Canon T4i vs T3i : What’s the Difference?

Canon T4i vs T3i

T4i vs T3i: Worth the Extra Cost?

When the Canon Rebel T3i was announced just a short year after the T2i hit store shelves, the differences between the cameras were minor enough that purchasing the new model just didn’t make sense for many photographers, especially in light of the earlier model’s price drop. The same, however, can not be said when looking at the T3i vs the T4i. The T4i  includes at least three significant technological advances, along with quite a few minor ones, making the T4i an appealing new offering; it may even give the Canon 60D a run for its money. Below, I’ll briefly note the differences between the two cameras and explain who will benefit from purchasing the T4i.

The Touch Screen

Little needs to be said about the adoption of a touch-screen on the Canon T4i, the first of its kind on a major SLR.  One of the most frustrating parts of owning an SLR, especially for beginners, has been the process of navigating through dozens of pages of settings by pushing tiny buttons and controller arrows.

Those days are behind us. Not only is the touchscreen great for adjusting the camera’s settings, it’s handy for browsing photos, as anyone who has ever owned a smart-phone or tablet knows. Additionally, the touch screen can be used during live-view focus to select a focusing point; more on this later.

Touchscreen on Canon T4i, Canon T3i swivel screen

The size and layout of the T4i and T3i are almost identical. (click to enlarge)

It remains to be seen whether the touchscreen will be durable enough for this application. For this reason, I suspect that we won’t see this technology integrated into professional-line models which are expected to take a considerable amount of rough treatment.

The Auto-Focus System

Canon t4i Auto Focus SensorThough not as flashy as the new touchscreen, the new auto-focus (AF) system in the T4i is probably the most important new feature when it comes to camera performance. The T2i and T3i both had nine auto-focus points, but only the center one used a cross-type AF sensor. If that doesn’t mean much to you, think about it this way: a standard AF sensor can only focus on horizontal or vertical lines, depending on the orientation of the sensor. If it can focus on horizontal lines, it can’t focus on vertical lines… so if what you’re photographing only has vertical lines in it, your camera will simply search and not pull focus. A cross-type sensor is essentially two sensors in one,  detecting both vertical and horizontal lines, making it twice as likely to be able to focus on your subject as a standard AF sensor. All nine of the Canon T4i’s AF points are now cross-type, and the center point uses a high-precision dual-point cross sensor, putting it on par with (or better than) the more expensive 60D.

The addition of 8-cross type sensors would be reason enough for excitement, but it gets even better.

Video auto-focus has always been a problem for SLRs, since their fast, accurate AF systems don’t work when the viewfinder mirror has moved out of the way to allow light to reach the sensor 1. The T4i changes all of that with a hybrid CMOS sensor with integrated phase-detection receptors wich provides the continuous, zippy performance for video that you’d expect from an SLR shooting stills: fast, accurate, and reliable. Although Nikon’s new SLRs also provide continuous auto-focus while shooting video, their system relies on the slower “contrast-detection” method.

While shooting video, you can use the new touch screen to select a focus point from one of the 31 zones on the LCD. Utilizing that camera’s face detection, you can also select a particular face, which can then be tracked as it moves around the video frame. A video example of the camera’s video AF functionality is available on Canon Japan’s website.

The Processor

The T4i features Canon’s new Digic-5 processor, which is six times faster than the Digic-4 found in the T3i and 60D. This allows the camera to process image data much faster than previous models, increasing the top burst speed of the T4i to reach five frames per second, significantly faster than the T3i’s 3.7 fps and nearly matching the 60D’s 5.3 fps,  as well as speeding up in-camera effect processing and noise reduction.

Because of the efficiency of the processor (along with the new sensor), the native ISO range of the T4i has been increased to 12800 from 6400 in the T3i.

Canon t4i and T3i, Top View

The new dual, stereo microphones of the T4i can be seen between the camera’s hot-shoe and pop-up flash.

