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

Canon T2i vs T3i Comparison

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
3.0"
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
+12800
100-6400
+12800
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.
+bulb
1/4000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
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
PAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
Media TypeSD / SDHC / SDXCSD / SDHC / SDXC
Weight570g (including battery)530g (with battery and SD card)
Viewfinder Coverage95%
0.87x magnification
95%
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. ]

221 Comments

  • Vincent says:

    Hi,

    I currently have a Canon SX40HS and I am considering getting the T3i. The T2i is actually more money on Amazon than the T3i. Is there any significant quality difference between the SX40HS and the T3i? I am also new to the DSLR world and I don’t want to spend a lot of money so should I buy the T3i with a lens or without? I have heard to not buy the lens and buy others but they are very expensive.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Vincent,

      There will be a significant difference in the images between the T3i and SX40HS, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one is better than the other. Because the T3i has a much larger sensor than your camera, it will produce shallower depth of field in many situations, giving your shots a more “professional” look.

      Of course, the T3i has a significantly higher resolution sensor, and because it is larger, it will produce less digital noise in low-light.

      Perhaps more importantly, even though your current camera has a huge zoom range, the image quality is not equally good throughout that range. With an SLR, you can choose lenses that will give you super sharp images at any part of the zoom range (if you’re willing to spend the money).

      Now that the T2i and T3i are a couple of years old, you might actually consider the T4i or T5i with the new 18-135 STM lens. Unlike some of the other kit lenses, it will give you good performance across the zoom range, for a kit lens. Otherwise, the 18-55 is still a good lens on any of the cameras.  You should also consider a 50mm f/1.8 lens: inexpensive, but the large aperture will give you all of the benefits of your new large sensor… you’ll get very distinctive image quality compared to your point and shoot.

      – Matthew

      • Vincent says:

        Thank You! I just ordered a Canon T3 in a great kit for $10.00 less than the T3i. I thought I bought the T3i but I ordered the T3. Is there a big enough difference that I should cancel the order and get the T3i or should I keep my order? Thanks!

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Matt!

    I currently have an older model Olympus e510 that I use primarily for pictures in the theater. I am able to get into the dress rehearsals and take shots while the play is in the final stages without bothering anyone. I then have stills of the show for the parents and theater company. I’m looking to upgrade to possibly the t3i How does it work with low light and sometimes fast moving subjects ? I’m also nervous jumping brands since I already have an 80-300 Olympus lens but they have a t3i bundle available with a zoom lens that would save quite a bit. I would appreciate any thoughts and opinions. Thanks

    • Hi Lisa,

      I don’t have a much experience with the Olympus, but I know about the sensor technology it uses. Essentially, the Canon t3i will give you low-light image quality improvements in two ways:

      1. The more modern sensor will give you about 1 full stop of improved ISO performance (ie, if you were shooting at 1600 before, you’ll be able to shoot at 3200 with the same results)

      2. Plus, the image resolution is almost twice as high with the T3i, so you won’t have to enlarge the images as much, so the digital noise will be less visible (and there’s probably an improvement in noise handling in general, via in camera processing if you shoot JPG, which you shouldn’t).

      So, all in all, the T3i should give you a very significant increase in low-light performance. However, if you really want to get better low light performance, the best thing to do is get yourself a couple of lenses that have wide maximum apertures, like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 , 85mm f/1.8, or longer f/2.8 lenses.

      – Matthew

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks for the help!!

        I’ve found a one day special where a T4i was cheaper than a T3i :) so going that route with a bit of money saved for the lens another time .

        Thanks again!

  • Gurpratap says:

    What to buy Canon T2i or Canon T3i.Both prices are same.
    IS the Image quality has any difference between these two.
    For video Dave Dugdale review Video looks more sharper in T3i.
    I use 70% Pic and 30% Video.
    Thanks

    • If you shoot in RAW format, there’s no significant difference in image quality between the T2i and T3i, since the image processing is done by your computer software. There may be differences if you shoot JPG, but if you shoot JPG you couldn’t care about image quality very much anyway.

      With video, on the other hand, the camera has to do quite a bit of processing no matter what… which I why there are video quality differences between models that use the same sensor (ie, t2i, t3i, 60D, 7D). But it sounds as though you know that there may be differences there… and I don’t shoot much video.

      – Matthew

      • Gurpratap says:

        Hi both price are same Canon T2i and Canon T3i.
        so I buy canon T3i with 18-55mm lens from B&H for $580.
        email me gurpratap23@yahoo.com
        and
        final question Which Image quality is better t2i or t3i for both Raw and JPEG.

