Which One is Right for You: Canon’s T2i or T3i?
When you’re shopping for a new car, the conventional wisdom is not to buy the current model year. If you can find a brand new vehicle from the previous year, people say, you’ll be making a wise decision.
If you’re in the market for an entry level Canon DSLR, and you’re the type of person that thinks this way, you’ve probably eschewed Canon’s current model—the
Rebel T4i Canon Rebel T5i. But if you’ve done some shopping around, you probably noticed that the two previous models are still very much available, and that they are confusingly similar. If you’re thinking about the Canon Rebel T2i vs. T3i, read on.
T2i vs T3i Comparison Table
Click on the links to read more information, reviews, and specifications on Amazon.
T2i vs T3i: What Else is Different?
Looking at the two cameras using the “Compare” feature on Canon’s own website, I found myself asking why Canon even bothered to replace the T2i with the T3i. Reading down the list of specs, they are nearly identical.
18 megapixels? Check.
APS-C sensor with DIGIC 4 processor? Check.
1080P video capability? Check.
And the list goes on.
In fact, the only two differences that are apparent from this chart are the dimensions and weight of the camera body. The T3i is slightly—and I mean slightly—larger: it’s a tenth of an inch taller, a tenth of an inch wider, and seven tenths of an inch deeper. These “larger” dimensions add 1.4 ounces to the weight, hardly a deal breaker for anyone.
Surely there must be something more exciting than camera size to merit Canon discontinuing the T2i in favor of its replacement. So, what are they?
Wireless Transmitter for Off-Camer Flash:
The T3i has it; the T2i doesn’t.
The most impressive new feature is the built-in wireless transmitter for off-camera flash photography.
It’s no secret that on camera flashes just don’t produce very good results; they can light a scene just fine but the effect of having a flash popping directly at your subject is a flat, uninteresting image. And that’s if you haven’t washed out the scene entirely with a hyper-exposed foreground and underexposed background.
And though you may think that off-camera flashes are strictly in the domain of professionals, that’s only because the cost of entry has been prohibitive and not worth the investment for the amateur not willing to shell out for a flash and a transmitter—Canon’s entry level transmitter (the ST-E2) by itself has a ticker price of $350. So if you’ve been thinking about the Canon Rebel T2i vs T3i, and entertaining the notion of off-camera flashes in the future, the T3i will save you that future expense.
It’s worth noting that the integrated wireless transmitter isn’t some barebones consolation prize. Its features rival the ST-E2. It supports multiple flashes and flash exposure compensation (where the brightness of the flash can be adjusted to your exposure, preventing under- or overexposure). You can divide your multiple flashes into separate groups, and have group A fire at one level of brightness, and Group B at a different level.
This is professional grade photography, and if you’re an enthusiast who’s looking to go beyond just taking photos, the T3i is a fantastic tool to learn on without shelling out tons of money for high priced gear. Even if you’re just looking to shoot pictures of your family, you’d be amazed at how moving the flash off the top of your camera, even an arm’s length away, will improve your photos.
Vari-Angle LCD Screen:
Canon T3i’s Vari-Angle LCD is extremely handy!
Another great feature added to the T3i is its articulated LCD monitor, which Canon calls its Vari-Angle LCD. The monitor is attached to the camera by a tiltable, adjustable arm, which enables you to get more creative angles without having to put your body into weird and uncomfortable positions.
Its “resting” location is in a recessed portion of the camera’s back, where it seems like a regular old LCD. But let’s say you wanted to take a shot of a crowd from a higher angle looking down. You can swing the monitor out away from the camera body, and then tilt it so that it’s facing downward.
All you need to do then is raise your arms up over the crowd, and look up at the monitor that’s now looking down at you. You can then compose the shot the way you want without having to be eye level with the viewfinder—you can see everything on the screen.
It sounds like an unnecessary luxury, but once you’ve used it for awhile you’ll find it indispensable.
If you’re on the fence about the Canon Rebel T2i vs. T3i, the Vari-Angle LCD should help get you off that fence (and then allow you to just lift your camera up over the fence and perfectly compose a shot of what’s on the other side).
I remember when I graduated from my old Canon Powershot G3 point-and-shoot to my Rebel SLR back in 2006—which didn’t have the Live View feature for composing—I found that I really missed having that monitor. If you’ve ever laid down on your side and tilted your head upwards while trying to get low angle photos of your kids or your pets, you’ll very much appreciate the articulated LCD. If you haven’t ever painfully contorted yourself to get a cool angle on your shot, you no longer have to with the T3i.
Scene Intelligent Auto Mode:
Canon’s also added some decent bells and whistles to the internal software which controls the T3i. They’ve added another shooting mode—in addition to old standbys like Program, Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Portrait Mode, etc.—called Scene Intelligent Auto (A+) mode.
It goes beyond the capabilities of Program Mode, which only measured available light for exposure and adjusted shutter and aperture accordingly. In A+ mode, the camera also examines the scene you’re trying to shoot, and can adjust other settings.
If you’re trying to shoot a moving subject, the camera will place itself into AI Servo mode and provide continuous focusing as you move. If you’re shooting a portrait, the T3i will use the brightness/contrast/color settings as if you’d selected Portrait mode on the dial. Make your next shot a landscape, and without having to fiddle with settings, the camera will adjust itself automatically.
And if you’re not sure what any of these different settings are, there’s an in-camera Feature Guide, which adds brief explanations, on screen, to let you know more about you’re selecting. Other enhancements to the internal workings include the addition of “Creative Filters”. These are filters you can apply to your photos after they’ve been taken, directly on the camera, before the image ever hits a computer. The T3i also offers the ability to adjust the aspect ratio of your photos. So, just shoot a 1:1 picture, apply a creative filter, and you’re ready to upload right up Instagram.
The T3i allows digital zoom while shooting; T2i doesn’t.
Finally, if you’re looking forward to also shooting video with your new SLR, then it’s clear, in the case of the the Canon Rebel T2i vs. T3i, which model is superior. They both shoot in full 1080p HD, but the T3i adds the ability to digitally zoom while recording. This is helpful if you’re shooting with a prime, or fixed focal length, lens. Since you can’t zoom with that kind of lens, the camera will “zoom” by cropping down to a smaller part of the sensor. And since full HD is still only a 2 megapixel image, there’s no loss in quality as you perform up to a 9x zoom on your 18 megapixel sensor.
Final Verdict: Who’s the winner?
Hands down, the Canon T3i wins the battle, given it’s price! Only $5 more here!
With all these new features on the T3i, it would seem that the last thing to consider in making your decision is price. And when you do a little research on the cost of the Canon Rebel T2i vs. T3i, things get interesting. When the T3i was introduced, its sticker price was $100 more than the T2i. Considering the value of the wireless flash transmitter alone, that $100 seems more than worth it. With the introduction of the T4i, both of these cameras have been discounted— there’s still plenty of new stock of both models available.
And that does funny things to the price. At Amazon.com, the lowest price I could find—from a reputable dealer—for a new T2i was $495, a savings of $130 below sticker price. On the other hand, the T3i is going for $499, just $5 more than the T2i. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe Canon made too many of them, but with pricing like this, the decision is a no brainer.
Get the better camera for the same price? What’s to think about?