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Canon EOS D60

Canon updates their D30 Semi Pro SLR with a 6 megapixel sensor and other improvements, and sets a new low-price point in the process!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 2/22/2002

Test Results
From Dave: Read our shootout article, comparing this camera to 3 other digital SLRs!

In keeping with our standard policy, my comments here are rather condensed, summarizing my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the D60's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the D60 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

NOTE: For the D60, we also have a very extensive samples "Gallery", containing a few random shots of my own and a huge pile of shots taken by news editor Mike Tomkins. (Oak Ridge, TN and environs, where Mike lives, is a lot more picturesque than the Atlanta suburbs around me!) Big thanks to Mike for the yeoman duty, collecting by far the largest assortment of sample photos from the D60 available anywhere on the web!

The D60 produced excellent, accurate color throughout the testing, with very good saturation and accurate hues under most conditions. The camera's White Balance system handled most of the test lighting well, though the Auto setting had a tendency to produce a slightly, warm color balance under my studio lighting. I most often chose the Manual setting, as it consistently produced the most accurate overall color and white values, but I suspect the Auto white balance will be entirely adequate for most users. (And I didn't see the same tendency toward warmth in the outdoor shots Mike and I snapped.) In the tough Indoor Portrait (without flash), the D60's Manual white balance setting produced excellent results, while the Auto and Incandescent settings resulted in strong orange color casts. (For a professional camera though, this is entirely appropriate, as you'd generally want its incandescent white balance setting adjusted for professional studio lighting, with a color temperature of 3200K. The household incandescent lighting used for my "indoor portrait" shot has a color temperature more on the order of 2500K.) The D60 performed very well on the Davebox test target, accurately distinguishing between the tough tonal variations of the Q60 target and reproducing the large color blocks nicely (though overall exposure was slightly dark). Skin tones were accurate in both Outdoor portraits, and the camera handled the always-difficult blue flowers very well, with barely a hint of the purple hue error that plagues many cameras on that shot. Overall, I was very impressed with the D60's color performance.

Exposure was generally quite accurate, and very little exposure compensation was required even in shots that usually give camera exposure meters fits. (Such as the very high-key outdoor portrait test. The one (dramatic) exception to this was the indoor portrait, which for some reason required a positive exposure compensation of 1.7 EV. (!) Flash exposure was exceptionally accurate, particularly in shots we snapped using the Canon 550EX speedlight. (One of the better integrations between external speedlight and camera I've yet seen.) The D60's onboard flash is about average in its power output, with an ISO 100 guide number of 12 meters or 39 feet. (Personally, I'd really like to see a more powerful onboard flash, but most serious photographers will likely use the camera with an external unit like the 550EX. At the same time, the D60's image noise levels are low enough that I'd probably routinely shoot at ISO 400 for flash shots, which would double the range to a guide number of 24 m/78 ft.)

I also was very impressed with the D60's dynamic range. It did a very good job of holding onto highlight detail under conditions of extreme contrast (the outdoor portrait shot, set up specifically to test this parameter, as well as the "far field" outdoor shot of the house). At the same time, shadow detail was really exemplary, with loads of detail and very low noise levels, even in the darkest shadow areas. On a practical level, the D60's default tone curve produces good midtone levels at the same time that it preserves both highlight and shadow detail. Finally, the low/normal/high contrast adjustment offered in the settings menu provides just the right range of adjustment (IMHO), and applies it in just the way that you'd like, working hardest to hold onto highlights, but also affecting shadow values slightly. Dynamic range is one of the areas I look hard at in professional SLRs, and the D60 performed exceptionally well in this regard.

In the area of resolution and detail, the D60 has (for the moment at least) officially captured top honors as the highest-resolution digicam I've yet tested. Its square pixels render both horizontal and vertical detail equally well, without objectionable artifacts. Detail rendition is also aided by Canon's trademark understated approach to in-camera image sharpening. Images straight out of the camera look softer than those from some other cameras, but respond exceptionally well to unsharp masking in Photoshop. - And there's no loss of detail caused by an overzealous sharpening algorithm getting to the data before you can do anything about it.

The D60 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as high as 850 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,200 lines, and "extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,700 lines. Optical distortion will of course be a function of the

With full manual exposure control and a Bulb shutter setting for exposures longer than 30 seconds, the D60's low-light shooting capabilities were outstanding. The camera captured bright, usable images with excellent color at the 1/16 foot-candle light level (0.067 lux) limit of my test series, at all five ISO settings (100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,000). The D60's automatic noise reduction system did an excellent job of controlling image noise, as noise level was only moderate at the 1,000 ISO setting at the darkest light levels. (And the D60 uses a rather different noise reduction algorithm than most cameras I've seen, in that it apparently does its dark-current and sensor nonuniformity correction "on the fly," not requiring a separate dark frame exposure to subtract-out the noise. This works surprisingly well, apparently a testament to Canon's active-pixel CMOS sensor technology. It also means that the camera finishes processing very rapidly after a bulb exposure, eliminating the delay required by other models for the dark-frame exposure.

The D60's SLR viewfinder was just a little tight, showing a little over 94 percent frame accuracy. (Canon specs it at 95%.) I personally prefer SLR viewfinders to be as near 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the D60 has a little room for improvement here IMHO. It should be said though, that most SLRs have 95% viewfinders, so the D60 is typical in this respect.

Like optical distortion, macro performance on the D60 will be entirely a lens characteristic, rather than one inherent in the camera. Still, it was fun to play with the 100mm f/2.8 macro that I also used for the res target tests: Capturing a macro area just 0.88 x 0.58 inches (22.25 x 14.83 millimeters), the this lens produced exceptional results. Resolution was very high, with an impressive level of fine detail visible in the printing of the dollar bill. Despite a slightly dark exposure, color looked good too. The camera's flash throttled down for the macro area, though it still managed to overexpose the shot slightly. (Still very impressive that it could reduce it's output as much as it did, shooting that close to the subject.)

Conclusion
With its excellent resolution, color performance, and exposure dynamics, the D60 entirely lived up to my high expectations. It clearly sets a new benchmark for under-$3,000 (make that way under $3,000) digital SLRs. Its major competition will be the Nikon D100, also announced at Spring PMA 2002. For anyone with a bagful of Canon lenses though, the wait is over for an "affordable" D-SLR right now. If you don't need the very high frame rate or incredible built-like-a-tank ruggedness of the EOS-1D, the EOS-D60 is for you. There's no question that digital photography has now arrived for the vast majority of commercial shooters. - With the D60, we've clearly entered a new era. I only hope Canon can build enough to meet demand!

 

PRE-ORDER YOUR D60!

The D60 will begin shipping very soon. If you'd like to reserve one of the first units (a wise idea IMHO, if you want one anytime soon), you can place a preorder with Ritzcamera.com. Your orders help this site, since we get an affiliate fee from Ritz for all orders placed through our links. Better yet, you can take advantage of Ritz' high-volume relationship with Nikon: I don't have specific stats, but Ritz is easily the largest photo dealer in the US, so their initial order of D60's will be huge. In my own experience, they're also the most reliable outfit I've seen to place pre-orders through, on the web or off. They always ship in strict first-come, first-served order, never charge a credit card until shipment, etc. Here are links to place your preorder. or for more info. (Unsure about placing a"preorder?" It's very safe, and a good bet for getting your camera without waiting months: Read this!)

Reader Comments! --> Visit our discussion forum for the Canon EOS D60!



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