The Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D
and why it's my favorite DSLR in 2013
(... yes, you read that right.)
The T3 was and is a great little camera. If you want what may be
the best deal going, get the updated version of the T3, which is the
Rebel T5 (18 megapixel). Get it bundled with two lenses here.
You can still get the T3 used (get yours here). Still worth getting in 2015? Read the review and find out.
is mostly a film photography website.
However, I've said many times that I use and enjoy digital
cameras; they're just a different kind of artistic tool, having
their own set of qualities.
Right now, the digital camera I enjoy most is the Canon Rebel T3.
I'm here to tell you why.
Some Pros and Cons
First of all, let's get the "cons" out of the way before we get into
the "pros". Here, in my opinion, are the only major downsides to
the Rebel T3, which is known in Europe as the 1100D:
- The resolution and high-ISO performance are slightly less than on the T3i and T4i (a.k.a. the 600D and 650D).
- The viewfinder is small and covers only 95% of the scene that will be captured.
- The shutter on these entry-level units won't last for quite as many shots as the ones on high-end DSLR's.
- Unlike the T3i and T4i, the T3 can't command wireless flash units.
they are: only a few significant "cons" that I can think
of, and none of them is really that big a deal for general use. The shutter ought
to last for at least 50,000 actuations, even assuming the lowest-end
shutter design for a Canon DSLR.
I could mention the "plastic-y" finish (the T3 is not
rubberized), but I wouldn't consider it much of drawback. I could
mention that the T3 can't do 1080px video, but at least it can do 720px
HD. I could also mention that according to DxOMark, the T3 has
bits of effective JPG color depth, but in practice it doesn't
matter that much. If you're shooting something where color is of
utmost importance, you should be shooting in RAW
anyway. As you'll see in that article, the real usefulness
of high color depth is so you can make big adjustments without ruining a
the way, about that small viewfinder: you're going to have the
same problem with any of the entry- to mid-level DSLR's. Only in
the upper price range do you start to get cameras that have spacious
viewfinders and more than 95% coverage. After a while of using
the Rebel T3, you ought to be able to get used to
the viewfinder. Eventually you'll get a feel for
how much of the actual picture is cut off.
Let's now talk about the very positive traits of the Canon Rebel T3 / 1100D.
- It costs less than other DSLR's.
This is Canon's entry-level DSLR. (Update 2016: The newest equivalent is the Rebel T6. Get one here..)
- The power-on time is VERY fast.
That means you're not standing there waiting for the camera to go
through some power-up routine while you're anxiously missing an
important shot (been there, done that). The camera is ready to go
just 1/10th of a second from hitting that power
switch. I don't even know of any other cameras that are
ready to shoot that quickly, except my 35mm film camera. One
thing you should know: the LCD screen takes more than a full
second to start displaying anything, but you can ignore it. I
found that this camera was ready to take pictures well before anything
showed up on the screen. If you have it set the way you want
before you turn it off, you can start taking pictures immediately when
you switch it back on. You'll be glad you have that feature when
you see Sasquatch loping through your campsite one day. You'll
get the shot, while your buddies are still waiting for their cameras to
- The battery life is outstanding.
How many cameras do you know that can get 800 shots out of one battery
charging? Now, I don't know that you'll get the full 800 every
time, but I do know that the battery just seems to keep working and
working. This thing can take a lot of pictures between
- It's very light.
I've seen people who were practically hunched over from the weight of
their full-frame DSLR's. Big
cameras can be a real drag. That won't happen with the Canon T3. It weighs only slightly more than 1
lb. Coupled with the long battery life, this makes the T3 a good camera for long hikes (as long as you realize it
- Fast autofocus.
You can also turn off the beep on the Canon so the lock-on is
silent. Get yourself a USM lens, and the autofocus is even
quieter. The T3 has 9-point autofocus, which some
people take for granted as we head into 2013, but the T3's
autofocus system is actually pretty sophisticated.
- Invisible autofocus light!
The Nikon D5100's autofocus light is really bright and shines right in the person's
eyes. Some of your subjects are not going to like that very
much. No, actually, all of
your subjects are not going to like that very much. (I haven't
bothered to see if it can be turned off, but right out of the box, it's
a major nuisance.) The T3, on
the other hand, uses an infra-red autofocus light. It's far less obtrusive, and it doesn't give
your subject a migraine while you're trying to take a picture.
Yay for Canon!
