Canon T3i (600D) vs Sony A65

September 27, 2011

Sony A65 vs Canon T3i cameras

Deciding which DSLR to buy can be rough sometimes due to the large variety of fine cameras. The Sony A65 and Canon T3i are relatively affordable interchangeable lens cameras, which compete with each other for market share.The A65 is newer and also more expensive than the T3i.  Many people will find the T3i/600D very attractive in terms of price and features, and indeed the camera does offer a great value.

Both cameras link up with to the same upper entry-level DSLR cameras segment. In this comparison report I want to compare the Canon T3i (EOS 600D / EOS Kiss X5) vs Sony A65. The Sony SLT-A65 is the latest of the two, but does it mean that it’s better? – I hope that after you finish reading this specs comparison review, you’ll get a deeper comprehension about the diversities between the two cameras.


I think that I can call myself a fan of Sony’s SLT cameras. I really like the very fast AF during movie recording, as well as the realtively very fast burst speed. Sony’s Translucent-Mirror technology certainly brings some pro features into every single SLT camera, even in the cheapest model. As Sony continue focusing on technology innovation (and succeeding in doing so), Canon pursues to improve its EOS cameras. The 600D/T3i replaced the T2i (550D) and certainly inherits many of the features of the excellent 60D (the more expensive camera model).

Here is a short video from Sony Learn TV that talks about the SLR technology.

People who buy one of those cameras, usually want to invest in an advanced camera, but don’t want or cannot afford themselves paying for a more expensive model. Some prefer getting the 600D over the 60D and invest the remainder on a better lens. For many of us, this is a very smart move. You also have the option to purchase a less-expensive model, like going for the Sony Alpha SLT-A35 or with the Canon, go for the Canon 1100D/T3. However, as you’ll soon see, there are some differences that might convince you to purchase the more expensive model.

The lower-entry models (ie. Canon T3, Sony A35, etc.) lack some features that you might wanna have with your new camera. In many cases, this includes a higher-resolution articulating LCD display, faster burst speed, improved sensor technology, longer battery life, 1080p video recording, AE bracketing, etc.

Some photographers understand that they might want those features in a few months ahead, so they prefer buying the more expensive model. With the Nikon for example, all entry-level DSLRs don’t come with an internal AF motor, so old lenses won’t auto focus with them. In order so save money on G (with built-in AF motor) lenses, others prefer to purchase the more expensive model, and purchase some cheaper Nikkor D lenses.

Everyone  will have different reasons why they should buy a cheaper or more expensive camera. However, the upper entry-level cameras like the Sony A65 and the Canon T3i offer a great value and inherits many of the useful features that the upper-level models have. In general, I think that you are making a smart decision choosing between those two cameras, both offer excellent value for your money.


Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D)

Canon T3iThe was announced on June 8 2011. It replaced the T2i (550D) which was announced a year earlier. The Canon T3i is an excellent camera no matter how you look at it. It grabbed some excellent ratings on many professional camera review websites with its amazing image quality in high ISO and video quality, it has a good battery life (can be improved) and boasts utilize some cutting-edge technologies.

It’s not a revolutionary camera, but it’s advanced enough to offer a good alternative for the 60D (the more expensive model).  It features a 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, DIGIC 4 image processor,  very high 1,040K-dot resolution flipping LCD display and can shoot Full HD 1080p videos.

Having said that, Canon has been criticized for not innovating enough. I think that many people expect Canon to come up with new technologies and seeing ‘just’ improved models.

All in all, the Canon T3i is a well-regarded DSLR camera and one that became very successful because it does what it suppose to do best, capture beautiful photos.


Sony Alpha SLT-A65

Sony A65 cameraThe Sony A65 (α65) was announced together with the Sony A77 camera. Both the Sony A65 and A77 are two Translucent-Mirror cameras that are packed with brand new technologies and certainly improves upon previous models. That’s where Sony does things best, innovating and releasing new cameras that certainly differentiate themselves from older models and the competition. The Sony A65 is the cheaper model of the two, but inherits the 24.3MP APS-C Exmor sensor of the A77, the high-res OLED electronic viewfinder and 1080p60 video recording.

The A65 is certainly an worthy upgrade from the A55 and A33. With the A65 we can clearly see how important is for Sony to conquer more shares in the DSLR market, where Sony is pretty weak right now. Sony has done an excellent job in the mirrorless segment, but it’s equally important that it will strengthen its holdings in the DSLR market.

