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Canon EOS Rebel T3i (EOS 600D) Hands On Review

Just as the Canon 60D was aimed squarely at the Nikon D90 and D7000, the new Canon Rebel T3i has the D5000 and its eventual successor in its sights. We spent some hands-on time with the Canon T3i, which sports a swiveling LCD screen and a slightly heftier build, and both looks and feels a little more serious than past models. Bundled with a new 18-55mm IS II kit lens, or the 18-135mm lens that’s also available with the 60D, the new T3i rather looks and feels like its prosumer sibling, except for the grip spacing. It’ll be ideal for those with small to medium hands, but those will larger hands might be more comfortable with the 60D.

Indeed, the major differences between the T3i and 60D are few. It’s down to frame rate (3.7 vs. 5.3 fps), maximum shutter speed (1/4,000 vs. 1/8,000), maximum ISO (12,800 vs. 25,600 equivalent), viewfinder size (0.87x vs. 0.95x), battery type, and grip size. There are other, more minor differences, but those are the big items. As such, the T3i seems like a pretty good deal.

Compared to the T2i, the T3i adds the swivel screen, the new lens, more reduced-resolution JPEG options, and an Auto Picture Style mode. The Canon T3i also weighs a little more than the T2i, coming in at 20.1 ounces (570g) compared to the T2i’s 16.75 ounces (470g). As mentioned, it’s a few millimeters larger in all dimensions: 133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7, compared to 128.8 x 97.5 x 75.3. Some of those differences will matter, and I think many fans of swivel screens will opt for the T3i, while those who don’t like them can settle happily into a T2i without feeling like they’re missing a lot.

Overview

At a glance, the T3i looks very much like the 60D that just left my desk last week. That’s especially true when I have the 18-135mm lens mounted, which feels quite at home on the T3i. Even picking it up, though the grip is smaller, the texture is very much like the 60D’s, which is very grippy with a good leather feel.

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With the new 18-55mm lens attached, the T3i is much lighter. On the front we find the usual fare: an aggressively canted shutter button, an IR remote port on the front, and a self-timer lamp all in close proximity. On the right there’s the flash release button, a four hole microphone grill, the lens release button, and the depth-of-field preview button. Not too different from the T2i at this point.

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The top of the Canon T3i, too, is pretty similar to the T2i, with changes on the Mode dial and a new Display button just left of the ISO button. The purpose for this seems to be to turn off the rear LCD display when you’re approaching the optical viewfinder, preventing night blindness, since the infrared switch is now missing from the rear of the camera.

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The IR sensor was displaced, of course, by the addition of the Canon T3i’s 3-inch Vari-angle screen, whose specs match those of the 60D’s LCD: 3:2 aspect ratio, 1,040,000-dot resolution, scratch-resistant fluorine coating, and the ClearView display technology that sandwiches a layer of optical elastic material between the coverglass for a remarkably crisp image both indoors and out. Controls on the back are a little smaller compared to those on the T2i, as they’ve had to move over a bit to make room for the hinge and frame around the LCD. The Menu button is off to the left for thumb actuation, and the Info. button is where the old Display button used to be. Otherwise, buttons are in the generally same position, a bonus for those upgrading from a T2i. There’s also a little less of a thumbpad, but the design still allows for a secure hold.

When in all but Movie mode, the small round button just right of the viewfinder serves as the Live View activation button; when in Movie mode, you use this button to start and stop recording. You cannot start recording a movie when in still capture modes, but you can capture a still image while shooting a movie. You can also autofocus while shooting a movie. More on Movie mode below.

The Canon T3i isn’t necessarily a compelling upgrade for T2i owners, but it does offer a lot for those who might have been considering a 60D for its swivel screen and more advanced Movie mode. It feels a little more substantial in the hand than the T2i, and early image quality looks to be quite good.