The Lens

Canon ef 18-135 STM lensOf course, the new Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens can be used with any (cropped sensor) Canon SLR, including the T3i, but it is available as a kit lens with the T4i, an option that I’d recommend for most photographers. Canon has had a hole in their lens line-up for years, waiting to be filled with a high quality, walk-around, general-shooting lens, and the new 18-135mm lens appears as though it will fill the spot nicely. Canon’s previous 18-135mm  was a cheap-feeling, non-USM focusing lens with shoddy optical quality, and I could never recommend it.

The new lens, on the other hand, uses Canon’s new Stepping Motor technology (STM) for fast, precise, and silent AF operation, specially designed for use with the video functionality of the new T4i. The zoom range covers what would have been the 28-200mm zoom range on a traditional 35mm camera (many journalists historically have carried  28-70 and 70-200mm lenses to cover the same range, though professionals use lenses with larger maximum apertures). Independent lab tests remain to be seen, but we expect the lens to be exceptionally sharp for this range, as most of Canon’s lenses have been recently.

The Similarities

Though there are significant differences between the T4i and the T3i, a great deal remains the same. Many of the similarities can be seen in the table below:

[To see the whole T3i vs T4i table, click in the drop down box which currently displays "10" and select "50"]
 
Canon Rebel T4i / 650D
Canon Rebel T3i / 600D
Canon Rebel T3i
Amazon Price (body only)$729.00$499.00
Kit Price
(Body + 18-55mm)
$729.95$599.00
Kit Price
(Body + 18-135 STM / 18-135 orig.)
$979.00$799.00
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?YesYes
LCD Touch Sensitive?YesNo
Sensor Size14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)
Crop Factor1.6x1.6x
Sensor Resolution18 Megapixels17.9 Megapixels
ISO Range100-12800
+25600
100-6400
+12800
Total AF Focus Points99
Cross-Type AF Sensors91
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)~53.7
Max Burst Duration RAW (at highest frame rate)66
Max Burst Duration JPG (at highest frame rate)3034
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
50, 60 at 720p
PAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
50, 60 at 720p
Firmware Sidecar AvailableUnknownWorking: Magic Lantern
Media TypeSD / SDHC / SDXC
UHS-I compliant
SD / SDHC / SDXC
Weight575g (including battery)570g (including battery)
Viewfinder Coverage95%
.85x magnification
95%
0.87x magnification
Built-In Wireless Strobe ControlYesYes

.

Though the T4i has been fitted with an 18 megapixel sensor, roughly the same size as its predecessor, that’s where the similarity stops. The sensor is a new design, including integrated “phase detection” sensors that allow the camera’s new video / live-view focusing abilities, and improve the high ISO performance by a full f-stop to a native ISO 12800.

The shutter module also remains the same, so you can expect the same range of shutter speeds and flash-sync speeds as you’d find in the T3i, and speaking of flash, the T4i can act as an eTTL wireless (IR) flash control module just as the T3i could. This allows you to fire a flash like the Canon 430ex II that’s set up several yards away from your camera, without using any extra equipment.  Similarly, the body style and layout of the T4i remain virtually unchanged from the T3i, though minor cosmetic changes were made.

Who Should Buy the T4i?

Unlike the T3i, the new T4i is an obvious recommendation for most people who are interested in buying an entry level Canon. Indeed, though I expect the T3i to remain on the market, there is little space for it; photographers who are interested in the T3i’s video features will be better off buying the T4i, and those who have no interest in video will usually be satisfied with the significantly less expensive T2i (body = $575.00), as long as it’s still available. [Since the price of the T3i continues to drop, the T2i may become irrelevant as the prices converge.]

