Canon 7D vs T3i / 600D Comparison

June 3, 2012

Canon T3i vs 7D banner

Sometimes we are interesting in comparing two cameras from the same manufacturers. In this comparison I assume that you want to decide whether to buy the Canon 60D / T3i or go with the more expensive model, the Canon EOS 7D.  No doubt that those two cameras are very popular among enthusiasts photographer and for a good reason.  The thing is that the 7D costs around twice the price of the T3i. Even so, you might have considered buying it because you are after a more professional body and might already have some Canon lenses available. Even if not, the “Cheaper body with better lenses” debate come into play here. At the end of the day what matters is that the camera that you choose won’t prevent you from getting the results that you want and need.

In this comparison we’ll start with a short introduction of each camera and continue to a more in-depth discussion of the camera’s features. There are some differences that you should be aware of, but how important they are to your type of photography habits, you will be the one to decide.  I will do my best to keep this comparison simple and straight to the point, while pointing out the important differences, cons and pros.  There are a lot of thing to know before picking either the Canon EOS 7D or the Canon Rebel T3i (600D), but I am pretty sure that this camera buying guide can help you out making a smarter buying decision. OK, enough of the overview, let’s start!


Canon EOS 600D / T3i

Canon Rebel T3i

I remember the days of the 300D and 350D and here we are with a new modern model of the XXXD Rebel camera’s series. The T3i features an APS-C size 18-megapixel sensor and Digic 4 image processor. It can shoot up to native ISO6400 and boosted up to ISO128000. The combination of a high-sensitive sensor with the speedy and update image processor has proven to result in a very high image quality, especially in high ISO.

At the back up the camera you’ll found a Full articulated 3-inch 1,040K-dots LCD which is very useful for taking high and low angle shots, and very important when shooting video clips. Canon T3i / 600D can shoot at 3.7 fps burst, supports AE and WB bracketing and shoot Full HD 1080p videos at 30, 25, 24 framerates.

The T3i / 600D is packed with the features that enthusiast most likely want to have in their camera.   The 600D was announced together with the 1100D / T3, which is Canon’s most basic entry-level DSLR camera. It’s still a very capable camera, but certainly drops some very nice features that you can find on the 600D, you get : only 720p video recording (no manual control over shutter speed and aperture, fully automatic),  has 2.7″ 230K-dots Fixed LCD and a 3.5 mm jack for an external stereo microphone is not included.

So the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is certainly a step up over the T3, and a well-worthy upgrade from those who are coming from the T3.  The Canon EOS Rebel T3i is among Canon’s most popular DSLR cameras because it really gives a great value in return of your investment.  T3i  costs around $250 more than the T3, but many photographers prefer starting out with a more advanced model, instead of with the most basic model and then find out that they really need / want a specific feature on the more expensive model.

The Canon T3 is targeted for those who are just starting out with digital photography and those who are coming from point-and-shoot digital cameras. For them, the T3 will give the best value and it’s a great camera to dive into the world of photography and enjoy the creative freedom that those type of cameras give you.


Canon EOS 7D

Canon 7D

The Canon 7D was announced on September 1, 2009. Yes, no wonder why so many people are waiting for a new replacement (also for the Nikon D300s). The Canon 7D is a camera that it’s easy to fall in love with. It features a 18MP APS-C sensor and Dual Digic 4 image processor. It can shoot up to ISO 128000 with boost, has a fixed 30inch 920K-dot LCD, large viewfinder with 1004 coverage, capture 8 fps sequenced images in burst mode and shoot 1080p 30,25,24 fps videos.

One of the key differences between the 7D and models below it is its build quality. The 7D features a magnesium alloy body that is dust and weather-resistant and the camera’s shutter durability is 150,000 cycles.

Is the 7D weather-sealed?

There is a very big debate on forum and blog posts how good is the 7D weather-sealing. I’ve did some research and according to Canon’s official website, the 7D is dust and weather-resistant camera. However, some people don’t know exactly what “weather resistant” is and their isn’t any scientific test that we can compare how weather-resistant a specific camera is, not such rating whatsoever. From what I’ve read on forums, is seems that according to Canon officials (if it is an official quote), the 7D is not a weather sealed camera. Furthermore, it should not get wet and according to the answer, it might survive light rain, but it’s not guaranteed.