Sony also has some excellent A-mount lenses, and the selection continues to expand every ear. Furthermore, if you already have some old Konica Minolta camera, you can use them on the A-mount as well.

Sony vs Canon (Does it matter?)

I know that for some of you, buying a Canon or Sony is a matter of a brand name. Many people opt for buying Canon just because it’s Canon. We can’t deny the success of Canon in the digital imaging business, and especially in the professional photographer’s market. Canon has a wider selection of lenses. It offers professional gear for the most demanding photographer, and it’s a company that we know that will stay in the photography business for a long time (do we?).

Having said that, many people who search for an entry-level DSLR don’t really care about branding, market share or whether the company has 160 lenses or 60 lenses. Many people will be satisfied with two or three lenses at most, and some of them will enjoy their camera for many years to come. Not all of us are professionals, nor we need the best that each company offers. So when you buy a new DSLR camera, it’s important that you view the features that it has and how it compared to another model, and try to see what camera fits you best.

If you already have interchangeable lenses in your dispose, you might consider one company over another for that reason alone. Selling lenses means that you’ll lose some money that you’ve invested in those lenses. You will have to sell your equipment and buy a new one, that will cause you to spend more money. So it’s important to consider this part as well.

Who is a better company, Sony or Canon? – I usually don’t bother to give an answer to those questions because it doesn’t mean anything. One company can be better in one thing and the second in others. What I do know is that Sony certainly grabbed a lot of attention with its new SLT cameras.

Sony continues to quickly innovate and provide new technologies with every new model. Just compare the A77 versus previous models, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The new OLED EVF, triple-hinged LCD, 12 fps continuous shooting, 1080p60 (progressive-scan scan frames), etc. You can see that Sony is spending a lot of efforts to expand its reach and attract new customers.

Whether Sony will be able to expand its DSLR market share? – I certainly don’t know. According to Sony, it expects to become the second largest camera manufacturer in a few years time. However, try to focus on your current needs as a photographer. It’s all about the tool and the photographer behind the camera. Search for a camera that fits your shooting style and go out and shoot photos.

Don’t trap yourself in the Sony vs Canon or Nikon vs Canon kind of camera debate, it won’t lead you to anywhere. It will just give you a headache and prevent you from enjoying what you love to do best.


Side by Side Comparison Table

comparison table iconNow that you learned a few things about those two cameras, it’s time to compare the Canon Rebel T3i versus Sony SLT A65 (α65) side by side A side by side comparison table can help you clearly see the differences between those two cameras. Both the Sony A65 and the Canon T3i (600D) have their pros and cons.

However, the advantages and disadvantages are directly related to your needs as a photograpehr. It’s not a disadvantage unless you see it as one. So the best thing to do is to try to locate some features that you can tag as “must-have”, and others that are “nice to have”.

I remember that I did an elimination process when trying to find out which camera I want to purchase. I tried to find some features that I can’t live without and some that aren’t needed.

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Sensor and Image Quality Analysis

imaeg quality inspectionAs you can see from the above comparison table, both DSLR cameras have their strengths and weaknesses.  The first thing you’ve notice is that the α65 has a higher-resolution sensor.  This is an advantage when it comes to the details that the sensor can resolve. It’s important to remember that you’ll need a very good optics to really take advantage of that resolution, and even with a top-performing lens, it’s hard to get that perfect details image.

However, I’ve seen some sample images taken with the A77 on dpreview, and Indeed the the α77’s sensor (same as the A65) does captures more details (but not a big difference as you might hoped for). The problem with that resolution is that it’s a bit to much for an APS-C size sensor.

I would have preferred the A65 to have a 16MP sensor, same as with the Sony NEX-7 and NEX-5N mirrorless cameras. However, Sony thought that its a good thing to use the same sensor on both cameras, so what can I say, that’s what we have.

I’ve went to dpreview studio scene image comparison tool to view some sample images taken with both cameras.  Here’s my observation conclusions..

ISO 100 – Both perform very good, but the Canon EOS 600D has the sharper image and the A77 is a bit soft when looking at 100% magnified images. That’s pixel peeping of course, but in fact, that’s tells me how good the T3i/600D image quality is in this low ISO – very high!. In terms of noise, we can see that even in ISO100, on the A77 we can observe some small amount of noise in the shadow areas.  I personally prefer the T3i JPEGs in this sensitivity level.

ISO 200Canon Rebel T3i image is very clean with no visible noise. On the other hand, we can see some noise on the A77 photo.  The A77 has an advantage  in details but mostly in high-contrast areas where there is a very distinct difference between neighbor pixels. Even the Raw file didn’t convince me that the A77 was able to squeeze much more details. Again, the Canon Rebel T3i image quality continues to impress.

