If you’ve decided to buy your first DSLR camera, chances are you don’t want to go for top of the line right off the bat. There’s a lot to be said for starting small and working your way up, or even just staying where you are. For the amateur photographer, the entry level DSLR camera is going to do everything you ever need it to.
Because you’re probably planning on keeping this camera for a long time, it’s smart to take the time to really think about what you need in a camera. The Canon T3 is their basic, entry level camera and a smart place to start on your photography hobby. If you’ve been looking at it, the T3i has probably also come to your attention. The two cameras have a lot of similarities, but they also have some significant differences.
The T3i runs about $150 more than the T3, which may lead you to jump to the conclusion that it’s a better camera. And it is, but then again it isn’t. If the T3 will fit your needs, then there’s no reason for you to shell out the extra money for features that you’re never going to use. Here’s a look at the main differences between Canon’s two basic models to help you figure out which one you need.
Everybody knows that more megapixels are better. So at a first glance, the T3i’s 18 megapixels give it an edge over the T3 with 12.2. But there’s an excellent chance that you have no need for 18 megapixels. Take a minute to think about what the largest print you ever get is. For most people, 8×10 is about the biggest you’ll ever go. The T3 can print at that size with no less of picture quality. So while the T3i will print bigger pictures at a higher quality than the T3, in all likelihood you’ll never actually print anything big enough for that to become an issue. Save yourself the money and stick with 12.2 megapixels.
In this section, we’re mostly going to talk about aperture. If that means absolutely nothing to you, then you should be good with the T3 and you can move on to the next section. If you have a lens that will fit Canon’s digital models, see what it’s maximum aperture is. For fast apertures, like f/2.8, the T3i will be able to focus much better.
Just because you have a lens with an f/2.8 aperture doesn’t mean you need the T3i, though. Think about what kind of pictures you’ll be taking. If you want to capture your kid’s big sports moments, the T3i has a more sensitive autofocus that is going to be able to keep up with action shots. Perfect for moving targets like kids and animals. If you’re planning on taking more landscape shots, however, that’s not going to be such a big issue. The T3 will have no problem keeping up.
On the T3, the screen is mounted to the back of the camera and there it stays. The T3i has a vari-angle monitor that can be swung away from the camera and then rotated. For the most part, this is a luxury. It doesn’t affect your picture quality whatsoever. But it can make getting the perfect shot much more comfortable. Pictures are always more compelling when the camera and the subject are on the same level. For shots low to the ground, this means lots of squatting or just lying down. With the vari-angle monitor, you can swing the LCD screen up so that all you can see what you’re capturing while still standing up. Like I said, it’s a luxury, but one that many people consider worth the price.
The sensor is the part of the camera that does the actual work of making a picture. The sensor collects the light that the shutter lets into the camera and turns it into a photograph. Single lens reflex problems have always had the problem of getting dust on the sensor. That dust sits there, blocking the light and affecting the final picture.
Before digital cameras, the dust would settle onto the film. That meant it might mess up one picture, but once the film advanced the dust went with it. In a digital camera, the dust just sits there for picture after picture.
It is possible to manually clean a sensor. It involves taking a few things apart, which can be done if you are very careful. Once the dust is gone and the camera is reassembled, you’re back in business, assuming that everything got put back where it was supposed to be. If you’re very comfortable with your camera, this is a viable option for you. Mostly, it’s not a good idea to mess with your sensitive electronics too much.
The T3i fixes this problem by having a self cleaning sensor. The camera uses ultrasonic vibrations any time it is turned on or off to knock any dust on the senor off. This gives it a clear advantage over the T3, which has no such feature. These blemishes aren’t going to be severe enough to ruin your picture, so this may not be the deal breaker it sounds like. But if you’re willing to pay extra for a self cleaning sensor, the T3i gives you that option.
The T3i has some extra qualities that, if you’re willing to pay for them, might make your life a little easier. On the other hand, the T3 will give you excellent picture quality for a very reasonable price. Fewer features also equals longer battery life, which can save you a lot of frustration on the family vacation.
Canon makes quality cameras. Both the T3 and the T3i are excellent entry level cameras for the amateur photographer who is just getting into DLSR. Don’t be seduced by the higher numbers of the T3i; be realistic about what features you will or won’t use. Whichever way you make up your mind, you’re getting a good camera.