I'd definitely consider myself a beginner but I'm delving into my photography passion and learning more and more everyday to improve my craft. I'm in the process of purchasing a new digital camera and I've come across 2 in particular that I like but I don't know which is better. If it helps, I do many outdoor shoots with kids, families, engaged couples, etc. I also do close up newborn shoots.

I'm trying to decide between the Canon EOS Rebel T3I DSLR and Canon EOS 60D DSLR. The Rebel comes with both a 18-55mm lens and a EF-S 75-300mm III lens. The 60D comes with a EF-S 18-135 IS lens. Thoughts? Suggestions?


Rebels are nice for a while as a beginner but the ergonomics and viewfinder will feel constricting with serious usage. So you should get the 60D without any kit lens, and buy a fixed aperture 17-50 2.8 lens (Canon, Sigma Ex or Tamron will do fine) for allround photography indoor and outdoor alike, and a canon 85mm 1.8 prime for your closeups.

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  • Most constant aperture zooms in this focal length range are 17-50mm (Tamron, Sigma) or 17-55mm (Canon). – Michael C Jun 5 '13 at 18:26

It's really a personal decision based on cost. With cost not factored in the 60D is a higher end model than the T3i, but deciding if that improvement is worth the cost is really up to you.

The 60D has weather sealing (though minimal) so it is more durable, starts faster, has much longer battery life, has a larger viewfinder, has 9 cross type AF points rather than 1 (more accurate focusing), has a viewfinder that lets more light through (and thus is easier to see), has faster burst shooting capability, has slightly less lag from when you push the shutter to when it goes off, has slightly better image quality, has slightly better viewfinder coverage (what you see in the viewfinder is closer to the actual picture taken), has twice as fast of a max shutter speed (for stopping motion when you have enough light) and has slightly better color depth (when shooting RAW).

It is however larger and heavier.

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First - You don't have to buy the kit lenses. You can buy only the body and choose lenses that suits your photography style.

The specs of the cameras are similar. The big difference between these 2 is the ergonomics. The 60D is bigger and have more buttons that allows you a quicker control of the parameters.

The 600D (Rebel T3I) is cheaper. You can invest more money in lenses, it will improve your photos quality, much more than shooting with the 600D or the 60D with the same lens.

I suggest you'll try to hold both cameras and see which one is more comfortable to you. Eventually, you'll replace the body with a better one, however, the lenses will serve you in the longer term, so if you held the 600D and it is good enough for you, go for it and invest the rest of the money in better lenses.

If you want to compare the specs try this site (you can also find full reviews): 60D vs 600D specs

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  • 2
    Pentaprism vs pentamirror, 9 vs 1 cross type AF, faster burst shooting and better battery life are all pretty significant factors in the 60d's favor that can't simply be erased by swapping lenses. I agree it's possible to take similar quality images on either with the same lens, but it's going to be easier to get with the 60d due to those significant advantages in usability. Great point about body only options though. – AJ Henderson Jun 5 '13 at 14:19
  • From my experience, most of the beginners rarely use the fast burst. The battery life is so long these days that it's not really important factor unless you're going to a long trip in the desert and even then another battery easily solve this issue. I used the 550D (my sister's camera) and the focus system is fast enough, I guess the 600D is the same if not better. – Itay Gal Jun 5 '13 at 14:29
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    what position are you in where you have a lot of experience with beginning photographers, may I ask? – Michael Nielsen Jun 5 '13 at 14:43
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    I know that the burst feature was the main feature I used when I first got my xTi back in the day. It's super useful for trying to make sure you capture a moment when you are new and don't have your shutter timing down yet. – AJ Henderson Jun 5 '13 at 14:55
  • It's not that the 600D does not have this feature. The difference is 3.7fps vs 5.3fps. I hardly see that as a important factor when trying to choose between the 600D and the 60D. – Itay Gal Jun 5 '13 at 17:39

Before we look at the bodies, let's talk about lenses. In my opinion the lens is about 2/3 of the hardware equation and the camera body and all other accessories are the other 1/3. None of the lenses you mention are stellar performers, but the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III has the worst reputation of any Canon lens currently in production. I would forget about it in any kit you plan on buying, even if it only adds a few dollars to the price. It's just not a very good lens. On a crop body sensor the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 performs much better and is not that much more expensive when bought in a kit than the larger, heavier 75-300. For a more in depth explanation of the differences, see Canon 75-300mm f4-5.6 USM or 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS lens?

