Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D) vs T3 (1100D) vs T4i (650D) – Best for Family / Casual Photographers


Mom and baby looking to the camera and smile

Yesterday my brother called me and told me that he wants to buy a new DSLR camera to shoot its newborn baby, and he was debating between the Canon Rebel T3i (EOS 600D0) and T3 / EOS 1100D. Both are Canon’s entry-level DSLR cameras, with the 1100D being the most basic the cheapest in the EOS lineup, the T3i is a more advanced camera. I thought it would be a good service to write an article that compares the two cameras, so you can be sure about which camera to buy. I will also through the T4i/ 650D (the latest model) into the comparison. The T4i / 650D is ~$190 more expensive than the T3i, so you probably want to think carefully before you spend much more on this model.  So again, you need to understand the differences to make a smart buying decision.

I must admit that it’s a bit harder to make a choice when you buy an entry-level DSLR, the price difference between the two cameras s around $150, so it’s very tempting to get the more advanced and expensive model over the cheaper one. I always recommend knowing the differences between two cameras, even if the differences might not be as big as comparing the T3 vs 7D for example.  Considering the fact that you’ll also be getting a lens, it’s good to know what do you get for that ~$150 and in some cases it might be better to spend that extra cache on a better lens, higher capacity memory card, or just save it for something else.


Background Info

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i and T3 are the two of Amazon Best Sellers in the Digital SLR Cameras’ category (for 10/11/2012), and actually the two most popular Canon DSLRs. They share theirhigh ranking at the top 4 with Nikon D5100 and D3100 (T4i is at the 11th place, most probably because of its more stiffer price). I assume that you’ve observed  some sample images and impressed with what you’ve seen with the Canon cameras and decided that your next camera will be a Canon. Of course this decision can be made to either sides, but if you are reading this comparison I guess that your mind is already set on a Canon.

I was shooting with a Canon DSLR for many years, including with the 400D / XTi, 60D which I owned myself and also shot with the 7D and 5D Mark II although I didn’t own those two cameras myself. I love shooting with Canon cameras because of the speed and performance, fast autofocus, natural looking colors, great image quality and a wide selection of great lenses. I picked a Canon over a Nikon not for a particular reason, my first camera was a Canon because it was back then when saw the 350D and since then I wanted a Canon DSLR, so when I could afford it, I bought the 400D which was the next model that was on the market at that time. I think it also was cheaper than the Nikon offering at that time, but not sure.

Those moments with those cameras cannot be forgotten, I’ve shot thousands of thousand of amazing images and it was the first time I felt the emotional connection to the camera and I can tell you that every time I held my camera I was a happy guy. So just believe me when I tell you that I can understand what you feel and what it is for you to make a decision. I hope that after reading this article you’ll be able to pick either the T3i, T4i or T3 and be confident and happy with your decision.

Let’s start with a short introduction of each camera and continue to the most interesting part, the comparison.


Canon Rebel T4i / 650D

Canon 650D
Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D

The Canon Rebel T4i is the latest camera in the xxD range, it’s an upper entry-level SLR camera.  This camera continues that success of Canon EOS Rebel’s camera since the 300D.  The T4i is the most sophisticated Rebel ever created by Canon, boasting advanced features that makes this camera applicable for enthusiast and even for professional use.  The T4i has a 18MP CMOS sensor with an extended ISO range of 100-12800. Furthermore, the T4i utilizes a Hybrid Auto-Focus system, which means that it takes advantage of both phase-detection and contrast-detection AF for fast, accurate and more reliable focusing for Live View and when shooting videos.

The Canon T4i / 650D is the first SLR camera to feature a tough screen. This feature is already very common with mirrorless camera. The screen is a 3-inch 1,040,000 dots Clear View II TFT LCD vari-angle display. The tilt/swivel design make it easy to shoot stills and videos from high and low angles. The T4i was designed to be a great HDSLR great, and now doubt that videographers will appreciate having those features.

In terms of design, the T4i looks very similar to the Canon Rebel T3i / 600D. Both cameras have a vari-angle screen and the button arrangement is almost identical to the T3i / 600D. The T4i/650D body is made of stainless steel and polycarbonate resin with glass fiber.  A good durable body that feels good in the hands, not that cheap plasticy feel that many people are complaining about with other cameras.

