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What Are the Differences Between the Canon EOS Rebel t3i and t4i Digital Cameras?

Updated on March 16, 2013
View this Slideshare for a visual depiction of the differences between the Canon t3i and t4i.
View this Slideshare for a visual depiction of the differences between the Canon t3i and t4i. | Source

Canon is constantly putting out new versions of its digital cameras. The Canon EOS Rebel t1i, for example, has gone through four iterations in the last few years. If you're interested, this hub tracks the changes in the cameras over the years.

While there are some minor differences between each version of the camera, the long list of specifications and features can make it confusing to determine whether you need to drop the extra money to buy the latest version. If you're shopping for a Canon digital camera this year, you'll probably find yourself looking at the Canon EOS Rebel t3i (600D) and the Canon EOS Rebel t4i (650D).

So what are the differences between the Canon t3i and t4i? Take a look at the chart below and then keep reading for an explanation of each difference.

Key Differences Between the Canon t3i and Canon t4i

Feature
Canon t3i / 600D
Canon t4i / 650d
Image Processor
DIGIC 4
DIGIC 5
Max. ISO Sensitivity
6400 ISO
12800 ISO
FPS in Continuous Mode
3.7 FPS
5.0 FPS
Continuous Autofocus in Video
Nope
Yup
Autofocus Mode
One Cross-Type Point
Nine Cross-Type Points
Touchscreen LCD
Nope
Yup

Difference #1: New Image Processor

The first, and perhaps biggest, difference between the Canon t3i and t4i is the new image processor.

The Canon t4i is the first of the entry level cameras to include the new DIGIC 5 image processor. This is quite a bit faster than the old DIGIC 4 image process (found in the Canon t1i, t2i, and t3i).

This enables the camera to process captured images more quickly, which leads to greater ISO possibilities and a more effective continuous shooting mode. This does not, however, equate to better image quality (except in terms of noise reduction for high ISO images).

Action photography, like basketball, can really benefit from the higher ISO sensitivity and the increased shooting speed in continuous mode.
Action photography, like basketball, can really benefit from the higher ISO sensitivity and the increased shooting speed in continuous mode. | Source

Difference #2: Improved ISO Performance and Shooting Speed

Once upon a time, I owned a Canon EOS Rebel XT. It could shoot at a whopping 1600 ISO. Boy, have things changed in the last five or six years!

A major difference between these two cameras is that the Canon t4i can shoot at 12800 ISO standard, while the Canon t3i can only reach 6400 ISO standard. Each camera also has an expandable mode that increases the ISO by one stop. Personally, I find that these expandable modes lead to exceptionally high levels of noise, and I try to avoid them.

For some people, this extra level of ISO sensitivity will be meaningless. If you routinely shoot in low light or high speed situations, though, you will love this feature. The extra step of ISO will give you much greater control over shutter speed and aperture to allow you to take the best photos in challenging lighting conditions.

The Canon t4i also has an enhanced continuous mode. It shoots at 5 fps, compared to the 3.7 fps of the Canon t3i. This is something that will only matter to action photographers, but it's a significant 50% increase in shooting speed.

Difference #3: Autofocus Capabilities

The Canon t4i / 650D includes two improvements in focusing over the Canon t3i / 600D.

Each camera has 9 autofocus points. However, the newer camera includes 9 cross-type autofocus points while the older camera only has 1 cross-type point. These cross-type points are more accurate when determining focus. Effectively this helps you focus much more effectively and efficiently.

If you're into video, then the other autofocus improvement will appeal to you. The Canon t4i is the first entry level Canon camera to include the ability to continuously autofocus while recording video.

With older cameras, you could use the autofocus before you started shooting, but the autofocus was disabled while recording.

Difference #4: Improved UI and Touch Screen

The final difference involves the user interface.

It may be more of a gimmick than an actual "improvement," but the LCD screen on the Canon t4i now includes a touch screen. This lets you navigate some menus and change some settings by touching the screen instead of using the buttons.

While suppose this could be more intuitive for new users, I can't help but thinking that it's less efficient for more experienced users. You'll be forced to leave the rear display on, even if you're not shooting in live view, drawing down on the battery power.

But hey, touch screens are cool.

Another minor UI improvement is that you now use the On / Off switch to move into video mode instead of turning the mode dial all the way around. This makes it quicker to move in and out of video mode.

So Which Camera Should You Buy...?

Well, that's a good question, and that falls a bit outside the scope of this hub. It's already fairly long, and my intent here was simple to identify the key differences between the Canon t3i and the Canon t4i.

Armed with that information, you should be in a better position to decide which camera is best for you. You'll want to think about each difference, and then you'll want to decide whether it actually helps you with the type of photography or video that you actually do.

If you're looking for more advice, you could read this review of the Canon t3i vs t4i or this hub about who should upgrade when considering the Canon t3i vs t4i.

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