        • The RAW image quality is the same, for both cameras. They use the same CMOS sensor, and the RAW file is processed in the same way.

          The quality of the JPGs depends on numerous settings in the camera, so it’s hard to compare…. and I don’t shoot JPG. I doubt that there’s any significant difference, though.

          The T3i with 18-55 sounds like a pretty good deal.

          – Matthew

  • Gail says:

    Hi…..I am interested in buying a new camera….I am looking at the T2i/T3i. I am also looking at the SX40. I just need really nice pictures of my children, Should I go into the DSLR’s or stick with the SX40…..Is their any picture difference in the 2 cameras?

    thanks

  • Mary says:

    Hi Matthew!

    I’ve been debating about whether or not to purchase the Canon T3i for a while now, but when comparing the T3i and T2i I’m wondering if the difference between them is even that significant. I’d love to get the T2i because it is cheaper, but are there any major features that the T3i has and the T2i doesn’t that I’d be missing out on?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Mary,

      Just the ones that I mention above, in the article: the T3i has a swivel screen, digital zoom for video, and off-camera flash control. Most people will really only use the swivel screen, but some photographers will find the others useful too. There’s a much bigger difference between the T4i and the T3i than the T3i and the T2i. I’d recommend either going with the T2i or the T4i, actually.

      – Matthew

  • Lisa says:

    I also forgot to ask what is the zoom is on both the Canon T3i and the Sony Nex-5N

    Thanks,

    Lisa

    • This depends on which lens you attach to the camera. Since both of them can accept a wide range of lenses, from super wide angle to long telephoto, the potential range is huge… but not fixed.

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Matthew,

    My husband lost his Canon SX200.  He liked the size of it and the zoom feature but the pictures after awhile started coming out dull flat and the colors weren’t bright.  So when I told him about the Canon SX260, he was totally not interested.

    My nephew has the Canon T2i and loves the quality of the photos.  My husband loved the quality of the photos when my nephew showed the pictures to him so this is the camera he wants me to get him.  Today, when I looked online I saw that they are up to the T4i.  I am totally confused. I want to make the right choice for him and also want to make sure that he is happy with his gift.

    However, we do a lot of traveling and we use the camera for traveling and family events.  He will leave the camera on fully automatic because he’s not going to use the manual setting. He said that he doesn’t mind the size being bigger. But  feel the size may become an issue when traveling.  I spoke to another friend who said that he bought the Sony NEX5N for that reason because it had good image quality but was smaller than the T3i, but he said that the Canon T3i would be his first choice if size weren’t an issue.  Is there a weight difference between the Canon T2i, Canon T3i, and the Canon T4i.  Is there any reason for a novice to go to the Canon T4i over the T3i. Can you help guide me with this?

    Thanks,

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      Sorry for the delay, I’ve been out of town.

      There are several things I should say: a lot of the image quality issues (color saturation, color correctness, sharpness, etc) are dependent on how you use the camera (settings and technique) and how you process the images after they come out of the camera (even if it’s done automatically when transferring them to your computer). Any modern digital camera should be able to give you really great colors and contrast, if you set it up correctly.

      That said, the Canon Rebel series are great cameras. There is no appreciable difference in image quality between the T2i and T3i (they use the same sensor and processor), and the T4i should have VERY similar image quality, though it may be just a little bit better in low light. The main advantage of the T4i is with its video functionality, and it has a touch-screen LCD on the back for people who prefer that to the little buttons.

      If your husband is going to be shooting in automatic mode, and not shooting videos, then there’s no good reason to buy the T4i or even the T3i, the T2i will be just fine. The T3i adds some flash features that most novice photographers won’t use and a swivel screen which some people find useful for holding the camera above eye-level, or at ground level.

      Hope that helps a bit, but let me know-

      Matthew

  • netdevil says:

    Hi Mathew,

    I am totally new to the world of dslr’s. I am confused between t2i and t3i..

    I cannot make up my mind because I don’t know how the features in t3i will really help me in comparison to t2i.

    I am reLly sorry for repeating the question but I want to learn photography and don’t know how t3i will help me over t2i…

    • Hi ND,

      There are a couple of things that are probably pretty obvious, and then a couple of things that are less obvious.

      In the obvious category, the T3i has the flip-out swivel screen. I don’t find them to be very useful, but some people like them… it’s pretty much just personal preference. Also in this category, the T3i has a digital zoom feature when shooting video. If you don’t care about video, this doesn’t matter. If you do, consider how frequently you think you might need some extra zoom range; unlike old fashioned digital zoom, you don’t really lose much image quality when using it on this camera.

