Announced in late August 2010 as the replacement for the 50D and "designed primarily for advanced amateurs," the Canon EOS 60D DSLR offers a modest resolution increase to 18 megapixels over the old camera's 15.1 as well as a 1080 HD video capability where none existed before.
There's a 3.0-inch movable monitor (first time on any Canon DSLR), and some features that will sound familiar to 50D owners, namely a Digic 4 processor and 9 point AF system. The native ISO range now covers the 100-6400 sensitivities (expandable to 12800) versus 100-3200, expandable to 12800 in the 50D. Exposure metering features an "enhanced" iFCL (intelligent focus, color and luminance) system utilizing a 63 zone dual layer sensor we first encountered in the 7D.
The 60D features a fairly wide-ranging suite of in-camera image processing tools, including a RAW file menu that contains picture style, white balance, color space, high-ISO noise reduction, peripheral illumination, linear distortion and chromatic aberration correction tools that can be used to generate JPEGs without affecting the original RAW data. The camera also allows in-camera re-sizing of JPEG images without impacting the original image. Also included are creative image filters familiar to Powershot compact digital users, another first for a Canon DSLR.
The 60D replaces the 50D, but the first things 50D owners moving into the new camera will be replacing are their CF cards with the SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media required by the 60D. Also a memory is the magnesium body of the 50D; the 60D features a composite body that saves about 2 ounces of weight over its predecessor. The 60D is available as a body only or in 'kit' form matched with Canon's stabilized EFS 18-135mm zoom lens (as was our review unit). Here's the view at each end of that focal range:
Wide angle, 18mm
Canon includes an eyecup, camera strap, Li-ion battery pack and charger, USB and stereo AV cables, instruction manual and CD-ROM software with each camera.
The 60D is the first Canon prosumer class DSLR to get a video component, but still images are the bread-and-butter of any DSLR - let's see what the 60D brings to the table.
BUILD AND DESIGN
Dimensionally, the 60D is a virtual twin to the 50D, with a deeply sculpted handgrip body that is the template for virtually every DSLR. The body is composite but seems solid and well built, with a shutter rated for 100,000 actuations (down from 150,000 in the 50D).
Ergonomics and Controls
While the composite body of the 60D is smooth and somewhat slick feeling, there are patches of nicely tacky rubber-like material strategically placed in the handgrip and thumb rest areas of the body that promote a firm feel and hold. The body is nicely contoured and the index finger of the right hand falls naturally to the shutter button, with the right thumb resting clear of controls and buttons on the camera back.
The camera can display an electronic level in either the viewfinder or on the monitor to help with camera leveling - the viewfinder makes use of the exposure level scale while the monitor presents a large display with a green horizontal line representing level. Move off level and the line tilts and turns red. Here's a look at both level and slightly tilted displays:
The 60D presents a multi-control dial on the camera back which incorporates a multi controller and set button inside the quick control dial. Here's a look at this new control along with the quick control button ("Q") on the camera back.
It takes a little getting used to, but in combination with the quick control button the new multi-control dial makes changing various shooting settings a fairly simple task. Here's a quick tour: hit the "Q" button and you get this screen displaying current shooting settings - note that the exposure compensation box is selected and we're in aperture priority shooting mode.
Using the multi controller portion of the multi-control dial, we next select the aperture function which is currently set to f/5.6.
Turning the quick control dial we can change the aperture setting, in this case to f/8.
Control of shooting functions varies with the particular shooting mode - Canon calls the manual exposure modes the "creative" zone while the automatic modes are the "basic" zone and present many fewer choices than the creative zone shooting options. Here's the "Q" screen for the fully automatic shooting mode:
Canon has also installed a locking mode dial in response to "customer requests," but this is one feature I wish they'd left in the lab or done differently.
The 60D mode dial contains 15 icons and to move from one to another requires you to depress the center button on the dial while turning the dial to switch from one shooting mode to another. It's a somewhat awkward process and slows movement from one mode to another, particularly when jumping a considerable number of modes. Positioning the locking button alongside the dial instead of in it would have produced a smoother operation.
Menus and Modes
In addition to the basic and creative zones previously discussed, the 60D also has a movie shooting mode and the palette of menus displayed will be different in each case. In the basic zone, for example, there are 2 pages of shooting menus, 2 pages of playback menus and 3 pages of setup menus. In creative zone modes there are 4, 2 and 3 pages of shooting, playback and setup menus respectively.
There is also a custom settings menu in the creative zone with exposure, image, autofocus/drive and operation/other sub-menus. The movie mode menu runs to 1 page. Once you've gone to the menu palette via the menu button, you can select an individual menu page by scrolling with either the main dial or multi-controller; items on that page are then scrolled to using the quick control dial and the set button accesses the individual item.
