Canon T3i vs T2i: Is the T3i Worth the Extra Cost?

Canon T2i vs T3i Comparison

T3i vs T2i ?

The Canon Rebel T3i is already on store shelves, even though the Canon T2i was announced just a year ago. Not surprisingly, the technological differences between the two are minimal, at least at first glance: they use the same sensor, image processor, and autofocus system. Yet the T2i is still available, and at only $579 for the body, it is a tempting offering. But when comparing the T3i vs T2i, is the T3i worth the extra cost? For some people it will be; for others it will be a waste of money. Below, I’ll very briefly note the differences between the two cameras and explain who will benefit from the T3i and who will be just as happy with the T2i.

[UPDATE : The release of the Canon T4i changes this picture significantly. Also see my comparison of the T3i and T4i here. ]

The Similarities

Before making a big deal about the differences, it’s worth noting that these two cameras are mostly identical when it comes to standard photographic operation, and there is no difference in RAW image quality between the two. The table below shows the functional similarities.

[To see the whole T2i vs T3i table, click in the drop down box which currently displays “10” and select “50”],

 Canon Rebel T3i / 600DCanon Rebel T2i / 550D
Canon Rebel T3i
Amazon Price (body)$699 (Until Sept 3)$639
Body MaterialPolycarbonate, Fiberglass Resin and Stainless SteelPolycarbonate, Fiberglass Resin and Stainless Steel
LCD Size / Resolution3.0"
1,040,000 pixels
1,040,000 pixels
LCD Articulated?YesNo
Sensor Size14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)
Crop Factor1.6x1.6x
Sensor Resolution18 Megapixels18 Megapixels
ISO Range100-6400
Total AF Focus Points99
Cross-Type AF Sensors11
AF Light Level Range-.05 to +18 EV-.05 to +18 EV
Metering System63 Zone Point Linked Evaluative
9% Center Weighted
4% Spot
63 Zone Point Linked Evaluative
9% Center Weighted
4% Spot
Exposure Compensation1/2 or 1/3 stops1/2 or 1/3 stops
Max Frame Rate : RAW (14-bit)3.73.7
Max Burst Duration RAW (at highest frame rate)66
Max Burst Duration JPG (at highest frame rate)3434
Shutter Speed Range1/4000th - 30 sec.
1/4000th - 30 sec.
Maximum Flash Sync Shutter Speed (standard flash)1/200th sec.1/200th sec.
HD Video Resolutions1080p, 720p1080p, 720p
Available HD Video Frame RatesPAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
Weight570g (including battery)530g (with battery and SD card)
Viewfinder Coverage95%
0.87x magnification
0.87x magnification
Built-In Wireless Strobe ControlYesNo


What’s New in the T3i?

In-Camera Guide on T3i

The two lines of text at the top of the LCD here represent the new “In-Camera Guide”

From the outside, the only major difference is the rear LCD. The new T3i sports an articulated LCD, much like that found on the Canon 60D. To accommodate the new LCD, the body is slightly deeper, and the whole unit weighs a hair more. Canon has also made some minor ergonomic changes, such as adding additional rubberized padding to bottom of the front left side of the body for extra comfort and protection.

Internally, there are a few more significant differences, though. These include:

  • Native wireless control of off-camera flash (T2i requires accessory Canon ST-E2 module)
  • Digital zoom for 1080p video, while recording. (Since 1080p video is only 2 megapixels, this can crop down to the center of the sensor, effectively providing a 3x – 10x zoom)
  • Cropping mats for shooting in different aspect ratios
  • “Video Snapshots”, which are short video clips assembled in-camera into an extended video
  • In-Camera Guide, which provides information on the LCD panel that makes choosing alternative settings a little easier for beginners
  • An image-database driven full-auto mode (A+) and some additional in-camera processing options, the “Creative Filters”.
Rear View Comparison of Canon T2i and T3i

Rear view comparison of Canon T2i (left) vs T3i (right).

Who Should Buy the T2i?

If you have used a 35mm film camera in the past and are simply looking to get a digital camera to do the same things, the T2i is probably for you. It’s no accident that this has been the best selling SLR in the world for much of the past year. The new video features in the T3i won’t be of use if you’re only interested in taking photos, and the auto settings and In-Camera Guide will not be relevant for those who already have a firm handle on photographic theory. Some photographers have also expressed concern about the articulated LCD of the T3i and 60D collecting dust or breaking off; and for those who work in rugged conditions, this may also be worth considering.

Photographers (like myself) who use radio-triggers for their flashes also needn’t worry too much about the native wireless flash control on the T3i (the exception being Radiopopper shooters, some of which translate the optical trigger signals from flash control units into radio signals).

Rear view of T3i, articulated LCD

Canon T3i Rear View, LCD Open

On the other hand, you should go ahead and buy the T3i if you enjoy shooting video and think you’ll use the digital zoom. This is a feature that I’m actually very excited about myself; using a $100 50mm f1.8 lens as a 500mm f1.8 would open some incredible video opportunities (assuming that a stable tripod is available). Of course, you’re really only getting the same image quality that you’d get if you shot a photo and cropped in to the two megapixels in the center of the frame (1920 x 1080 pixel full HD video is about 2 megapixels), but on a low resolution display like HDTV, it could still look good.

Photographers who frequently shoot while holding their camera overhead will, of course, benefit from the T3i‘s swivel screen, as will video bloggers and others who want a handy video monitor while they’re in front of the camera. And, if you think that you’ll use the built in flash control, it would certainly save you money and hassle to buy the T3i.

If the automatic modes and In-Camera-Guide in the T3i are a deciding factor for you, though, you might alternatively consider a photography book, or better yet, enrollment in a photography course or seminar. Not only will it give you a better understanding of your camera and photographic theory, it may dramatically improve your photography in a dozen other ways.

