The new Nikon D3200 certainly looks like a very attractive entry-level camera, but it isn’t there without competition. The Canon Rebel T3i (600D) is a Canon DSLR cameras that will give you hard time deciding which one of those two cameras you should buy. In this comparison article I want to help you choose between the two. I will not suggest you which one to buy, but rather allow you to easily understand the pros and cos of each camera, which features each one has and for what they are good for. We will be going over the image and video quality and touch the specs where things matter most. Let’s start with our comparison and I hope that after reading this camera buying guide you will be able to make your final decision.
As other comparison articles on camera debate, let’s start with a short introduction on each camera.
Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D
Here we have it, the Canon Rebel T3i, one of the most attractive entry-level cameras on the market. Features a 18.0 megapiels CMOS sensor, DIGIC 4 image processor, full articulating 3-inch 1,040K-dot LCD and 1080p30,25,24 video recording. The Canon T3i (600D) wraps a very respectful list of features that really makes this camera very hard to beat. This camera attracted both beginners and enthusiast alike.
The Canon T3i is very favorite among videographers who can appreciate its high video image quality, fully articulated high-res LCD and good ergonomics. Canon really gave some thought over this camera and it’s one of the most attractive cameras for both stills and video shooting.
As for the time of writing this article, the 600D is attractive because it features an articulating LCD, when you can find this feature only on the D5100 entry-level HDSLR. This certainly makes the T3i a more attractive camera for video shooting, but again, we need to look at the whole package to make a decision. Some of you might think that this feature lone worth buying the T3i over D3200. However, I highly recommend reading the article to the end because making such decision based on that feature alone.
For those of you who are debating between the Canon T3i and Nikon D5100, I highly recommend that you spend some time reading my Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100 comparison article.
The Nikon was certainly built to give some tough fight against Canon entry-level cameras, especially the T2i (500D) / T3i (600D). It seems that the D3200 is aimed to compete against the T3i, because it’s around the same price range, although approx. $50 cheaper (inc. 18-55mm lens).
The D3200 is a unique camera with an amazing 24.2-megapixel resolution, utilizing the new EXPEED 3 image processor, has 3-inch 921K-dot Fixed LCD, can record 1080p30,24 videos and it’s compatible with Nikon WU-1a Wi-Fi module. You can find more about the differences between the D3200 vs D3100 vs D5100 here.
The D3200 doesn’t replace the D3100, but sits above the D3100 and below the D5100 in lineup. It adds 3.5mm stereo jack for connecting external stereo microphone, which certainly makes it more attractive to videographers. The high-resolution LCD brings clarity for both video and stills shooting. You can easily check image focus and sharpness and the overall experience is much improved compared to the D3100 230K-dot LCD.
One of the main attractions of this camera would be its very high resolution, extensive in-camera guide to help newbies know their way out and the 3.5mm mic jack connector.
The Importance Articulating LCD Display
OK, I know that you given it a lot of though, and I do agree that an articulating LCD is a very useful one. Don’t ask me why Nikon didn’t opt for an articulating screen on the D3200. This makes the Canon T3i a more attractive package for those who really want to dive into the HDSLR movie world. When you shoot videos via the LCD, you don’t always shoot the movie at the eye-level. Of course you can, but that’s will limit your creativity. You can lower your camera down or put it above your head and shoot, but you won’t be able to see what you are actually shooting.
In the image below you can see the Nikon D3200, D5100 and Canon EOS Rebel T3i (left to right). You can see that both the D5100 and the T3i (600D) have an articulating screen, the D3200 does not (click the image to enlarge). You can view this comparison and more on camerasize.com (highly recommended)
Using a flip-our / rotating LCD it’s easy, fun and mostly useful. I mentioned it regarding videos, but the same works for stills too. Let’s for example imagine that you want to take a low angle shot of you dog moving in the yard. You have three options:
The first one is to lie down on the wet grass (just made it up, but let’s assume that it was raining a yesterday) and shooting the dog moving. The problem is that you are now static and can’t follow your dog, you need to get up to do that. So for some shots an articulating screen also means PORTABILITY.