ISO 400 – Again, Canon shows a very clean image, but we can noise start appearing in the dark areas. The noise is more pronounced on the A77 but not something that should bother you at all. The A77 was able to to squeeze out a bit more details, but not something that I will be proud of. I also compared the SLT-A77 to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Canon 5D Mark II is better when it comes to details. The A77 certainly beats the Nikon D7000 hands-down in terms of details.

ISO 800 – here I think is where the NR start kicking in stronger on the A77. You can start seeing that watercolor noise patterns when you look closely at the image. The T3i images is relatively very clean.

ISO 1600 – in this ISO we can see that the Sony SLT-A77 start losing the fine details as the T3i continues to impress with its high-ISO performance. That pity because the A77 resolution advantage not only cancelled, but certainly degraded.  However, the A77 was still able to produce a more detailed image compared to the Nikon D7000, much better. This raises a question: “If the resolution start degrading in ISO 1600, why Sony had decided to use such a high megapixel sensor, that even with lower ISO it’s a great performer either?”.

Just for fun, I also compared the A77 vs Canon 7D. The 7D has a cleaner image, but with less details. So the high-resolution does work, but it’s not a big difference as I thought it would be. So if you shoot in ISO1600 in relatively bright light, you will be able to squeeze out more details, but in dark scenes, you will start losing those fine details.

ISO 3200 – As expected, in this sensitivity level, the A77 certainly start to look kind of massy. Fine details are washed out, but again, in a bright scene, you might get a good image out of it. The Canon starts to get noisy as well, and we start losing some fine details. But that’s what happened to the A77 one-stop or maybe one and a half stop earlier.

ISO 6400 – In short, I wouldn’t shoot with the A77 (or A65) in dark scenes in this ISO (but that’s just me). Not that it’s that bad, but it’s not that good either. You know, considering the fact that this is an APS-C sensor with 24.3MP, the image quality is relatively quite good. The Canon T3i doesn’t perform as good either, but the fine details are certainly more washed out on the A77 than on the 600D.

ISO 12800I wasn’t impressed with neither. Bump.

When comparing those two cameras, I was very curious to see how the T3i and A77/A65 images compared to the Sony NEX-5N. I was already very impressed with what I’ve seen on other websites and really wanted to see how the 5N performs. All I can say that the Sony Alpha NEx-5N beat the two hands-down. Image quality at ISO3200 is very impressive with most of the details are there. I was actually quite shocked to see the high ISO performance of the NEX-5N.

If I need to summarize the above IQ comparison, I would say that the A77/A65 image quality is good, but falls short when you start crossing ISO400. The T3i was impressive up to ISO 3200 than it start falling apart one ISO after another. So in terms of ISO performance, the Canon wins, but the A77/A65 has an advantage in details in lower ISO, but it gradually diminishes when you climb up the ISO scale. I would say that the Rebel T3i has a one stop to one and a half stop advantage over the A65.

* Note: I’ve compared the A77 vs the T3i, but considering that both have the same processor and sensor, I expect the A65 to perform equally to the A77.


 Which One is Better, A65 or T3i?

If you went over the specs comparison, you can see that in favor of the A65 are the faster burst speed, more AF points, 1080p60 (progressive frames at 60 fps, although see the bit-rate, Canon’s higher), battery life, sensor-shift image stabilization and better articulating display. In favor of the T3i: better image quality in high-ISO, optical viewfinder (if you see this as an advantage, most do), lens selection and availability, WB bracketing and lower camera weight.

In general, the differences aren’t huge and both cameras have their cons and pros. You shouldn’t forget one important thing (very important, in fact), and this is the Continuous AF speed of the A65. The A65 utilizes a translucent-mirror that allows the camera to auto focus much faster in both continuous shooting and when shooting video clips (in Live View as well). This is one of the biggest advantages that the A65 has over the T3i that doesn’t have continuous AF available during video. So on doubt that videographers will prefer the A65 over the T3i for that reason alone. Add the 60p to that equation and you get an excellent camera for shooting videos!

The question is whether you should pay more and get the A65 or buy the cheaper EOS 600D? – It’s a hard question to answer, but I must admit that the T3i is very tempting..

I think that both cameras are quite alike, but have their differences. I hope that after reading this article, you can combine your needs and the above information to help you choose the right camera for your needs. If you enjoy reading this comparison article, please share it with your friends. Thanks for reading!

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