      In the less obvious category, there’s the fact that the pop-up flash in the T3i can be used to control other flashes that are not attached to the camera. Multiple, off-camera flashes like this are commonly used for event photography and portraiture… even if there’s enough light, flashes are used to change the quality and contour of the light on your subject. If you want to experiment with it, I’d recommend the T3i… though in the long run, I’d probably opt for a radio-triggering system instead of the pre-flash system built into the camera.

      To be honest, at this point, now that the price on the T3i has dropped down to about $610, only about $40-50 more than the T2i, it’s hard to recommend the T2i unless you really DON’T like the idea of a swivel screen on the T3i (some people are afraid they’ll break, though it’s rare). It’s a relatively small amount of money to pay for a set of features that could potentially save you hundreds of dollars in flash equipment, if even if you’re not sure you’ll want to use it right now.

      Otherwise, the cameras are virtually identical… there was not a whole lot of change between the two models. The T4i (which should start shipping in a few days) has some significant changes, but is even more expensive, of course. If you still have some questions, though, feel free to ask :)

      – Matthew

      • Oh… my mistake. I see that the T2i has dropped down in price to about $499, for the body, so $110 price difference is still pretty significant.

      • netdevil says:

        Thanx a lot Mathew for th info…i think I’ll go for t2i n invest in 50mm f/1.8 lens…

        Will learn with this and may be later on upgrade knowing exactly which features I truly require…

        Thanx once again..

  • Jacek says:

    Hey,
    Thanks for the article. It is hard to decide. If i am a filmmaker who wants to make “movie looking” video and has a low budget which one should I go for?

    Thanks

    • First, let me say that I don’t do much video work.

      Probably the best option for video is going to be the new T4i, actually, because of it’s auto-focus abilities.

      If you’re comfortable with (or prefer) manual focus, then I’d probably save the money and get the T2i, and spend the money you saved on a nice large-aperture lens (85mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4, etc), which will really help get you that “cinema” look.

      The advantage of getting the older camera is that you’d be able to use the Magic Lantern firmware for it, and get additional functionality for film-making. I suspect that it won’t be long before it’s available for the T4i, but I can’t even estimate when it will be.

      – Matthew

  • Emily says:

    hey Matt!
    i had a couple of questions about the differences between the T2i and T3i.
    so i’m only a beginner, and this would be a huge upgrade for me to buy a DSLR considering i only have a point and shoot :D but what are you talking about the differences in video capability? i’m leaning more towards the t2i but i want to be able to do that cool focusing trick where u focus close up and then move the lens so it focuses manually further.
    and the only difference between the two cameras for photography is the screen that rotates and the flash right?
    im so nervous to buy my first DSLR please help
    thanks!

    • Hi Emily,

      Yep, those are the two main, significant differences.

      The T3i also has an interesting “digital zoom” feature while shooting video, which allows you to use a smaller portion of the camera’s sensor (but still captures at the same resolution… full HD (1080p) video is only 2 megapixels). There’s also a video feature (Video Snapshots) that allows you to take short video clips and then it stitches them together into a longer video in the camera, so you don’t need to edit them together later. I’m not a fan of these types of things that give creative control to the camera, but I know some people find them handy.

      The focus effect that you mention is equally available to both cameras :) Keep in mind that it will be most pronounced if you use a lens with a large aperture, particularly a telephoto lens with a large aperture… and if you like video (and you’re pretty techy), you should also get the Magic Lantern firmware for the camera, which adds a lot of additional features.

      Good luck, and let me know if I can clarify that any further.

      – Matthew

  • Chad Griffith says:

    Thanks for the welcome. Also, I appreciate the fast reply! Unfortunately, I had to dig it out of my junk folder. lol

    And yes, as you posit, it does make more sense to start out with the T3i and compatible flash. It helps to have someone

    While waiting for your response (that I didn’t know I already had), I continued reading and looking around on the internet–I’ve been seeing that Nikon actually creates a better camera. I stumbled upon this site and it changed my perspective on getting a Canon. The only downside is that there’s no auto-focus on the actual camera (D5100). I have no interest in toting around a tripod if I just want to take pictures, but the lenses all come with AF features. I’m What would you recommend?

    • Hey Chad,

      A few things. First, Nikon does also make nice cameras, and the D5100 is a pretty decent camera.

