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Canon 60D Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good saturation and excellent hue accuracy.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Saturation. The Canon 60D produces images with saturation slightly lower than its consumer sibling, the Rebel T2i but slightly higher than its big brother, the 7D. Like most cameras, the Canon 60D pushes reds, oranges, blues, dark browns and some purples and greens a bit. The camera also undersaturates aqua and cyan a bit. The overall saturation of 108% (8% oversaturated) is not too pumped yet not too dull. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. Flesh tones shot with the Canon 60D appeared quite natural, with appropriate saturation levels and accurate color, though slightly on the cool side. When white-balance was adjusted to match the lighting, skin-tones were warmer, with a "healthy looking glow". Good results here as well. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. The Canon 60D's hue accuracy is very good, just a hair more accurate than the 7D and T2i, and much better than average. There were the usual shifts in cyan toward blue, red toward orange, and orange toward yellow, but they are all pretty minor. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) Average "delta-C" color error was only 3.78 after correction for saturation, which is one of the best scores we've recorded to date. Hue is "what color" the color is.

Picture Style
The Canon 60D offers six preset "Picture Style" options, plus 3 user defined ones. You can adjust Sharpness (0-7), Contrast (+/-4), Saturation (+/-4) and Color Tone (+/-4) for any of the settings. For B&W images, you can adjust Filter Effect and Toning Effect instead of Saturation and Color Tone.

Picture Style Options

Mouse over the links above to see the effect of the presets on our Still Life target. Click on a link to load the full resolution image.

Saturation Adjustment
As mentioned above, Canon 60D offers a total of nine saturation settings, four above and four below the default saturation. This covers a very wide range of saturation levels, about as wide a range as you're likely to find photographically useful, apart from special effects that are arguably better achieved in software. As it should, the Canon 60D's saturation adjustment affects only the saturation, leaving the contrast of the image more or less unaltered. (In some cameras, saturation tends to affect contrast, and vice versa.) The fine steps between settings mean you can program the camera to just the level of saturation you prefer. Well done.

Saturation Adjustment Examples
-4 -2 0 +2 +4

The table above shows alternate settings including the default as well as the two extreme saturation settings. Click on any thumbnail above, then click again to see the full-sized image.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent settings both struggle with household incandescent lighting, though Manual and 2,600 Kelvin white balance produced much more neutral images. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV
2,600K White Balance
+0.7EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon 60D's Auto white balance setting really struggled to produce a decent-looking image, resulting in a strong reddish cast. Unfortunately, this is quite common among cameras we've tested, but disappointing nonetheless. The Canon 60D's Incandescent setting did a little better, but the resulting image was still far too warm for our tastes. (Some may feel that it successfully conveys the warmth of the original lighting, but we'd personally like a more neutral treatment.) The Manual setting produced the most accurate results and the 2,600 Kelvin setting was pretty close, both being just slightly cool. The Canon 60D required a positive exposure compensation of 0.7 EV for this shot, which is slightly higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Color and saturation are very good, though a tendency towards slightly cool color balance and slightly high contrast under harsh lighting. About average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Canon 60D tended toward a slightly cool color balance, as you can see by the skin tones in the above left shot, though overall color was generally excellent. The Canon 60D performed about average in terms of exposure, requiring the typical amount of positive compensation we're accustomed to seeing among digital cameras. The Canon 60D's default contrast is a little high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of our "Sunlit" portrait test shown above left, though the camera's contrast and highlight tone priority settings do help tame the highlights quite a bit. See below for examples of this. The Far-field House shot (above right) was also a touch cool, though exposure was fairly accurate, with some blown highlights in the white trim but very few lost shadows.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, 2,000 ~ 2,100 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
2,100 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
2,000 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
2,100 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
2,100 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart showed the Canon 60D's images with sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,100 lines per picture height horizontally and 2,000 lines vertically. (Some would doubtless argue for an even higher lines/picture height rating, but we judge the aliasing that appears shortly after 2,100 lines as an indication that 2,100 is about the limit of the camera's true resolution.) Extinction of the pattern occurred at between 3,000 and 3,200 lines in both directions. Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 files, show slightly more vertical resolution than the in-camera JPEGs, though complete extinction of the pattern was extended well past 3,200 lines in the converted files. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Good sharpness and loads of detail with a sharp lens. Some detail loss to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs, but surprisingly good for an 18-megapixel subframe sensor.