The second is too low your camera lower to the height of your knees and follow your dog moving across the yard. That certainly solves the first issue, but raised another problem, you can’t see what you are shooting. Even if you put the camera a bit in front of you, the viewing-angle and reflections will make it hard to see what your shooting, certainly far away from being optimal. So an articulating screen gives you DIRECT VIEW of what you are actually shooting.
Use the articulating LCD on your camera so the screen will point to you, while the camera will point towards your subject. You can easily follow fast moving subject while keeping an eye both on the subject and your surrounding (we don’t want to fall into a pit and break a leg, worse, our camera ).
Professional videographers use HDSLR rigs (ie. Redrock, Cinevate, Dragon Image, etc.) that allows them to shoot in different angles, easily carry heavier camera and lenses for a long period of time, smooth rotation and vertical movement of the camera and of course much better stabilization which should prevent camera shake during shooting.
Some of you might be surprised that the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5D Mark II, both don’t have an articulating display. However, the 5D Mark II is one of the most popular HDSLR camera ever, and the 5DMKIII, it’s replacement, doesn’t utilize and articulating display. Both those cameras are targeted to the enthusiast an pro market. Those who really want to get the very best of video quality, will certainly spend more and buy a matched rig to shoot videos.
It doesn’t mean that you can shoot great videos without a DSLR Rig, or you can’t find a cheap rig solution, it just mean that an articulating screen will give you more flexibility and can help you shoot some interesting video scenes in angles that doesn’t need to fit the human eye-level. I think that in those angles things start getting more interesting.
In short, if you aren’t planning buying a DSLR rig for your HDSLR camera, an articulating LCD can certainly enhance your creativity as a videographer.
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What else you Should Know About?
We gave a whole section talking about the articulating screen because I believe that it’s an important feature that exists on the T3i / 600D but not on the D3200. However, there are other differences that I think you should also care about.
Let’s view a side by side comparison table that will enable us to clearly see the difference between the two cameras, and we will continue talking about them afterwards.
|Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D)||Nikon D3200||Notes|
|18.0 MP||24.2 MP||832px (H) / 544px (W) more pixels in favor of the Nikon|
|Image ratio w:h||1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9||3:2|
|Image processor||Digic 4||Expeed 3|
|ISO||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, (12800 with boost)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 (12800 with boost)|
|White balance presets||6||12|
|Articulating screen vs fixed. Also the T3i's screen has a higher resolution|
|Shutter speed||30 - 1/4000 sec||30 - 1/4000 sec|
|Built-in flash||Yes (pop-up)|
|Flash X sync speed||1/200||1/200|
|Continuous shooting||3.7 fps||4 fps|
|Exposure compensation||±5 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)||±5 EV (at 1/3 EV steps)|
|Auto exposure bracketing||±2 (3 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)||No||D3200 doesn't offer automatic exposure bracketing. Exist on the D5100|
|WB bracketing||Yes (3 frames)||No||D3200 doesn't offer automatic WB bracketing. Exist on the D5100|
|Video||1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps), 640 x 480 (60, 50 fps)||1920 x 1080 (30,25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps), 640 x 424 (30, 25 fps)|
|Battery life (CIPA)||440||540|
|Dimensions & Weight||133 x 100 x 80 mm (5.24 x 3.94 x 3.15")|
570 g (1.26 lb / 20.11 oz)
|125 x 96 x 77 mm (4.92 x 3.78 x 3.03")|
505 g (1.11 lb / 17.81 oz)
|D3200 more compact and weight less|
One of the main differences between the D3200 and T3i is the maximum image resolution.
The image above illustrated the maximum image resolution difference in with and height between the Nikon D3200 and Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D). You can see that the difference is quite significant, but it become more significant if you really need it. For portraits, studio work, landscape and macro photography, more resolution can really add more value to the image and give you more room for editing / cropping.
As I say earlier, some of you might find it useful or even crucial for your work, others won’t see that as an advantage, and even see that as disadvantage because at maximum resolution, the image file size will be larger.
3.5mm Mic Jack
Both the Nikon D3200 and the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D are equipped with built-in 3.5mm microphone mic jack for connecting external stereo microphone. This can vastly improve the audio quality of your video, prevent the camera from capturing the lens AF motor sound, minimize sound noise in videos and in general, will result in a much better sound quality. If you are really interested in shooting videos, you might want that feature built-in, even if you won’t be using it at first. Of course you don’t have to debate between those two camera because both have this 3.5 mm mic jack connector.
