Still The Best First Camera to Buy | Canon T3i Review (6 Years On)

The Canon T3i. This camera is over 6 years old now, and I think it’s STILL the best first camera you can buy.

Let me tell you why.

This was my first camera. It’s shot over 31,000 photos and has recorded 7561 videos since I got it in 2012. It’s now beaten up, the wheel sometimes breaks, and even the badge has finally fallen off. I’ve shot live performances, interviews, weddings and short films. I’ve put it through hell, and you know what? This camera is amazing!

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If you are looking at buying your first camera; whether that is for making short films, taking photos, client videos, or all three, the T3i is still, in my opinion, the one to go for.

It’s currently going second hand for £300 with the kit lens, which an absolute bargain for what it can do. Some of you might be reluctant to buy kit second hand. But filmmakers take care of their kit, and the kit they are willing to sell is the kit they have made sure stays in good condition.

If your just starting to get serious about filmmaking, spending your entire budget on the camera is your film’s death sentence. Instead, get something like this camera, and spend the rest of a decent tripod, a microphone and a couple of lights.

Here’s what it can do:

  • It has an 18 megapixel sensor
  • It records in 1080p at 24fps, and can shoot slow motion at 60fps at only 720p, but don’t let this put you off.
  • It has a flip out screen which is great for framing and focusing when you unable to stand behind the camera.
  • The batteries last longer than most, and if you want even more juice, you can attach a battery grip to it, giving you 2-in-1.
  • It uses EF mount lenses, which means you have instant access to the entire canon lens range, going from really cheap or super premium.

Now that this camera has been out for over 6 years, there are a billion-and-one tutorials, guides, tips, and tricks you can find for using this camera.

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People have actually wrote a program you can install on this thing called Magic Lantern. It is installed on your SD card and unlocks loads of extra features including:

  • Focus peaking
  • Zebras for exposure
  • A built in intervolometer for shooting time lapses
  • And even frame guides if you want to shoot with cinematic bars.

Compared to a dedicated video camera, being able to change to photo mode and snap photographs is another massive feature, especially for entry-level and post graduate filmmakers. It shoots at 18 megapixels, which is great for web and really decent for printing.

And finally, photography can pay pretty well. So you have the potential to start a photography business or on the side to raise up money for more filmmaking equipment!

I’ve shot on this camera for over 4 years, and I know it like the back of my hand. Now that I’ve covered the features, let me cover the limitations, and ways to combat these limitations.

With the camera being over 6 years old, comparing it’s sharpness to something modern, you’ll notice it can be quite soft. Surprisingly, adding a little sharpness in post-production can help your footage pop. Here is a side by side of using the unsharpen mask plug-in in Premiere Pro.

The low light performance of this camera is its biggest limitation. But because of this, it forces you to add more thought to your lighting and your settings. In a way, this is a good thing for a beginner filmmaker because it’s forcing you to shape your light and improve your cinematography.

From my experience, don’t push this camera above 800 ISO. After that, the noise on your image is horrible. So instead, find ways to add more light.

Canon-T3i-Best-First-Camera-Sharpening

I promise you, you can get some great images from this, even in low light. You just need to feed your sensor what it craves – light!

As technology improves over time, there have been newer editions in this line up like the T4i, T5i, and T6i. The T6i has much better video auto focus and they have added a touch screen but the quality of the video is the same as the T3i.

So if you are a young filmmaker and want an upgrade from your phone, or you’ve just graduated college and want a cheap and cheerful camera to go with the rest of your filmmaking kit, go for the Canon T3i.

Even after 6 years, it’s the best first camera you can buy. 


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