Formally announced on February 7 and available in early March 2011, the Canon EOS Rebel T3i (henceforth T3i) becomes the company's flagship entry-level model and is accompanied to market by a budget-priced T3 variant as well. No fewer than six Rebel models are currently displayed on the Canon USA website, so entry-level folks considering a Canon have their work cut out for them wading through all those choices.
The major differences between the T3i and the T3 (aside from a $300 higher MSRP for the T3i) are an 18 megapixel sensor vs. 12.2; 3.7 frames per second (fps) continuous shooting rate vs. 3 fps; a spot-metering exposure option; an articulating 3.0-inch monitor vs. a fixed 2.7-inch and 1080 HD video vs. 720 HD.
The T3i features Canon's newest DIGIC 4 image processor and a native ISO range from 100 to 6400 (expandable to 12800). Exposure metering uses a dual layer 63 zone sensor and AF is accomplished via a 9-point system with a cross-type center point. The camera is compatible with Canon's EF and EF-S lens lines, accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and is offered as a body only or in kits paired with 18-55 or 18-135mm stabilized zoom lenses; our review unit was the latter kit. Canon includes an eyecup, camera strap, AV and USB cables, battery pack and charger and CD-ROM software with each camera.
About now you might be asking yourself, "Didn't we just do this a year ago with the T2i as the new Canon entry-level flagship model?" and you'd be right - aside from the articulating monitor, 1080 HD video and a couple of automatic shooting modes, the T3i spec sheet reads pretty much the same as that of the T2i, right down to identical MSRPs for the kit with the 18-55 lens. Here's the view with the 18-135 lens, which covers the 29 to 216mm focal range in 35mm equivalents owing to the T3i's 1.6x crop factor:
The cameras bear a strong family resemblance, but Canon lists slightly different dimensions and weights for each and visually there are some slight differences in body contours. It looks like a T2i, costs like a T2i and has a bit more hardware than a T2i - let's see how it shoots.
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