I’ve tried to keep this comparison brief and simple, but please feel free to ask me any questions that you might have in the comment section below!

[UPDATE : The release of the Canon T4i changes this picture significantly. See my comparison of the T3i and T4i here. ]


  • Chad Griffith says:

    Hey Matt. I read this several times before I finally decided to make an account to ask a question.

    My situation: I’ve always been a photographer of sorts (always enjoyed taking pictures) and for the most part, I’ve stuck to just my phone camera. I’m told I have a real talent for it, and recently, I decided to get a camera that would accommodate my leap into amateur status. After looking online for a while, I realized a Canon was the choice for me. They have a wide variety of lenses, and the availability and price of them vs Nikon is a a great factor for me. Unfortunately, that’s all my reading has decided for me.

    I really enjoy taking shots of scenery and nature, regardless of the time of day. I would also like to start night photography. I also have a friend that’s a hairstylist, and I occasionally take pictures of his models for him. I can do video, but that isn’t a priority to me right now. At first, the choice was clear: as you recommend, get the cheaper body (T2i) and stock up on lenses. But I’ve always been interested in flash photography (I find water effects amazing), and I wondered if getting the T3i would be worth getting so I wouldn’t have to get one of the transmitters in the future. There is also seem to be different schools based on those who prefer the wireless and those that prefer the transmitters. I don’t typically sweat the small stuff, but this is an investment that I’ve always wanted to initiate and I just want to get it right.

    If you could help guide my decision, I would greatly appreciate it.



    • Hi Chad, First of all, welcome to L&M :)

      If the choice is between a T2i and a T3i, then it sounds like you’ve got a handle on the difference that’s important for you… the wireless eTTL flash system. The answer isn’t simple. The price difference between the two camera bodies, depending on where you buy, is about $75 (currently $622 for the T3i, $549 for the T2i). With the T3i’s triggering system, you get full exposure and metering control, and can control as many flash units are you’re likely to have… but the system doesn’t work very well in daylight, and in good conditions only works at about 30 feet or closer.

      Alternately, you can save the $75 and buy something like the Pixel King system, for about $115. This also gives you full exposure/metering control, but will only control one flash. However, it will be reliable in daylight and at greater distances… 100 yards or so. For shooting sports and events (weddings, in particular), it’s very important to be able to light a subject from a distance. Unfortunately, this means that each time you buy another flash unit, you’ll also be spending another chunk of money on another receiver for it (though it’s a lot less expensive to buy a bunch of them at once).

      That is just to say that whichever direction you decide to go, you’re probably not looking at a final solution. Mastering flash photography IS an important part of becoming a skilled professional (especially for fashion and portrait work) but you may find that it makes sense to start with the T3i and a compatible flash, and if you find that you need a greater working distance, start adding additional triggers. Whichever way you decide to go, I would definitely recommend assuming that you’ll be working with off-camera flash at some point, and plan accordingly :) Sorry I can’t give you a more definitive answer!

      – Matthew

  • Heather says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Great information, a friend of mine referred your web site. It’s been very helpful. I’m still however not sure what lens I should get for the T2i that I’m leaning towards purchasing. The camera I have now is terrible in low light every picture taken at my childrens school programs and dance recitals turns out so very dark. What I’m looking for is a lens that is good in low light, individual and group pictures and for scenic family vacation shots. What do you recommend? Thank you!

    • Hi Heather,

      Before anything else, let me say that pictures that are too dark are rarely caused by lenses that let in too little light. That probably sounds counter-intuitive, but regardless of how much light you have to work with, a camera should be able to set the exposure long enough that the exposure is bright and correct, even at night. The problem is, of course, that those pictures will be really blurry because the shutter is open for so long. So, although you probably DO need a lens that will let in more light (more people do), it sounds as though you also have a metering or flash problem.

      That said…

      The way to tell how much light a lens can let in is by looking at the “f” number on the lens (which is the maximum aperture size). The smaller the number, the more light it lets in. Most professional lenses are marked f/2.8, which lets in a good amount of light. Many consumer lenses start at f/3.5 or f/4.  F/4 lets in exactly half as much light as f/2.8, and f/5.6 lets in exactly half as much as f/4.

      Zoom lenses with f/2.8 apertures are, unfortunately, pretty expensive… usually more than a Canon T2i. However, if you get non-zoom lenses, you can get lenses that let in a lot of light for a reasonable amount of money. For example, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 (more than twice as much light as an f/2.8 lens) costs just over $100. Similarly, the 85mm f/1.8 is relatively reasonable.

      To get all of that stuff (good light, wide angle and telephoto) into one lens is pretty much impossible right now, at any price. If you’re willing to give up low-light ability (and some image quality), there are lots of lenses around that are not too expensive that cover a huge zoom range. If you’re willing to give up some of the zoom range, and go with a wide angle to mid-range zoom, there are some options that are pretty good in low light and not too expensive, and the same is true for mid-range to telephoto lenses (though they cost a bit more).

      Yikes. I may have made that a lot more complicated that it needed to be.

      Right now, I’d probably recommend for you the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. It’s a little expensive, but great quality. Similarly, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 is nice, if you can manage without image stabilization. The 85mm lens mentioned above is a better lens in low light, and a better portrait lens, and less expensive, but it’s also less versatile.

      Maybe I’d better stop there. If you’d like me to narrow things down a bit, though, I’d be happy to help.