The 60D may be "designed primarily for advanced amateurs," but in addition to the standard DSLR manual shooting options there's a healthy dose of basic zone automatic shooting modes that are likely to be eschewed by advanced amateurs but embraced by folks moving into a 60D from a compact digital. Including movie mode, there are 15 shooting options overall:
The 3.0-inch LCD monitor on the 60D has a 1.04 million dot composition, is adjustable for 7 levels of brightness and offers nearly 100% coverage. More significantly, the monitor may be swung out from the camera body through 180 degrees of motion, rotated through about 270 degrees and can be stored facing the camera body for protection when not in use. The ability to adjust monitor angles is an advantage when shooting video or live view stills in bright outdoor light, but even then there are times when image composition is difficult under these conditions.
Monitor peak brightness came out to 422 cd/m2 (nits), and contrast ratio was 715:1.
The 60D viewfinder offers 96% coverage and a diopter adjustment for varying levels of eyesight. That 96% coverage means subjects or details not visible through the viewfinder can creep into the edges of captured images.
The kit lens offering on the 60D is a nice choice, particularly for someone moving into a DSLR for the first time. The 18-135mm zoom offers a focal range of about 29-216mm in 35mm film equivalents with the 60D's 1.6x crop factor, yet the entire lens and body package is fairly light and makes a nice walking about setup.
The 60D powers up promptly - sensor cleaning is on by default at power up/power down, but a half push of the shutter to acquire focus shortcuts this process and you can shoot as quickly as you can focus after power up.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Canon EOS 60D||0.02|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Canon EOS 60D||0.20|
|Nikon D7000||19||6.4 fps
|Pentax K-r||29||6.4 fps
|Canon EOS 60D||111||5.2 fps
|Olympus E-5||120||5.0 fps
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Single shot-to-shot times were quick - about 0.6 seconds - and basically could be managed as fast as you could focus and shoot. We measured shutter lag at 0.02 seconds and AF acquisition time as 0.2 seconds in the studio. Continuous shooting rates came out at 5.2 fps - the 50D manages over 6 fps, so a net loss here for the 60D, possibly due to those larger file sizes coming out of the higher resolution sensor. Still, 5 fps can capture some nice sequences:
While it might be a fair guess that those advanced amateurs targeted by the 60D would have liked to see more than a carryover of the 9 point AF system from the 50D, the system did a fairly credible job overall. Tracking moving subjects was good, particularly when they were moving across the field of view, and not too bad when they were approaching or receding from the camera. I often use gulls as subjects for AF tracking tests since they tend to fly a fairly stable course but present a small target when moving towards or away from the camera. Here's a tough sequence of a gull with a busy background - the 60D got three of four shots right.
The built-in flash of the 60D has a guide number of 43 feet at 100 ISO - this translates to approximately a 12 foot flash range at the kit lens's f/3.5 maximum aperture. The ability to increase ISO sensitivity while retaining good noise performance allows DSLR built-in flashes to extend their range significantly with relatively little noise penalty, and the 60D is no exception. Flash recycle times were quick, about 3.5 seconds at worst.
If you remember back in the shooting modes there was a flash off option in the basic zone. The 60D seemed a bit more prone to deploy the flash automatically in the full auto mode than other DSLRs I've reviewed, to the point where it began to become annoying at times. Even outdoors, if the scene was leaning toward the dimmer end of the spectrum or had light/dark contrast areas, there was a good chance the 60D would deploy the flash, even though it would have no effect on the shot.
Battery life is listed as about 1100 shots using a CIPA standard - the 60D can also accept a BG-E9 battery grip that allows the use of a second LP-E6 battery and approximately doubles the life; AAs may be substituted for the LP-E6 batteries and provide a life of about 470 shots.
The 60D is compatible with over 60 Canon EF and EF-S lenses. Maximum apertures on our 18-135mm kit lens are f/3.5 and 5.6 at the wide and telephoto ends, respectively, and close focus distance at wide angle is about 19.32 inches. Better still, the 18-135 drops that distance to about 17.76 inches at telephoto, which gives a fairly decent close up capability for larger subjects like flowers without having to resort to a dedicated macro lens.
There is some fairly distinct barrel distortion (verging on moustache distortion) present at the wide end of the zoom which goes away at about 24mm - then a milder pincushion distortion appears once you move past 24 and on out to telephoto. Corners and edges are a bit softer at wide angle, but performance in this regard is good. Telephoto is about the same as the wide end.
Chromic aberration (purple fringing) is present at both ends of the zoom, a bit more so at the telephoto end. In either case the effect is fairly well controlled and is relatively hard to detect except at enlargements in the 200% and up range.