The current EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II and EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lenses are much better than some of their predecessors, but they are still on the lower end compared to many other lenses available. The best value in this lens category is the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II. It has comparable optical quality to the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS. The Tamron runs around $500, the Canon is about $1,100. For that extra $600 you get IS and better feeling build quality. I've owned the Tamron for over 4 years and used it heavily for the first 2-3 years I owned it before going full frame with my wide angle body. It is still just as good as the day it was new and, unlike any Canon lens over one year old, is still under warranty until early next year. There is also a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II VC (Vibration Control, Tamron's equivalent to IS) for about $650. Some reviewers have placed the image quality about equal to the non-VC version while others, most notably The-Digital-Picture (who never completed the partial revue posted on the website), say it is much softer. My guess is that he got a bad copy of that lens and never followed up with a replacement, something he has done several times when receiving a Canon lens that performed below expectations. I have no personal experience with that lens.

The EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS (either the original version or the new STM version) are a little better optically than the 18-55mm kit lenses and is worth the difference if bought as a kit. But since your emphasis seems to be on portrait work, using a lens with such a narrow aperture has its drawbacks.

For the portrait work you do, a prime lens such as the EF 50mm f/1.4 would serve you much better by allowing you better image quality and a wider aperture that would give much shallower depth of field. The EF 50mm f/1.8 is much cheaper, but the build quality is also much lower (I know several friends who have broken the plastic mount), the bokeh (background blur) is much harsher at apertures other than f/1.8, and the manual focus is virtually unusable.

Now, on to the two bodies in question: The EOS Rebel T3i and the EOS 60D. The image quality is very close for both of these cameras as they are built around essentially the same sensor. The major difference between the two is in usability and handling speed.

  • The 60D has a larger viewfinder that is brighter than the T3i's.
  • The 60D will shoot at 5.3fps compared to 3.9 for the T3i.
  • When saving images as RAW files, the 60D can take 16 images @ 5.3fps before the buffer is filled, while the T3i slows down after only 6 RAW files @ 3.9fps. With JPEGS the 60D can go 58 frames compared to 34 for the T3i before their respective buffers are full when shooting in burst mode.
  • At 59 milliseconds, the shutter lag of the 60D is less than 2/3 of the T3i's 90 milliseconds shutter lag.
  • The 60D, like other Canon prosumer and professional bodies, has two control dials that can be used simultaneously to change different settings without taking your eye away from the viewfinder. This is especially valuable when shooting in manual mode as you can control the shutter speed with the main dial just behind the shutter button and the aperture with the quick control dial on the back of the camera. When using Av or Tv mode, the rear dial controls exposure compensation while the front dial controls either aperture or shutter speed. The T3i has only the one main control dial just behind the shutter release button, and thus requires delving into menus to change many settings that may be changed with the push of one button and a twist of a dial on the 60D.

Ultimately you must decide what your budget will allow and work from there. The faster handling of the 60D will come in handy especially when shooting children. If I were making the decision for myself, I would buy the 60D kit you have mentioned and an EF 50mm f/1.4 lens or possibly an EF 85mm f/1.8. That list will run about $1,350. If you find the need for more reach than the 18-135mm lens provides, the EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS can be found for well less than $300 with a little web searching. If that exceeds your budget, the T3i is also available as a kit with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and you can throw in the EF 50mm f/1.8 and come in at around $900.

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