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I know the T3 is cheaper, but I do want versitality in a camera. My main focus is to take close ups and group photos as well as sports. This is all new to me and I do not want to be disappointed by buying the cheaper one it the more expensive will truly worth the investment in the long run. I also do not want to buy the T3i if the T3 will give me at least 10x13 quality portraits.

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Either one will work, as will any DSLR produced in the past — I am not making this up — decade. 8x10 is not very demanding. In terms of pure pixel resolution from the sensor, you only need about 1600x2000 for a decent 8x10 — and that's 3 megapixels.

The Canon T3 and T3i (a.k.a. 1100D and 600D) are both way beyond the technical requirements for that, such that everything else being equal you probably can't tell the difference at 8x10 even when looking closely. At the slightly larger 10x13, the higher resolution of the T3i may be apparent, but it's going to be secondary to more important factors. These are:

  • Technique: use a tripod, or high enough shutter speeds to freeze camera shake. Make sure you nail focus, especially if using a wider aperture.
  • Lighting: noise at higher ISOs will make resolution irrelevant, and the more expensive T3i is just negligably better in this area (practically speaking, the noise performance is the same). Plus, for portraits overall, good lighting is more important than the absolute level of detail you've captured.
  • Lens: the basic kit lens that's bundled with these cameras is a good deal for the price, but isn't anything amazing. To really push the limits of either camera, you'll want something better. But, it's still perfectly technically fine for 8x10s. (It's those sports photos where it will really disappoint.)
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What you are asking for has little to do with the cameras. The image quality of the T3i is marginally better than the T3, although you can print larger with the T3i.

What you need to focus on is getting good lenses and if saving money on the camera lets you get better lenses for your needs, then that is what you should do. You need to look for bright quality lenses at suitable focal-length (usually 50 or 85mm for portraits and something wider for groups).

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Both of these cameras have the resolution needed for printing at much higher sizes. These can both print at over 24 x 30 with few, if any issues with quality. The real deciding factor is the other features. The T3i has more features, such as a larger, higher resolution, swiveling screen. If you are a beginner with a limited budget, I would recommend getting the T3 and using the savings to upgrade to a better lens. At these price levels, the quality of the lens is the biggest difference in image quality.

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The T3i has many better features than the T3, I just didn't list them all here. – Evan Pak Nov 26 '12 at 0:29

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