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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 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 2/22/2002


Executive Overview
The original Canon EOS-D30 rocked the market when it was first introduced, setting a new benchmark for pro-quality digital imaging at a relatively bargain price. The D60 is its follow-on, and soon after it was introduced at Spring PMA 2002, it became apparent that it would have a similar impact, particularly in light of its breakthrough pricing. (Only $2199 US for the "kit" (which includes battery and charger) or $1999 for the body alone.) Like many others, I had been very impressed with the D30, and so was eager to test the D60 to see to what extent it would be a worth successor. I had some time with a prototype model D60 in mid-February of this year (2002), but now have had a couple of weeks to fully test a true production model.Any question of the D60's ability to match expectations based on the D30's stellar performance quickly vanished when I took a close look at its images. The D60 is not only a worthy successor to the D30, but it dramatically surpasses it in several respects.

The D60 will be immediately familiar to veteran Canon shooters, as it very much follows the user interface and general design aesthetic of other Canon SLRs. Built around the same body as the D30, the D60 is almost indistinguishable from the earlier model, apart from the D60 label on the front. About the only design tweak visible from the outside (and a subtle one at that) is the handy addition of a soft blue backlight to the top-panel LCD data readout, very useful when shooting under dim conditions. Apart from that, all the controls and dimensions remain the same. The Canon EOS D60 accepts all standard EF-series Canon lenses, a collection that includes roughly 55 currently produced models, and more than 100 released since the series began in 1987.

Since it's built on the same body, the D60 shares the same relatively svelte proportions as the D30. With a weight of some 1.8 pounds (840 g) or so with the batteries and flash card inserted but minus the lens, the D60 is about the same weight as its nearest rival the Fuji FinePix S2 Pro (announced as of this writing,, but not yet shipping), and 30 percent lighter than Nikon's D1x (although the D1x has a portrait grip built-in, and the EOS weight does not include its optional portrait grip, which adds another 13.5 ounces (including the second battery). Compared to most professional digital SLRs, the D60 is noticeably lighter, although it still conveys a sense of solidity and high build quality.

With a 95% accurate TTL optical viewfinder, there's little need for the LCD panel as a viewfinder, a good thing, since SLR optics mean that the LCD can't be used as a "live" viewfinder anyway. (By its nature, barring a semi-transparent "pellicle" mirror, the very design of an SLR precludes a "live" LCD viewfinder.) There's a dioptric adjustment dial next to the viewfinder eyepiece to adapt the optics to the user's eyeglass prescription, but no internal shutter as on some SLRs, to prevent stray light from affecting exposures when the camera is used on a tripod. The viewfinder features a very detailed information display that reports most of the camera's exposure settings and also shows a set of three focus targets. (These now optionally illuminate to show the chosen focus point, a new feature relative to the D30.) The autofocus system is quite flexible, equal in all respects to that of the D30, but extending low-light autofocus capability as low as EV 0.5 (apparently by virtue of increased use of the AF assist light), a good bit lower than the D30 could reach.

Exposure-wise, you have the option of working in Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual exposure modes. Exposure settings are easily changed by using a combination of control buttons and command dials. An extensive Custom Settings menu provides access to a range of camera settings (fourteen in total), including details of how the user interface works. Manual exposure compensation covers a range of +/- 2 EV, although when combined with the auto exposure bracketing function, you can reach a total range of +/4 EV. (Exposure compensation increments can be set via a custom function menu option to either 1/2 or 1/3 EV units.) White balance also has a lot of flexibility, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, and a manual option as well.

Three metering modes are available: Spot, Center-Weighted, and Evaluative. ISO can be set to five different values, ranging from 100 to 1000, providing great exposure flexibility. The auto bracketing feature takes three exposures of the subject at different exposure settings, while continuous shooting mode lets you capture up to eight consecutive images at up to three frames per second. The camera's flash sync mode menu lets you select when the flash fires, with choices of front- or rear-curtain sync, applicable in all flash modes. The built-in strobe has a guide number of 12 meters (39 feet) at ISO 100, a little weak in my view, but adequate for most casual shooting situations. When you need greater flash power or flexibility, the D60 mates beautifully with a range of Canon external speedlights, most notably the 550EX that I shot with during my testing.

The 6.29-megapixel (effective) CCD delivers image resolutions of 3,072 x 2,048, 2,048 x 1,360, and 1,536 x 1,024 pixels. Image quality options include the usual Normal or Fine, but also Canon's own RAW data format for lossless image storage in less memory space than would be required by TIFF files. Image storage is on CompactFlash Type I or Type II cards, and the D60 supports the current generation of IBM MicroDrives for huge on-the-go storage capacity. (Up to 1 GB.) The D60 utilizes the high-capacity BP-511 NiMH battery pack common to many of Canon's cameras and camcorders, and an AC adapter/charger is included in the box. (In the "Kit" version, that is.) A design plus I really enjoyed here is that the battery pack and card slot are both accessible from the sides of the camera, meaning that you don't have to dismount the camera from a tripod to access either compartment (this is something we always pay attention to, given the amount of studio work we do).

I think the big story with the D60 is really image quality, though. While I've often maintained that pixel count doesn't always translate directly into image resolution, in the case of the D60, it does. (And in spades.) In fact, as of this writing (in late March, 2002), the D60 enjoys the distinction of being the highest-resolution camera I've tested to date. Canon's typically understated in-camera image sharpening algorithm leaves images ever so slightly soft as they come out of the camera, but with benefit that no fine detail is lost to overzealous sharpening. Dynamic range (the range of light to dark that can be accurately recorded without losing detail) is truly exemplary, and image noise is very low under all circumstances. (Particularly noticeable when shooting long bulb exposures in dark conditions.) Color is very pure and natural, and tonal gradations are smooth and pleasing. I also appreciated the limited customization capability Canon provided, in the form of low/normal/high options for contrast, saturation, and sharpening, via the LCD menu system. (Although I'd personally like to see a wider range of adjustment, and possibly finer steps as well.)

Its combination of 6 megapixel resolution, excellent tonal and color characteristics, and groundbreaking low introductory price make the D60 a true watershed product. There's no question in my mind that it opens a whole new market for digital photography for many commercial pros who've never considered it before. At the same time, its $2200 recommended retail price puts it within range of well-heeled (or merely fanatical) amateurs. The bottom line is that the D60 (and the Nikon D100 coming soon for the Nikon side of the world) marks nothing less than the beginning of a new era in photography. Read on for all the details...


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