Canon EOS 1100D Review
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The Canon EOS 1100D (also known as the Digital Rebel T3) is the new entry-level model in Canon's extensive range of digital SLR cameras, replacing the 3 year old 1000D model. Aimed at first-time DSLR users, the 1100D inherits features from both the equally new and more expensive EOS 600D and the previous 1000D. It has a 12 megapixel CMOS sensor, 2.7 inch LCD screen, 3fps continuous shooting mode, 9 autofocus points, 63-zone iFCL exposure metering, ISO 100-6400 sensitivity, on-screen Feature Guide, and 720p HD video capture.
The Canon EOS 1100D is priced at £419.99 / €499.99 body only, £459.00 / €549.00 with the non-stabilised EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens, £499.99 / €599.99 / $599 with the new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens, and £459.00 / €549.00 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III lens.
For the first time for an EOS camera, the 1100D is also available in 3 different colours other than black - red, silver and brown - all with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II lens. The red EOS 1100D is available exclusively from Comet in early April 2011, priced at £499.00 / €599.00. The silver EOS 1100D is available exclusively from Jessops in early April 2011, priced at £499.00 / €599.00. The brown EOS 1100D is available exclusively from Harvey Norman's in Ireland in early April 2011, priced at £499.00 / €599.00.
Ease of Use
The Canon EOS 1100D / Rebel T3 is a small and light DSLR camera with an all-plastic shell, weighing in at just under 500g with the battery and memory card fitted and measuring 129.9 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm. In terms of build quality, the Canon EOS 1100D / T3 feels more than solid enough for an entry-level DSLR, on par with the more expensive 600D but as you'd expect not in the same league as the semi-professional EOS 60D and 7D models. It has a narrow, mildly uncomfortable hand-grip that unfortunately doesn't have any textured surface to aid your grip, with the entire body finished in an appealingly glossy but rather too smooth finish. Like all of Canon's APS-C digital SLR cameras, the EOS 1100D / T3 is compatible with the manufacturer's entire line-up of lenses, including both EF and EF-S glass. When changing lenses, EF lenses need to be aligned with the red dot on the lens mount, whereas EF-S lenses must be aligned with the white mark.
The 1100D's control layout is actually very similar to the 600D, with a few changes that for the most part make more sense for the beginner target audience. Virtually all of the important controls are located together at the right-hand side of the rear of the camera, rather than more liberally scattered around the body, which allows for a more straight-forward transition from compact to DSLR. Taking advantage of the extra room allowed by the smaller, fixed LCD screen, the buttons are also larger than on the 600D, again another subtle and effective concession to the 1100D's market. All of the buttons are clearly labelled but, being flush to the body, can be a little hard to press at times. We did miss the 600D's top-mounted ISO control, though, which has been rather inexplicably replaced by the release button for the pop-up flash.
The EOS 1100D has a rather small (2.7 inch) and low-resolution (230k dot) fixed LCD screen, one of the main ways that it achieves its budget price-point. The bright Pentamirror optical viewfinder offers 95% coverage of the scene, 0.80x magnification and dioptre control for glasses wearers. Depth of Field Preview is available when assigned to the SET button via Custom Function 8-5.
We tested the EOS 1100D with the original EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens, which offers a fairly standard focal range for a kit lens and crucially includes image stabilisation. This is important for Canon, as competitors like Sony, Olympus and Pentax all offer image stabilisation in their DSLRs. The difference between Canon (and Nikon) and the others is that Sony, Olympus and Pentax have opted for stabilisation via the camera body, rather than the lens, which therefore works with their entire range of lenses. Canon's system is obviously limited by which lenses you choose, but it does offer the slight advantage of showing the stabilising effect through the viewfinder. Canon and Nikon also claim that a lens-based anti-shake system is inherently better too, but the jury's out on that one.