      – Matthew

  • Holly says:

    Hi Matthew,  I am looking to take pictures on my twin sons who are on the Crew Team at College.  Typically, we are at a pretty far distance when watching the races and I need to be able to take multiple pictures quickly from a distance.  Would you recommend the T3i or T2i and what size telelphoto lens would be best?  Any suggestions you may have would be helpful.  Thanks

    • Hi Holly,

      The T2i and T3i are exactly the same when it comes to photographic performance; they use the same sensor, processor, auto-focus module, and shutter, so they shoot at the same speed, focus the same, with the same image quality, etc. There are some body differences (including the swivel screen on the T3i), and some minor functionality differences when it comes to video, and perhaps most importantly, the T3i can control off-camera flash units with it’s pop-up flash, but it doesn’t sound like any of those will be very important for how you’re using the camera. I’d save the money and go with the T2i body, and use the difference to buy a better lens, which is really more important than the camera body decision in this case.

      The lens choice will ultimately depend on your budget. I’m assuming you don’t want to spend $8000 on a big white telephoto lens. The 70-300mm IS USM is a good choice (and the Tamron variant is perhaps even better, if you don’t mind buying a non-Canon lens) with good optical quality and focusing speed, and even though it’s not a great lens for low light, you’ll be shooting outside during daylight hours, so it will be fine.

      If you want to jump up into the $1000 range for lenses, there are more options of course, so it really depends on what you want to spend :)

      – Matthew

  • Vahan Karchian says:

    Hello there Matt, I was debating between the Canon T3i and the T2i and after reading your comments, It seems to me that I’m better off with the T2i since I only want it primarily for shooting pictures, not videos. Do you know if a newer model would be coming out by Canon at around the same price range? ($700-$750) Thanks.

    • Hi Vahan,

      The T2i and T3i were released about a year about from each other, so it would not surprise me at all if the T4i were released this year… and last month was the 12 month mark. However, rumors that I’ve heard are that the T4i will use the same sensor as previous “Rebel” line cameras, so I’m not sure there will be any significant reason to buy the new model. Time will tell, though… it may have some other slick new features.

      – Matthew

  • Megan says:

    My husband and I are considering between the these two cameras – our main purpose is because we recently had a baby, who will soon be on the move and we would like to capture moments that we can’t with a simple point and shoot camera – they are just too slow for baby movements. We also do take video, but I am wondering if the reduction in video quality in the t3i is even worth it, or if we should go with the t2i and use our video camera? Your opinion would be much appreciated. I should also mention we are new to dSLR cameras.


    • Hi Megan,

      They’re both great cameras for photographing a new child, and they’ll both focus a faster than a point and shoot, though it will take a little practice to get used to the AF system.

      When it comes to video quality, they’re both equivalent (and quite good), actually, except that the T3i has the addition of the digital zoom. However, you’ll find that shooting video with these SLRs is not very easy; in most cases, you’ll have to use manual focus, which is difficult. For casual use, you’re much better off using a video camera.

      I’d recommend getting the T2i, and using the money you save to get a lens that is good in low-light, like the 50mm f/1.8 or the 85mm f/1.8 . That will make the biggest difference in the number of sharp images you get, and they’re also both great portrait lenses.

      – Matthew

  • Martina says:

    Thanks this was a big help!

  • shom says:

    I have been researching for the past 2 weeks to make a choice between T2i and T3i – want the best deal, but cash-constrained. With still images primarily the need, i finally settled on T2i and the $150 i saved, i put it to a 50mm f/1.8 canon prime lens. I was still nervous if i made the right choice. Had a long disc. with a best buy agent today who kind of thumbs-up’ed my decision, but then also suggested that T3i’s $150 extra is worth it – it has 9 pt auto-focus with all points cross-type. I think he was wrong (that’s a feature in higher end dslrs only). Don’t you agree?

    Finally i came across your page – and i have seen you recommend the same combo to many – i am relieved. And i wanted to thank you. This site is very good.

    I do have one q: i want to make an online purchase. What sites do you recommend, where i can get a genuine USA-warranty product? Amazon? Is Adorama trust-worthy? B&H? Any relative preference among the three?

    • Hi Shom,

      You’re right; the T3i has the same AF system as the T2i; it’s the 60D that has 9 cross-type points. The 5D Mark II, incidentally, has the same AF system as the T2i & T3i, so it’s not as though you’ll have trouble focusing on things :)

      I’m an advertising affiliate with all three of the places that you mentioned, and they’re all very trustworthy. I tend to recommend because they are the most generous to me and their prices are reliably as low as anyone elses, but Adorama is a close second (a lot of Amazon orders will come from them anyway). I wouldn’t hesitate to order from B&H, either, except that it’s Saturday, so ordering is closed with them (until Sunset, I think).

      Of course, there are other good places to order, too, but if you decide to go with one of these, I always appreciate it if you’d click through my link when you do so :)

  • erika says:

    Hi matt i read your article and it was super helpful. i have a canon xsi and im upgrading to the t2i, i was going to buy the t3i but i dont really care for the video that much, im an ametour photographer but im getting really into photography,i specially love to take macros, i have a tamron telemacro lens but the quality of the pictures arent like i want them to be, what type of lens would you recommend for Macro lens and a wide angle lens?
    also i would like to get some tips from you so i can better the way i take pictures, please check my pictures out i would love to hear advice from you.
    Thank you!
    i added it on the url :)

    • Hi Erika,

      I’ve clicked your link to viewbug, but it just gives me an error message :( You should just register as a member here and post a couple pictures in the activity stream instead :)

      Anyway, there are lots of good macro lenses out there… part of it will depend on your budget and part of it on the working distance from the subject that you’ll need. The Canon 60mm macro is quite good, and not too expensive. About the same price is the Tokina 100mm macro, which is also very sharp but will give you a little more working distance from your subject, which helps when you’re getting close for 1:1 focusing.  The gold standards for Canon are the two 100mm macros, one of them with image stabilization, and one without. For true macro work, you really should be using a tripod, so I’m not sure that the image stabilization is really so important… it costs about an extra $350… though it certainly will help if you insist on hand-holding your camera :) There are others, but these seem like the best deals to me.