The Canon T4i / EOS 650D  can shoot Full HD videos at various frame rates, including 60i, 30p and 24p (NTSC). You also get Continuous AF during videos, a feature that becomes more common in the most latest DSLR cameras, and probably becomes a standard from now on. Canon also provides a 3.5mm stereo microphone socket so serious video shooters can attack an external stereo microphone to the camera in order to improve sound quality.

With this camera you can shoot at 5 frames per second at continuous shooting mode. Quite a decent speed that I’m  sure it will satisfy the demands of many photographers our there, even sports and fast-action photographers. We can already see mirrorless cameras that offer much faster burst speed, so I am asking myself when the time comes that we can see 10 fps or more on Canon entry-level cameras.

All in all, the T4i is a great camera to shoot with, a great performer in the high ISO department and with advanced features that will help you get very high quality images and videos, and it also have great video capabilities and features that will make this camera a great video camera, even for the most enthusiast video shooter.


Canon Rebel T3i / 600D

Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600DThe Canon T3i / 600D was announced on February 7, 2011 and it’s the older upper entry-level model.  It features 18MP sensor CMOS sensor with up to ISO 6400 sensitivity.  You get the same high quality 1040K-dots 3-inch vari-angle display, but this screen is not touch-sensitive as the T4i. Furthermore, the 550D, the model that sits below the 600D, has a fixed LCD, not an articulating one. So that was a very useful addition to the 600D model over the 550D, enhancing it’s capabilities as a HDSLR camera.

Canon has improved the movie mode with this camera over previous models, continuous autofocus during video recording and live view,  allowing you manual exposure control, video snapshot feature that allows you to capture short video clips and combine them automatically into one video, that without the need for an external software.

The camera takes advantage of DIGIC 4 image processor, an older version compare to the DIGIC 5 that found on the T4i/650D. The Digic 5 image processor is much more powerful, six times more powerful according to Canon. It analyses four times more image information  to create each pixel, and Raw conversion was also improved with new algorithms.

It’s worth knowing that the EOS 600D does not replace the 550D / T2i, it was designed to sit between the 550D and the 60D, of course that’s before the 650D arrived.  Canon also added some new feature, including scene intelligent Auto Mode, ‘Basic+’ creative controls, multi-aspect ratio shooting (3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1), video snapshot mode, auto lighting optimizer (up to 4 levels), image rating and the 600D is larger and heavier than the 550D.

So the 600D is actually a more advanced and modern camera that was designed to appeal to advanced photographers, people who upgrading from the 550D and also videographers who are searching for a good entry-level HDSRL camera.

Overall, the 600D is a very impressive update over the 550D, and although it’s not a direct replacement, it still offers a good upgrade path from the 1100D and 550D. It will probably appeal more to video shooter due to its articulating display.


Canon Rebel T3 / EOS 1100D

Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D
Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D

Announced on February 7, 2011, the Canon EOS 1100D is the most basic entry-level DSLR camera in Canon’s EOS camera’s lineup.  This camera was designed to appeal to beginners who are making their first step into photography (e.g. take it to shooting lessons), but also a great camera for those who don’t have enough money to invest in a camera, really want a DSLR camera for high image quality, and also intend to spend more on a lens. At the beginning of this article I’ve mentioned you that my brother is considering getting this camera. He wants to get the 1100D because it’s the cheapest in Canon’s lineup and he also wants to but it with only one lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. He has a tight budget but image quality is what he is after, so the combination of the 1100D + 50mm f/1.8 can be a great way to start and image quality will be superb.

Let’s admit it, many people might not need to pay more for a more advanced camera because they won’t take advantage of the more advanced features that those cameras offer. However, some of you might consider getting the 600D or the 650D in second hand shop/online if you really need those features but can’t afford buying a new camera.

The EOS Rebel T3i is nothing but a cheap camera. It features a 12.1MP CMOS sensor, a 2.7-inch fixed LCD, DIGIC 4 image processor, HD videos, 3 fps burst and features Canon’s 63-zone, dual-layer metering system that can be found on more advanced models. Canon certainly needed to cut some feature to make this camera more affordable and we can clearly see that many features of the more expensive models are missing here. This camera again will appeal to beginners and people on a tight budget. It’s also not the most appealing HDSLR camera because it doesn’t offer Full HD video recording and has a 2.70inch fixed 230K-dots display.