The EOS 1100D's top-mounted shooting mode dial has a multitude of letters and icons. The so-called Creative Zone features Programmed Auto (P), Shutter Priority (Tv), Aperture Priority (Av), Manual (M) and A-DEP modes. The first four of these need no explanation, but A-DEP might be new to those who have never used a Canon SLR camera before. The abbreviation stands for Automatic Depth of Field, as in this mode, the camera will pick an f-stop that allows all the subjects covered by the nine AF points to be sharply rendered, and will also calculate and set the necessary shutter speed on its own.
There's a regular Full Auto mode rather than the cleverer fully-automatic Scene Intelligent Auto mode that the 600D offers, something that we would have liked to have seen featured on this camera too, and it also lacks the 600D's range of creative filters. The 1100D does have the same Creative Auto mode, though, which allows you to change a few key settings using the LCD screen via a simple slider system for changing the aperture and exposure compensation, or Background and Exposure as the camera refers to them. Creative Auto has been extended with the introduction of Basic +. Essentially a more extreme version of the well-established Picture Styles, this offers nine options including Standard, Vivid, Soft, Warm, Intense, Cool, Brighter, Darker and Monochrome, all of which can be interactively tweaked to suit your taste.
There's a host of scene modes including Flash Off, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait and, oddly enough for an interchangeable-lens camera, a close-up mode as well. The majority of these scene modes allow users who do not want to fiddle with shutter speeds, f-stops, white balance or ISO settings to let the camera know what type of photo they are about to take, which helps the EOS 1100D / T3 to optimise these settings for that particular subject. We struggled to see the point of the close-up mode though, as the quality of one's close-up shots depends more on the use of the right kinds of accessory - such as a macro lens and possibly a ring flash - than any camera setting. The new Feature Guide in the EOS 1100D’s menu system usefully provides a brief description of each setting and its effect.
In the Creative Zone, the photographer gets to set a lot of shooting variables, including white balance, sensitivity, AF mode, exposure compensation, drive mode and so on. Most of these functions have their own dedicated buttons on the back of the camera, while others can be set on the interactive status screen accessible via the Q (quick control) button. Examples for the latter include file quality settings, metering mode, flash exposure compensation and Auto Lighting Optimiser.
The available white balance settings are Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash and Custom; there is no way to enter a Kelvin value manually. You can fine-tune any of the presets using the White Balance Correction feature. The ISO speed can be changed by pressing the ISO button and turning the control wheel or using the arrow buttons on the navigation pad. You do not have to hold down the button while changing the setting. The ISO speed can be set from ISO 100 to ISO 6,400 in full-stop increments, and Auto ISO is also available. The chosen ISO speed is also displayed in the viewfinder.
The EOS 1100D / T3 offers a range of three auto focus modes (One Shot, AI Focus and AI Servo) and there's a 9-point AF module with a cross-type centre point and eight line-type AF sensors. One Shot AF is equivalent to AF-S, while AI Servo is the same thing as AF-C on other manufacturers' models. AI Focus is similar to what some other camera makers call AF-A in that it automatically switches from One Shot AF to AI Servo if a still subject starts moving. As regards AF point selection, it can be done manually by hitting the AF point selector button first, then using the four-way controller to select the AF point. The chosen/active AF point lights up in red in the viewfinder. In use, we have found the AF system to be pretty quick even with the kit lens, although the focus motor was a bit loud for our tastes (not surprisingly, given that the 18-55mm IS lens does not have USM).
There are a number of drive modes available on the Canon EOS 1100D / T3. These include Single Shot, Continuous Shooting, Self-timer and Remote Controlled Shooting. In Continuous Shooting mode, the camera can take pictures at a speed of 3 frames per second for up to 830 Large Fine JPEGs or 2fps for up to 5 RAW files. This is slower than the EOS 600D, especially if you're shooting in RAW, although the massive 830 shot buffer for JPEGs should cover most eventualities!