- Low shutter lag! At only 110 milliseconds, it's got considerably
less shutter lag than the more expensive 600D and 650D (270 to 280
milliseconds or thereabouts). High shutter lag can lead to missed
shots: from the time you press the shutter to the time it
actually works, someone could blink or change their expression.
When you get used to a film camera that has practically zero shutter
lag, and you step into a DSLR where the shutter lag is nearly
three-tenths of a second, you tend to notice that. The T3 has
a low enough shutter lag that I can switch back and forth between it
and a film camera and it seems natural. Naturally I would
like a shutter lag of zero, but digital no gots. The T3 is about
as good as I've seen, especially for the money.
- Good performance at high ISO.
It's quite serviceable all the way up
through ISO 3200. I don't use 6400 too much, but if you
find yourself needing speeds like that, consider getting a faster lens
anyway. One of the first things I'd suggest if you're going to
get any Canon DSLR is the EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens.
(Don't let the extreme bokeh
snobs talk you out of it. It's a good lens... but if you want even better, get this one.)
The T3's noise handling compares favorably to other cameras in its class, and not that
badly against higher-priced ones.
Regarding image quality, any edge the T3i (600D) and T4i (650D) might have over
the T3 is minor. In fact, you probably won't notice. The
650D, with its high-megapixel count, required a new generation of
processor to handle all that information and deal with the added
noise. Maybe the end result is a slightly lower amount of noise
than you'd get with the T3 / 1100D, but it's at a substantially higher
A late afternoon in December, right around sunset.
Canon Rebel T3
18-55mm kit lens
There is a certain threshold where the equipment becomes good enough to yield good images, and the
T3 / 1100D is well above that threshold.
Want another feature in the "plus" column? How about...
The T3 has the buttons in the right places. They're big enough
that you don't need a toothpick to press 'em, and they do a lot of the
important functions that a pro needs to access. Ha, you're laughing; this is supposed to be a "beginner" camera. Don't let that fool
I really like where they put the "Menu" and "Play"
buttons. The controls on this camera are great, they're simple,
and I like 'em. By the way, I've probably said eighty times that
I don't like touchscreens, and I'm really glad this camera has no
touchscreen. Pawing a screen until it becomes greasy and nasty,
especially when you need to see what's on that same screen, just isn't
my cup of tea. This is a full-time camera, not an
iPhone. I know Canon introduced a touchscreen on the 650D
/ T4i, but I hope they don't settle on that idea for the long
The menus on the T3 are pretty intuitive, except for the one that leads
to Highlight Tone Priority (HTP). The first thing you should do
when you get this camera is go straight to item #5 in the Custom
Functions menu and set HTP to "enable". This improves the digital
camera's highlight response so it doesn't act quite as grossly horrid as digital cameras usually do with highlights.
The Rebel T3 was
introduced in February 2011. Even though that's two-plus
years, I see this as a good buying strategy now.
That's because digital camera advancements are starting to slow
down: not because of any lack of processing power, but because of
physics. Stuffing more megapixels onto an APS-C sensor is
starting to yield diminishing returns, simply because it's hard to
offset the increased noise and the reduced light-gathering ability of
each pixel. The huge leaps and bounds that were made in image
quality since 1999 have given way to smaller, incremental improvements
now. I'd say 2008 was about the year that slowdown really started
happen, but that's just my own observation. Whatever year it
was, we're starting to reach the point where megapixel increases are
actually introducing more noise than the processing improvements can
correct. Consider for example the Nikon D3100 vs. the
D3200; the 3100 is by far the better low-light
The T3 with its 12.2 megapixels is still in or near what I consider the
optimal range for a digital camera. Once you're up
around that region, which I'd place at about 10 megapixels, image
quality does not increase that
much when you increase the pixel
count. Sure, the resolving power increases, but it's an uphill
battle against noise. The only certain way to get more image quality out of
higher pixel counts is to increase the sensor size, which nobody's going to do
unless they can get more money for the camera. (Canon was talking
about an "entry level" full-frame DSLR, but it would still be
Since you're probably not going to be making eight-foot-wide enlargements, the T3 /
1100D has plenty of resolution. With art, the overall impression
is far more important than being able to resolve the words on a
newspaper from a quarter mile away.