However, for stills this camera is great. It offers decent resolution and good high ISO performance. You get to enjoy the ‘Basic+’ control screens which are very useful, especially for beginners. The body of this camera is mae of plastic, and it feels a bit cheap too. Of course you’ll have to give up something in order to get a DSLR camera for a relative low price-point.

Maybe it’s not that fair to compare this camera to more expensive models, because it might make this camera look bad, but it’s really a great camera to shoot with. The other thing is that competitors also have some good cameras at this price point (e.g. Nikon D3100), but you also have Compact System Cameras that already offer great features an at attractive price point, and at this price they are a good alternatives to DSLR.


Of course we are here to talk about the Canons! – so let’s focus on that. OK- now to the comparison itself. I’m sure that you eager to know which of the camera better fits your need and what are the differences between those three models.  I’m pretty sure that after reading the next section you will get a very good idea which camera is better for your needs. Let’s begin!


The Differences!

I’ve decided to make this comparison easier by first displaying the differences in a side-by-side comparison table. After that I will discuss about the advantages and disadvantages of some of the features, those who raise the most interest.

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As you can see from the above T3 vs T3i vs T4 specs comparison table, Canon actually made it easier for us to decide, because the differences between the three cameras are quite obvious.  The Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i offers the best collection of advanced features, including latest Digic 5 image processor, highest ISO range in the group, all cross-type AF points,  spot metering, Continuous AF during movies, Hybrid AF (CDAF + PDAF), fast 5 fps burst (best in the group), 1080p videos (inc. 24p) with stereo sound and 3.5mm socket, and all in a solid body with stainless steel frame. The 650D is a very good upper entry-level camera that certainly attract enthusiasts photographers.

Having said that the T3i is not far from what the 650D is, it has a less broader ISO range, but still very good range. Is has spot metering, decent 3.7 fps burst, Full HD video recording (inc. 24p) with 3.5mm mic socket but does not support AF during video. It has a vari-angle 3-inch LCD, but it’s not a touch sensitive screen.  A very attractive package indeed.

What T3 Lacks? – The T3 can’t match the feature’s list of the T3i,600d and T4i/650D but it’s the least expensive camera of the three. You give up the Digic5 image processor,  viewfinder is a little smaller, no DOF button, no spot metering, video is only 720p and no AF during video, no 3.5mm mic socket,  you get less burst speed (3fps), only 2.7-inch low-res fixed LCD and the camera feels plasticy, not at the same built standards of the other two cameras. Battery life is better though. Do you need all of those features? – You need to ask that yourself. I would probably be able to leave without the high-res LCD, DOF preview button (who needs it?), 720p is enough for my amateurish videography exploration (mostly upload to youtube), body build quality and spot metering.

You can see that the T3i and T4i have been much improve with everything related to video recording. So I guess that if you really want to enjoy the best of the video recording options, the T3i and T4i will serve you better for that. For stills, many of you can leave without those extra features. You probably be better investing your money in a better lens and improve your skills. The time will come when you know that you need to upgrade to a better camera.


Image Quality

magnifying glass on image, inspecting qualityIf you are like me, you are probably an IQ fanatic, one that do quite a lot of pixel peeping, checking those little details, colors and sharpness, making sure that that image looks better the others and convince you to pick one camera over the other. I’m not saying that this is all you need to do, but I’m pretty sure that many people want to know that their camera can produce great JPEG images out of the box and image quality that satisfies their demands.

Luckily for us that all those cameras have already been reviewed intensively and that dpreview already have made high ISO sample images, so we can compare the image output of those three cameras side by side.

Not to blind you with too many details, here’s my conclusion.

Right from the start at ISO100, you can see that all three cameras produce  great looking results, very clean images.  You can see that the Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i  and EOS 600D / Rebel T3i provide better detailed image due to the higher sensor resolution. It’s not huge, but it’s there (look at the wristwatch logo of ‘Paul Smith’). It seems that the T4i has a slight advanced when it comes to sharpness, just a bit. Something that might be related to stronger default sharpening in JPEG.

Jumping to ISO 400, images very clean and sharp, really nothing extraordinary to report here, just beautiful image quality.

At ISO 800 we can clearly see noise start kicking in, with the 1100D  looking the best, 600D second and T4i third (look at the color board at the bottom and at the queen card). I know it sounds strange because it should be the other way around, but that what my naked eye reported. I really liked the noise performance and sharpness that comes from the 1100D – but overall great high ISO performance of both three.