So there is a difference between “weather-resistant” and “weather-sealed”. So with a weather-sealed camera you are guaranteed to be protected against water splashes and even heavy rain (however it’s not waterproof, you can’t sink it in water or use it as an underwater camera!). Weather resistant is more like a marketing trick, it tells you that the camera is somewhat more protected against harsh weather conditions, but you have no guarantee.

Weather sealing, Canon 7D

I’ve seen a few test that people put the 7D in the shower and it continue to work, but as the quote says: “Don’t try this at home.”. The weather-sealing gets better when you climb up the price, and if you really need a real weather-sealed Canon DSLR, you should can one of the EOS 1 series cameras (that also according to what it seems an official Canon answer to on of forum members). Furthermore, do not forget that you need a weather-sealed L-lens because other lenses won’t provide you with the proper protection.

OK, we passed this weather-sealing stuff and I hope it is more clear now then before.

The Canon 7D is a great camera for those who want Canon’s most advanced APS-C DSLR and those who might have wanted to get a Full Frame Canon DSLR (ie. Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III) but cannot afford buying one.  The Canon 7D is the equivalent to the Nikon D300s, although many people already compare it to the Nikon D7000 because the D7000 has proven to be a better camera in many aspects (Nikon D400?!).

Some guys who experiment with the 7D in harsh weather conditions:

Mike Kobal: “after 1.5hrs shooting in very wet/snowy conditions I am glad to report that I had no problems with the Canon Eos 7D. Practically totally wet after about 10min it performed flawlessly.” (source)

DigitalRevTV: “Very Durable..” – here take a look at this (7D abuse) video:

Canon recommendations in one place and real life-test in the other – would you dare to take the 7D in the rain after watching this video?


Specs Comparison

Let’s take a quick look at a side by side comparison table for the 7D vs 600D and continue the comparison afterwards..

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We can clearly see that the 7D was designed for the demanding photographer. Even considering the very generous specs of the 600D, the 7D tops them by quite a large margin. Of course it depends on what you need, but you get pretty good features in return for an extra investment, that includes: magnesium-alloy weather-resistant body, almost twice the battery life,  much faster maximum shutter speed and continuous shooting burst rate and more flexible (1 stop better) AEB, larger and brighter (pentaprism vs pentamirror) viewfinder with better coverage and more AF points (19 cross type vs 1 cross type),.

The 600D / T3i is a great camera on its own. It offers some things that the 7D doesn’t, including a higher resolution screen which is articulated (flip-out) rather than fixed, it’s lighter and smaller and costs much less. Both cameras have 3.5mm jack for connecting external stereo microphones.

7D vs T3i size comparison


AF Speed Comparison

Some photographers are really picky when they choose a camera. There are many specs to evaluate and one of the most important ones if the Autofocus system of the camera. Some of you might not sped too much time understanding that, but there can be a big difference in AF speed between two cameras. Having more focus points gives the photographer more choices for picking up areas on the frame to focus on. Furthermore, in complex scenes, the cameras can make smarter choices on which area to focus (when you set it to automatic focusing).

Cross-type focus points for those who don’t know means that each point can detect both horizontal or vertical contrast by utilizing two lines of photosensitive elements that are oriented at 90° to one another.  This mechanism is costs higher to manufacture and therefore you usually don’t find many cross-type focus points on entry-level DSLR cameras. The utilization of higher cross-type AF points really helps the camera (and the photographer) to track subject that moves continuously across the frame.

So the more cross-type AF points the better the AF performance of the camera. 19 cross-type points may sound quite a lot, but the upcoming Sony A99 might have 102 cross-type AF points! (Sony, doesn’t stop surprising us..)

Here’s a short introduction video for autofocus on the Canon 7D

Also take intro consideration that you might see a better AF performance by purchasing a better lens. Many people report a better AF performance when they upgrade their lenses than just upgrading to a better camera body. Of course the combination of the two will yield the best results. It really depends on what type of subjects you are shooting,  your lens and camera AF performance and your technical skills. In general, if you shooting fast moving subjects and want to get sharp and in-focus shots, search for a camera that has more AF points (with more cross-type ones) and equip your camera with a lens that can focus fast.