Buy the T4i if you:

  • want to shoot cinema quality HD video with the convenience of a video camera
  • shoot sports or action and want the higher frame rate (5 frames per second) and superior auto-focus system of the T4i
  • would appreciate the convenience of a touch screen LCD, and are willing to take the necessary precautions to keep it from breaking
  • shoot low-light landscapes or other low-motion shots that can utilize the new multi-shot noise reduction in JPG mode

Buy the T3i or T2i if you:

  • would like to save $100 or more on the camera price
  • are not interested in shooting video. The still capabilities are identical, for all practical purposes
  • are interested in shooting video, but prefer to shoot with manual focus or follow-focus rails (as most professionals do)
  • shoot primarily landscape or portrait photography, so the AF differences are less important (the 5D Mark II shares the same AF system with the T3i)
  • do not require the extra appox. 1 frame per second provided by the T4i

Buy the T2i if you:

  • don’t want an articulated / swivel LCD screen
  • don’t use wireless eTTL off-camera flash (IR method; all cameras can use radio triggers)

As usual, I’ve tried to keep this comparison brief and focused on the most important features, and I’ve excluded discussion of in-camera-processing, since these features can change with firmware updates and are probably better done in post-processing software on your computer anyway. However, please feel free to ask me any questions that you may still have in the comments section below!

 

  1. Sony’s fixed, translucent pellicle mirror SLTs are a notable exception here
Avatar of Matthew Gore

Matthew Gore is the Editor in Chief and Administrator of Light & Matter.

85 Comments

  • Reply April 8, 2014

    Jon Tewnes

    I am a fashion designer and a band manager. I’ve noticed I need I resolution pictures to really make my website pop. So I am off to buy a camera. My friend recommended the t3i stating its a great camera for the price now I see the t4i and I am not sure which will be best for my needs. Hes a video guy but ill be primarily doing still pictures. With some blog video and live performance shots of my band. Which camera would you recommend?

    • Avatar of Matthew Gore
      Reply April 8, 2014

      Matthew Gore

      Hi Jon,

      For doing blog video, a face-detecting autofocus video camera is ideal… and the T4i will do that (the T3i won’t). For still photography, the capabilities are very similar, but the T4i has a superior autofocus system (all 9 points are cross-type, instead of just the center one). This is especially important when you’re shooting in dark venues and AF is tricky.

      So, I’d lean towards the T4i, if I were you, coupled with a large aperture prime lens like the Canon 50mm f/1.8 (only about $100) or the 85mm f/1.8, both of which will give you much better quality images in low light…. but the 85mm is a better portrait lens, the 50mm is more of a general-shooting lens.

      My general advice is always this: buy the least expensive camera that will meet your needs and the best lenses you can afford… so if buying the T3i will help you get one of the lenses mentioned above, then do so, if you can live without  autofocus video.

      (Wow… just looking at current prices on Amazon. The T4i body is over $700 for some reason, while the T5i is only $599. So, skip the T4i body in favor of the T5i. The T3i body with a kit lens is also $599.)

      Good luck!

      - Matthew

  • Reply August 13, 2013

    SEBASTIAN

  • Reply July 13, 2013

    Yas

    Great read, especially for somewhat of a novice who needs to move up from the t1i… I had my mind set on a cheaper t2i but then I read the differences on the video..and the t3i seems the best fit, as the t4i is just out of my budget at the moment.

    Good job, keep it up!

  • Reply June 30, 2013

    Craig

    This was very informative. Thanks.

  • Reply May 2, 2013

    Monty

    Nice comparison. pretty clear t4i is a winner here for movie makers. I have interest in making videos – short films and documentaries and I am just getting started. I have Rebel XT for 6 years , I want to upgrade to a model that has video capability. My choice is t2i / t3i and t4i. Right now I am ruling out 5d M3 coz of price.
    I can get t2i/t3i – a used one in close to $400 for a body, and t4i is right now around $780 for a kit.
    what would make sense here, save money with t2 / t3i and buy extra lenses or go with t4i ?

    • Avatar of Matthew Gore
      Reply May 2, 2013

      Matthew Gore

      Hi Monty,

      When it comes to serious video/film making, most people shoot with manual focus, so the T4i’s autofocus features are not such a big deal…. it’s usual casual video shooters who want a camera that will just work like a standard videocamera. With manual focus, you’d see pros using a follow-focus rig, like this entry-level one.