Sensor and processor

According to our early information, there’s little new about the Canon T3i’s sensor and processor combination. Representatives mentioned that they’ve again reduced the gap between the microlenses, as they’ve said many times in the past, but they were declared gapless a few versions back, so it’s tough to know how much more gapless they can get. We’re guessing that it’s the same four-channel readout as is found in the T2i’s sensor, as the frame rate is the same 3.7 frames per second. Maximum image size in pixels is 5,184 x 3,456, with a pixel pitch of 4.3µm.

The Canon T3i’s DIGIC 4 processor and buffer enables capture of about 34 large/fine JPEG images for average subjects (our tough compression target nets 11), six RAW frames, and only four RAW+JPEG frames. DIGIC 4 also allows capture of 14-bit RAW images, and the 8-bit JPEGs are created from 14-bit data.

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Peripheral illumination correction

Vignetting, a darkening of the corners produced by some lens designs, is reduced via Peripheral Illumination Correction in the Canon T3i. Using a database of lenses, the amount of correction is customized for each lens mounted. Selecting the item from the menu brings up a screen where you can see which lens the camera detected, and whether correction data is available. You can then choose to disable the correction if the wrong lens is showing (as sometimes happens with non-Canon lenses), or else re-enable it.

Autofocus

The Canon T3i offers nine-point focusing with a central cross-type f/2.8 focus point and eight single-axis points. Though the number of AF points is the same as the 60D, the later has a significant advantage in that all of its AF points are cross-type, which are sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail. The focusing screen is of the etched variety, with boxes surrounding dots, which light up red to confirm focus.

Metering

The Canon T3i inherits Canon’s latest metering system, previously seen in the EOS 7D, T2i, and 60D. It’s a 63-zone iFCL sensor, which stands for Intelligent Focus, Color, and Luminance metering. The name hints at how the sensor works: the iFCL chip has a dual-layer design with each layer sensitive to different wavelengths of light, allowing subject color to be taken into account when determining exposure. Information on focusing points is also taken into account in metering calculations. In this area, the Canon T3i, T2i, and 60D’s iFCL chip differs from that of the EOS 7D.

ISO Expansion

The Canon T3i has an expanded sensitivity range, from a minimum of ISO 100 to a maximum of ISO 12,800. You have to enable ISO Expansion via a Custom Function setting. Instead of offering EV compensation from -2.0 to +2.0, the T3i offers a much wider +/-5.0EV exposure compensation range.

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CA and A+

CA mode is relatively familiar, giving the more novice user an easy way to adjust the exposure, flash, resolution, drive mode, and Picture Style. Setting aperture and shutter speed are converted to simpler concepts of background blur (blurred or sharp), and exposure level (darker or brighter) with a slider that’s adjusted with the Main dial. The more complex exposure decisions remain under the Canon T3i’s control in CA mode. The exposure slider is the more useful, standing in as a more comprehensible EV adjustment.

What’s new is the new Auto+ mode (A+ on the Mode dial), which is similar to Smart Auto on Canon PowerShot cameras. Employing what Canon calls EOS Scene Detection Technology, the new setting replaces the old “Green Zone” Auto icon. The new mode combines information from five of the Canon T3i’s systems, including Auto Exposure, Autofocus, Auto White Balance, Auto Lighting Optimizer, and Picture Style Auto into one smart exposure mode, according to Canon.

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Picture Style Auto

is a separate setting of its own, naturally selected as one of the Picture Styles, which you can bring up either via the down arrow on the back of the camera or through the Quick menu, or even the main menu. With this new setting, the camera will consider the scene and change the Picture Style accordingly.

Live View

Of course, the Canon T3i offers Live View mode, a fairly mature mode at this point, with contrast-detect focus as well as Quick AF focus, which uses the camera’s phase-detect autofocus system. It seems pretty full-featured as Live View modes go. You can move the AF point around, you can switch between Contrast-detect and Phase-detect (Quick AF) modes, and you can even zoom in to 10x. Activating it is as easy as pressing the Live View/Record button on the back.

The Canon T3i has the best excuse for using Live View mode: its swiveling LCD screen, which allows you to compose images from odd angles. You won’t want to use it all the time, because both autofocus methods are slower than autofocusing through the optical viewfinder, but when you need it, both the swiveling LCD and Live View mode are ready for action. Be aware that Live View mode also burns through battery life, typically cutting the number of shots per charge by more than half.

