Canon's least expensive digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera is "a great choice for anyone on a budget, whether the proverbial Soccer Mom or serious enthusiast," says Imaging-Resource.com. Other experts largely concur, saying the Canon EOS Rebel T3 delivers high-quality photos in a low-priced package. Its Nikon counterpart, the D3100 (*Est. $500 with kit lens), offers a more sophisticated movie mode, but the T3 offers exposure bracketing. Otherwise, the two cameras are incredibly similar.
Reviewers say these budget DSLRs offer plenty of features, with durable bodies and impressive photo quality. And, as Imaging-Resource.com's Mike Tomkins points out, you can put the leftover cash toward a second lens so you can really enjoy the advantages of a DSLR.
Extremely easy for beginners. Testers find the Canon EOS Rebel T3 generally comfortable to hold, with well-placed controls, although some say the handgrip is too smooth. There aren't very many buttons, but enough that you can make all key adjustments without delving into the menu.
For novices who may not know what all those buttons do, Canon builds in a helpful Feature Guide. When you select an option like portrait mode, for instance, the LCD screen briefly shows text explaining what it does: "Backgrounds are blurred, subjects stand out. Smoothes skin tone and hair." Of course, you can always just slip the T3 into Auto mode and let the camera do all the work.
Owners say the T3 makes it a breeze to take beautiful photos. "Without even a read of the manual, I was up and running in two minutes testing out all the features," writes one customer at Amazon.com, where the Canon earns nearly perfect ratings from about 280 happy users.
One nitpick, however, is the Rebel T3's unusually small viewfinder. CNET's Lori Grunin calls it "claustrophobic," and Tomkins at Imaging-Resource.com says it "feels a little bit like looking down a tunnel." You could frame your shot on the LCD screen using Live View instead, but as with most entry-level DSLRs, autofocus works sluggishly this way. Reviewers say it's better to look through the optical viewfinder.
Impressive photo quality. It may be inexpensive, but the Canon EOS Rebel T3 delivers lovely photos, experts say. Thank the "sensible" 12.2-megapixel compact sensor, says Mark Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com. While other cameras cram in more and tinier megapixels to capture more detail -- the rival Nikon D3100 has 14.2 megapixels and the D3200 (*Est. $650 with kit lens) packs a whopping 24.2 -- those tinier megapixels can't capture as much light.
It's pretty much a wash in Imaging-Resource.com's test, where side-by-side shots from the Canon T3 and Nikon D3100 look comparable. Tomkins praises the Canon's accurate color and detail; in a shot of the federal courthouse in Knoxville, "each and every brick is clearly defined."
As for speed, WhatDigitalCamera.com finds the Canon T3's autofocus "far more decisive" and quicker than the Nikon D3100's. Shooting speed is 3 frames per second (fps) for both, which Tomkins calls "rather anemic." CNET's Grunin says, "In practice, that's just fast enough to capture kids and pets, but only if they're moving predictably, and with the knowledge that you may occasionally not get the shot."
If you want to shoot video with your DSLR, the Nikon D3100 holds the edge. It can shoot in full 1,080p HD, with continuous autofocus, although that's slow and noisy as with most budget DSLRs. The Canon T3, however, tops out at only 720p with no continuous autofocus. Yet the Canon's clips still look fine in tests; Grunin and Tomkins both say most people will probably be happy with it for casual recording.
Battery life is one of the Canon EOS Rebel T3's particularly strong suits: It's rated for 800 shots on a single charge versus 550 for the Nikon D3100.
Plastic body feels lightweight but sturdy. Like other entry-level DSLRs -- including the Nikon D3100 and D3200 -- the Canon EOS Rebel T3 cuts costs by building its lightweight body mostly from plastic. Fortunately, owners and most experts say the Canon still feels sturdy.
"We always pick up an entry-level camera with a certain amount of apprehension, wondering if it will feel plasticky and cheap in our hands," write the experts at Imaging-Resource.com. They say it "definitely doesn't have the solidity" of the pricier Canon EOS 60D (*Est. $935 body only) or EOS 7D (*Est. $1,500 body only), "and there's no question that you're handling plastic, but we're happy to report that there's no panel flex or creak, so it doesn't feel hollow or cheap." CNET's Grunin disagrees: "The whole camera feels very cheap and plasticky," she says, although she still names the Canon T3 to her list of the best budget DSLRs.
"Most of the features you'll actually use." Entry-level cameras always omit some features, but like the Nikon D3100, the Canon EOS Rebel T3 gives you "most of the features you'll actually use every day," says Goldstein at PhotographyBlog.com.
In fact, it's a "fairly rich feature set," says Imaging-Resource.com's Tomkins. It even includes exposure bracketing, a highlight missing from the Nikon D3100 and D3200. You can have the Canon T3 shoot three photos instead of just one -- one at a normal exposure, one slightly lower and one slightly higher -- just in case the normal exposure wasn't quite right.
But Grunin at CNET calls the T3's features "uninspiring," and recommends stepping up to Canon's next level. For example, the EOS Rebel T2i (*Est. $650 with kit lens) offers spot metering, a tool that helps the camera correctly photograph high-contrast scenes like the moon on a dark night.
Review Credibility: Very Good Experts here recommend the Canon EOS Rebel T3 as one of the best beginner DSLRs you can buy, right alongside the rival Nikon D3100. In an ultra-comprehensive test, the T3 delivers true DSLR quality at a price beginners can afford.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T3 (EOS 1100D), Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells, Zig Weidelich and Mike Tomkins, Sept. 23, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good The Canon EOS Rebel T3 -- aka the EOS 1100D -- makes this site's list of the best budget DSLRs. Goldstein finds it very beginner-friendly, with most of the features people actually use day to day and "excellent image quality even in low light."
Review: Canon EOS 1100D Review, Mark Goldstein, March 24, 2011
3. What Digital Camera
Review Credibility: Very Good Here's another high-quality source that recommends the Canon EOS Rebel T3 after thorough testing. Lowe finds it more advanced overall than the comparably priced Nikon D3100, with very good autofocus and image quality.
Review: Canon EOS 1100D Review (Rebel T3 Review), Mike Lowe, March 10, 2011
Review Credibility: Good Although she names it to her list of the best entry-level DSLRs and gives it a "very good" rating, Grunin says "there are better options for the money than the Canon EOS Rebel T3." Photo quality is excellent, but she finds fault with the T3's speed, features and "claustrophobic viewfinder." She recommends the Nikon D3100 or a step-up Canon model instead.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T3 Review (with 18-55mm IS II Lens), Lori Grunin, July 7, 2011
Review Credibility: Fair Outstanding reviews make the Canon EOS Rebel T3 one of the top-rated DSLRs here. With about 240 owners posting feedback, a remarkable 96 percent give it 4 stars out of 5 or a perfect 5 stars. Many users are beginner photographers, and they're thrilled with how easy the T3 makes it to take beautiful shots. The very few complaints are mainly from a handful who got defective models, and another handful who decided to step up or down to a more advanced or simpler camera.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T3 Digital SLR, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012