      There are also other options, if you have a high quality lens to start with. You can add macro tubes or bellows and make any lens into a macro.

      Macro is one of the most technique intensive areas of photography to master; you really need to do things perfectly to get satisfactory results… tripod, cable/remote release, mirror lock-up, correct aperture… it’s all important. Once I see some of your photos, I may be able to offer some tips :)

      – Matthew

      • Erika says:

        thanks ill deff keep that in mind! i registered but its taking too long to just update one picture. anyway here is the web

        • Hey Erika,

          Your links are working this morning, I’m glad to see…. you have some beautiful shots in there :) Beautiful portrait of your best friend, the Lieutenant series is well done, and of course some of the birds and butterflies are gorgeous too. I’ll have to take a closer look when I have more time, later.

          – Matthew

  • Michael says:

    Thought I said 18-55. Typing on iPad creates a lot off errors.


  • Michael says:

    One additional question in Nikon d5100. Any better choice for starter lens than 28-55. I thought maybe one with a little more zoom but I don’t want one too large as main lens. Suggestions??

    • Yes (I’m assuming you mean 18-55). The Nikon kit lens for the D90 and D7000 is pretty good; it’s an 18-105mm VR lens (image stabilization), that has high resolution throughout the range. As with any zoom lens, you’ll want to make sure that you shoot RAW files and know how to correct color fringing, but this lens isn’t as bad as the 18-200 in that respect.

      The lens is getting a little hard to find. Here’s a link to it at B&H, though: Nikon 18-105 f/3.5-5.6G VR

      Even they only have the “white box” version of it. It will give you the same wide angle performance, but with better reach at the long end.

      – Matthew

    • For the Nikon, I’d also have recommended the 18-135 (non-VR) which was a kit lens for the D80. It had great optical quality, but has since been discontinued in favor of VR lenses, I guess.  I DO NOT recommend the 18-200 VR.

      I also DO NOT recommend the Canon 18-135.

  • Michael says:

    I think I’m going with the Nikon d5100. I’ve found it with 28-55 AF lens for $749 total at several sites. I’ve used
    B & H camera before and they give lifetime tech support and 2 day shipping. My daughter has this and we can divide up cost on lenses. Thanks for your help and I’m sure I’ll be back to the site. Taking some photography classes at very reputable place in town next month. I’m retired and need a new hobby. Lol.
    Thanks, michael

  • Tonja says:

    I took photgraphy classes back in 87-88 at art institute and worked at a local studio with nikons that they provided that werent fully functionable to us. i used a canon AE1 for years and loved it. However I am looking to get a Digital. I am having the hardest time deciding between the canon T3i , T2i and the nikon 5100. I photograph my sons marching band and also do weddings from time to time. any suggestions would be helpful.

    • Hi Tonja,

      One of my best friends, around the same time, had a Canon AE1 Program; it was one of the first Canon cameras that I got to play around with, but I ended up shooting a Canon A1, a few years later :)

      Anyway, The fact is that the Rebels and the D5100 are all great cameras, and there are actually very minimal differences between them. If you expect to shoot video, the D5100 has fullt-time autofocus while shooting video, so it’s worth considering. If there’s even a chance that you’ll use off-camera flash (speelites, like the 430ex II) then I’d recommend getting the T3i, which has built-in triggering for them using the pop-up flash. Of course, the T3i has a swivel screen, as does the D5100, but I don’t find them to be very useful. If you’re into serious video work, the T3i/T2i have Magic Lantern firmware, which can offer a significant amount of additional functionality; this is one of the things that has made the 5D so popular with the movie industry.

      The D5100 is probably a little better at handling the digital noise that occurs at high-ISO, too, so if you’re going to be shooting in natural light instead of flash, in low light situations, that can be important.

      Since you’re essentially choosing a system, not just a camera, also keep in mind that the Nikon lenses tend to be quite a bit more expensive… so check the prices of the lenses you want (or might want in the future) and see if you’re willing to pay those prices :)

      Good luck!

      – Matthew

  • Michael Brand says:

    I’m looking at the cannon 3ti but the deals available on the web don’t give the quality of the lens included. i don’t expect them to be the L lens but how can i tell how good of a lens I’m getting because i know cannon has a lot of inexpensive lower quality lens. I’m amateur but plan on taking some classes and get better. i need a good starter camera that i can grow with. i have the s5 is rebel now. what is a good starter lens with some zoom? any other camera suggestions?

    • Hi Michael,

      The 18-55 kit lens that comes with the Rebel series cameras (T2i and T3i) is actually a surprisingly good lens. It’s not “L” quality, but it doesn’t cost $600, either :) I happen to think that the T3i is a great place to start, but the T2i is great too if you don’t think you’ll be using external flashes.

      If you look at the right column of this site, there’s a menu… and one of the menu items is “Lens Recommendations”, where I mention a few of the lenses that I like, at different price levels. Maybe I should put in a “lenses to avoid” section, too :)

      The important thing, when buying a camera online, is to buy from someplace that’s reputable. There are dozens of places on the east coast that offer cameras as really low prices (just high enough to not seem like a scam), and then after they get your order, they either call you and say that you need to add on the battery charger and other accessories for $200, or they send you a refurbished camera.  I recommend sticking with a dealer that has low prices but is reputable, like , or Adorama, or B&H .

      – Matthew

  • Karen says:

    I just ordered the t3i from amazon as I thought the set was a great deal with th 18-55 lens and 75-300 with the body for $899 but in reading your comments above you indicated the extra zoom was a poor quality, can you please elaborate why you feel the larger lens is less quality and let me know what you think about my deal…thanks

    • Hi Karen,

      Compared to the 70-300mm IS USM lens, the optical quality of the 75-300 is mediocre, though right in line with it’s price. It doesn’t cost a fortune, but still performs relatively well. On the other hand, the 55-250 mm lens is also inexpensive (perhaps $50 more), but has remarkably good optics for the price, which I why I probably would have recommended the kit with the 18-55 and the 55-250 instead.

