Canon Digital SLRs > Rebel T3i 600D Guide

Canon Rebel T3i 600D Guide

canon rebel T3i 600D
Release Date: March 2011
List Price: $750 USD

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i 600D packs a lot of features into a relatively small frame.

I say "relatively" because no digital SLR can be as small as a compact camera — but the Canon 600D does a good job of making itself portable.

Weighing in at a little over a pound (18.7oz or 530g), the 600D can be easily carried aorund for a day of shooting, provided you attach a modest lens to it.

What's surprising is that even though the camera is compact, it is packed with features to satisfy all kinds of photographers. From landscapes to macros to portraits, the Canon 600D does it all.

Just a beginner? Not to worry — the 600D has plenty of settings to A) help you take great shots from the moment you start using the camera and to B) help you learn what all that digital SLR jargon really means.

Let's take a closer look in this Canon Rebel T3i 600D guide at what makes this camera so versatile.

Table of Contents

Canon 600D Image Sample

Flexible LCD

Canon 600D Image Sample

The Canon T3i 600D is the first Digital Rebel camera to feature a flexible LCD screen. And what a flexible LCD it is.

The LCD screen flips out to the left side of the camera body (when viewed from the rear) and it rotates so you can view it from high above or well below the camera.

Yes, this is very useful for taking pictures from ground level or to get the camera above the heads of a group.

Even if you don't imagine yourself taking pictures from all sorts of strange angles , you might start to once you have a flexible LCD to use. While I still prefer composing my images using the camera viewfinder, I appreciated being able to hold the camera at waist level for some unique photo opportunities .

The flexible LCD also makes a huge difference if you want to use the camera for movies.

When shooting video, I often held the 600D at chest level or below. The flexible LCD ensured that I could maintain my composition without the camera directly in front of my face.

Access to Movie Mode

The main problem that I have with this and other Canon digital SLRs is how you access the movie mode.

You can't capture videos in any of the photography modes - you have to turn the main mode dial on the top of the camera to select Movie Mode.

Canon 600D Image Sample

While you CAN capture still images once in video mode, you have no control over settings like aperture and shutter speed. If you want that back, you have to turn the main mode dial to a photography mode.

Why it's a particular problem for me is because I often want to switch quickly from shooting stills to video and then back again.

For example, I used the 600D to capture my children opening their holiday presents. While I started out shooting stills, their reactions to some of their gifts (and their comments) were best captured with a short video. Then I'd go back to shooting stills.

Needless to say, I spent the better part of the morning twisting the main mode dial from photo mode to video mode and back to photo mode again.

I did get used to it after awhile, but why not make access to the video capture feature a bit easier, like Nikon does?

On Nikon cameras, there's a dedicated button on the back of the camera to access live view mode. Press the same button again, and the camera starts recording video, regardless of the setting on the main mode dial.

Overall, it creates a lot less wear and tear on the main mode dial for those of us who jump back and forth between stills and video a lot.

LCD Clarity

Canon 600D Image Sample

I've already talked about the LCD flexibility in this Canon T3i 600D guide — now let's talk about how amazingly clear it is.

The sharpness and color fidelity of any digital SLR screen is represented by the number of "dots" included in the screen.

Older LCD screens have between 300,000 and 900,000 dots. The LCD on the Canon 600D has 1.04 million dots, the same as the much more expensive Canon 60D.

Describing the clarity of this LCD in words and pictures really doesn't do it justice — for maximum effect, you should get your hands on a demo model at your local camera retailer and see for yourself.

The best part about an LCD that's this clear is that you can instantly tell when there's motion blur in your photo or when your focus point is off.

After you've captured a few sharp, well-focused images, you'll be able to tell if other photos aren't 100% sharp. The crispness of the display makes even slight image blur immediately apparent.

ISO Performance / Auto ISO

High ISO settings are what allow digital SLR cameras to take clear photos in very dim light without needing a flash.

Canon 600D Image Sample
ISO 2000 (click for larger image)

Unfortunately, the higher the ISO setting, the more image noise/speckling/grain you'll see in your digital images...unless you're using the Canon 600D.

Over the years, Canon has figured out a way to keep high ISO noise to an absolute minimum, to the point where you can safely use ISO 6400 and still have a tough time seeing grain unless you enlarge your images to 100% size on your computer monitor.

The ISO setting on the Canon 600D goes all the way up to 12800 and yes, once you get that high, image noise is pretty bad.

However, if it allows you to take a photo that's essentially sharp and free of image blur, it might be worth it.

Over the years that I've used digital SLR cameras, I've always set my ISO value by hand. I like being able to specify exactly HOW much noise appears in my photos.

However, taking shots for this Canon 600D guide, I found myself using AUTO ISO more often than not. With AUTO ISO, you specify the maximum ISO the camera will ever use, and then just let it pick whatever ISO it wants to achieve a decent shutter speed.

For example, I was taking pictures outside in my backyard where there was plenty of light. The camera automatically selected ISO 100, since nothing higher than that was needed to achieve shutter speeds fast enough to prevent blur.