The 60D allows 1080 HD video capture and image quality is good. The camera makes use of a CMOS sensor so rolling shutter effect is a consideration, but the effect is well controlled. The 60D will make you long for the cameras with the one-touch video capture feature, however.
First you have to switch the mode dial to Movie capture and there's that somewhat awkward locking button to deal with. Then you need to acquire focus with either the shutter button or the AF-ON button, and the 60D is just plain slow to acquire AF for movie capture (and Live View capture in general). The best time I ever saw was around two seconds or a bit longer, and trying to acquire on a moving subject can be an exercise in frustration. I had a shot at a great video of a Marine Corps V-22 Osprey as it cruised south over San Diego harbor at about 500 feet with its rotors in "airplane" mode, but by the time I got the mode dial swung from aperture priority to movie and acquired focus, the Osprey was a speck receding into the morning sun. Continuous AF on moving subjects is not available either, so your initial focus is what you're stuck with unless you'd care to try again in the middle of a capture.
The video in the player above has been compressed and re-encoded for streaming online. To download the original file in its native resolution and format, click the link below.
Sample Video File Download
The 60D captures mono sound with its built-in microphone but can accept an external microphone to permit stereo recording. There is also the capability for manual audio control as well as exposure. A wind cut feature is available and there is also an in-camera editing suite that allows you to shorten clips without resorting to outside software. File size is limited to 4 gigabytes or 29 minutes and 59 seconds - videos to the 4GB size at HD run about 12 minutes. The camera may shut off before either the size or time limits are reached due to internal temperature.
Still images, not video, are where a DSLR earns its pay and you can take 60D images to the bank. Good quality and color fidelity - I found the default sharpening a bit soft for my taste but that proved an easy fix in the manual shooting modes.
The picture style color palette offers 6 preset color options as well as 3 user-defined custom settings for creative zone shooters. Here're the presets, which can be further user-modified for sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone.
Auto white balance was used for the majority of shots in the review and did a good job overall while shooting on the warm side with incandescent light. The 60D also provides daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, and flash presets along with custom and Kelvin temperature options.
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light
Evaluative metering is the camera default and does a good job overall with normally lit scenes - the 60D would lose highlights on occasion when dealing with high contrast dark/light scenes. The camera comes with its "auto lighting optimizer" set to "standard" as a default, but the feature may be set to low or high levels or disabled altogether. I found little to distinguish visually using each setting on the same scene, and histograms were only slightly different. There are partial, spot and center-weighted options available as well.
Noise performance was a pleasant surprise - with the increase in resolution on the same physical-sized sensor, noise performance could logically be expected to suffer, but the 60D looks to be very competitive with the best cropped-sensor cameras I've shot with regard to high ISO noise performance. ISO 100 and 200 are basically indistinguishable from one another, and 400 picks up a slight amount of graininess over 200, but will be hard to tell apart except in big enlargements and perhaps not even then.
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 3200, 100% crop
ISO 6400, 100% crop
ISO 800 is a bit grainier than 400, and 1600 worse than 800 to about the same degree as 800/400. ISO 3200 takes the most dramatic drop of any step so far with graininess increasing and fine details beginning to lose ground. ISO 6400 is by far the biggest drop off, with grain on the increase and fine details beginning to smudge fairly noticeably in some areas.
Having shot the Nikon D7000 not too long ago, the 60D impresses me as having very similar high ISO noise performance, and that's not a bad thing at all. At 6400 the D7000 image looks a bit grainier to me than the 60D, but has sharper details.
In any event, somebody shooting either of these cameras looks to be enjoying state of the art high ISO noise performance from a cropped sensor unless my eyes are playing tricks on me.
We've come to expect follow-on cameras to generally out-do the camera they're replacing features-wise, and the 60D follows suit in most cases compared to the 50D. Sensor resolution is up and an HD video capability exists where none did before. The 3.0-inch LCD monitor is movable and viewfinder coverage is improved, albeit only 1% and only to 96% overall. A host of in-camera editing menus for both still and movie captures allow a lot of processing without resorting to a computer and external software.
The 60D loses 1 fps in continuous shooting speed compared to the older camera, carries the same 9 point AF system as the older camera, and drops to a 100,000 cycle shutter from 150,000 in the older camera. The 60D still manages a decent 5 fps rate and the AF system is capable but not state of the art in this class and price point. I can't figure why Canon downgraded the shutter in a camera designed to appeal to advanced amateurs, though. And that video capability suffers somewhat by comparison with a slow AF acquisition time and lack of continuous AF performance some competitors have already introduced.
Ah, but the still image quality is great and the high ISO noise performance looks to be competitive with the best cropped-sensor cameras on the planet. I've always felt you get a DSLR for the still image quality and features like video and Live View are really more in the "nice to have" category rather than being a deal breaker with regard to any particular camera. There is a lot to like about the still images out of the 60D.