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Canon 60D

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Canon 60D Video Recording

High-definition video capture has become commonplace in digital SLRs across the board, all the way from models aimed at amateurs and the budget-conscious to those intended for professional use. The precise feature set on offer varies widely, however, and along with this the utility of video capture for a variety of purposes.

The Canon EOS 60D offers an unusually robust feature set that gives the photographer plenty of control over both the video and audio portions of movie capture. Both shutter and aperture are available for manual control, and the 60D also provides multiple frame rate options, including three that match HD television timing specs. It's also possible to capture sound from an external microphone, as an alternative to the internal monaural mic, and even to control audio recording levels manually, a very useful but equally rare capability among current video-capable DSLRs. Like most digital SLR video modes, the Canon 60D doesn't allow continuous autofocus during video recording, but it does offer the ability to perform single AF operations, albeit with AF noise clearly picked up by the 60D's internal microphone.

Canon EOS 60D Video: Image Size, Frame Rate, and Encoding

Video capability. The Canon EOS 60D offers three resolution levels for video recording, with various frame rates available depending on encoding and resolution.

The Canon 60D's all-new CMOS sensor records high definition video at a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,088 pixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio -- approximating what's sometimes referred to as "Full HD", or 1080i/1080p, although it actually includes 8 extra rows of pixels beyond the standard 1,920 x 1,080. Both NTSC modes of 23.976 or 29.97 frames/second and PAL modes of 23.976 or 25 frames/second are available at full resolution. The full resolution can be downsampled in-camera to produce 1,280 x 720 (720p) resolution movies, with the NTSC mode using 59.94 frames/second, and the PAL mode offering 50 frames/second. Finally, a standard definition 4:3 aspect ratio mode captures 640x480 pixel (VGA) movies, again with 59.94 frames/second in NTSC or 50 frames/second in PAL. The numerous different frame rates match various broadcast television formats etc., removing the need to transcode to the intended output frame rate after capture.

Individual movie clips captured by the Canon EOS 60D are limited to a maximum of 29 minutes, 59 seconds, thanks to European tax regulations, although as it turns out, the 4GB limit on video file sizes will in practice restrict you to shorter movie clips anyway. The Canon 60D records its movies as .MOV files using variable bitrate MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression, which is much more conservative of memory card space than the Motion JPEG format used by some cameras, and avoids some of the severe image quality loss suffered by AVCHD cameras when faced with significant amounts of change in image content between frames. (AVCHD uses a subset of the H.264 standard, among other things mandating a limit in recording bandwidth, which translates into a lesser ability to convey rapidly-changing detail.) The choice of H.264 comes with the requirement of greater processing power, though -- not only from the camera when recording, but also when playing back or editing videos. The more sophisticated encoding used in the H.264 standard requires quite a bit of processor power to pull it apart and put it back together again, so frame-accurate editing of H.264 requires a fast processor and capable editing program.

Here's a list showing what to expect for file sizes with the Canon EOS 60D's video recording:

Canon 60D Video Options
H.264 Format (.MOV file container)
Resolution
Encoding
Frame Rate
Clip Length
File Size

1,920 x 1,088
(1080p Full HD)

NTSC

24p (23.976 fps)

29 minutes,
59 seconds

~330 MB/min

NTSC

30p (29.97 fps)

PAL

24p (23.976 fps)

PAL

25p (25 fps)

1,280 x 720
(720p HD)

NTSC

60p (59.94 fps)

29 minutes,
59 seconds

~330 MB/min

PAL

50p (50 fps)

640 x 480
(VGA SD)

NTSC

60p (59.94 fps)

29 minutes,
59 seconds

~165 MB/min

PAL

50p (50 fps)

Canon recommends using an SD card with at least a Class 6 rating to capture and playback movies.

Here are some examples of video from the Canon EOS 60D, showing typical results under daylight conditions.

Canon EOS 60D Video Samples
1,920 x 1,088, 30fps
Programmed Exposure
(12 seconds, 69.8 MB)
1,920 x 1,088, 24fps
Programmed Exposure
(13 seconds, 76.1 MB)
1,280 x 720, 60fps
Programmed Exposure
(12 seconds, 70.2 MB)
640 x 480, 60fps
Programmed Exposure
(11 seconds, 31.4 MB)
640 x 480 Crop, 60fps
Programmed Exposure
(14 seconds, 39.3 MB)



Canon EOS 60D Video-Mode Focusing

Unlike some other video-capable digital SLRs, the Canon EOS 60D offers autofocusing during video recording, but it's only available in single servo mode. You can trigger a contrast-detect AF cycle either before or during a recording by pressing the AF-On button, or optionally, by half-pressing the shutter button. Depending on the lens and microphone in use, and the degree of focus adjustment required, AF noise is likely to be picked up on the audio track. (With the 18-135mm kit lens, and the 60D's internal microphone, AF noise is audible as a high-pitched whine.) You can also manually focus the lens during a recording, and the true manual operation of AF on Canon's lenses means you can do this more or less silently, simply by being careful about turning the focus ring. (Some cameras use "fly by wire" focusing, whereby the focus ring only instructs the camera to move the lens elements rather than moving them directly via a mechanical coupling. This can mean that small clicks are heard on the audio track every time the focus setting is changed, regardless of how slowly you turn the focus ring. With true manual operation of its lenses, the Canon EOS 60D doesn't have this problem, although it's possible that third-party or older Canon lenses might produce audible noise while their focus was adjusted.)

