Canon EOS 60D High ISO Noise Reduction
The Canon 60D offers four settings for noise reduction: Disable, Low, Standard and Strong, and NR is applied at all ISOs in JPEGs. Its different noise-reduction settings also allow you quite a bit of flexibility in choosing how you want to make the trade-off between subject detail and noise levels. It's not clear that the "Disable" setting truly eliminates the noise processing altogether, but it is true that it leaves a lot of fine/subtle subject detail there for you to work with. The combination of shooting with NR "disabled" and using a good noise-filtering program after the fact can produce very clean images with lots of fine detail in them.
See for yourself how the noise reduction works under both daylight and tungsten-balanced lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.
The above crops show the effects of the 4 levels of high ISO noise reduction, under our studio HMI lighting we use to simulate daylight. The Standard setting strikes a good balance between noise and detail, however subtle detail in the red cloth swatch already suffers quite a bit at ISO 1,600.
How does the Canon 60D compare with it predecessor and competing models? See the following table which compares at the default Noise Reduction setting.
As you can see from the above crops, the Nikon D7000 comes out slightly ahead at higher ISOs, especially when dealing with low-contrast reds, but 60D competes surprisingly well, and is a noticeable improvement over the 50D despite having more and therefore smaller pxiels. The Pentax K-7 is clearly outclassed by the others.
Here's a comparison with the 60D's two immediate siblings in the current Canon SLR lineup:
As you can see, very similar performance here compared to the Canon T2i, which is no surprise since they all share very similar (if not identical) sensors and processors. The Canon 7D is a bit noisier, perhaps due to the wider (8 channels vs 4) and faster read circuitry required to reach its 8 fps burst speed.
Keep in mind these are JPEGs with default noise reduction applied, so a lot of the differences are due to the processing that has been applied. To see sensor output without any noise reduction applies, see our Canon 60D RAW crops page.