light them up in order to find the center point. The T3 lacks spot metering, and I think it's because of the small viewfinder; Canon tends to have large spots for its meter, and the combination of a small viewfinder and a large spot means you're already at the partial meter size, anyway.

Canon EOS Rebel T3 Nikon D3100 Pentax K-x Sony Alpha SLT-A35
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.2-megapixel CMOS 14.2-megapixel CMOS 12.4-megapixel CMOS 16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS
22.2 x 14.7mm 23.6 x 15.8mm 23.5 mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Focal length multiplier 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3,200/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 12,800
Continuous shooting 3fps JPEG/2fps raw
5 raw/830 JPEG
5 raw/17 JPEG
18 JPEG/6 raw
Viewfinder (magnification/effective magnification) 95% coverage
95% coverage
96% coverage
0.46 inches/1.4 million dots
100% coverage
Autofocus 9-pt AF
all cross-type; center dual cross to f5.6
11-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
15-pt phase-detection
3 cross-type
Shutter Speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/6,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63-zone iFCL 420-pixel 3D color matrix 16 segment 49 zone
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 720/25p/30p 1080/24p; 720/30p/25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV 720/24p Motion JPEG AVI AVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080 /30p @ 12Mbps
Image stabilization Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift
Manual aperture and shutter in video No Yes No Yes
Audio Mono Mono Mono Stereo; mic input
LCD size 2.7 inches fixed
230,000 pixels
3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,600 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC/SDHC
(SDXC requires firmware upgrade)
1 x SDXC
Wireless flash No No Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 700 shots 550 shots 1,100 shots (lithium batteries) 420 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1 4.9 x 3.8 x 2.9 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 4.9 x 3.6 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces) 17.5 17.7 24.0 16.1
Mfr. Price n/a n/a n/a n/a
$599.99 (with 18-55mm IS II lens)
$699.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens) $649.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $699.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
Release date March 2011 September 2010 October 2009 August 2011

The LCD also feels small. Since it's not 16:9 aspect, the 2.7-inch size isn't as small as it sounds (it's about as high as a 16:9 3-inch display), but it's another thing that makes the camera feel old. It's also relatively low resolution and difficult to see in direct sunlight.

As I've often complained before, I hate it that you have to use a specific movie mode to shoot video, and I especially hate that it's on the opposite side of the mode dial from the manual modes. For the T3, Canon also made the flash button flat and moved it to the top right side; I had to look up its location in the manual because it was so camouflaged. And you'd think there'd be plenty of room for an SD card slot in the huge grip. Instead, Canon moved it to the bottom, in the battery compartment--a popular but annoying location.

The one bow to modernity seems to be the Feature Guide, which pops up a description of the option in the Shooting Settings display. Creative Auto--it allows you to change aperture (background blur), drive mode, flash, and color "ambience"--is the closest thing Canon offers to a newbie mode. But there's nothing particularly interesting or inspiring in its feature set. Its one advantage over the Nikon D3100 is that it offers bracketing, which you'll need if you want to dabble in HDR, but even that's a bit lackluster: three shots in up to 2-stop increments. (Download the manual for a full accounting of the T3's features and operation.)

Though I'd technically place the D3000 as the T3's main competitor, for roughly $100 more (depending upon where the T3's street price falls to) you can get the D3100 kit or the Pentax K-x, both of which offer significant performance advantages and newer autofocus systems, while the D3100 has a larger (though lower-resolution) LCD and comparable photo quality. Nor is the T3 the cheapest model on the market; as far as I can tell, that nod goes to Sony's Alpha DSLR-A390.

If you really want an entry-level Canon, look at the T1i instead. It's not much more expensive, and offers better performance, comparable or better photo quality, a nicer viewfinder, and a similar feature set.

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