With default sharpening settings, the
Canon 60D's JPEG files show
some minor sharpening artifacts.
With its 18-megapixel resolution, this
yields crisp-looking prints
to quite large sizes.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon 60D's 18-megapixel sensor captures loads of image detail when coupled with a good lens, though some minor edge-enhancement artifacts are visible around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. (The above crop of our Far-field House shot was taken with Canon's very sharp 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens at f/8.) Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some detail loss due to noise suppression, but less than we're accustomed to seeing at this resolution. Very impressive for an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor. (The crop above of the hair taken with our very sharp Sigma 70mm f/2.8 reference lens.) Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As mentioned above, the Canon 60D does an excellent job of capturing sharp, detailed JPEGs when coupled with a sharp lens, but as is usually the case, slightly more detail can be preserved by carefully processing its RAW files.

In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above, and clicking on the link will load the full resolution file. Examples include in-camera Fine JPEG, RAW file processed through Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software using default settings, another DPP processed RAW file with additional sharpening in DPP, and finally, a RAW file processed through Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) version 6.3rc, then sharpened in Photoshop using 300% unsharp masking with an 0.3 pixel radius.

Canon's DPP software produced very similar results to the in-camera JPEG, with perhaps just a a touch more detail. The image processed through ACR shows quite a bit more fine detail, but it also shows more noise at default settings. The Canon 60D is clearly a camera that carries a lot of data in its RAW files.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise and excellent detail at the lowest ISO settings; ISO 1,600 is very usable for average print sizes. Noise vs detail performance very good for the resolution.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200
 
ISO 6,400 ISO 12,800

The Canon 60D's high ISO performance is similar to the 7D and T2i, perhaps just slightly better than the later. EOS 60D images are quite clean at ISOs 100 and 200, with just a bit luminance noise seen in the shadows. We start to see a very fine, tight "grain" pattern at ISO 400, but detail is hardly affected, though there is some subtle, blotchy chroma noise in deep shadows. The grain is slightly more evident at ISO 800, but detail remains very strong despite some minor blurring due to noise reduction. At ISO 1,600 we begin to see some moderate detail loss as noise reduction blurs subtly contrasting detail, as well as more evident chroma noise in darker areas, but results are still quite good. At ISO 3,200 noise grain becomes coarser and the blurring stronger, resulting in a more noticeable drop in detail. Noise and the effects of noise reduction really become apparent at ISO 6,400 and especially at ISO 12,800, with strong blurring, bright noise pixels and obvious chroma blotching. Overall, an excellent performance, particularly for a camera with an 18-megapixel APS-C size sensor. See the Print Quality section below for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4, using one of three very sharp reference lenses (70mm Sigma f/2.8 macro for most cameras, 60mm f/2.8 Nikkor macro for Nikon bodies without a drive motor, and Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/2.0 for Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds bodies). To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. If you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us about it; we already know it. :-) The focus target position will simply have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Very high resolution with strong overall detail, but slightly high default contrast. Highlight Tone Priority and contrast adjustment options do a great job of dealing with tough lighting, though, and highlight and shadow detail are good even without them. Very good low-light performance, though metering struggled a bit at the lowest light levels.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Canon EOS 60D produced slightly high contrast with some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test above. However, highlight and shadow detail are actually pretty good. The model's face was a little dim at the +0.3 EV setting, so we preferred the image with +0.7 EV of exposure compensation. This resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, mostly in the blue and red channels, but not as much as we're used to seeing without some sort of dynamic range optimization setting (see below). Exposure compensation of +1.0 EV resulted in a too many clipped highlights for our tastes, though some shooters may prefer the later image for its brighter skin tones.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Highlight Tone Priority Example
Off (default)
On
Highlight Retention
Shadow Detail, R.H.S. Brightened in Photoshop
(Levels control, highlight slider down to 40)

Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon 60D's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did an excellent job of preserving highlight detail, as shown above. Both shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the shot on the right. (Which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works.) The result is evident even in the histograms and thumbnails above; the full-size images clearly show the superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled, while shadow detail is left relatively untouched. The right side of the Shadow Detail crops above have had their histogram levels adjusted equally in Photoshop to reveal the increase noise in the HTP-On case. The increase in noise is because the ISO is boosted from 100 to 200. Except in the very deepest shadows, though, overall noise is so low at ISO 200 that this is really a negligible trade-off for all but the most critical applications.

