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Canon T3 Digital Camera Review$599.99
The T3 offered perfect 100.2% saturation levels and a delta C color error of approximately 2.8 with its faithful color mode setting. Almost all the color modes kept the average color error under 4, usually emphasizing specific colors depending on the mode. The color modes are all customizable, with slider settings to adjust sharpness, saturation, contrast, and color tone on a +/- 8 scale, along with three user-defined settings. More on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The T3's color accuracy was beat only by the Nikon D5100, and was right in line with what we saw from the slightly higher end Canon T3i. In truth, most of our comparison cameras came in right around the same score, with only the Sony A33 falling behind the group and the Nikon D5100 pulling slightly ahead. With a color error of under 3 for almost all the cameras, these are all very accurate cameras.
The most accurate color mode on offer is the faithful setting, as we have seen with other Canon DSLRs. The other modes all tend to emphasize specific characteristics of the image in order to change the image. Most of them emphasize sharpness specifically, with only the neutral and faithful modes offering no added sharpness. The neutral mode was less accurate under our lab lights, but the faithful mode is specifically tailored to a color temperature of 5200 kelvin (our lab lights are 4700 kelvin, but we use a custom white balance that accounts for some of the difference).
The only lighting condition that the T3 had any real trouble with was the same that we see with all DSLR cameras: tungsten lighting. Tungsten filaments used in common household lightbulbs give off a very warm light that is often not well accounted for by automatic white balance metering. In daylight and compact white fluorescent settings, however, the T3 was superb, and it's custom white balance handled tungsten light very well.
Automatic White Balance ()
The automatic white balance returned very little error under daylight conditions, off by just 66 kelvins on average. Under compact white fluorescent lighting, that error jumped up to 133 kelvins, but would still be considered very minor. The aforementioned tungsten lighting was not handled particularly well by the automatic white balance meter, with an average error of 1673 kelvins. Still, the strength of the camera under daylight and fluorescent lighting was enough to keep the T3 scores high in this category.
Custom White Balance ()
The T3's custom white balance worked very well in all lighting conditions, with the most egregious error found under tungsten lighting again. However, that error was still just 184.5 kelvins on average off of the ideal, which is a very accurate result. The next worse error was found under daylight conditions, where the T3 returned an average color error of 125 kelvins. This was worse than the camera performed with its automatic white balance, which isn't terribly uncommon for daytime lighting as many automatic white balances seem tuned to handle daylight well in particular. Under compact white fluorescent lighting, the T3 had a color error of just 70.33 kelvins, giving it another great score.
Overall, the T3 just mopped the floor with the field here, offering the most accurate custom and automatic white balance systems of any of our comparison cameras. The results were closest to the T3i, though that camera didn't perform quite as well in custom white balance settings. In general, though, we found the T3 to be very accurate in diagnosing white under a variety of lighting conditions.
White Balance Options
White balance control is available on the T3 through the menu and by pressing the dedicated WB key on the rear control pad. When in live view or movie recording mode, white balance must be set using the "Q" menu on the screen. Setting a custom white balance is a bit of a pain, as it has been on other Canon DSLRs. The custom white balance setting is only available through the full menu, and it can only take a custom reading from an image that is on the memory card. This means that you have to first take an image, go into the menu, tell the camera to use that image (with no option to emphasize a particular area, so the neutral object should fill the entire frame) and then set the camera to use custom white balance. There aren't multiple user-savable white balance settings, either, which is a bit of a step back from what many interchangeable lens cameras offer.
The T3 performed very well in long exposure testing, better than the rest of our comparison group. It was able to put up good results at speeds as short as one second and generally was consistent, returning results that did not degrade appreciably as we extended the shutter to thirty seconds. The results were not quite as good as during shorter shutter speeds—color accuracy and saturation took a small hit—but this is common for DSLRs. More on how we test long exposure.
The T3 was able to keep noise to an absolute minimum in long exposure testing, with noise never rising above 0.7% even in exposures reaching 30 seconds. There was also less of a spike in color error on long exposures than with other cameras, with a minimum color error of 2.88 and a maximum of only 3.15. Saturation hung firm right at 105% of the ideal across the shutter speed range as well, though this was a slight uptick from our dedicated color testing.
The consistency with which the T3 returned solid results across the testing range earned it top marks in our comparison group. The T3 outperformed all the others by a solid margin, including more expensive models from Nikon and Canon themselves. The Sony A33 was the worst of the lot, while the Canon T3i, Nikon D5100, and Pentax K-r all had decent, if unspectacular results in long exposure testing.