As we've noted in other SLR reviews, the good news with focusing for video is that you can get surprisingly good depth of field in video mode by stopping the lens down, thanks to the relatively low resolution of the video image, something that's possible with the 60D if you're also happy to manually set the shutter speed. (ISO sensitivity can still be controlled either automatically or manually, so it's still possible to let the camera handle the overall exposure level, while manually specifying the aperture and shutter speed.) With a pixel resolution of only 2.1 megapixels in the Canon EOS 60D's highest-resolution 1080p Full HD mode, 0.9 megapixels in 720p HD mode, and just 0.3 megapixels in VGA mode, images that would be unacceptably blurred as 18 megapixel still shots look perfectly fine as video frames. This not only provides greater depth of field at any given aperture, but is also more forgiving of diffraction limiting at very small lens apertures. Diffraction at small apertures means you'd usually want to avoid f/16 or f/22 for still images, but again, the results generally look perfectly fine at video resolutions. Bottom line, with the EOS 60D's lens set to f/16 or f/22 (assuming you're shooting under fairly bright conditions), you'll be surprised by how little focus adjustment is needed during a typical video recording. An example can be seen at the end of the video samples table above.

Note that if shooting with manual exposure and manual sensitivity, and your exposure level is too low for contrast detection AF, the 60D will automatically raise the exposure level sufficiently to allow AF, then drop it once the operation is complete. This sudden increase in brightness can be extremely noticeable in your recorded video.

Canon EOS 60D Depth of Field Control
1,920 x 1,088, 24fps
Manual Exposure
1/1,000 sec @ f/5.0, ISO 1,600
(7 seconds, 40.3 MB)
1,920 x 1,088, 24fps
Manual Exposure
1/30 second @ f/25.0, ISO 1,600
(7 seconds, 40.5 MB)



Canon EOS 60D VGA Movie Crop

The Canon 60D's movie mode inherits an option previously seen on the consumer-class Rebel T2i, namely the VGA Movie Crop function, and at the time of this writing, we believe it to still be unique among SLR and SLD movie modes from any brand. The Movie Crop function aims to solve a problem faced by consumers: expensive telephoto lenses generally carry hefty price tags that place them far out of reach of the casual amateur. Ordinarily, the Canon 60D's movies are recorded using data from across the image sensor area. With Movie Crop mode enabled, however, the 60D instead crops only the centermost pixels from its sensor data for recording, and discards the rest. The feature is only available when recording at VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution, and yields an effective 7x magnification.

There's no free lunch, of course. While magnifying your subject to bring you close to the action, the Movie Crop mode also magnifies image defects. Since lens defects are generally most prominent towards the corners, the crop mode avoids the worst of these issues by using the sweet spot at the center of the lens. The effects of focus errors, diffraction limiting, and high ISO noise can prove another matter entirely. Videos shot in the VGA Crop mode are decidedly soft compared to the standard VGA mode, and can quickly get noisy if ambient lighting isn't ideal. For consumers and enthuisiastic amateurs, though, such defects will likely prove relatively acceptable, when compared to the cost of obtaining a lens of equivalent focal lengths.

Canon EOS 60D Video Exposure Control

Many video-capable SLRs only offer automatic exposure in their movie modes, but the Canon EOS 60D gives you a choice of either automatic or manual exposure modes. In Auto mode, the camera adjusts the shutter speed and aperture as needed for a correct exposure, keeping things simple. 3.0EV of exposure compensation is available in 1/3 EV steps, to ensure exposure is as intended. Auto exposure mode is the default when you first place the Mode dial in the Movie position, and Manual mode is accessed from the Movie Exposure option in Movie Menu 1.

In Manual mode, simultaneous control of both the shutter speed, aperture, and (optionally) the ISO sensitivity is possible. ISO can be set either in 1/3 EV or 1 EV steps, adjustable through the ISO Speed Setting Increments option in Movie Menu 1. The ability to control depth of field or freeze action is very useful, giving you significantly more creative control over your videos. (Given the slow default shutter times of most video-capable digital SLRs, the 60D included, a higher shutter speed to freeze fast motion is almost a necessity for good-quality video of anything moving.) Note, though, that although you can control shutter speed, this doesn't prevent the so-called "Jello effect", more properly known as rolling shutter artifacts. Like other digital SLRs, the progressive manner in which the Canon 60D clocks data off its sensor means that sudden camera or subject movements can cause distortion, although this is less of an issue for the 60D than in some cameras.

