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Canon EOS Rebel T3i photo samples

While the new 18-55mm IS II kit lens seems to display a little more fringing than its predecessor, the T3i itself has rock-solid photo quality, even at moderately high ISO sensitivities.

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Lori Grunin
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1 of 11 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

Noise

Overall, the T3i has an excellent noise profile, unsurprisingly similar to that of the 60D's. JPEGs look very clean up through ISO 400, and even at ISO 800 you have to really scrutinize to see the beginnings of detail degradation; at ISO 1600 the noise becomes more obvious but still isn't too bad.
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2 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise, ISO 400

ISO 400 is sort of my tipping-point sensitivity; to shoot action outdoors, I generally have to bump up the setting to at least ISO 400 in order to reach a sufficient shutter speed. And because few consumer cameras are fast enough at shooting burst raw+JPEG, the in-camera JPEG processing has to be decent as well. The T3i fared pretty well under these conditions. There's some color noise in the brown fur and some mushiness in the details, but both are typical in this class. Overall, I consider this good enough to use, but still wish I would have been able to shoot raw to clean it up.
(1/125 sec, f7.1, spot meter, AWB, ISO 400, 18-55mm IS II lens at 55mm)
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3 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise, ISO 800, JPEG vs. raw

Tiger closes her eyes when I use flash, so I bumped the T3i up to ISO 800 and hoped for the best--and the results were pretty good. But you can also see here how shooting raw (bottom) allowed me to clean up the distracting color noise that in-camera JPEG processing never seems to clean out of brown Tabby fur.
(1/100 sec, f4, spot metering, AWB, ISO 800, 18-55mm IS II lens at 24mm)
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4 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

ISO 1600, JPEG vs. raw

Overall, Canon's JPEG processing remains very good. Even at ISO 1600, I couldn't obtain unambiguously better results processing the raw--Canon seems to optimize for exposure at the expense of sharpness, and I couldn't get sharper results without losing some shadow detail (you may do better).
(1/30 sec, f3.5, spot metering, AWB, ISO 1600, 18-55mm IS II at 18mm)
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5 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise, ISO 3200, JPEG vs. raw

At ISO 3200 I was able to achieve a significant reduction in color noise without losing too much shadow detail (you can't really see the shadow detail in this crop, however).
(1/30 sec, f5, spot metering, AWB, ISO 3200, 18-55mm IS II at 30mm)
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6 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Noise, ISO 6400

At ISO 6400, I started to see hot pixels as a side-effect of the in-camera noise reduction (those white spots) in the JPEGs.
(1/30 sec, f5.6, spot metering, AWB, ISO 6400, 18-55mm IS II at 23mm)
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7 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Distortion, 18-55mm IS II lens

The 18-55mm kit lens displays visible but not terrible asymmetric barrel distortion at its widest. In shots with the previous version of the lens, the distortion looks more symmetrical, but I don't have exact comparison shots--they put up scaffolding months ago which prevents me from replicating the shot.
(1/100 sec, f5.6, spot metering, AWB, ISO 200, 18-55mm IS II at 18mm)
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8 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Texture

This is just an example of how the T3i renders textures without making them too crispy.
(1/30 sec, f5.6, spot metering, AWB, ISO 100, 18-55mm IS II at 55mm)
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9 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Sharpness, 18-55mm IS II lens

On its Standard (default) Picture Style, the T3i plus 18-55mm IS II lens can produce some nice sharp results. However, notice the fringing on the highlights and processed-looking mushiness on the out-of-focus areas; those are my two least-favorite characteristics of the new lens.
(1/30 sec, f4.5, spot metering, AWB, ISO 200, 18-55mm IS II at 36mm)
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10 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

Fringing, 18-55mm IS II lens

The new lens seems to have worse fringing problems than its predecessor--not just on the high-contrast edges on the sides of the frame (top call-out), where we expect them to be, but real aberration issues on internal areas (bottom call-out).
(1/60 sec, f4, spot metering, AWB, ISO 200, 18-55mm IS II at 18mm)
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11 of 11 Lori Grunin/CNET

18-55mm IS II lens, bokeh

The six-bladed aperture doesn't produce the rounded defocused highlights we've come to expect from modern camera lenses, instead producing old-fashioned polygonal ones.
(1/30 sec, f7.1, evaluative metering, AWB, ISO 100, 18-55mm IS II at 18mm)

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