The Vengeful Polyglot

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Excellent Entry-Level DSLR

Posted on: September 20, 2011

Having spent a fair amount of time with my new T3i (also known as the 600D in Europe), I’m comfortable saying that it’s an excellent entry-level DSLR at a reasonable price point (mine came in a bundle deal with a printer, the kit lens, and some accessories for just under $800). Granted, I don’t have much experience with cameras, but I’m very impressed at the quality and ease of use Canon can provided in such a small package.

Since I don’t have experience with any other DLSRs, this won’t exactly be a comparison between, say, this and an equivalent Nikon. I’m hoping to explain my opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of this camera, and why I chose it over the similarly featured T2i.

 

Features

This camera has a number of worthwhile features, some of which are marketing points and some of which are quality of life features which, while perhaps obvious, I enjoy:

  • 18.0 megapixel CMOS sensor (APS-C, 1.6 crop factor)
  • ISO 100-6400
  • Can shoot in RAW format
  • 3.0 inch movable LCD screen
  • Relatively light weight and small size
  • Capable of shooting 1080p HD video
  • Built in flash (it took me an embarrassingly long time to find this)
  • “Intelligent” auto modes
  • Shortcuts to change settings on the fly, e.g. in Manual mode
  • Able to use both EF and EF-S lenses

Overall, it’s a well-featured camera. I particularly enjoy that carrying it over my shoulder doesn’t break my back (though it does make me mad paranoid about smacking the lens on something). Shooting in RAW also allows greater flexibility when processing in Lightroom or other image editing programs, as it contains much more information than is contained in a JPEG.

The T2i, its slightly older sister, is also 18MP and similarly featured; the main change from the T2i to the T3i is the LCD on the rear of the camera is now articulated, and can be positioned for more creative shooting angles. I find this to be useful enough to justify the increased price, not only for self-portraiture (which I could take or leave) but also for taking candids of my relatives when they’re not looking. Take that, family!

Given that the T3i is often considered “entry-level,” it makes sense that it comes with several modes to make shooting easier (much like many compact digital cameras on the market), like “Scene Intelligent Auto” and various priority modes. While these are tempting, I’d challenge any beginner like myself to shoot fully Manual. While the auto configurations are somewhat handy, I’ve grown to see them as a crutch; I want to know how to use my camera, and what manipulating each setting does to the result. Occasionally, I set the ISO to auto, but I generally try to control all the settings to get the look I want, including using custom white balance, if I can find an adequate sample.

The priority modes can be useful for getting a consistent exposure while controlling only one or two settings; for testing lenses, this is really useful. Aperture Priority is my favorite, because sometimes I want to play with depth of field and not much else. They’re worth checking out, and have uses, I just think Manual is a better way to get a feel for what each setting does if you’re just starting to learn. It seems backwards, but that’s the advice I was given and I’ve found it sound.

If you do shoot Manual, know that you don’t need to go in with Q every time to set up a shot (this was a mistake I made). You can control the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture live using the scroll wheel on the left side plus the Av and ISO buttons to set all three. If you use the LCD live-view, you can even see the result of changing those settings in real time.

 

Lens

If you get this camera in a kit, you’ll get a EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens with it. While not the best lens in the world, it’s perfectly capable of taking good pictures. 30 and 50mm can be good focal lengths for portraits, and 18mm is decently wide even on a crop sensor. It does have a plastic, not metal, mount, which makes it a bit flimsier. This also, however, makes it lighter, which is a nice benefit.

Being an EF-S lens, it’s made only for use on crop sensor cameras like the T3i. Straight EF lenses can be used on either a crop or full frame camera, so while EF-S lenses can get you a lot of bang for your buck, if you plan on moving up to a full frame, you may be better served picking up EF lenses you can take with you to your next camera. There is a 1.6x crop factor between an APS-C sensor and a full frame sensor, which should be kept in mind when considering lenses with focal lengths intended for full frame cameras.

 

Accessories

While the camera doesn’t come with any accessories save a strap (which I then traded for a slightly cushier strap), I would recommend picking up a bag that’ll protect your investment. I went with a Tamrac backpack above, though there are a lot of options out there. It’s all based on preference, how much you have to carry, and how you choose to carry it.

An external flash can also be an asset, since the on-board flash is not terribly full-featured. There are also accessories, like this Puffer diffuser, which can help you get the most out of your built-in flash.

 

Editing and Sharing

I have personally used Adobe Lightroom for editing and Flickr for sharing. Shameless plug: my Flickr is linked on my sidebar. While there are alternatives, I’m blown away by the capabilities of Lightroom and the value of Flickr. I’m not sure what alternatives there are to Lightroom, since I never found any presented to me. There are other image sharing sites, however, like Picasa and Razzi,  though I didn’t find them to compete with Flickr in terms of storage size and price point. They’re worth checking out, though!

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4 Responses to "The Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Excellent Entry-Level DSLR"

smugmug.com is my preferred sharing site. It has unlimited storage for like $35-50 a year and is more pro photographer oriented. There is an excellent LR plugin too.

Aperture is the only LR competitor, but although it has some cool features, it just doesn’t scale to big libraries (I have 200,000 images). It’s also mac only (which doesn’t bug me).

I think I’d heard of smugmug, but since I’m such a novice and love free things, I think I disregarded it. 😛 It’s probably good if you’re invested, though!

It has a free mode. I can’t remember exactly why I switched from flickr, but there was some hard wall I ran into. It might have been size of images (smugmug allows unlimited size).

Well, now that you’ve earned $10 writing, you’ll be able to afford smugmug by maybe, let’s see, next year.

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Blog by a programmer cum linguist cum writer cum total geek. One who pretentiously uses "cum" in place of any other logical connectives. Direct questions to the Ask Lauren page!

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