The T3 is a pleasant camera to use in kit form - the camera is relatively compact and light for a DSLR and carrying it around is an easy task. Overall performance is in keeping with an entry-level unit, but there is at least one performance parameter that illustrates that DSLR technology is inexorably moving forward, and even at the entry end of the product universe this rising tide of technology is lifting all boats. More on this later.
The T3 powers up in about 0.1 second - not long, to be sure, but just slow enough to register as not seeming to be DSLR quick. Shutter lag proved to be 0.03 seconds, about par for the class, and in fact the T3 seemed to shoot promptly when asked. AF acquisition times seemed a hair slow compared to other entry level units I've reviewed and the T3's 0.25 seconds came in last in our field of four entry level contemporaries. That speed will seem like lightning to folks moving into a T3 from a compact and it's quite fast, just not quite as fast as the other guys.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Canon EOS Rebel T3||0.03|
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||0.04|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||0.16|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3||0.25|
|Sony Alpha SLT-A55V||17||10.8 fps|
|Pentax K-r||29||6.4 fps|
|Nikon D3100||24||3.1 fps|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3||∞||3.0 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.
Single shot-to-shot times are basically as fast as you can shoot, re-focus and shoot again. The T3 can shoot at up to 3 fps in continuous shooting and capture a maximum burst of 830 JPEG images - I quit at 20 and am inclined to take Canon at their word on this one. Things come back to earth quickly with RAW images - Canon claims a maximum burst of 5 and only 1 for a RAW/JPEG combo. Canon does say that with regard to the RAW/JPEG combo, while the camera will say "busy" after 1 shot, you can hold the shutter button down and continue to capture RAW/JPEGS at about 0.8 fps. I tested the T3 with a 16GB class 10 SDHC card (30MB/sec) and found burst performance a bit better than advertised with regard to RAW only, and about as advertised with RAW/JPEG. If you're going to shoot a lot of continuous RAW captures spending a bit more money for a faster memory card might be worth the cost.
The nine point AF system on the T3 did a fairly good job of tracking moving subjects with the camera set for single point autofocus and AI Servo tracking. This setup makes the center point the primary focus point but allows surrounding points to pick up the autofocus function should the center point slip off of the subject. You can actually set any of the nine points as the primary focus point but because the center point is a cross point sensor using it as the primary insures that focus acquisition will be better for both vertical and horizontal format subjects. And for those of you who feel a nine point auto focus system is definitely an entry-level standard, I would hasten to point out the Canon's 60D prosumer model also carries a nine point system.
Back in the monitor - viewfinder section, I suggested using the viewfinder was the way to go with the T3 because of significant power savings involved with its use: battery life is listed as approximately 800 shots using the viewfinder, but this figure slumped to about 240 if the monitor is used for composition and capture. Shoot with the viewfinder and a single battery on the T3 may last an entire day; use the monitor and you'll need several batteries to get you through an entire day shooting.
The built-in flash on the T3 has a guide number of 30 feet at 100 ISO; with maximum apertures of f/3.5 and f/5.6 at the wide-angle and telephoto ends of the lens respectively, this translates into a maximum flash range of about 8 1/2 feet at wide-angle and about 5 1/3 feet at telephoto. Flash recycle time is listed as approximately 2 seconds, and in my experience this proved to be fairly accurate.
The 18-55 zoom lens that comes with T3 is a fairly typical kit lens in performance, with its strongest feature probably being a close focus distance of only 9.8 inches across the entire focal range. Canon recommends shooting the lens at 55 mm for close-up activity and this allows you to fill the frame with subjects like flowers, in the 2 to 3 inch size. The lens displays a fair amount of barrel distortion at the wide end of the zoom, and a lesser, slightly noticeable amount of pincushion distortion at telephoto. The barrel distortion becomes pretty much absent at about 24mm, and the pincushion sets in well past 35mm.
At wide-angle, edges and corners appear a bit soft while the rest of the frame is fairly sharp. Telephoto looks to be a little bit better on the edges and corners and about the same in the rest of the frame. There is chromic aberration (purple fringing) present in some high contrast boundary areas at both ends of the focal range, but it is fairly well controlled in most instances and requires relatively large magnifications and close scrutiny for it to become objectionable.
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