Tuesday, November 22, 2011

5 Nifty Features of Canon EOS T3i

I'm really enjoying my new Canon EOS T3i. While making my way through the manual, I've come across a number of features that just had me say Hmmm, that's pretty slick. None of these are Earth shattering, and heck, this is my first DSLR - so perhaps these are all standard? Still, to me, they're cool.

1. While playing back images, you can assign a number of stars rating. The rating you provide is added to the metadata of the image, and seamlessly shows up in Windows and Picasa. I tend to take bazillions of pictures, and the rating mechanism seems like an easy way to do some in-camera editing. I can easily assign meanings to each of the levels of rating, and then take action on them when I download the images.

Related feature: you can set the Artist and Copyright that's embedded in the image. It's kind of neat to see that information show up in Windows and Picasa automatically.

2. The self-timer can shoot a sequence of photos. The first time I setup a self timer shot, I explicitly set the count down to 10 seconds. Once it reached 10 seconds, a photo snapped. Then another. Then another. Apparently, I had set the number of shots to take 10, not the duration. This feature is especially handy for a large group - set it to take 10 shots, and you're chances of catching everyone's eyes open has just increased 10x (right?).

3. There's a mode dial setting for fully automatic without flash. I like my manual modes (see below). And, I've never been a fan of a camera having lots of specific modes (sports, portraits, night, etc.), the problem being that I'm not quite sure what each mode buys me, and rarely am I shooting the exact topic the mode calls for. Regardless, I do very much like the idea of an auto-everything mode to fall back on. Pick up camera, point, shoot, and know you've got a photo. The neat thing here is that I can set it to all auto mode, minus the flash. I usually shoot without a flash, as it's going to attract less attention. So, if I snapped off some quick pictures, it's reassuring to me to know that I'm not going to be blasting off the flash unexpectedly.

I've tried to get good about leaving the camera in this mode, with the idea being that the camera is always ready to go.

4. You can easily control which folder you're saving photos into. Like I said above, I tend to shoot a whole lot of pictures. If I can organize them into folders, my life organizing them is going to be much easier. The cameras I've owned in the past let you explicitly start a new folder to shoot photos in, but the EOS T3i kicks this up a notch. First, you can not only create new folders, but select past folders. You can also see how many pictures are being stored in each folder. The camera even adapts fairly well to existing folders.

As a bonus, hitting the Menu key takes you back to the previous setting you were messing with. So frequently, when I hit menu, it's all set up to muck with the folder settings.

Finally, you can add shortcuts on a custom menu. Sure enough, a short cut to folder management was the first one I made.

5. I'm impressed with how close I can come to treating this DLSR like my original film SLR. Sure, I can switch into manual exposure mode, but that's just the beginning. The viewfinder's exposure compensation turns into an old school light meter, and the side of the lens even includes a depth-of-field preview. Heck, you can customize the camera so the auto-focus happens when you press the exposure-lock (aka: "*") button, the result being that when you press the shutter button no further delay happens - a photo is just snapped (you could also switch manual focus mode, too). You can even turn off the LCD screen, or rotate it so that it faces inward to avoid chimping.

On a side note: I wonder what would happen if a camera manufacturer came out with a DSLR that was more or less the equivalent of the Pentax K1000. That is, a digital camera that offered only manual modes, a light meter and almost no other features. Would they sell only to retro buyers with too much nostalgia and money on their hands? Or would it be an an appealing alternative to the feature-heavy cameras that are out there?

6. Video Snapshots may be a worthwhile feature. This bonus item isn't something I can actually say is useful, as I haven't tried it. But, the manual describes a Video Snapshot Feature where you shoot a series of 2-8 second clips and glue them together into a longer movie.

Could be a useful way to get me to shoot video, and one that doesn't require much editing. Or, it could be a waste of time. A little experimenting should clear that one up.

What EOS features do you especially like? What am I missing?

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