Movie mode

While the T2i included significant upgrades to Movie mode, the Canon T3i receives only a few, as the former’s offering was pretty complete. We’re talking Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at 24, 25, and 30 frames per second. And 720p or VGA video at 50 and 60 fps.

Movie Crop mode has been enhanced from the T2i’s offering, now called Video Digital Zoom, which allows a cropped zoom from between three and 10x magnification in either 1080p or 720p resolutions. You have to enable it from the Movie Record Size menu option, and when you do, it starts out zoomed to 3x. From there, you can zoom in to 10x and back out smoothly, with no steps in-between. (Note that camera shake can be quite an issue when in Video Digital Zoom mode, particularly as you get out to 10x. A tripod definitely makes sense.)

Video Snapshot

A new video mode imported from the PowerShot line is designed to help you shoot and create very simple videos in short segments. Set the mode to shoot 2, 4, or 8-second snapshots during the day, and the Canon T3i will splice the snippets into a movie. You can also add a soundtrack. Just set the mode in the Quick menu screen, or on the Movie Record Menu 2. Select among Disable, or 2, 4, or 8 seconds. When enabled, pressing the Movie Record button records a fixed-length segment, rather than the normal toggle on/off behavior. Clips of the same length will be combined by the camera into albums. After shooting each clip, you have the option to add to the existing album, save to a different album, playback the latest snapshot, or delete without saving to an album. You can also edit the Video Snapshot albums on the included Video Snapshot Task software included on the software disk.

Choose among five standard background music tracks, or you can import your own music to the SD card via the EOS utility. We’re not sure whether shipping models will include the audio tracks, or whether you’ll have to upload them from the computer software before you can add the songs to a slideshow or video.

Camera Review: Canon S90

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Point shoot releases are so many and so mediocre that it’s easy to fall for a under rated cameras in the market. Serious enthusiasts know that the higher resolution sensors on the new cameras are not really worth it. Cramming 14 million pixels on the same 1/2.5 inch sensor is not going to improve picture quality. Worse, it brings annoying noise issues. My cousin was kind enough to lend me his Canon S90 for review. Re launching the long abandoned S series, Canon has given point and shoot photography a big leap (and other companies a run for their money) with this tiny shooter.

Full Review Below

Canon S90: Black Beauty

Canon S90 is an attempt by Canon to revive the Sxx series due to the increasing popularity of performance point and shoot cameras. S90 uses the same 1/1.7″ sensor used in G10/G11 and is optimized for low light photography instead of  a higher megapixel count. It’s a lot slimmer than Panasonic LX3 and packs quite punch too. Let’s get it through the paces.

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Build

The body is mostly metal with plastic used only for the top and bottom panels. The buttons are well placed and tactile. One thing the previous S cameras couldn’t pull off well was size, they were too bulky for pocket use. This camera changes all that, with an impressive Ixus like body that is both strong and pocket able. The minimalist styling may not got go down well with some people but the discerning enthusiast should have no issues with the all black, no frills body. The screen is a healthy 3 inch in size and one the best ever. The lens has wider f2 aperture for low light photography but useless at the telephoto end. The glass is pretty good though.

Features

Apart from offering full manual control with the PASM dial, the S90 gains an edge over other comapcts by offering RAW mode, allowing post processing and better pictures. Another impressive feature is the control ring around the lens which can be customized for changing aperture, shutter speed and ISO. There is another ring around the D- pad itself which makes navigation a breeze. Handling is a bit like a dSLR, one hand holds the camera while the other can be used to set the control ring. There?s also a nifty little pop up flash to the left.
The interface is silky smooth and intuitive. There’s a display at the bottom showing focal length while the shutter speed and aperture are displayed at the top along with IS and ISO information. The scene mode offers customized settings for shooting low light scenes, kids, fireworks, sunset etc.

