The Canon T3i, released in February of 2011, and the Canon T5i, released in March of 2013, are two of Canon’s entry-level range DSLRs, aimed at their ever growing market of beginners. Despite the time between their respective releases, both camera bodies are remarkably similar, and in close competition for their niche market.
In this article, we’re going to look at which camera, out of these two offerings from Canon, has the advantage, if such an advantage exists. This means we’ll be looking at each camera’s particular specs, as well as what benefits photographers might notice during their use of both cameras, to help in making the difficult choice between them.
The Canon T5i was released in the middle of 2013, replacing the Canon T4i. Both cameras are quite similar, so if you already have the Canon T4i you shouldn’t feel any need to upgrade to the T5i. Some people have upgraded to take advantage of the better kit lens, but for the price of the new body, you’re probably better off just getting one of Canon’s many individual lenses.
The differences between this camera and the one that came before it are in the details. The Canon T5i has live previews of the Creative Filters features, and a tweak to the mode dial allowing 360-degree revolution for ergonomic use, with the addition of embossed icons. Feeling the camera out, we can see that there have been some textural upgrades to the actual body, also likely a design and ergonomic improvement.
The Canon T5i offers a barrage of interesting and appealing features, including an 18-megapixel hybrid CMOS sensor, a DIGIC 5 processor, an ISO range of 100-12800 standard, with up to 25600 expanded, a 9-point autofocus system, 1080p video recording, built-in stereo mics, continuous autofocus in movie mode and a touch screen, articulated display.
As the Canon T3i was released quite a bit before the Canon T5i, it should surprise nobody that the specs of the previous model are not as advanced. However, that isn’t to say that the Canon T3i doesn’t deliver on all fronts.
When it was released, the Canon T3i was situated at the higher end of Canon’s entry-level and pro-sumer Rebel line, and the features show it. The Canon T3i delivered on everything that it’s predecessor the Canon T2i had been known for in terms of image quality, as well as some software additions in the form of an Auto Picture Style mode, and changes to the existing body style.
All up, the Canon T3i offers a good range of features in the realms of both software and hardware including an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, a DIGIC 4 processor, an ISO range of 100-6400 standard with up to 12800 extended, contrast-detect autofocus, 1080p video recording with built-in mono mics, and an articulated display.
T5i vs T3i Comparison Table
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Now, let’s get into the specifics of each camera a little more, to give you a better concept of just what it is that separates these two cameras. Where things are the same, we’ll leave the explanation, as in this instance we’re looking at which camera has the advantage overall.
Sensor & Processor:
The Canon T5i is the newer camera, so it makes sense that it has newer hardware in comparison to the Canon T3i. One of the most noticeable, and interesting, areas for us to look into as we compare the two is the sensor and processor.
Although both cameras feature an 18-megapixel sensor, the Canon T5i boasts a hybrid CMOS AF sensor to the Canon T3i’s normal CMOS sensor. This means that the Canon T5i’s sensor features phase-detection AF points, allowing the camera to use both contrast-detect and phase-detect together in Live View for better subject tracking. When in use, these features can help give a photographer more accuracy for a moving subject, and starkly improves its performance in terms of video, which we’ll discuss later.
One of the reasons that the Canon T5i is able to offer this hybrid sensor is because it’s also fitted with a DIGIC 5 processor. The advantage of this processor, in comparison to the Canon T3i’s DIGIC 4 processor, is all about speed. The more advanced processor means that the Canon T5i starts up twice as fast as the Canon T3i (700ms delay compared to 1500ms) and is able to shoot 40% faster (5fps compared to 3.7 frames per second) than its younger sibling.
The issue always with ISO is that although one camera might have the advantage over the other on paper, neither perform particularly well at those high ISO levels anyway. When it comes to the Canon T5i and the Canon T3i the later model does indeed outdo the earlier in terms of ISO performance.
With an advantage of one f-stop, the Canon T5i has the ability to provide a great ISO range. The updated sensor likely helps in this regard. However, in actual tests the Canon T5i and the Canon T3i only had a very slight difference in ISO performance, with both doing quite well up to the ISO 1600 point. Beyond that, the Canon T5i offered up slightly less noise at ISO 3200 but for most photographs this wouldn’t be noticeable at all. If you’re accustomed to shooting in lower light conditions, or with faster moving subjects, the Canon T5i’s extra reach might make or break the decision between the two, but for most it’s simply a comparison between a newer model and an older one.
Both the Canon T5i and the Canon T3i offer the favorite articulated screen feature as a part of their standard body design. This articulated screen is a popular decision maker for many camera users, particularly at this level of DSLR use as the articulated screen can make shooting much easier. This is particularly true when shooting at high or low angles, as well as when shooting oneself. User reviews have consistently applauded the usefulness of Canon’s articulated screen when shooting video as well.