      But for some people, I understand that autofocus while shooting is helpful. It will really be up to you to decide how you want to shoot, and that will determine whether it’s important to get the T4i.

      I’m sure you’ve noticed that you can a T3i + the focus rig for less than the price of the T4i :) If you use the Magic Lantern firmware, you’ll get focus peaking, which will make manual focusing easier, too.

      - Matthew

      • Reply May 2, 2013

        Monty

        Thanks. Yes AF is useful feature and might make it easy for some. I thought it wasn’t accurate most of time . I tested borrowed t4i , I have not tested t3i or t2i. t4i also has advantage with recording time. it was recording continuously for little over 29 min , I guess t2i ot t3i cant. If i end up with t2i or t3i, would that be a problem ?
        I think I will not worry about AF, since I am beginner as far as movie is concerned, I should not be relying to auto stuff at least at this stage.

        Thanks for follow-focus rig link, I was going to as about that as well.
        Any recommendation on lens for video making ? . I have 70-300mm, 18-55 and prime 50mm.

        • Avatar of Matthew Gore
          Reply May 2, 2013

          Matthew Gore

          That’s right… the T3i can only record 12-15 minutes or so (4GB file size limit). Again, this is problematic for casual users, and some documentary makers, I suppose. In most professional films, though… TV or big scree, the average scene is only a few minutes long, and editing cuts are made every several seconds…. rarely does a shot last for more than 20 seconds. So, again, this just depends on how you’ll be using the cameras.

          I don’t shoot much in the way of video, myself. Lens choice for shooting video, though, depends on the same basic factors as for photography (except that sharpness isn’t as important, so far)… you mainly need to choose a lens that fits your project when it comes to perspective and depth of field.

          - Matt

  • Reply April 19, 2013

    Long Hong

    Hi Matthew,

    Thank you for your post here regarding the differences between the T4i and T3i. I did have a few questions I was hoping you might be able to help me with so I can make a decision on my final purchase for my first DSLR. At the onset, I want to initially use my DSLR for few things in particular; photos w/friends & family, low light photography (like shooting a band at a small club), portraiture photography, and possible sports photography. Video is not something I initially thought about, but it does not mean I won’t don’t want to use video at all.

    My budget is around $800-$850. Currently, Best Buy offers the T4i w/18-55mm IS lens kit for $649 (body only is $648) and the T3i w/the same lens kit for $579. I know this is not the ideal lens kit to go with this T4i as stated in this review, but it does fit my budget better to allow me to add a lens to my purchase. I was looking at both the 40mm f2.8 lens and the 50mm f1.8 lens. I intend to purchase both this year, but only have the budget for 1 on my initial purchase.

    Based on poring over several sites and posts like yours, I believe I am going to initially settle on the T4i lens kit package and the 50mm f1.8 lens since my first shooting excursions will be shooting at small clubs with more dimly lit stages. I want to buy the 40mm f2.8 STM lens later on that will work well with the T4i for both photography and maybe some handheld videography when at events with friends/family. Does that decision making/logic seem sound for what I intend to use this DSLR for?

    Thank you for your time reading this and thank you again for this post,
    Long

    • Reply April 28, 2013

      alejandro simms

      Long Hong, i don’t know if you have bought the T4i yet, but if you haven’t, i suggest you check Ebay out and you’ll find that with your budget you can get the camera and additional lenses. good luck!

    • Avatar of Matthew Gore
      Reply May 2, 2013

      Matthew Gore

      Hi Long Hong,

      Sorry for the delay; I don’t know how I missed your post here!

      For what it’s worth, I’d go with the T4i (the AF system will be better in low light situations) and the 50mm f/1.8 seems like a great place to start. I’m not sure that the 40mm will really be the most useful lens for you, unless you need to conceal your camera sometimes, but that’s up to you. I’d probably go with either the 28mm f/1.8 or 85mm f/1.8 instead… leaning towards the 85mm if portraiture is going to be important.

      Good luck!

