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Field Review: Canon T3i (Day 3)

by Chris Gampat on 03/19/2011

The day I shot the images in this story is the day that Adobe released the update to allow Lightroom 3 to edit images from the Canon T3i. In Day 1, we gave some first impressions of the Canon T3i and we also did a quick video test. When I first got the unit, the RAW file support wasn’t released yet. The good news: I shot these with the very good Canon 35mm F/1.4 L: perhaps my favorite lens and on our list of recommended glass. While doing this, I never went above ISO 1600. But it’s not all wonderful.

FYI: just to let you know, this posting will be updated to include the Canon T3i soon.

Ergonomics

When out casually shooting street photography, I usually keep the camera’s strap wrapped around my wrist and keep the camera in my hand. Sometimes I’ll let the camera dangle a bit if I need to, like if I need to reach for my wallet or my phone in my jacket pocket, etc.

For this type of shooting, I still feel that the Canon 60D is best due to the ergonomic advantages and weight balance, but the Canon T3i puts up a damn good fight. The camera looks like a blunderbuss with a 35mm F/1.4 L and lens hood attached, but they two work together very well.

In Day 1, I stated that the grip was a bit too small for my fingers. While I still stick to that statement, I’ve learned to not work against it, but to work with it. So what I now do is:

- Index finger on the shutter release at all times.

- Middle and ring finger around the grip.

- Pinky supporting the bottom of the camera to help bring it up to my eye quicker.

What I really also like is the convenient placement of the ISO button: right next to the shutter release. Beyond this, it is best to leave the camera in aperture priority so that you can focus on actually creating the image. The lack of a back dial is, in my opinion, a major damper on quickly manipulating your settings. This is another reason why the 60D is so much better for street photography. In fact, I’m compelled to say that it is the best DSLR out there for it with the exception of maybe the 5D Mk II.

Flip Out LCD Screen

When shooting in the streets, using the Flip out LCD screen can really help with disarming people around you that are apprehensive about you taking their photo. To do this, have the camera at waist level and flip the screen out so that it faces up towards your face. Then use the buttons to place your AF point based on your composition, focus, and shoot. Its is best to autofocus in this case.

Speaking of autofocus.

Autofocus

The autofocus on the Canon T3i is like any other Rebel I’ve tested. In good light, it’s great in total full auto. In low light, it needs manual focusing point selection. In terrible light, put a flash on and hopefully that will help.

The previous statement is for AI Focus: which focuses once on a single area or point. I have yet to test AI Servo for something like sports shooting.

What the T3i does have as an advantage over the other Rebels is the fact that it focuses faster than the previous models. And in Live View it focuses slower than most point and shoot cameras. One reason for this could be the larger lens and moving all of the heavy elements inside.

Also once again, this test was done with top-notch Canon lenses. I do not own cheap lenses. The most affordable one is probably the 85mm F/1.8. But on this camera, it will be 136mm approximately because of the cropped sensor.

Image Quality

So far in my tests with the Canon T3i, the image quality is at best mediocre. The reason why I say this is because of the fact that I wish Canon would have done something to tweak the high ISOs or dynamic range. However, I strongly feel that this is essentially the same sensor as the T2i. However, does that mean you’ll think that way?

According to our album on our Facebook page, you don’t think so. It seems like you readers like it actually.

So why do I think otherwise? Probably because I’m used to the 7D and 5D Mk II; so I could very well be a spoiled brat of a photographer. However, I believe I stand correctly when I say that consumers that want a Rebel want the best image quality they can get. And I feel that Canon could have done a better job with the sensor for this particular segment of the market. And by the way, yes I am aware that the above image is blurry. However, it is an example of some wonderful colors being captured by the camera.

Now, in good lighting during the day, the camera excels in terms of image quality. That’s a given though by this point in the game.

Also please understand once again that even though the dynamic range on a camera of this caliber is good, I once again wish it were better. However, the tradeoff comes with the other features it has.

Here are the images in a gallery available for your perusal. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Also remember that you can get the Canon T3i at B&H.

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