For more information about Canon EOS SLR Autofocus system, I highly recommend reading this article on


High ISO Performance

Image quality was always a very important factor when deciding which camera to buy. When we talk about high ISO performance we actually talking about the mount of noise produced by the sensor when shooting in high ISO sensitivities, usually above ISO 800. We all want less noise and want our photos to be usable even when we shoot at ISO 1600 and above. Of course in reality we can clearly see that when we boost the ISO, we get more noise.  Noise can be handles quite well with Noise Removal software (ie. NeatImage, Noise Ninja, etc.). However, it’s not a magic solution and you you still lose some amount of details in the image when applying NR.

Some cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Nikon D3s / D4, Sony NEX-5N, all have proven to perform extremely well in high ISO, output a JPEG that is relatively very clean and with lots of details. You certainly want a better high ISO performance so you can have better versatility when combining ISO/Aperture/Shutter speed for optimal exposure for your scene. You want to be able to shoot in low-light and sometimes without using flash (whether it’s not desired or restricted in some places).

I don’t have the equipment to make a very precise test, but luckily dpreview has a great tool for comparing high ISO image quality side by side. I used the tool in dpreview 600D review to see how the 7D and 600D compare.

Here are my image analysis conclusions (JPEG only):

ISO 800 – both image are clean, the 600D looks sharper, but that’s probably due to a stronger in-camera sharpening algorithm (not sure).

ISO 1600 – seems like the 600D was able to extract more details. Noise level is about the same on both cameras.

ISO 3200 through 12800 – same results as above.

From what I can tell and I was quite picky in my observation, image quality at high ISO, the the image quality is about the same on both cameras. From what I’ve read on the web, the 550D, 60D and 7D all use the same sensor. So that sits quite nice with my findings.  The 600D / T3i JPEGs looks sharper but that’s mainly due to the preservative approach on the 7D. If you are shooing JPEGs, you will probably like the output of the 600D better. If you shoot Raw, it doesn’t really matter because you will be playing with the image in photo editing software and applying whatever you like there.


Vertical Battery Grip

I am a battery grip fanatic. Every time I purchase a new DSLR I buy it with a battery grip. A battery grip allows you to add additional battery and it gives you a better grip on the camera, especially if you have large hands like mine. Both the Canon 7D and the T3i / 600D have official Canon vertical battery grip. The 600D / T3i has the Bg-E8 battery grip and the 7D has the BG-E7. Here are some videos that shows how those grips looks when attached to the cameras.

7D battery grip




Time to Pick One

As you can see, both the 600D and the 7D are excellent cameras, while the 7D being the better camera overall.  The Canon 7D cost more than twice than the 600D, so you need to ask yourself whether the advanced features on the 7D worth the extra price. The 7D is a better camera both in terms of build quality and performance.  However, if you search for a HDSLR camera, the 600D might be more attractive because of its articulated display.
In general, you should understand the key differences between the two cameras and make a check list of what’s important and what’s nice to have. The 7D has fast burst, better build quality,  brighter and larger viewfinder, better AF system, longer battery life, faster max shutter speed, lower shutter lag and all in all a better camera for stills.

Fast-action photographers will certainly pick up the 7D because it feature a more accurate AF system, has faster burst and a faster maximum shutter speed. Outdoor photographers will certainly prefer the 7D due to its weather-resistant and durable magnesium-alloy body. If you don’t need all those features, picking up the 600D is the best option. Save the money and buy the 600D with better lens(es). For some of us this is the classic debate whether to buy a better camera or a cheaper camera but with better glass.

I personally do not need all the bells and whistles that the 7D offers, and I prefer buying the 600D and putting what’s left of my budget in high quality lenses (L-lens maybe). Do you own math and see what suits you best. Those are two amazing Canon cameras that will not let you down. The only thing you need to decide is which one to pick up, and that you will have to decide.

If you already have experience shooting with either of those cameras, please share your experience by commenting below.


Buy the Canon 7D from B&H Photo

Buy the Canon 600D / T3i from B&H Photo