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Canon EOS Rebel T3 review: Canon EOS Rebel T3

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The Good Unsurprisingly, the Canon EOS Rebel T3 delivers excellent photo quality.

The Bad Average performance, a nothing-but-the-basics feature set and claustrophobic viewfinder leave the camera an uninspiring shooter.

The Bottom Line Though it's a perfectly fine entry-level camera, there are better options for the money than the Canon EOS Rebel T3.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

Rather than introduce new dSLR models at bargain-basement prices as Pentax and Sony tend to do, Canon traditionally lets its slightly higher-end models gradually fall in price until they're the de facto entry-level models. But its current starter, the EOS Rebel XS, which the Canon EOS Rebel T3 replaces, has been around since the summer of 2008 and even Canon must think it's looking a bit dowdy compared with competitors that, though old, aren't quite that old. So Canon spruced up its low-end models a little with the latest imaging and metering systems--and somehow managed to produce a camera that still feels 3 years old.

That's not to say that the T3 is bad; it's not. In fact, the photo quality is quite good for the price, as we've come to expect from Canon. It has excellent midrange (ISO 400-3,200) sensitivity performance. JPEGs get a bit grainy, but remain very usable, up through ISO 800, and start to get soft at ISO 1,600. At ISO 3,200, the JPEG photos don't look terrible, but you can see some color noise and images develop hot pixels. As usual, Canon's JPEG processing is pretty good. I couldn't get much better results from processing the raw versions--I could get different results, but only by trading off dynamic range for color and grain.

Overall, the T3 delivers excellent color reproduction, though in shadowed areas the white balance gets a little too cool. The default Standard Picture Style pushes the saturation and sharpness a bit more than I like, but there are no wholesale hue shifts and the Neutral style works out well if you prefer. Metering and exposure are solid.

In its Standard Picture Style setting (sharpness at +3), the camera plus 18-55mm lens renders very sharp images--possibly a little too sharp. You can dial it back, however. The lens produces nice out-of-focus highlights, and at its widest the distortion isn't too bad. Like most inexpensive lenses, it's pretty susceptible to fringing. I didn't see any purple, however, and it tends to stay on the edges of the frame.

For the most part, the T3 performs like the rest of the budget dSLRs, although its burst speed is worse than the 3-year-old XSi and pretty much at the bottom of its class. Time to turn on and shoot runs about 0.4 second, while focusing and shooting in good light takes 0.3 second; in dim light, that rises to 0.6 second. Typical JPEG shot-to-shot time rounds up to 0.5 second (raw is a bit slower at 0.6 second), and with flash enabled it--surprisingly--stays the same. All of that is pretty typical, perfectly adequate performance for a low-end model. Continuous shooting, though, is a mediocre 2.9 frames per second, which is just as bad as the Nikon D3100. In practice, that's just fast enough to capture kids and pets, but only if they're moving predictably, and with the knowledge that you may occasionally not get the shot. And Live Mode autofocus is as slow as you'd expect.

Canon EOS Rebel XS Canon EOS Rebel T3 Canon EOS Rebel XSi Canon EOS Rebel T1i Canon EOS Rebel T2i Canon EOS Rebel T3i
Sensor (effective resolution) 10.1-megapixel CMOS 12.2-megapixel CMOS 12.2-megapixel CMOS 15.1-megapixel CMOS 18-megapixel CMOS 18-megapixel CMOS
22.2 x 14.8mm 22.2 x 14.7mm 22.2 x 14.8mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 22.3 x 14.9mm
Image processor version Digic III Digic 4 Digic III Digic 4 Digic 4 Digic 4
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 1,600 ISO 100 - ISO 6,400 ISO 100 - ISO 1,600 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/ 12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/ 12,800 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 3fps
5 raw/unlimited JPEG
3fps JPEG/2 fps raw
5 raw/830 JPEG
6 raw/53 JPEG
6 raw/53 JPEG
6 raw/34 JPEG
11 raw/34 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) 95% coverage
95% coverage
95% coverage
95% coverage
95% coverage
95% coverage
Autofocus 7-pt AF
9-pt AF
all cross-type; center dual cross to f5.6
9-pt AF
center cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type to f2.8
9-pt AF
center cross-type to f2.8
Shutter Speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync n/a
Metering 35 zones 63-zone iFCL 35 zones 35 zones 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL
Live View Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video None H.264 QuickTime MOV 720/25p/30p None H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/20p; 720/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p/30p; 720/50p/ 60p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p/30p; 720/50p/ 60p
Manual aperture and shutter in video n/a No n/a No Yes Yes
Audio n/a Mono n/a Mono Mono; mic input Mono; mic input
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
LCD size 2.5 inches fixed
230,000 pixels
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 pixels
2 inches fixed
230,000 pixels
3 inches fixed
920,000 pixels
3 inches fixed
1.04 megapixels
3 inches articulated
1.04 megapixels
Memory slots 1 x SDHC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDHC 1 x SDHC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash No No No No No Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 500 shots 700 shots 500 shots 400 shots 550 shots 440 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.0 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.0
Body operating weight (ounces) 17.6 17.5 18.5 18.6 18.6 18.6 (est)
Mfr. Price n/a n/a n/a $549 (est; body only) $699.99 (est; body only) $799.99 (body only)
$549.99 (with 18-55 IS lens) $599.99 (with 18-55mm IS II lens)
$649.99 (with 18-55mm IS lens) $799.99 (with 18-55mm IS lens) $899.99 (with 18-55mm IS lens) $899.99 (with 18-55mm IS II lens)
n/a n/a n/a n/a $980 (est; with 18-135mm IS lens) $1,099.99 (with 18-135mm IS lens)
Release date August 2008 March 2011 April 2008 April 2009 March 2010 March 2011

The T3's video capture is pretty limited: 720p, with exposure compensation the only control and no autofocus. That said, the quality is OK; it's suitable for capturing random clips.

Though it's not the heaviest camera in its class, the T3's body is rather clunky. And while I like the rubberized grip, the whole camera feels very cheap and plasticky. The control layout is straightforward and functional. The four navigation buttons bring up ISO sensitivity, drive mode, white balance, and autofocus mode options, whereas exposure compensation, movie record/live mode, menu, Quick Control, playback, and display occupy other buttons around them. All of the buttons are flat with little tactile feedback. The only buttons with any sort of travel are the exposure lock and AF point selector buttons, positioned for thumb-based operation. They still manage to feel mushy.

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