When I stepped inside and kept taking pictures, the camera instantly adjusted to ISO 1600 to preserve a fast shutter speed.

Since image noise is managed so well with the Canon 600D I really wasn't too worried about the camera using ISO 1600 for any of the shots that I took. Using AUTO ISO meant that I could stop worrying about my shutter speed and just focus on taking pictures.

Beginner Modes

One of the things that I really like about the Canon T3i is that it has advanced features that experienced photographers like, but it also appeals to entry-level photographers with a variety of beginner modes.

If you never want to adjust your camera settings by yourself, then you can leave the camera in A+ mode, also known as "Scene Priority Auto".

You can also select from a variety of Scene Modes (depending on your subject matter), including Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports and Night Portrait.

If you'd like some more creative freedom without having to learn a bunch of SLR jargon, you can use "Creative Auto" mode or CA for short.

In CA mode, you have manual control over 4 settings, while the camera handles the rest.

  1. Color Mode — allows you to select a color tone to match your subject (Standard, Vivid, Monochrome, etc.)
  2. Background Blur — move the slider to select from "more blur" to "less blur"
  3. Drive Mode — choose between single shot or continuous shooting
  4. Flash — turn the flash on or off

The two images below show the different types of looks you can achieve without having to adjust 10 individual menu settings.

For both images, I selected the monochrome color option, and then adjusted the color slider to add a slight orange (sepia) tint to the entire photo.

The image on the left is the result of selecting a high background blur option, while the one on the right shows less background blur.

Canon 600D Image Sample Canon 600D Image Sample

Movie Mode

As I mentioned toward the beginning of this Canon 600D guide, you have to turn the main mode dial to video to engage the movie mode.

Once you select movie mode, the camera automatically switches to live view mode — you can't use the viewfinder to compose your epic film, you have to use the LCD.

In movie mode, you're going to have the same issues with slow autofocus as you do in live view mode, so be prepared for this.

In the end, I discovered that it was just easier to focus manually if I was trying to track a subject moving about in the frame. I also focused manually if I was walking with the camera and following a moving subject.

Really, the video produced by the 600D looks the best when you treat the camera as if it were shooting a motion picture. The hallmark of professional video is that the camera is not bobbing around, it's in one spot.

While I was able to achieve some pretty steady video holding the camera in my hands, I would really recommend a tripod if you'd like to use the camera extensively for video. I'd also suggest not trying to zoom too much unless you have a very smooth lens — the results are pretty jerky otherwise.

The Full High Definiton 1080p video is - as you might expect - pretty spectacular, especially when played back on a High Definition television set. It's easy to attach the 600D to current HDTVs using an optional mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.

There are four movie settings that you can select on the 600D that impact both the resolution and the frame rate:

  1. 1080p 30 — the size of the video image is 1920 x 1080 widescreen, suitable for playback on HDTVs and large computer monitors. Video is captured at a rate of 30 frames per second, which is like traditional video cameras. This is the default setting.
  2. 1080p 24 — the size is still 1920 x 1080 but now the frame rate is 24 frames per second, more like film cameras and is supposed to make your videos look more "cinematic"
  3. 720p 60 — the size of the video is reduced to 1280 x 720 and the frame rate bumps up to 60 per second. If you have a video editing program that is capable of playing this back at 30 frames per second, you can capture some interesting slow-motion shots
  4. 480 30 — at 640 x 480 size and 30 frames per second, this mode is best if you intend to upload your video since file size is kept to a miminum

A notable feature of the Canon T3i 600D is that you can manually control both the exposure of the video image as well as the audio volume level. This allows you to create movies that look quite dark in broad daylight or you can also over-expose for a washed-out look.

In addition to the manual control over audio volume, the 600D also has a setting to cancel out wind noise which can be easily picked up on a blustery day by the microphone placed on the front of the camera.

Autofocus in Live View/Video Mode

There are some gotchas to using autofocus in live view and video mode that you need to be aware of before you run out and buy a T3i 600D.

First, let's talk about live view mode. In live view mode, you compose photos using the camera's LCD screen instead of the viewfinder. You can't use both at the same time - when you're in live view mode, the viewfinder is blacked out.

There are two autofocus modes in live view, and neither one is perfect.

In the first mode, live view is on constantly while you autofocus. The catch? Autofocus in this mode is as slow - if not slower - than some compact digital cameras. Depending on the available light and the subject, it takes forever for the camera to lock focus.

In the second mode, the LCD goes dark (briefly) while the camera uses its multi-point autofocus (the same one it uses when you look through the viewfinder). The good news is that in this mode autofocus is quite quick. The bad news is that the LCD keeps going dark, making it hard to track a moving subject.

I resorted to using manual focus for most of my live view photos, since there was no screen blackout and I could quickly adjust focus for moving subjects.

