Canon T2i vs T3i Comparison

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

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. ]
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Vincent
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Vincent

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!

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

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

Gurpratap
Guest
Gurpratap

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

Gail
Guest
Gail

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
Guest
Mary

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!

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

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

Thanks,

Lisa

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

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

netdevil
Member
netdevil

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…

Jacek
Guest
Jacek

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

Emily
Guest
Emily

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!

Chad Griffith
Member
Chad Griffith

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?

Chad Griffith
Member
Chad Griffith

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

Heather
Guest
Heather

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!

Holly
Guest
Holly

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

Vahan Karchian
Guest
Vahan Karchian

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.

Megan
Guest
Megan

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

Martina
Guest
Martina

Thanks this was a big help!

shom
Guest
shom

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

Erika
Member

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 :)

Michael
Guest
Michael

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

Thanks

Michael
Guest
Michael

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??

Michael
Guest
Michael

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
Guest
Tonja

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.

Michael Brand
Guest
Michael Brand

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?

Karen
Guest
Karen

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

Michael
Guest
Michael

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
Guest
Nicole

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!!

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