If I thought that was probably a problem with the way I look at the image, ISO 1600 proved that I’m not mad 🙂 – Again, Canon EOS 1100D noise levels are very low, second best is the 600D and T4i in the third place. The difference aren’t huge, but again, I really love the 600D and 1100D output better.

At ISO 3200 things start to mixed up a bit. The 650D/T4i seems to provide the more in areas that have less contrast (like in the watch). The 600D looks a bit smeared compared to the 650D. All images show lost of fine details and noise is certainly apparent in the iamge, but still you can shoot usable shots using this ISO sensitivity, but you better through it to a noise reduction software. What surprised me is that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was able to outperform all three at ISO3200 (but not at ISO6400).

So in general, the high ISO performance of three are excellent up to ISO 800, degrades at ISO1600 but still very usable, ISO3200 not my favorite cup of tea, probably needs some extra work outside the camera too look at its best, ISO6400 and up for emergency only. At ISO up to 800 I think that the 1100D / T3 looks the best, but lacked the details resolvent of the  T4i and T3i, second was the 600D and than the T4i but the difference was very small.

I also compared all three cameras versus the Nikon D3100 and D3200 and I can clearly say that the Canon’s, all three of them, performed better than both the Nikon D3200 and D3100 (I own the D3100).  Wasn’t a huge difference?  No, but very apparent one, that looked that the Canon’s have a +1EV advantage over the D3100/D3200. So if you are concerned about the Nikon entry-level models (D3100 / D3200) outperforming the Canon’s (Nikon vs Canon fight 🙂 ), don’t.



I think that by now you can see how good all those three DSLR cameras are. You can clearly see that there are some very obvious differences between  those three cameras. The Canon EOS 650D and 600D are more movie oriented cameras, much better in this department than the 1100D / T3. If you are into video shooting, I have no doubt that you should pick up either the T4i or T3i and leave the 1100D / T3 behind.

The T3 still is an excellent camera for still and the image quality and high ISO performance proved that it is. I was very satisfied with how the Canon 1100D / T3 performed at ISO 1600 and below, performing even better than the T4i and T3i. It lacks the resolution of the more expensive models, but it’s really not such a big difference, especially for the audience that this camera is aimed for.  I know that some of you might be tempted to get the T3i over the T3 due to the large articulated LCD, bigger viewfinder, spot metering, Full HD video recording and better build quality. You need to ask yourself is whether those features worth the extra price. Remember, for many of you the lens that you buy will have more affect on image quality and AF performance. At the end of the day you want your images to look great. If you don’t think that you will enjoy or take advantage of those extra features, get the 1100D for its cheaper price and invest what’s left of your budget in a better lens or larger memory card, depends on what you need.

The 650D /T4i brings some exciting new features that make it stand apart from the T3i / 600D, this including a touch-sensitive screen, AF during video recording (Hybrid AF for Live View and Video), on-board stereo mic, 5 fps burst, higher ISO range, all AF points are cross type, etc. No doubt that these are great features, but are they useful for you? –  It might be worth getting the 650D / T4i when you really understand how those features affect your shooting style. For beginners on a budget, I see no reason why picking the 650D over the 1100D for casual stills shooting. Do you need the better AF performance or you are just mainly shooting stills, not fast moving subject. Do you need that broader high ISO although the noise is very high at that sensitivity upper settings? – Do you think that you’ll benefit from the articulating screen or that touch sensitive screen?

I recommended my brother to get the Canon EOS 1100D / Rebel T3 + the Canon EF 50mm F/1.8 II lens. He wants to take beautiful photos of its newborn child and I think that the 1100D is more than enough to shoot beautiful images with very nice shallow depth of field with the 50mm lens.

Now its your moment to make a choice. I don’t think that it should be too hard, The differences and fact are in front of you. Go over it again and see what works for you best. I hope that you enjoy reading this article and find it useful to decide which camera to buy. If you like it, please share it with friends and feel  free to comment and ask questions below. Thanks!

T3 Latest Prices & Deals: AmazonB&H Photo, Adorama

T3i Latest Prices & Deals: Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama

T4i Latest Prices & Deals: Amazon, B&H PhotoAdorama