      However, SnapSport is completely useless… in fact, it’s worse than that, it’s blatantly misleading. It’s basically an auto-generated comparison by someone who has no understanding of the relative importance of the factors involved. And despite the fact that their comparisons are essentially based on specs comparisons, they contain a lot of false information.

      Case in point: The snapsport review claims that Canon has an AF motor in the camera, which is not true. They’ve made this mistake because, back in the late 1980s, when autofocus was developed, Canon started using a new lens mount on their AF cameras and decided to put the AF motors in the lenses (a great system). Nikon decided to keep the lenses simpler, and put the AF motor in the camera. At least, they did for a several years, until it became clear to them that their AF motor in the camera could never compete with a larger motor in the lens, especially a USM type. Large lenses were horribly slow focusing on Nikon back then.

      So, Nikon started building lenses with AF assist-motors in the lens, and then started building lenses with AF motors in the lens. Now, some Nikon cameras are compatible with the old AF lenses with no motors in them, because they have an AF motor built-in for backwards compatibility. Cameras like the D5100 don’t have it, so they can only autofocus the Nikon lenses with AF motors (which is all of the modern lenses).

      Canon cameras are compatible with all of their AF lenses dating back to the late 1980s, since they developed the right AF system to begin with. The fact that snapsport  lists the T3i as having a built-in motor is just another indication that they have no understanding of the history or the importance of what they’re talking about, let alone the facts of the matter.

      The big drawback to the D5100 (again, ignored by SnapSport) is that the D5100 can NOT wirelessly control off-camera flashes… you’d be required to buy an additional triggering system.

      The one major advantage of the D5100 is that at high ISO, it has slightly less noise than the T3i, but by that point, the image quality of both cameras are not that great, so it’s something you’ll want to avoid anyway.

      Anyway, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t get the Nikon… it is a nice camera. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t get it for the reasons listed on that site.

      – Matthew

      • Chad Griffith says:

        I love this site. History lessons included!

        So my initial assessment of choosing Canon over Nikon due to versatility is still accurate. So which, between the two, make a better camera going forward. I’m leaning towards the T3i at this point, but there’s a lot about Nikon I don’t know.

        • Hi Chad,

          I’m assuming you’ve already seen my comparison of the D5100 and the T3i, but in case you haven’t: http://www.lightandmatter.org/2011/equipment-reviews/nikon-d5100-vs-canon-t3i/

          It was written before the D5100 was in production, and while the D7000 was still very hyped for its low-noise abilities. At this point, it seems that the D5100 is about a half stop less noisy above ISO1600 than the T3i. In other words, using the D5100 at ISO 2400 would give you about the same amount of noise as using the T3i at 1600, which, if you were shooting at 1/125th of a second on the Canon, you’d be able to shoot at 1/180th sec.

          Beyond the things we’ve already talked about, the differences between the cameras are minimal, and honestly, either way you go you’ll get a nice camera that’s not perfect. That’s ok… the camera that you get doesn’t really make that big a difference; it’s the photographer that counts the most :)

          You’ll also want to take into consideration that once you get started with a particular brand, it’s hard to switch to another one because of the cost of lenses. You’ll end up spending a lot more money on lenses than anything else, if you’re like most photographers. Canon is well known for their excellent telephoto lenses, while Nikon excels with their wide-angles (but of course, there are plenty of exceptions to those rules). Nikon lenses used to be significantly more expensive than Canon, but Canon has made great strides in over-pricing their lenses in the past couple of years, so the gap is closing.

          That’s just to say, it’s important to consider the whole system that you’re getting into, not just the single body.

          – Matthew

          • Chad Griffith says:

            I didn’t, so I took the time to read it.

            I don’t think shooting at high ISO will be…necessary. From the pictures I’ve seen online, with the sizes that I’m going to be interested in printing, the noise wouldn’t be detectable. And if I’m going into flash, there will be enough light to shoot at lower ISOs. Besides, there is noise reduction software out there that I’m sure I can use when I get more advance. Since I’m a beginner with dslrs, the Canon seems to be the best for this purpose.

            Matt, I really appreciate all of the help you’ve given me. In the one week that I’ve been reading up on all of this, it really came together with talking to you about everything. I really must thank you.

  • 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.

    Thanks,

    Chad

    • 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.

    Thanks
    Megan

    • 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:

    Matt,
    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?
    –Shom

    • 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 Amazon.com 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 http://www.viewbug.com/member/pinkninja81

        • 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.

    Thanks

  • 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 Amazon.com , 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 :)

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