      If you’re not making large prints or zooming in heavily on the detail in your photos, you’re not likely to notice the difference, though.

      – Matthew

    • Michael says:

      Just read an artiicle I read on cannon cheap lens vs cannon L series lens. When you look at all the sites for the 3ti they don’t specify. I’m assuming it’s a good lens but had a little doubt. Sounds like good deal. I found one with body+ 18mm to 55mm for $649 inc shipping and no sales tax. The 3ti compares very well with the Nikon d5100 and my daughter has that and it’s very nice. Not sure yet which I’ll choose. They are so close in specs. Was just little leary with so many sellers on web giving such good deals it makes me wonder.

  • Nicole says:

    Hi! Your advice has been so helpful. Like many of the folks above, I am interested in the canon package from costco which comes with the 18-55mm and a 55-250mm lens. I have a 3 month old son and currently use my canon g11 and I am looking for an upgrade. I see that you mention that the best lens for children and light is the 50mm f/1.8. Is it worth purchasing the costco bundle with the 2 mentioned lenses or am I better off just purchasing the t2i body with the f/1.8 lens? What are the 2 extra lenses that come with the costco bundle (18-55mm and 55-250mm lens) good for? Should I get the bundle PLUS the f/1.8 lens? My primary use for the camera is child/family shots. Thank you so very much for any help you can provide!!

    • Hi Nicole,

      The 50mm f/1.8 is a great starter lens for anything where you’ll be shooting in low-light and your subject won’t be sitting perfectly still. Lots of lenses these days have image stabilization, but that only helps reduce blur from camera movement, not from your subject moving. It’s also very sharp, and can give you a nice blurry background, which is helpful for portraits.

      That said, it’s just a 50mm lens…. no zoom. For situations where it will work, it’s great, but it’s not going to work when you need a wide angle lens to capture a group of people or a whole room (like the 18-55 would). You’ll probably find that a 50mm lens isn’t wide-angle enough pretty frequently if you’re used to shooting with a G11. It sounds like you’ll have a few years before you’ll be out shooting pictures of your son playing soccer or climbing trees, but those are the occasions when a 250mm lens from the sidelines is very helpful. For a baby, I’m inclined to say that the 18-55 would be a lot more useful, but you may want to use it for other things, or plan ahead :) It may also be that in a few years, you’ll be much more interested in photography and you’ll want to spend a bit more money on a higher quality telephoto zoom lens.

      So, I’d probably go with a T2i + 18-55 kit instead, and add the 50mm… but whether you’ll use the third lens is up to you.

      • Nicole says:

        Thank you so much for your reply and advice! I just had a few additional questions. In general, do you think this is the right camera for my situation (capturing my son)? I was also considering the canon eos 60d. However, money is deff. a factor and I want to get the best quality I can for the most reasonable price. Again, I am a complete newbie with SLR’s and this would be my first major purchase. I want so badly to capture amazing shots of my son and want to make sure I am making the right purchase (sorry – I am a bit nervous!) Thanks again for any suggestions and advice!

        • Hi Nicole,

          The T2i, T3i, and 60D all use the same sensor and image processing chip, so they will all produce the same image quality. The 60D is a great camera, but I it differs from the T2i mainly in how fast it can shoot (frames per second) and its autofocus system is better for sports photography… basically, it’s a better camera for sports and action, and even though babies and toddlers can do their share of moving around, they won’t post a challenge for the AF system on the T2i or T3i, if you have a good lens.

          Be forewarned, though… buying a good camera doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll get better pictures. Photography is an art, after all. Part of that comes from learning how to manipulate your camera to achieve the effects you want, and part of it is learning the art of composing a pretty picture. It takes a little time an experience. At first, you’ll probably end up with photos that look like (maybe somewhat sharper) version of the photos you’d get with a good point-and-shoot.

          So, you might want to take a couple of minutes and read my article… “The Three Basics of Photography“. It will give you a basic idea of some of the things you’ll be getting control over with a new SLR :)

          – Matthew

  • Kirk Erickson says:

    Hi Matthew,
    My wife takes pictures at my high school football games. The games start out in day light and end up at night. The day pictures turn out good but the night pictures come out blurry. We are looking to up grade. Which would you recommend the T2i or the T3i for sporting events. Also what lens would recommend. Thank You for your time.

    • Hi Kirk,

      The T3i and T2i are essentially equivalent in every way when it comes to taking sports photos (same sensor, processor, auto-focus system, metering system). The differences have to do with off-camera flash (triggered by the on-camera flash) and video, and some software differences, and of course, the swivel screen on the T3i, which you won’t use for sports. Unless those features make some difference for other things that you shoot, save some money and get the T2i for $499.

      Unfortunately, you’ll need it for a lens if you want to shoot sports at night. The lens is what is going to make the biggest difference for shooting when its dark (unless you want to use serious flash equipment instead). To stop action, you’ll need faster shutter speeds, and to get fast shutter speeds, you’ll need more light or high ISO. Your wife is probably already using the camera’s highest ISO that’s practical, so the only real option is letting in more light through the lens… and lenses that let in a lot of light are usually expensive.

      You can identify lenses that let in lots of light by their LOW f-number. f/2.8 is relatively low, whereas f/5.6 is relatively high. An f/2.8 lens lets in 4-times more light than an f/5.6 lens. So, if you’re looking at lenses such as the 55-250mm f/4-5.6, the f-number range means that when zoomed out to 55mm, the most light it will let in is f/4 (half as much as f/2.8), but when zoomed in to 250mm, it will only let in f/5.6 ( 1/4 as much as f/2.8).