The Canon 60D's movie menus also allows you to enable or disable Highlight Tone Priority, and to set the Auto Lighting Optimizer function to Disable, Low, Standard, or Strong. The two functions can't be used together, and when enabled, Highlight Tone Priority restricts the ISO sensitivity range to ISO 200 - 6,400 equivalents. Highlight Tone Priority for movies works in much the same manner as it does for stills, by bumping the 60D's ISO up one notch, and then only half-filling the sensor's pixels with charge during the exposure. This is coupled with an altered tone curve to prevent loss of highlight detail, albeit at the expense of increased noise levels in shadows and mid-tones. Auto Lighting Optimizer functions at the other end of the scale, adjusting the tone curve so as to open up shadows. Picture styles and white balance can also be set for video recording, in much the same manner as for still images.

Canon EOS 60D Low-Light Shooting
1,920 x 1,088, 24fps
Programmed Exposure, f/5.0, ISO 3,200
1 foot-candle (roughly equivalent to city street lighting at night)
(14 seconds, 79.4 MB)



Canon EOS 60D Video: Audio recording

External Mic. The EOS 60D's Mic jack resides on the camera's left side under a rubber panel, alongside the camera's other various connectors.

Like most competing SLRs with video recording capability, the Canon 60D sports an internal monaural microphone that can record an audio track. Internal mics are somewhat problematic, though, in that they're prone to picking up noise produced by moving your hands on the camera or actuating any controls while recording. We haven't noticed pronounced differences in how much camera-handling noise various models' internal mics pick up; the Canon 60D's seems fairly typical in that regard. In a big bonus for serious video users, the Canon EOS 60D also sports a microphone jack under a rubber flap on its left side, to which you can attach an external stereo microphone.

Better still, the Canon 60D allows manual control of recording levels -- whether using the internal mic or an external one -- through the Sound Recording menu, which is accessed from Movie Menu 2. As of this writing, very few video-capable SLRs offer options for manual levels control. Instead, they generally adjust levels on the fly, which can prove distracting as the volume ramps up and down to account for changes in ambient noise levels. For this reason, pros would typically prefer to set levels themselves, and then make adjustments in post-processing where needed. With most DSLRs, the only way to do so is to record audio separately on a dedicated device, and then sync and replace the audio track in post processing.

To assist in setting levels, the 60D provides a stereo levels gauge, as shown in the screenshot above left. 64 levels of adjustment are available, and the recommended procedure when setting levels manually is to watch the gauge for a short period, adjusting levels so that the -12dB mark is reached only occasionally, and the 0dB mark is never exceeded. Of course, you can also let the 60D set levels automatically, in which case it behaves like most other video-capable DSLRs on the market. The same menu provides an optional wind filter which reduces low-frequency noise levels, and also allows audio recording to be disabled entirely through an option in Movie Menu 2.

Canon EOS 60D Movie Recording User Interface

The Canon EOS 60D's video mode is accessed via a dedicated position on the camera's mode dial. A Live View / Movie button to the right of the viewfinder is used to start and stop recording when the Mode dial is in the Movie position, and acts as a Live View button in other modes. Setting adjustments in movie mode are made via three dedicated Movie menus, which are only available when the camera is in Movie mode. Still images can be captured in Movie mode, interrupting the movie for about 1 second, by pressing the Shutter button. Autoexposure is used, unless manual exposure is chosen. Flash is not supported. It's possible to enable or disable autofocus using the Shutter button, and to assign a number of options to the shutter, AF-On and AE-Lock buttons, through Movie Menu 1. (The list of options mirrors that for still image shooting, and is detailed in full on the Modes & Menus page.)

In Playback mode, the Canon 60D allows you edit out or trim the first and/or last scenes of a movie, in one second increments. You can save the trimmed movie to a new file (if there is space on the card), or choose to overwrite the original. Movies can be played back at normal speed, or in slow-motion, with adjustable playback frame rate. There are "VCR" like controls for advancing to the next or last frame, or playing from the previous or first frame.



Computer Requirements for Viewing HD Video

A typical computer these days has little trouble dealing with still images, but high-definition video can be another matter. Depending on the file format involved, it can take a pretty beefy computer to handle HD-resolution video playback without stuttering or dropping frames. The AVC / H.264 image compression used by the Canon EOS 60D is one of the more compute-intensive formats, and its 1,920 x 1088 (1080p) resolution means there's a lot of data in each frame to deal with at full resolution. The net result is that you'll want a relatively recent and powerful computer to play full-res high-def video files from the EOS 60D on your computer. At lower resolutions, the requirements will be more modest. We found that we could run the 60D's video acceptably at half size on an older G5 Power Mac with dual 2.3GHz processors, so long as nothing else was running simultaneously, so it definitely seems less processor intensive than full HD video from many other cameras, including some using Motion JPEG compression.

You can of course view your movies on a TV, either via the composite A/V Output, or on an HDTV via the HDMI output. Both terminals cannot be used simultaneously.