The ink has barely dried on my review of the Canon 60D, and with the T3i matched with the same 18-135mm zoom that accompanied the 60D, there's a certain sense of deja vu shooting the T3i. A few control differences, but the body/lens combination remains a fairly compact and light setup for walking about. Additionally, there are some performance parameters where the T3i and 60D match up and in some instances I'll include comments from the 60D review when they apply to the T3i.
The T3i starts promptly and you can get off a first shot as quickly as you can acquire focus and push the shutter after flipping on the power switch. Sensor cleaning, when enabled, is conducted on power down so you don't have to override that process to get off a quick first shot. Single shot-to-shot times were as quick as you could focus and shoot, and the camera just kept cranking out images at its advertised 3.7 fps continuous shooting rate with JPEGS. The camera will take 3 RAW/JPEG combos at speed, slows a bit for numbers 4 and 5, then takes a break.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||0.04|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i||0.04|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||0.16|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i||0.18|
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||17||10.8 fps
|Pentax K-r||29||6.4 fps
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i||∞||3.7 fps
|Nikon D3100||24||3.1 fps
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Focus acquisition with the 18-135mm lens ran about 0.18 seconds, right in line with other cameras of this class. Shutter lag came in at 0.04 seconds, again right in step with the competition. Tracking moving subjects with the T3i was pretty good with AI servo mode autofocus enabled for the manual modes, and in fact reminded me of the 60D in overall performance. Probably no surprise there as the two cameras appear to share the same AF system.
The guide number of the T3i flash is 43 feet at 100 ISO - same as the 60D. That equates to about a 12 foot range at the lens's f/3.5 maximum aperture. Recycle times ranged from instantaneous to about 4.25 seconds at worst.
Battery life is listed as about 550 shots without using flash; 50% flash usage gives a 440 shot battery life. Live view shooting has a battery life of about 200 shots, 180 if flash is used half of the time. The camera can also accept the BG-E8 battery grip that holds a second LP-E8 battery or six AA batteries. Battery life doubles with the second LP-E8; AAs are good for about 470 shots, or 270 with 50% flash usage.
The 18-135mm Canon zoom on the T3i produced a similar performance to the 18-135mm on the 60D, so I'm going to excerpt portions of that review here:
There is some fairly distinct barrel distortion (verging on moustache distortion) present at the wide end of the zoom which goes away at about 24mm - then a milder pincushion distortion appears once you move past 24 and on out to telephoto. Corners and edges of the frame are a bit soft at wide angle, but performance in this regard is good. Telephoto is about the same as the wide end.
Chromic aberration (purple fringing) is present at both ends of the zoom, a bit more so at the telephoto end. In either case the effect is fairly well controlled and is relatively hard to detect except at enlargements in the 200% and up range.
Back in the modes section we mentioned discussing the close-up capability of the T3i at this point of the review. While it has a "close up" shooting mode, all the T3i really does there is try to optimize settings for image capture at close range. A true macro close up capability - the ability to fill the frame with small objects at a 1:1 reproduction ratio - requires a dedicated macro lens. But the 18-135 will focus as close as about 18 inches at the telephoto end of the zoom, and that distance is from the subject to the sensor plane in the camera, not subject to lens. As a result, you can get some fairly close in shots and fill the camera frame with larger subjects. It's not the T3i accomplishing this feat, but rather the lens and its close focus properties. Here's our state flower, the poppy (and a guest), and an orchid shot up close.
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