      On the other hand, if you buy a 70-200 f/2.8 lens, you can use f/2.8 whether you’re zoomed to 70mm or 200mm.

      What’s the difference? Well.. suppose you’re shooting at f/5.6 and your shutter speed is 1/125th of a second. Any action in the photo would be blurry. If you used f/2.8 instead (in the same situation), the shutterspeed would be 1/500th, which would stop most motion.

      So, if you want to get a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, there are several available for Canon. Tamron makes a nice one for $769, which is optically good, and the focusing motor is sufficient though not the best. Sigma makes one with a better focusing motor for about $830, but the optics are not quite as sharp… they also make one with image stabilization for about $1400, though it’s useless for sports. Canon makes a great one for about $1200, fast and sharp, and an even better one for $2200 with image stabilization.

      There are cheaper lenses that let in more light, but they won’t have the telephoto range. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 (lets in more than twice as much light as an f/2.8 lens) costs about $110. The 85mm f/1.8 costs about $415. Unfortunately, neither are really sports lenses… they just don’t have the telephoto reach for football.

      Maybe more details than you were looking for… hope it helps :)

  • Peter Haentjens says:


    If you were a beginner photographer and had to choose between starting out with a t3i with a bunch of good lenses or a 5d mark ii with one good lens, what would your choice be?


    • That’s a good question. My advice has always been: buy the cheapest body that will fulfill your needs and then get the best lenses. Lenses will last decades… bodies are updated every couple of years.

      Also, for a beginner, an important part of developing a style and learning composition is exploring the different possibilities and perspectives provided by different lenses…. ultra wide angle, macro, fisheye, telephoto, large aperture, super telephoto, etc.

      This is not to say that a professional couldn’t work with a good body and single, high quality lens. Someone who has already developed a personal style and knows exactly what they want can afford to narrow their options. I wouldn’t recommend that for a beginner, though.

      So, I guess my answer is, I’d get an inexpensive body and the best lenses I could afford. Whether the body is a T3i or a 60D or 7D would depend on my own personal needs.

      • Peter Haentjens says:

        Are all canon lenses interchangeable between crop frame and full frame cameras?

        • All EF lenses (full frame) can be used on any EOS camera. The EF-S lenses (crop frame) can only be used on crop-sensor cameras.

          This has led many beginners to want to buy only full-frame compatible lenses, on the assumption that in the future they will upgrade to full frame. Generally, I think that’s a mistake. There are some full frame lenses that should be purchased because they’re great lenses, but to get a good wide-angle lens for a crop camera, you really need a crop lens. The upside is that if you buy a high quality lens, it will retain its value if you decide to sell it later… but most people, if they end up getting a full frame camera, retain the old body as a backup, so it’s just as well to keep the lens anyway.

          – Matthew

          • Peter Haentjens says:

            I took your advice and bought a t3i with a bunch of lenses that you recommended. I had the camera for 5 days before this wednesday and was planning on using the camera mostly for food photography (had an earlier comment in this post about it) and partly as a toy for myself. Little did I know that the camera’s true job would be documenting the burning and eventual rebuilding of my restaurant.

            Thank you for your advice, I love the camera and the lenses that you have recommended and actually got some pretty good food shots with it. As soon as I’m rebuilt the camera will go back to it’s intended job of photographing my new menu. Here’s the link to my website were I’ll be documenting the rebuilding process, if you’d like to take a look at some of the pictures I’ve taken so far.

            Peter Haentjens

            • Wow… what an ordeal. One of my uncles in Montana recently lost his building (he’s a dentist) to fire, and it was a bigger hassle than even he imaged. He did make it through and ended up with a beautiful new building, though.

              Thanks for sharing the link… good luck!

  • Victoria says:

    Greetings Matthew,
    I want to thank you very much on your easy to understand comparisons of the t3i vs t2i.
    No one has asked you about the video quality of these cameras that I have seen.

    To make a short story long : )
    Please bare with me.

    I went out to my sister’s ranch in Durango, 2 of us took the same picture,
    (both cameras on auto-focus) of a beautiful pink sky, snow covered mountains
    and pine trees in the foreground, her pictures were fantastic, true and clear.
    Mine, on the other hand didn’t capture any of that…..dull
    She has the Canon Rebel XS, I had a Canon Power Shot SD1300.
    I know… comparison.
    I have been in a lot of chat rooms and forums deciding on either the t3i or t2i.

    Went to Sam’s Club, they had the t2i Bundle, with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5 – 5.6 IS lens
    and also included a EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens, plus bag, etc. For a good price I thought …. $800.
    Bought it, they were going fast. But have not taken it out of the box yet. Can always take it back.
    As I am still undecided.

    I have a 2 year old grand daughter, (finally) and I take a lot of pictures and especially videos.
    Have heard that when taking videos with these cameras, you will hear a clicking or wrenching sound
    (as other people have put it) while zooming in and out, because of the internal microphone.
    Is this true…. and the only thing I can see different between the 2 cameras is the articulating LCD.

    In your opinion, would it be worth spending more money on the t3i ?
    How good are the videos with these cameras ?

    Sorry for burning your ears.
    Any input from you would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Victoria,

      First of all, welcome to the site :)

      When it comes to video, there are no significant quality differences between the two cameras… they both shoot the same quality video at the same frame rates and resolutions. With the T3i, you can use a smaller portion of the sensor to capture the video, which is a type of digital zoom, but otherwise, they’re identical. Both cameras shoot extremely high quality video; it is, in fact, Hollywood motion picture quality. Video from the more expensive 5D II and 7D are frequently used in the production of TV shows and movies, and the video quality of the t2i and t3i is the same as the 7D.

