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Canon EOS 60D First Look
by Allison Johnson -  8/25/2010

The Canon 60D is a much-anticipated successor to the EOS 50D DSLR. Canon offered DCR the chance to shoot with a pre-production model in (of all places) Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago. Take a look at some sample images from wild Wyoming straight from the brand-spanking-new EOS 60D.

The Canon EOS 60D was described to me by a Canon rep as "a robust T2i" rather than a little brother to the 7D. After a few days of shooting with the camera, I would say I agree with that statement. The 60D doesn't have quite as much horsepower as the 7D, but it's lighter, tighter and packs a real punch in versatility with a flip-out LCD.

The 60D camera body has a more textured feel than the 50D, making it comfortable to grasp. The 8-way control wheel is (in my eyes at least) a welcome improvement over the 7D's joystick controller. Accessing exposure options and settings like white balance were made quick and painless.

The biggest and most immediately noticeable difference between the 50D and 60D is the new tilting LCD Canon added to the newest model. In fact, I was surprised at how quickly I became accustomed to having the tilting and swiveling LCD at my disposal. Any scenario that called for unusual composition was easier to manage because of the monitor's versatility.

The 60D inherits the same 9-point AF system that was on board the 50D. I found it to be reliable and fast in my experience using the camera, though I didn't do a lot of fast-paced photography.

Canon 60D Sample Image

Auto focus is predictably slow in Live View. That's no surprise, though a little bit frustrating when you flip out the LCD to grab some images at waist level and then wait a second and a half for the camera to focus.

In full manual exposure mode, the large control dial on the back panel is used to adjust aperture and the dial on the right shoulder controls shutter speed. Operating both controls with the right hand is easy enough, but changing ISO requires a little bit more effort. There's a dedicated button on the top control panel you'll need to press and use another finger to rotate the top dial.

The viewfinder offers 97% coverage, which is a step up from the 50D's 95% viewfinder. It was bright, clear and sharp enough for my purposes. I did occasionally forget to take into account that 3% of area that would pop up in my final image. This was only an issue a couple of times when I was framing an image of a subject that I wanted to take up the whole frame.

Canon 60D Sample Image

The new mode dial on the left shoulder is locked into place and can be moved by pressing down a button in the center while rotating the dial. The greatest design flaw I saw in the 60D was the placement of the movie mode position on the dial - it's literally the last position on the dial after all of the scene modes. The dial doesn't rotate through 360 degrees, so once you're in movie mode you're going to have to push down that little button again and rotate all the way back to the front of the dial for manual and auto exposure modes.

In reality, it's only a few seconds to switch between modes, but with the 60D's video capability as a highlight in the feature list, it doesn't make much sense to me to make it so difficult to get to.

Did Canon want to keep the 60D differentiated from higher-tier models that shoot video by burying video mode in the control dial? It seems needlessly complicated in this era of dedicated video buttons. I had few real complaints with the camera after my initial experience using the 60D, but this one was right at the top of the list.

The on-screen level is carried over from the 7D and I thought it was a great benefit. When a shot demanded critical balance, such as the tram gears below, having some reassurance that I was holding the camera straight was very helpful.

Canon 60D Sample Image

However, the 60D doesn't support use of the level when you're framing shots vertically. That was a disappointment, and it seems to be another place where Canon wanted to differentiate the 60D from its more advanced counterparts.

As a friendly reminder, the 60D test unit I used was not at full-production level. Don't use the sample images in this article as a determination of final image quality output from the 60D. All images were recorded as fine JPEGs.

I used the camera with 24mm f/1.4L II USM prime, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM telephoto zoom, and 17-40mm f/4L USM wide zoom lenses. The 60D has a 1.6x crop factor, so my 70-200mm lens effectively became a 112-320mm. Tracking down an Elk having a bite to eat in a clearing, that bit of reach came in handy.

Canon 60D Sample Image

I was very happy with images at default metering and auto white balance settings. Under cloudy skies, colors started looking washed out, so I switched into cloudy white balance for some shots of the bison across a river. The green grass was restored to a more vibrant hue, maybe slightly too much, and detail in the darkest shadow areas is a bit lost. However, auto focus system did a wonderful job picking out my subject each time.

Canon 60D Sample Image

To the 60D's credit, a rain cloud passed over soon after I captured the shot above and put the camera's weather sealings to the test. It wasn't exposed to the elements for very long, but it survived our little shower without a problem.

True to Canon form, the camera captured reds vividly. In images of the bacteria plates near Yellowstone's boling Paint Pots, the reds are captured in a pleasing way that's appropriate for the scene.

Canon 60D Sample Image

I shot these images in the Standard profile mode and moved to Neutral for the second day of shooting. Looking back on all of my images, the Neutral setting did the best job of capturing images most faithfully with the best level of sharpness.

Canon 60D Sample Image

Taking into account my nit-picking, the 60D seems a worthy successor to the 50D. On almost every occasion, the 60D did what I wanted it to do. The flip-out LCD is a great benefit to a photographer looking for a little more versatility, and anyone who has tried to record video at ground-level will appreciate the tilting screen.

Canon 60D Sample Image

The 60D shows every promise of being a worthy successor to the 50D. Is it worth selling your 50D on Craigslist for a slick new 60D? That might end up depending on how important high-res video capture is to you. The jury is still out, but for now it seems a tantalizing proposition.

Click on over to the sample gallery (link below) for additional sample images not featured here.