The metering modes offered by the camera include Evaluative, Centre-weighted and Partial, which uses 10% of the frame area - the 1100D doesn't have a spot metering option. In use, we found that the Evaluative metering mode provided fairly good exposures with a variety of subjects, thanks to the advanced 63-zone metering sensor. When shooting contrasty scenes, it is worth using the Evaluative mode in conjunction with the Auto Lighting Optimiser feature, accessible by hitting the Q button and using the interactive status panel.
The Live View button is within easy reach of your right thumb. Using this button it is easy to enter Live View, but it takes a surprising amount of time for the camera to actually display the live image (think several seconds). A grid line display and very useful live histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure, and you can zoom in by up to 10x magnification of the image displayed on the LCD screen. Focusing in Live View is achieved via a half-press of the shutter release as for normal shooting.
There are three auto focus options in Live View, including Quick, Live and Face Detection. The use of the Quick mode briefly interrupts the live view feed as the mirror is momentarily lowered so that the AF sensors can be engaged, and it also involves a lot of mirror slapping for the same reason. Live mode circumvents this problem by employing a contrast-detect method. While this is slower, and sometimes it may still take up to three seconds for the camera to lock focus in this mode, we found that about half a second was enough most of the time. This is still too slow for anything that moves - use the optical finder and the regular auto focus module for that type of shooting - but it is perfectly OK with still subjects. Obviously, you can also opt to focus manually, and as noted above, you can even magnify into the live image by up to 10x, which allows very accurate focusing.
Live View is also used for the Canon EOS 1100D / T3's movie mode. There's a choice of 24 or 30fps when shooting video at 720p 1280x720 pixels. Note that the available frame rates are also dependent on what you have set in the menu under "Video system": NTSC or PAL. If you turn the mode dial to the position denoted by the movie camera icon, the camera will enter Live View automatically. Before you start filming, you need to focus on the subject either manually or using auto focus as described above. You can't set the aperture, shutter speed and ISO manually as on the 600D, with the camera only offering automatic exposure control, but you can still use functions like AE lock and exposure compensation if you feel a need for it.
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Once everything is set up, you start filming by hitting the Live View/Record button on the back of the camera. The EOS 1100D / T3 will not automatically adjust focus during filming, but you can choose to initiate auto focus at any time while recording a clip. However, be warned that this can do more harm than good, as the microphone can pick up the sound of the focus motor, and the subject might even go out of focus for a few seconds. Setting a small aperture and relying on depth of field for focus is a better idea. Of course you may wish to utilise the DSLR's ability to produce footage with a shallow depth of field, but in that case, it might be a wise idea to purchase a couple of third-party accessories that make manual focusing and focus pulling easier.
The EOS 1100D's has a built-in pop-up flash with a guide number of 9.2 at ISO 100, coverage up to 17mm focal length, X-sync speed of 1/200sec and a recycle time of 2 seconds. There's also the expected hotshoe for use with one of Canon's external flashguns. There is a built-in microphone for mono recording, but you can't connect an external microphone for stereo recording. The HDMI port allows you to connect the EOS 1100D directly to an HDTV set. One notable omission is the lack of the EOS integrated cleaning system, which means that you'll need to manually clean the camera's sensor more often, something that we suspect most of the EOS 1100Ds owners will not even attempt.
The camera runs on a proprietary LP-E10 battery which, according to measurements that conform with CIPA standards, provides enough power for an impressive 750 images when using the optical viewfinder. The battery can be charged in the supplied LC-E10(E) charger. Also in the box is a neck strap, a software CD and a user manual, which Canon thankfully provides in printed form, in several languages.
Despite its budget price-tag, the Canon EOS 1100D / Rebel T3 is a responsive and intuitive DSLR that offers many of the key features of its bigger and more expensive sibling, the 600D / T3i, in a smaller and lighter body. This concludes our evaluation of the EOS 1100D's ergonomics, handling, feature set and performance. Let's take a look at its Image Quality next.