      BUT… shooting video with these cameras is not easy like it is with a videocamera or even a point-and-shoot. The auto-focus performance while shooting video is too slow and inaccurate to be useful; professional film makers use these cameras strictly in manual-focus mode, as so most amateurs.

      The sounds that you catch with the internal microphone will depend largely on the type of lens that you use. USM lenses (ultra-sonic motor) are very quiet when focusing, and more expensive lenses don’t make any significant noise while zooming. Your two lenses have standard micro-motors for focusing (but you should manually focus anyway).

      The T3i has a feature called “Video Snapshots”, which basically collects your short video clips together into a longer video. Also, it’s pop-up has an extra feature for people who shoot with a lot of flashes. It can wirelessly trigger other flashes (up to 30 feet away from the camera, or so) as if they were connected to the camera. Many beginners won’t use this, but it’s great for people who are very interested in using flash.

      It sounds to me like you got a good price on the T2i, and I don’t know if any of the T3is features would be of any use to you.

      Good luck! Let me know if you have any more questions :)

      – Matthew


      • Victoria says:

        Greetings Matthew,
        Kudos to you and this website, I love it….you have helped me before, need to know more.
        ( t3i vs t2i )

        Even though you said I did get a great deal on the t2i bundle, (2 lenses, bag, etc).
        Still have not opened it as of yet.
        I do, in fact, take a lot of videos of my granddaughter, which is why I think the t3i
        with the articulating LCD would be better. Getting down to floor level is killing my knees.

        I found a great deal (maybe) on ebay from ‘ getitdigital ‘ need your input again.
        I have been seeing this a lot ” We sell both USA and Imported models ”
        Imorted is Grey Market, right? Is the warranty just as good ?
        Is there a difference between camera / lenses imported or made in the USA ???

        Before I buy from them I would greatly appreciate your input…..again.
        Thanks so much Matthew
        So sorry for burning your ears again. : )


        • Hi Vicki,

          Imported/Grey Market equipment does not have a USA warranty. Sometimes it will have an international warranty, but that means shipping returns to Japan for repairs, generally. I don’t remember whether Canon or Nikon operates that way… I haven’t purchased Grey Market since the early 1990s.  It would be a pain, at any rate, if something went wrong.

          The products themselves are also a little different. The Canon Rebel T3i is called the 600D in foreign markets, so there’d be cosmetic differences (I’d prefer it to be called 600D here, actually). There may be firmware differences, but I’m not aware of any specifically with the T3i/600D.

          In general, though, they’re the same hardware.

          – Matt

          • Victoria says:

            Hey Matt,
            Thank you so much for the quick response.
            ‘ getitdigital ‘ has a great package that I want. Except for the 55-250 lens.
            It doesn’t state that its an EF-S lens, not a stabilezer lens right, is that a big issue?
            This package has a lot, filters, flash/slave…etc, wish I would have copied and pasted…
            You know what……I’ll get back to you on that.

            Thanks Matt
            Be right back

            • Victoria says:

              Hi Matt,
              I want to thank you for being so patient with an old lady.
              But, it you would, could you please go to and paste this link to their site and tell me what you think about this package….. USA made…..I love that.

              Canon EOS Rebel T3i 600DDigital SLR Body + 4 Lens Kit: 18-55 IS + 55-250 IS + 24GB & Accessories Bundle!!

              I am so into, my photo’s are not entry quality.

              Thanks again.
              I know, I know, my son tells me all the time I’m a pain.

              • Hi Vicki,

                Bargain shopping is probably outside my area of expertise, but I can say a few things about this deal.

                First of all, a lot of the stuff in the package is not really worth anything. The flash, the “wide angle” and “2x telephoto” lenses, and the filters, for example, are things that I wouldn’t use if they were given to me for free. They don’t tell you the class-rating of the SD cards (they should be class 6 or 10 for the camera, but they may pass off old class 4 cards). If there’s something in the package that you really like, you can find it for just a couple of dollars at

                The fact that they’ll give you a bunch of junk to “sweeten” the deal with no regard for its quality should tell you something about the vendor. You might also want to check out the consumer reviews for the site… a lot of these places are scammers.

                I’d advice you to buy from a reputable dealer, even if it costs a couple dollars more. It will save you a world of frustration (and possibly money) later.

                – Matt

  • Joannie says:

    Hi, I’m really into photography but I can’t decide between the rebel t3, t3i or the t2i. My styles of photography are macro, night/low light, travel/outdoor and spontaneous. What would you recommend ? Please help, thanks !

    • Hi Joannie,

      Since the T2i and T3i use the same autofocus system and sensor, there isn’t really any reason to recommend one over the other for the type of work you do. The T3i has the advantage of being able to control external flashes with its popup flash, and it has a swivel screen, but the cameras are virtually identical otherwise (with some software differences).

      Since you specifically mentioned low-light photography, you might also want to consider the Nikon D5100 if you’re not tied to Canon already. The D5100’s sensor performs a little better in low light, and otherwise has the same set of features as the T3i (except its ability to act as a master for off-camera flashes).

      I could probably count the times that I’ve held a T3 in my hands on my fingers. Since the T3i is so popular, the T3 is largely ignored (by me, at the very least :) ). The T3 has a lower resolution sensor than the T3i, so you might suspect that it has less digital noise at high ISO, but in fact, it uses old sensor technology and is actually worse than the T3i…. so I’d steer away from it.

      My answer then is this: Get the T2i unless you want the swivel screen and flash advantages of the T3i, or get the Nikon D5100.

  • Mo says:

    Your in put is terrific, I’m new to photography and recently bough the T2i as a package deal at Costco. I see you mention the 50mm f/1.8 lens for potraits, would this be a a good lens for taking pictures of a baby or what other lens would you recomend. I’m a new grandfather and ths is my primary focus for taking pictures at the moment. Thanks for any advice.


