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Canon T1i vs Nikon D3100

The Canon EOS Rebel T1i (called Canon 500D in some regions) and the Nikon D3100 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in March 2009 and August 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.1 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 14.2 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon T1i
versus
Nikon D3100
Canon T1i Nikon D3100
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
15.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 14.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/20p Video 1080/24p Video
ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800) ISO 100-3,200 (100 - 12,800)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 920k dots 3.0 LCD, 230k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3.4 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
400 shots per battery charge550 shots per battery charge
129 x 98 x 62 mm, 520 g 124 x 96 x 75 mm, 505 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS Rebel T1i and the Nikon D3100? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon T1i and the Nikon D3100 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the T1i is only available in black.

Size Canon T1i vs Nikon D3100
Compare T1i versus D3100 top
Comparison T1i or D3100 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3100 is notably smaller (6 percent) than the Canon T1i. Moreover, the D3100 is slightly lighter (3 percent) than the T1i. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the T1i nor the D3100 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Yet, since both cameras are based around an APS-C sensor, their respective lenses will tend to have similar dimensions and heft. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (T1i) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3100).

Concerning battery life, the T1i gets 400 shots out of its LP-E5 battery, while the D3100 can take 550 images on a single charge of its EN-EL14 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon T1i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 520 g 400 n Mar 2009 799 i
2.
 
Nikon D3100 124 mm 96 mm 75 mm 505 g 550 n Aug 2010 599 i
3.
 
Canon T100 129 mm 102 mm 77 mm 436 g 500 n Feb 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon T6i 132 mm 101 mm 78 mm 555 g 440 n Feb 2015 749 i
5.
 
Canon T5 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 480 g 500 n Feb 2014 449 i
6.
 
Canon T5i 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 580 g 440 n Mar 2013 649 i
7.
 
Canon T4i 133 mm 100 mm 79 mm 575 g 440 n Jun 2012 849 i
8.
 
Canon T3i 133 mm 100 mm 80 mm 570 g 440 n Feb 2011 599 i
9.
 
Canon T2i 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 530 g 440 n Feb 2010 699 i
10.
 
Canon XSi 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 524 g 500 n Jan 2008 799 i
11.
 
Canon XTi 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 n Aug 2006 799 i
12.
 
Canon XT 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 n Feb 2005 899 i
13.
 
Nikon D3200 125 mm 96 mm 77 mm 505 g 540 n Apr 2012 599 i
14.
 
Nikon D5100 128 mm 97 mm 79 mm 560 g 660 n Apr 2011 749 i
15.
 
Nikon D7000 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499 i
16.
 
Nikon D3000 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 n Jul 2009 599 i
17.
 
Nikon D5000 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749 i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D3100 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the T1i, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D3100 is 7 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (T1i) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon T1i and Nikon D3100 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon T1i offers a higher resolution of 15.1 megapixels, compared with 14.2 MP of the Nikon D3100. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.69μm versus 5.01μm for the D3100). Moreover, it should be noted that the D3100 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 4 months) than the T1i, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The Canon EOS Rebel T1i has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3100 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-12800.

T1i versus D3100 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3100 has a markedly higher DXO score than the T1i (overall score 4 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV of lower dynamic range, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.5663 63
2.
 
Nikon D3100 APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.3919 67
3.
 
Canon T100 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.4695 63
4.
 
Canon T6i APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.712.0919 71
5.
 
Canon T5 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.3724 63
6.
 
Canon T5i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.2681 61
7.
 
Canon T4i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.711.2722 62
8.
 
Canon T3i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.5793 65
9.
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.5784 66
10.
 
Canon XSi APS-C 12.2 4272 2848none21.910.8692 61
11.
 
Canon XTi APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.0664 62
12.
 
Canon XT APS-C 8.0 3456 2304none21.810.8637 60
13.
 
Nikon D3200 APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.21131 81
14.
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.61183 80
15.
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.91167 80
16.
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.1563 62
17.
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.5868 72

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the D3100 provides a faster frame rate than the T1i. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/24p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/20p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The T1i and the D3100 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the T1i has a higher magnification than the one of the D3100 (0.54x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon T1i, the Nikon D3100, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
2.
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon T100optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
4.
 
Canon T6ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
5.
 
Canon T5optical n 3.0 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
6.
 
Canon T5ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
7.
 
Canon T4ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
8.
 
Canon T3ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
9.
 
Canon T2ioptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
10.
 
Canon XSioptical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
11.
 
Canon XTioptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
12.
 
Canon XToptical n 1.8 115 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
13.
 
Nikon D3200optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
14.
 
Nikon D5100optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
15.
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
16.
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
17.
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n

The T1i writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the D3100 uses SDXC cards.

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Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS Rebel T1i and Nikon D3100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon T100Ymonomono--mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon T6iYstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon T5Ymonomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Canon T5iYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
7.
 
Canon T4iYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
8.
 
Canon T3iYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon T2iYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon XSiY----mini2.0---
11.
 
Canon XTiY-----2.0---
12.
 
Canon XTY-----2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D3200YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D5100YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
15.
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
16.
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
17.
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---

Both the T1i and the D3100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The T1i was replaced by the Canon T2i, while the D3100 was followed by the Nikon D3200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon T1i or the Nikon D3100 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS Rebel T1i:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.54x vs 0.53x).
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.4 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2009).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3100:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/24p versus 1080/20p).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (550 versus 400) out of a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 4 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3100 emerges as the winner of the match-up (6 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

T1i 04:06 D3100

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon T1i and the Nikon D3100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the T1i or the D3100. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon T1i..+ +74/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799 i
2.
 
Nikon D31005/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599 i
3.
 
Canon T100..o..3.5/53.5/5 Feb 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon T6i5/5..75/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749 i
5.
 
Canon T53/5+..4/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449 i
6.
 
Canon T5i....76/1004.5/54.5/5 Mar 2013 649 i
7.
 
Canon T4i4/5+ +77/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2012 849 i
8.
 
Canon T3i3/5o77/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2011 599 i
9.
 
Canon T2i..+ +77/1004/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699 i
10.
 
Canon XSi..+ ++ +4/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799 i
11.
 
Canon XTi..+ ++ +o4/5 Aug 2006 799 i
12.
 
Canon XT..80/100+ +o.. Feb 2005 899 i
13.
 
Nikon D32005/5+ +73/1004.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599 i
14.
 
Nikon D51005/5+ +76/1004.5/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749 i
15.
 
Nikon D70004/5..80/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499 i
16.
 
Nikon D3000..+72/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599 i
17.
 
Nikon D5000..+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon T1i:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3100:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon T1i vs Nikon D3100

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon T1i Nikon D3100
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date March 2009 August 2010
    Launch Price USD 799 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon T1i Nikon D3100
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 23.1 x 15.4 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 355.74 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 27.8 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 15.1 Megapixels 14.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4752 x 3168 pixels 4608 x 3072 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.69 μm 5.01 μm
    Pixel Density 4.53 MP/cm2 3.98 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/20p Video 1080/24p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 12,800 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 EXPEED 2
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 63 67
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.7 22.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.5 11.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 663 919
    Screen Specs Canon T1i Nikon D3100
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.54x 0.53x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon T1i Nikon D3100
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3.4 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations100 000 actuations
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon T1i Nikon D3100
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon T1i Nikon D3100
    Battery Type LP-E5 EN-EL14
    Battery Life (CIPA)400 shots per charge550 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 129 x 98 x 62 mm
    (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
    124 x 96 x 75 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 520 g (18.3 oz) 505 g (17.8 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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