The only think that you should worry about is which external microphone to buy?
If you are going with the Nikon, you should know that Nikon sells the ME-1 Stereo Microphone. You can purchase the ME-1 microphone via Amazon here. Another very highly recommended external stereo microphones is the Rode VideoMic Pro VMO Shotgun.
The Nikon D3200 is more compact and lightweight than the Canon Rebel T3i. Not a huge difference though. Take a look at the image below (via camerasize.com) to comprehend the differences.
Image Quality (High ISO)
If you are pixel-peeping quite a lot, I can really understand you. When you invest your money in a digital camera, you want to know that you get the best your money can buy. Image quality is very important, although you should understand that the camera lens is the one that is most responsible for the final output. It’s the combination of a good sensor, image processor and a high-quality lens (and the photographer’s experience) that will result in a sharp highly-detailed image.
Even so, there are many professional camera reviews websites that already made this comparison. In order to make an accurate comparison you need to use the same lighting conditions, use lenses that are relatively very close in terms of their specs and price and compare the exact scene. Dpreview has done that incredibly well and the results that I post here represents my observation using dpreview image quality comparison web app.
ISO 800 – Noise start appearing in the D3200, while the 600D is till relatively very clean, and I can even say noise-free. The 600D ISO 800 image looks sharper and with more punch. Even at ISO800 it seems that the high megapixel sensor of the D3200 start producing noise which is being handled by the image processor which applies quite high NR.
ISO 1600 – same results here, more noise kicking in the D3200, the 600D keeps the image amazingly clean. I was really surprised with the image quality of the 600D in that sensitivity. The thing is that the D3200 has higher resolution, but in fact, it looks like the 600D was able to squeeze out more details due to less stronger NR algorithms.
ISO 3200 – at ISO 3200 both cameras start to suffer from high amount of noise and lose of fine details. The 600D image still looks much better here.
ISO 6400 – same story here, 600D leads, but image quality suffers greatly from noise.
If I have to decide on a winner, I will certainly give the crown to the Canon Rebel T3i. A real visible difference although not huge as you might think.
Nikon D3200 / Canon T3i Sample Videos
There isn’t any website that I know of that provide an image quality analysis of the same scene with various HDSLR cameras. Canon are very well regarded in the videographers community. Some will say Canon video quality is better, other will praise Nikon.
Let’s view some Nikon D3200 and Canon T3i sample videos and I hope that you will get some basic understanding about their capabilities.
Nikon D3200 video sample shot at 1080p
and another D3200 video sample..
Now a Canon T3i / 600D video sample
I personally think that the better high-ISO performance of the 600D / T3i as we saw it with stills images, will also give the 600D an edge when shooting low-light / night videos. Again, there isn’t any lab test to prove that.
Both the Canon EOS 600D / Rebel T3i are excellent entry-level cameras. The T3i certainly looks better for video shooting, and also performs better in low light. If you are more serious in shooting movies, I think that the T3i will be a much better choice for you. The D3200 on the other hand can also shoot 1080p, but lacks the articulating screen that is can give you better control on the way you shoot videos. The D3200 is an attractive camera on its own with 24.2MP image resolution, descent high ISO performance (although not as good as the T3i), autofocus in video, longer battery life, more AF points, a great in-camera guide for newbies, high resolution LCD, 4 fps and all in a compact and lightweight body.
Furthermore, the Canon T3i / 600D supports AE and WB bracketing, features that you can only found on the D5100, the more expensive model. The t3i cost aprox. $50 more, but I personally think that it worth this extra money. For that extra $50 (I’ve compared the prices of the 18-55mm Kit) you get an articulating LCD (with a bit higher resolution), better high ISO performance, AE and WB bracketing, a built-in focus motor (which the D3200 doesn’t have), a slightly larger viewfinder.
I leave you to decide which one to buy after you’ve seen the facts and got to know the two cameras. I hope that you find this buying guide useful, and if you did, please don’t forget to share it with your friends. Thanks!
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