However, now the Canon T5i has taken their celebrated screen one step further. As well as an articulated screen, the Canon T5i also offers touch screen capacity. This new addition will likely be a popular choice, and may indeed serve as something of a deal-breaker, particularly for photographers looking for simplicity. The advantage of the touch screen is of course about simpler usage, allowing photographers to access the inner menus of the camera with more ease than ever before. Canon’s menu layout is already quite simple to use, but the touch screen could be the motivator beginner photographers need to get a deeper understanding of their equipment.
The Canon T3i features a 9-point autofocus system with contrast-detect only, a fully capable system for most photographers, especially at an entry-level. The Canon T5i however features a 9-point auto-focus system with each point being cross-type. This is a more advanced system that offers better accuracy as the camera can detect both horizontal and vertical planes, compared to the Canon T3i system that isn’t as sensitive in the horizontal plane.
For those photographers planning on shooting fast moving subjects, including children and sports, a camera with a greater number of AF points and more cross-type points will be more suited. It will allow for better subject tracking, and greater accuracy overall giving you the best chance of capturing the photo you want.
There’s not much to be said in terms of the video capabilities of both the Canon T5i and the Canon T3i. The cameras follow a line of Canon camera bodies that produce impressive video quality with sharp images and high-quality color reproduction.
Differences to note include the addition of a stereo microphone to the Canon T5i body, where as the Canon T3i only features a mono microphone. However, both cameras offer standard 3.5mm microphone input for an external mic, although neither yet offer any support for a headphone out socket to monitor the audio during recording.
Additionally, the Canon T5i has a 60 fps rate for Live View while the Canon T3i only offers a 30 fps. This will be noticeable for those shooting fast moving subjects or panning at speed, and it is likely to offer a smoother overall view of the scene. Both of these differences are the sort to effect more dedicated videographers, and a beginner to DSLRs or someone just starting into video won’t see much of a difference between the two.
The Canon T5i and the Canon T3i are compatible with most of Canon’s lenses, and there is a choice of around 197 lenses in their branded lens collection. Today, we’re interested in the lenses that came with each of the cameras in their bundled kit. A kit lens is a great place to start your photographic journey, and quality as well as price should be on your mind. However, be aware that few photographers shoot solely on their kit lenses, and eventually further lens investment is a smart choice.
Now, the kit lens bundled with the Canon T5i’s body was the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, a definite upgrade from the kit lens bundled with earlier Canon models in this series. This lens offers substantially better optical performance, and more importantly the addition of STM or Stepping Motor Technology. This makes the lens ideal for those photographers looking to shoot a lot of video as the lens not only captures great images, it also provides better hardware overall with much less motor noise.
There are similar features present on the longer-range Canon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, which ran as a kit lens with the Canon T5i, albeit at a higher price range. The 18-135mm is a much more versatile lens, and is likely to grow with the average photographer. This makes it perfect for those photographers looking for an all-rounder style of lens, both flexibly wide-angled and partially zoomed.
The Canon T3i was originally marketed with the Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II lens, which has now been replaced with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens. The newer lens is a very versatile and useful lens for a range of photographic needs. It produces crisp images, and adds Image Stabilization (IS) into its features, which is sure to be appreciated by beginner photographers.
However, if you’re looking at buying the Canon T3i second hand, you might still be offered the original kit lens so beware of this. Although the original is a good starter lens, being both cheap and light with reasonable image quality, it falls short of the expectations of a more modern photographer. If you are looking for a used Canon T3i, we would suggest purchasing the body only, and finding a suitable lens separately.
A Final Comparison of the Canon T5i and the Canon T3i
The Canon T5i and the Canon T3i are both impressive examples of Canon’s entry-level range, the camera series ideal for both beginners to DSLR and enthusiastic hobbyists. In viewing them side-by-side, we can see that both have their own advantages, features that bring together an all round impressive user experience for the photographer. That being said, the Canon T5i as the newer model unsurprisingly outdoes its younger sibling.
The combination of better internal hardware in the form of the hybrid sensor and the DIGIC 5 processor, as well as the additions of touch screen capability leave the Canon T3i wanting by comparison. Quite simply the Canon T5i offers a faster user experience, better focus accuracy and a more user-focused interface. It provides better features for video recording, and comes bundled with a considerably superior lens. None of this should come as a surprise considering that the Canon T5i was released more than two years after the Canon T5i.
What might come as a surprise is the closeness of the competition. Although the Canon T5i certainly succeeds in many cases, much of its advantages lie in the specific details. Certainly there will be many photographers, particularly those only just getting into the world of DSLR photography will find that the features of the Canon T3i, along with its cheaper price tag, will make it much more appealing compared to the Canon T5i.