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


What’s New in the T3i?

In-Camera Guide on T3i
The two lines of text at the top of the LCD here represent the new “In-Camera Guide”

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

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

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

Who Should Buy the T2i?

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

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

Rear view of T3i, articulated LCD
Canon T3i Rear View, LCD Open

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

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

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

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

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


    • 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

      • 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!

  • 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

      • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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

      • 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
        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

  • 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?


  • 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?


    • 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

    • 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.

  • 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?



    • 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-


  • 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

      • 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..

  • 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?


    • 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

  • 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

    • 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

  • 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

      • 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:

          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

          • 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.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

      – Matthew

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

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


    • Hi Megan,

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

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

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

      – Matthew

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