Canon Rebel T3
18-55mm kit lens
The Rebel T3 can easily
stand up alongside other DSLR's in the $500-$800 price range. The
difference in image quality between it and the higher-end models is
definitely not zero, but then again it's not as enormous as some people
would have you believe. Sometimes there's a noticeable difference
between stuff that was shot on a full-frame DSLR vs. an APS-C, but
sometimes not. (At small print resolutions, it's mostly "not"). The main thing separating them is the lens, which
can be changed. The mid- and upper-range models come with better
lenses right from the get-go, leading many consumers to
think they're actually getting much better cameras than they are. Once again,
the lens can be swapped out. Another thing-- and this is often
overlooked-- is that the kinds of people who buy full-frame DSLR's also
tend to be good at post processing. Beginners, who
make up much of the entry-level DSLR market, often have no idea what
can be accomplished with a good piece of software.
With the T3 you probably won't even need to do much de-noising unless
you're shooting at 6400. With Highlight Tone Priority enabled
(Custom Function menu), there is a little extra noise in the shadows,
but it's nothing major. Click on the image below to view
Auto white-balance; ISO 1600; HTP "On"; JPG mode
This is pretty much straight from the camera.
The best thing to do would have been to white balance on the
saucer. I didn't bother with it for this photo. It was just
to show a typical scene at ISO 1600.
Here's the picture with a bit of post-processing:
I'm going to make a little digression here. Don't get
stuck in the rut of chasing after noiseless images. This is not a
new phenomenon. Back in the film-only days, photographers spent
more and more money on bigger formats in their quest to have grain-free
images. The next thing you know, you're into a 12x20
view camera and an impossibly heavy tripod, and then you're researching ways to make a special vacuum
holder to get the film to stay flat. Probably ten grand later,
you're able to take a few pictures. Chasing after noiseless photography is a money pit. There
are no truly "noiseless" images, just closer (and more expensive)
approximations to it.
Canon T3 has low noise, and it also has a whole set of other good
features. What you're really getting in the upper-level
is a bigger viewfinder, more viewfinder coverage, faster continuous
shooting speeds, and a few
other features that are not directly related to image quality.
Yes, there are definite image improvements if you move up to a full-frame
DSLR, but anything else in the APS-C category is not going to be that
much better than the Rebel T3. Slightly better, perhaps, but
not a quantum leap.
The EOS Rebel T3 has a lot to
if money were no object, I'd still want one because it's so light and
handy. (Update 2016: Canon's newest "cheap DSLR" equivalent is the Rebel T6. Get one here..)
Like any other digital camera, the T3 will clip highlights if you don't
control the lighting and exposure; but as long as you dial
everything in right, it will not
Most of the pictures on this page have had a little bit of
post-processing, except for that first picture of the coffee
cup. What's important is that the Rebel T3 yields good
enough base images to make post-processing worthwhile. That
puts it right up there with any other DSLR I can think of.
Canon Rebel T3
18-55mm kit lens
I'll say it again: don't dismiss the T3. It can yield pro-quality results if you do your part.
Whether you're buying your first DSLR or your fourth, it pays to ask
yourself what features are really important to you in a camera.
Are you willing to pay substantially more
for a rubberized body and slightly better color depth in JPG
Is an external mic jack worth $150 more to you? Do you need the
1080px movie resolution that you'd get with a T3i or T4i? Those
are the kinds of questions to be asking. I've considered them,
and the T3 is my answer for everything I need except
astrophotography. (Update: if you disable Long Exposure Noise Reduction, it's pretty good for astro.) I shoot stills primarily, so I don't
need the mic jack or the 1080p; and the extra color depth is not
really an issue, since I can just shoot RAW if I need more color.
One other thing I really like about the T3 is that its low price makes
it more afforable to get a spare for events. (You could have the
most expensive camera in the world, but if your one camera quits and
you have no backup, then what?) I'd consider getting the spare
T3 with its own kit lens so you have a fully-working backup.
Canon Rebel T3
18-55mm kit lens
What more can I say? The Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D is a winner,
and I like almost everything about it. You can buy one through this link (Amazon). If you use these links to buy your cameras & gear, it really helps me keep this site on-line.
Canon Rebel T3
18-55mm kit lens
you do, make sure to get the Rebel T3 with the "IS" (Image
Stabilization) lens. Some earlier versions of the T3 out there do not
have the image-stabilized lens, but you'll most likely encounter those
only on the used market. If you buy new through the links
on this page, you should be getting the correct model.
For the price of a T3, I don't see how you could go
wrong with this camera. (Update: As of 2016, I'd get the T6, which replaces the T3 and the T5.)
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easiest way is to use the links to buy your
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