Canon T3i vs Nikon D3
The Canon EOS Rebel T3i (called Canon 600D in some regions) and the Nikon D3 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2011 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (T3i) and a full frame (D3) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|17.9 MP, APS-C Sensor||12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO 100-6400 (100-12800)||ISO 200-6400 (100-25600)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0" LCD, 1040k dots||3.0" LCD, 922k dots|
|Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3.7 shutter flaps per second||11 shutter flaps per second|
|Not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|440 shots per battery charge||4300 shots per battery charge|
|133 x 100 x 80 mm, 570 g||160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1300 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS Rebel T3i and the Nikon D3? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon T3i and the Nikon D3. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3 is considerably larger (89 percent) than the Canon T3i. Moreover, the D3 is substantially heavier (128 percent) than the T3i. It is noteworthy in this context that the D3 is splash and dust-proof, while the T3i does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (T3i) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3).
Concerning battery life, the T3i gets 440 shots out of its LP-E8 battery, while the D3 can take 4300 images on a single charge of its EN-EL4a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the T3i, Canon provides the BG-E8 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Canon T3i»||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.1 oz||440||n||Feb 2011||599||Canon T3i|
|Nikon D3«||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||45.9 oz||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999||Nikon D3|
|Canon SL2« »||4.8 in||3.7 in||2.8 in||16.0 oz||650||n||Jun 2017||549||Canon SL2|
|Canon T6s« »||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.9 oz||440||n||Feb 2015||649||Canon T6s|
|Canon T5« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||n||Feb 2014||449||Canon T5|
|Canon SL1« »||4.6 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||14.4 oz||380||n||Mar 2013||549||Canon SL1|
|Canon T5i« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.5 oz||440||n||Mar 2013||649||Canon T5i|
|Canon M« »||4.3 in||2.6 in||1.3 in||10.5 oz||230||n||Jul 2012||599||Canon M|
|Canon T4i« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.3 oz||440||n||Jun 2012||849||Canon T4i|
|Canon T3« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||17.5 oz||700||n||Feb 2011||449||Canon T3|
|Canon T2i« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.7 oz||440||n||Feb 2010||699||Canon T2i|
|Canon T1i« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.3 oz||400||n||Mar 2009||799||Canon T1i|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||6.1 in||6.2 in||3.1 in||40.7 oz||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Nikon D4« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.6 in||47.3 oz||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||43.7 oz||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X« »||6.3 in||6.2 in||3.5 in||44.4 oz||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700« »||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||Nikon D700|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The T3i was launched at a markedly lower price (by 88 percent) than the D3, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon T3i features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D3 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D3 is 159 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon T3i offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the Nikon D3. 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 4.31μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). However, it should be noted that the T3i is much more recent (by 3 years and 5 months) than the D3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Canon T3i implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the T3i for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 17.3 inch or 65.8 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 13.8 inch or 52.7 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 11.5 inch or 43.9 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3 are 21.3 x 14.2 inch or 54.1 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inch or 43.2 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.4 inch or 36 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS Rebel T3i 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 D3 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3 offers substantially better image quality than the T3i (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 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.
|Canon T3i||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||793||65||Canon T3i|
|Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81||Nikon D3|
|Canon SL2||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||23.6||13.4||1041||79||Canon SL2|
|Canon T6s||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/30p||22.6||12.0||915||70||Canon T6s|
|Canon T5||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.9||11.3||724||63||Canon T5|
|Canon SL1||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.8||11.3||843||63||Canon SL1|
|Canon T5i||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||681||61||Canon T5i|
|Canon M||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.2||827||65||Canon M|
|Canon T4i||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||722||62||Canon T4i|
|Canon T3||APS-C||12.2||4272||2848||720/30p||21.9||11.0||755||62||Canon T3|
|Canon T2i||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||784||66||Canon T2i|
|Canon T1i||APS-C||15.1||4752||3168||1080/20p||21.7||11.5||663||63||Canon T1i|
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80||Nikon D700|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The T3i indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the T3i can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The T3i and the D3 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 viewfinder in the D3 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the T3i (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D3 has a higher magnification (0.70x 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 T3i, the Nikon D3, and comparable cameras.
|Canon T3i||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon T3i|
|Nikon D3||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3|
|Canon SL2||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon SL2|
|Canon T6s||optical||Y||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon T6s|
|Canon T5||optical||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon T5|
|Canon SL1||optical||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.9||Y||n||Canon SL1|
|Canon T5i||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon T5i|
|Canon M||none||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.3||n||n||Canon M|
|Canon T4i||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon T4i|
|Canon T3||optical||n||2.7||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Canon T3|
|Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon T2i|
|Canon T1i||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4||Y||n||Canon T1i|
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Nikon D4||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||11.0||n||n||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0||Y||n||Nikon D700|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The T3i has one, while the D3 does not. While the built-in flash of the T3i is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The T3i has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the D3 does not have a selfie-screen.
The Nikon D3 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The T3i writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D3 uses Compact Flash cards. The D3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the T3i only has one slot.
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 T3i and Nikon D3 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Canon T3i||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T3i|
|Nikon D3||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3|
|Canon SL2||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y||Canon SL2|
|Canon T6s||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Canon T6s|
|Canon T5||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T5|
|Canon SL1||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon SL1|
|Canon T5i||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T5i|
|Canon M||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon M|
|Canon T4i||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T4i|
|Canon T3||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T3|
|Canon T2i||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T2i|
|Canon T1i||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon T1i|
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Nikon D4||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D4|
|Nikon D3S||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3S|
|Nikon D3X||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3X|
|Nikon D700||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D700|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D3 (unlike the T3i) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the T3i and the D3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3 was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the T3i was followed by the Canon T4i. 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.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon T3i or the Nikon D3 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS Rebel T3i:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.1MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 922k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- More compact: Is smaller (133x100mm vs 160x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 730g or 56 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (88 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 5 months of technical progress since the D3 launch.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3:
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.53x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 3.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (4300 versus 440) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2007).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 10 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon T3i and the Nikon D3 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the T3i and the D3 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon T3i vs Nikon D3
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 Model||Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2011||August 2007|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 4999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||36.0 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||860.4 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||17.9 Megapixels||12.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3456 pixels||4256 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.31 μm||8.43 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.39 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100-6400 ISO||200-6400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100-12800 ISO||100-25600 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||65||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.5||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||793||2290|
|Screen Specs||Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.7 shutter flaps/s||11 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon T3i||Nikon D3|
|Environmental Sealing||Not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||440 shots per charge||4300 shots per charge|
133 x 100 x 80 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 in)
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
|Camera Weight||570 g (20.1 oz)||1300 g (45.9 oz)|
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