Contrast Adjustment Examples
-4 -2 0 +2 +4

The Canon 60D's contrast-adjustment control also does an excellent job with very difficult lighting like this. It offers a very broad range of control in usefully fine gradations, and does a good job of adjusting contrast without affecting color saturation in the process. (As noted earlier regarding saturation adjustment, something that not all cameras manage to do.)


Automatic Lighting Optimization Examples
Low Standard High
Off

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like the Rebel T2i and EOS 7D, the Canon 60D offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic and Creative Auto exposure modes, ALO is automatically enabled. All four shots above were taken with the same exposure settings. As you can see, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, lightening the overall image without clipping too many additional highlights. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been brightened.


Face Detection
Off at 0 EV On at 0 EV

Face Detection
Just like most Point & Shoot cameras these days, the Canon 60D has the ability to detect faces in Live View mode, and adjust exposure and focus accordingly. As you can see from the examples above, it work well, as the image with face detection enabled is much better exposed for the face, even though both images were shot without any exposure compensation.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)


  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
100
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2 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
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8 sec
f2.8
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16 sec
f2.8
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32 sec
f2.8
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32 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
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1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
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4 sec
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8 sec
f2.8
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16 sec
f2.8
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16 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
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0.5 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
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8 sec
f2.8
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8 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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0.5 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
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4 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
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1/8 sec
f2.8
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
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2 sec
f2.8
ISO
3200
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1/16 sec
f2.8
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1/8 sec
f2.8
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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0.5 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
ISO
6400
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1/32 sec
f2.8
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1/16 sec
f2.8
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1/8 sec
f2.8
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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0.5 sec
f2.8
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0.5 sec
f2.8
ISO
12800
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1/64 sec
f2.8
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1/32 sec
f2.8
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1/16 sec
f2.8
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1/8 sec
f2.8
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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1/4 sec
f2.8

Low light. The Canon 60D performed reasonably well on the low-light test, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even with the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 100). The camera's exposure metering system struggled a bit at the lowest light levels, so Manual exposure mode was used here. As you can see by the linear progression of shutter speeds compared to light level, exposure was very predictable and consistent once a baseline was established. As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but noise remains remarkably low up to ISO 1,600. At ISO 3,200 and above, noise is higher and a few bright pixels appear, but there is very little of the horizontal banding that we saw in the 50D's low light images. Color balance was pretty neutral with Canon 60D's Auto white balance setting (just a touch cool), even at high ISOs, though at lower light levels white balance became a little warm with a reddish tint.

The Canon 60D's phase-detect autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted, and in complete darkness with the AF assist enabled. The Canon 60D performed slightly better than the 7D and T2i in this regard. In Live View mode, the 60D's contrast-detect autofocus was able to focus down just below the 1/4 foot-candle level without assistance. That's fairly typical for contrast-detection AF on an SLR.

As always, keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Canon 60D do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Excellent prints at 24x36 from ISO 100 and 200; ISO 3,200 shots look good at 11x14; ISO 12,800 images make a good 4x6.

ISO 100 images print quite well, with sharp detail at 24 x 36 inches, with good color and no discernible noise. This is true up to ISO 400, where slight chroma noise starts to show up in the shadows at this size. It's only slight and you have to squint to see it. Detail, however, is still very good, even in reds, with 20 x 30 being quite good here.

ISO 800 images still look good at 16 x 20 inches. At 20 x 30 we begin to see slight chroma noise in the shadows, and some softening in the reds and other finely detailed areas.

ISO 1,600 shots look quite good at 13 x 19 inches, with only minor noise apparent in some shadowy areas.

ISO 3,200 prints look good and crisp at 11 x 14, again with only minor noise in some flatter areas.

ISO 6,400 images are usable at 8 x 10 inches, though the red swatch is now a foggy blur, while the rest of the image is reasonably sharp. The shadows have slight luminance and chrominance noise. All of this, except for the red swatch, becomes negligible at 5 x 7 inches.

ISO 12,800 make a very usable 5 x 7 inch print, but with noisy shadows. Reducing the image size to 4 x 6 produces a very nice print, however.

Overall, the Canon EOS 60D produces some amazing prints at all ISO ratings, with good color and great detail, and this is only at JPEG with standard noise suppression active. RAW images should deliver considerably more resolution and higher quality when processed with good software.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)