I had to do the same thing when taking movies since the movie mode ONLY functions when the camera is in live view mode. While you can try to have the camera autofocus during movie capture I found it much too slow to keep up with subjects moving about. If you only take video of non-moving subjects you will be fine, but otherwise you may soon get quite skilled at shifting focus manually.

Focus Zoom

If you are into closeup or macro photography, then the T3i 600D has a feature that will help.

In live view mode, you can zoom the display, increasing the size of the image on the LCD. This helps to ensure that your focus is accurate, especially when you're working up close.

Canon 600D Image Sample

For the flower image above, an odd angle meant that I could not use the viewfinder to compose — I had to use live view.

Since it was hard for me to tell if the flower petals were in focus, I used the zoom feature and then lightly tweaked the focus manually to get it right.

The only thing to remember about this feature is that it is not taking the zoomed in photo you see on the LCD - that view is just so you can adjust your focus.

Creative Filters

As you can tell from other parts of this Canon Rebel T3i 600D guide, there are plenty of ways that you can adjust the camera settings to create unique-looking images.

You can take this one step further with the 600D's built-in "creative filters". These filters let you apply popular effects to your photos without needing to spend a lot of time in front of your computer.

The four creative filters available on the Canon 600D are: grainy black and white, soft focus, fish-eye, toy camera and miniature (diorama).

You can apply a creative filter to any photo that's on the memory card inside the camera, and the 600D creates a duplicate image so that the original image is preserved.

Grainy Black & White
Canon 600D Image Sample Canon 600D Image Sample
Soft Focus
Canon 600D Image Sample Canon 600D Image Sample
Canon 600D Image Sample Canon 600D Image Sample
Toy Camera
Canon 600D Image Sample Canon 600D Image Sample
Canon 600D Image Sample Canon 600D Image Sample


With the exception of autofocus in live view mode, the Canon T3i 600D is exceptionally fast and responsive.

The 9-point autofocus locks on quickly to all kinds of subjects, whether they are stationary or running by. In continuous drive mode, you can capture 3.7 photos per second by pressing and holding the shutter release button.

To give this system a good workout, I tried it out on my dog chasing his ball in the backyard. He's a good subject for this sort of thing — he never stops moving, and when he runs, it's at top speed.

While my compositions left something to be desired (it's hard to figure out which direction the dog will go next) the T3i 600D had no problem capturing him in full motion.

Canon 600D Image Sample

It also did a great job when I took some shots of my daughter on a trampoline, freezing her in midair as if floating . I tried using live view and manual focus at first for these shots but soon realized it wasn't fast enough to keep up.

Wireless Flash

Since most people probably won't immediately use this feature of the camera, I left it for last. Even though it's here at the end, it's pretty cool.

You can use the pop-up flash on the Canon Rebel T3i 600D to wirelessly fire other Canon flash units like the 270EX II, 430 EX II or the 580 EX II.

In the camera's flash menu, you specify that you want the pop-up flash to act as the commander for the other external flash units. Turn on your external flash, set it to "receiver" mode and start firing away.

So long as there is a line of sight between the pop-up flash and your external flash unit, the other flash will go off every time you take a picture.

It's a quick and easy way to get off-camera flash - and once you get used to the look of off-camera flash, you'll never go back to on-camera flash again.


I have owned Canon digital SLR cameras for years. Since Canon was one of the first companies to provide digital SLRs, I bought in to their cameras and lenses early on.

Having made the investment in lenses, I have continued to own Canon digital SLRs over the years, but I rarely upgrade my cameras because they suit me fine.

However, when the day comes that my current Canon DSLR finally takes its last shot, I will likely replace it with a T3i 600D.

There's a lot that I like about this camera:

  • Compared to other SLRs I've used, it's small and lightweight
  • The camera controls are intuitive and easy to access
  • The camera offers plenty of creative control to create unique-looking images
  • The flexible LCD is exceptionally clear and bright
  • It's possible - with some planning and practice - to capture movies that look professional
  • High ISO images are remarkably free of image noise/grain

Yes, the camera does have its drawbacks: the main one being the constant spinning of the mode dial to get from photo mode to video and back again. However, this is only an issue if you're always being spontaneous with your movie capture.

If you stay in movie mode for an extended period of time, or are just focused on taking pictures, then you won't spend all that much time twisting the dial back and forth.

Canon 600D Image Sample

Another drawback is the slowness of autofocus in live view and video mode. You may find - as I did - that it's faster and easier to focus manually to track subjects moving around.

The focus zoom option helps if you're trying to zero in on small non-moving subjects, but it's not much help if your subject is jumping about.

For subjects in motion, you pretty much have to resort to using the viewfinder so that you can take full advantage of the T3i 600D's 9-point autofocus and its 3.7 photo-per-second continuous shot speed.

In general, it's a great portable option for photographers on the go, and an excellent choice for "family" photographers who are looking for something that can capture all of life's little moments.

Canon Rebel T3i 600D Packages, Pricing and Accessories

Canon Rebel T3i 600D Photo Samples

See more of the photos that I captured for this guide.


Additional Information

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