    • Hi Mo,

      The 50mm f/1.8 would be a great lens for baby pictures… it will help you get fast shutter speeds in low light and reduce blurring, and give you nice, soft backgrounds, when you shoot at f/1.8.  If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more of a telephoto, the 85mm f/1.8 is a more traditional portrait lens, and it has a better build quality, but it’s still not outrageously expensive. When there’s sufficient light, the 18-55mm kit lens should do a good job for catching your wide angle needs.

      Congratulations on becoming a grandfather! My own grandfather, believe it or not, is an avid reader of this site… and he’s 85 :) I’m content with being the uncle of twin girls, though I don’t see them as much as I’d like anymore.

      – Matthew

  • chelsey says:

    I am looking at the t3i and see package deals for them with an extra lense. is this worth the extra money and if so what lense should i be looking for? i will be using it for general picture taking, children, sports, etc.

    • Hi Chelsey,

      For general shooting, to cover everything from wide angle to telephoto, the combination of the 18-55 and 55-250mm lenses is pretty hard to beat, for the price. It covers a very wide range, and does so with excellent optical quality. The kit with the 75-300 gives you a little extra zoom reach, but the lens quality is really pretty poor.

      The two lenses that I mentioned above (and also in the Lens Recommendation section in the right column —> ) are great for general shooting, but they’re not ideal for low-light action shots (the image stabilization is only helpful when the subject isn’t moving), and they could be a little faster focusing, but they’re pretty good on that count.

      If you decide that you want a lens for shooting in low light (which is also good for portraiture), I can recommend the very inexpensive 50mm f/1.8, which is usually just a little over $100.

      If you have any more questions, feel free to let me know. Also, if you’re new to SLR photography, you might want to take a look at my article on the Three Basics of Photography. :)

      – Matthew

  • peterh says:

    I need a camera for food photography for my restaurant. I have been looking at the t3i as an entry level camera to get me started. Think this would be my best bet? What lens should I be using?

    • Hi Peter,

      The T3i would be a great camera to start with, especially if you add a flash to your setup. Lighting is very important for food photography. The T3i will wirelessly control that flash, while the T2i won’t.

      In fact (and I probably don’t have to tell you), professional food photography is much more difficult than it looks. Getting professional looking photos requires more than just using the right camera and lens, but also understanding the lighting, composition, and the fundamentals of exposure.

      That said, it really depends on what type of food photography you’re going for. If all you want is a photo that is, essentially, a sharper version of a snapshot, then the kit lens will do the job nicely. If you’re looking for more control over the depth of field (ie, whether the background is blurred but subject is in focus) or if you’d like to do macro work. I’d probably  lean towards a lens like the Canon 60mm f2.8 macro, which will give you extremely sharp images, shallow depth of field when you want it, and extreme close-up abilities. If you’d like to post a couple examples of the types of photos you’re trying to take, I might be able to give you some better advice, though.

      Good luck!

      – Matthew

      • Peter Haentjens says:


        Here are a couple shots that I had a professional photographer take.

        What is your opinion on this lighting product?

        I am pretty happy with the pictures the photographer took but I plan on releasing a menu insert with pictures every two weeks and using him would be prohibitively expensive. Photography interests me and I’d like to learn how to take these shots on my own.

        Thanks for your help!


        • Hi Peter,

          First of all, let me say that you got some good work out of the photographer you hired. It looks pretty nice. All of the shots look as though they were taken with a medium telephoto lens, so the 60mm lens would probably serve you well.

          However, I would be remiss if i didn’t say something further. A professional photographer would undoubtedly be able to use a Canon T3i to get photos of that quality (in fact, the make and model of the camera would make very little difference). But no matter what camera you buy, or how much money you spend, you won’t take better pictures until you’ve learned how to be a good photographer; the camera will never do the important work. So don’t get your hopes up too high… you won’t get professional results at first unless you’ve had a lot of practice already.  But by the same token, also don’t be discouraged if your results aren’t what you’d hoped for… you can learn to produce them, there just isn’t a magic bullet like buying some type of camera. It will just take some study and practice. There are some great books on food photography, and of course, a good working knowledge of photography theory is critical.

          I would actually not recommend a setup like the one that you’ve linked to. That would produce soft side-lighting, which might work, but is not idea for food. For food photography, lighting is usually overhead and behind the hero (hero = food model that’s been perfected), which emphasizes the texture. You’d be much better off using a tripod and window light, with the window behind the food, or a standard flash head (like the 430ex) used with a grid and maybe a gel, on a light stand behind and above the food, and a reflector in front of the food.

          However, if that’s too much to deal with at first, then something like your link or a light tent would be a decent short-term solution. You’ll find dozens of similar setups like this on, just search for “Light Tent”.

          Good luck! Let me know if i can be of any further help.

          – Matthew

  • Lauri Fairey says:

    Thank you for a clean, concise, easy to understand comparision. It gave me all the info I needed to decide between T2i / T3i.

  • supraman408 says:

    Hey Matthew,
    Thanks for your comparison between the T2i and T3i. It was by far one of the best comparison Ive found and made my decision for a T2i that much easier. Was wonder what lens you’d recommend for taking pictures up close of flowers and insects. Thanks in advance!

  • tammy wahl says:

    What does •“Video Snapshots”, which are short video clips assembled in-camera into an extended video” mean??? That was one of your above differences that the T3i has over the T2i.

    One thing that bothers me about using a camera instead of a camcorder to video is that everything is in clips.. I want it to be one flowing video of, for example, my kids basketball game. I may stop and start my video on my camera 20 times but only have about 7 min of video total and it is a pain to open each individual clip to show someone the video. With my camcorder just puts it all together for me.

    Soooo I guess my question is will the T3i solve that problem???

    Thank you, Tammy

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