Though it's not the heaviest camera in its class, the T3's body is rather clunky. And while I like the rubberized grip, the whole camera feels very cheap and plasticky. The control layout is straightforward and functional. The four navigation buttons bring up ISO sensitivity, drive mode, white balance, and autofocus mode options, whereas exposure compensation, movie record/live mode, menu, Quick Control, playback, and display occupy other buttons around them. All of the buttons are flat with little tactile feedback. The only buttons with any sort of travel are the exposure lock and AF point selector buttons, positioned for thumb-based operation. They still manage to feel mushy.
Lots of people don't mind them, but I dislike the low-end Canon viewfinders. This one in particular is the most claustrophobic I've seen in a long time; it's also got the lowest magnification of any Canon camera in the past few years. It's easy to lose the nine tiny autofocus points against the scene, and I frequently find I've used the wrong point to focus and have to prefocus to light them up in order to find the center point. The T3 lacks spot metering, and I think it's because of the small viewfinder; Canon tends to have large spots for its meter, and the combination of a small viewfinder and a large spot means you're already at the partial meter size, anyway.
|Canon EOS Rebel T3||Nikon D3100||Pentax K-x||Sony Alpha SLT-A35|
|Sensor (effective resolution)||12.2-megapixel CMOS||14.2-megapixel CMOS||12.4-megapixel CMOS||16.2-megapixel Exmor HD CMOS|
|22.2 x 14.7mm||23.6 x 15.8mm||23.5 mm x 15.6mm||23.5mm x 15.6mm|
|Focal length multiplier||1.6x||1.5x||1.5x||1.5x|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 - ISO 6400||ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3,200/12,800 (expanded)||ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded)||ISO 100 - ISO 12,800|
|Continuous shooting||3fps JPEG/2fps raw
5 raw/830 JPEG
5 raw/17 JPEG
18 JPEG/6 raw
|Viewfinder (magnification/effective magnification)||95% coverage
0.46 inches/1.4 million dots
all cross-type; center dual cross to f5.6
|Shutter Speed||1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync||1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync||1/6,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync||1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync|
|Metering||63-zone iFCL||420-pixel 3D color matrix||16 segment||49 zone|
|Video||H.264 QuickTime MOV 720/25p/30p||1080/24p; 720/30p/25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV||720/24p Motion JPEG AVI||AVCHD 1080/60i @ 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440x1080 /30p @ 12Mbps|
|Image stabilization||Optical||Optical||Sensor shift||Sensor shift|
|Manual aperture and shutter in video||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Audio||Mono||Mono||Mono||Stereo; mic input|
|LCD size||2.7 inches fixed
|3 inches fixed
|2.7 inches fixed
|3 inches fixed
|Memory slots||1 x SDXC||1 x SDXC||1 x SDXC/SDHC |
(SDXC requires firmware upgrade)
|1 x SDXC|
|Battery life (CIPA rating)||700 shots||550 shots||1,100 shots (lithium batteries)||420 shots|
|Dimensions (WHD, inches)||5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1||4.9 x 3.8 x 2.9||4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7||4.9 x 3.6 x 3.3|
|Body operating weight (ounces)||17.5||17.7||24.0||16.1|
|$599.99 (with 18-55mm IS II lens) ||$699.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens)||$649.95 (with 18-55mm lens)||$699.99 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|Release date||March 2011||September 2010||October 2009||August 2011|
The LCD also feels small. Since it's not 16:9 aspect, the 2.7-inch size isn't as small as it sounds (it's about as high as a 16:9 3-inch display), but it's another thing that makes the camera feel old. It's also relatively low resolution and difficult to see in direct sunlight.
As I've often complained before, I hate it that you have to use a specific movie mode to shoot video, and I especially hate that it's on the opposite side of the mode dial from the manual modes. For the T3, Canon also made the flash button flat and moved it to the top right side; I had to look up its location in the manual because it was so camouflaged. And you'd think there'd be plenty of room for an SD card slot in the huge grip. Instead, Canon moved it to the bottom, in the battery compartment--a popular but annoying location.
The one bow to modernity seems to be the Feature Guide, which pops up a description of the option in the Shooting Settings display. Creative Auto--it allows you to change aperture (background blur), drive mode, flash, and color "ambience"--is the closest thing Canon offers to a newbie mode. But there's nothing particularly interesting or inspiring in its feature set. Its one advantage over the Nikon D3100 is that it offers bracketing, which you'll need if you want to dabble in HDR, but even that's a bit lackluster: three shots in up to 2-stop increments. (Download the manual for a full accounting of the T3's features and operation.)
Though I'd technically place the D3000 as the T3's main competitor, for roughly $100 more (depending upon where the T3's street price falls to) you can get the D3100 kit or the Pentax K-x, both of which offer significant performance advantages and newer autofocus systems, while the D3100 has a larger (though lower-resolution) LCD and comparable photo quality. Nor is the T3 the cheapest model on the market; as far as I can tell, that nod goes to Sony's Alpha DSLR-A390.
If you really want an entry-level Canon, look at the T1i instead. It's not much more expensive, and offers better performance, comparable or better photo quality, a nicer viewfinder, and a similar feature set.