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Performance

Now for the interesting bit. I took a few pictures at home and I was pleasantly surprised at how well it metered the shots. In auto mode though, the ISO was pushed a little too far leading to noise. In daylight however, the pictures were clear and color reproduction spot on. The lens covers a focal length of 28-105mm which is not much compared to the superzooms of today. But the f2 aperture at the wide end and the clear optics make it a winner nonetheless. The picture quality is very good up to ISO 800 after which things start going downhill. ISO 3200 is pretty much useless. The aperture slows down at the telephoto end and the limited focal range itself might not appeal to some.
Overall this camera holds its own when it comes to performance.

Economy

Launched with an initial price of about Rs22, 000 the price has now come down to a much better 14k. It’s cheaper if bought abroad. For its performance, this camera offers the best value even outperforming some of its overpriced counterparts from other companies.

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Service

Canon has always focused on after sales service, and with the steadily growing sophistication of photo devices, service has now become even more prominent. With hundreds of service centers in India with several centers in metros Canon is sure not to disappoint in after sales service.

Conclusion:

In the crowded and saturated market of point and shoot cameras this is one camera that will blow most of the competition out of the water. The lack of a viewfinder may be missed by some and some may find the focal range limited but overall this is one sweet deal.

Pros:

  • Superb Image quality up to ISO 800
  • Fast aperture at the wide end.
  • Control ring
  • Ease of use

Cons:

  • No optical viewfinder
  • Limited focal range
  • Noise above ISO 800

The Mini DSLR: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1

I?ve long waged a personal war against overweight, over-sized digital SLRs. As the effective digital film frame is mostly stamp-sized why on earth does the body and lens of every camera maker?s DSLR have to be so bulky?

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When the Micro Four Thirds cameras began to appear I wept tears of joy. At last, a totally digital approach to quality digital capture! And in a small form factor.

Features:

The GF1 goes one step further than the PEN E-P1 in having a retractable flash cell; the Live MOS sensor can capture 12.1 megapixels; the rear 7.6cm LCD screen has 460,000 pixel resolution; internal body optical image stabilisation means you enjoy steady shooting with any lens; seven preset effects ? Expressive, Retro, etc; face detection of up to six faces; auto dust reduction; stills and HD video shooting.

The Technology

Olympus and Panasonic announced the new, mirrorless format / lens mount based on (and compatible with) Four Thirds in August 2008. The Micro Four Thirds system uses the same sensor size (18 x 13.5 mm) but allows slimmer cameras by removing the mirror box and optical viewfinder. The new format has three key technical differences: (1) roughly half the flange back distance (distance from mount to the sensor), (2) a smaller diameter lens mount (6 mm smaller) and (3) two additional contact points for lens-to-body communication (now 11 points).

Removing the mirror mechanism allows this shorter flange back distance, meaning lenses for the new mount can be considerably smaller than current Four Thirds designs. The format will require framing to be carried out using Live View on either the LCD monitor or an EVF. Existing Four Thirds lenses can be used on Micro Four Thirds cameras using an adapter.

The Lenses

The DMW-MA1APP adapter allows existing Four Thirds lenses to be used with the Micro Four Thirds mount. The adapter is not designed to work with other accessories, such as tele-converters and extension tubes. You’ll also be able to use the Olympus OM adapter on the GF1,as well as a wide range of other mount adapters that are becoming available.

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Using the adaptor, the G1 can mount the full range of legacy Four Thirds lenses. However, its smaller size can result in combinations that are less well balanced than would be the case with Four Thirds DSLRs.

World’s Smallest Digital Camera

Talking about digital cameras, everyone is mad about DSLR?s. It?s a fact that the question of quality of images these cameras produce can?t be overstated. But one thing that makes people defer from buying high end cameras is their bulky bodies. They are so heavy to carry around that people tend to avoid them when gong to a trip or to a family vacation.

But this camera is a tiny bombshell. Named and marketed in the name of Chobi Mini, the camera is probably world?s smallest camera.

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The camera, with the size of a large postage stamp, is so small that it fits in your palm. With a USB charging port, the cam costs around $150. And oh, did I mention, it can also make AVI movies? Sweet ?