      - Matthew

       

  • Reply March 31, 2013

    Magha

    Thanks a bunch for the comparison. I still have my tradition Canon Rebel 2000 SLR with 55mm and 200mm lens. Would either of these work on T4i if I just buy the body?

    Magha

  • Reply March 30, 2013

    Allison

    Thank you for this concise summary of differences between the T4i and T3i. I am seriously considering the purchase of my first SLR and have focused on the Canon Rebels because a girlfriend (who has captured some amazing shots with hers) recommended them.

    I am leaning toward the T4i in part because technology advances so quickly I’d hate to feel that my camera was outdated before I even had a good feel for its features. However, as this will be my first SLR and I have no point of reference I wonder if the latest model is the smartest choice for me. Unfortunately, as helpful as your summary is, I’m still not sure which way to go.

    The whole process has been overwhelming, the T3i or T4i, then which lens package to conside? The more I read, the less certain I am. LOL

    So, as a SLR virgin whose focus is primary landscapes and architecture, what would your recommendation be for me?

    • Avatar of Matthew Gore
      Reply March 30, 2013

      Matthew Gore

      Hey Allison,

      Before anything else, let me mention that the forthcoming T5i is exactly the same (hardware) as the T4i; the only difference is with some of the software in it… the “creative control” filters, which is the same stuff that you could apply using Photoshop (or even Instagram). So you can consider the T5i and T4i to be the same camera, and the T3i to be a different camera.

      That said, they’re both nice cameras. For you, I’d probably lean towards the T4i/T5i with the 18-135 STM lens, which will give you a camera that covers a large zoom range with good optical quality, and is also good for video, and you get the focusing power of the 9 cross-type points (as opposed to one cross-type in the T3i). In the kit, the 18-135 STM is a good deal.

      With that setup, you can also consider getting a 50mm f/1.8 lens, which will give you good taste of what it’s like to shoot with a prime, large aperture lens. It’ll be great for low-light situations, and for portraits.

      If you really don’t care about video and money is an issue, then go with the T3i… and you’d have a little deciding to do about lenses. The 18-55 and 55-250 is a good set.

      - Matthew

      • Reply April 7, 2013

        Allison

        Thank you Matthew!

        I purchased the T4i with the 18-135mm lens as you suggested. I guess I picked the right time to buy as Best Buy offered the set last week for $799! (Granted it was only a $20 savings from Amazon, but I had it in hand that night with no shipping fee!)

        Thanks again for your help.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Patricia

    Hey! Thanks for this awesome page. It’s helped me out a ton.

    I do have a question, though. I have a Canon EOS T3i, with the kit containing the 18-55mm lens and the 55-250mm. I am definitely interested in the T4i, especially with the upgraded movie addition, considering I am going to college this fall to study filmmaking… and I was wondering how much better is the 18-135mm lens?

    I was thinking about selling my T3i, but keeping my 18-55mm lens along with the new lens kit I would get from the T4i. Should I forget about the 18-55mm since I will be getting the 18-135mm lens in the kit? It would save me a lot of money, but I want to keep my 18-55mm lens because I have filters, and lens attachments such as a fisheye that fit on frontal part of the 18-55mm lens, unlike the 18-135mm because it has a 67mm frontal.

    I need your help! Thanks! Hope this wasn’t too confusing.
    – Patricia

    • Avatar of Matthew Gore
      Reply March 30, 2013

      Matthew Gore

      Hi Patricia,

      When it comes to optical quality, your 18-55 and 55-250 will be at least as good as the 18-135mm. I haven’t done a direct comparison of the 55-250 and the 135mm, but I imagine that the 55-250 will be a little sharper in that range for photos; but for video, it doesn’t make any difference.

      Even full HD video is only 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is just over 2 megapixels, which is too low-resolution to show the difference between high quality lenses like these.

      So, really, you could just get the T4i or T5i body alone, and use your current lenses. The only advantage of the 18-135mm lens for video is the STM focusing motor, which is quiet (and accurate). However, for professional film/video work, autofocus is rarely used, so that’s not such a big deal… it’s really intended more for casual use.

      - Matthew

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