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Canon EOS D60Canon updates their D30 Semi Pro SLR with a 6 megapixel sensor and other improvements, and sets a new low-price point in the process!
Review First Posted: 2/22/2002
||Canon EOS SLR designed ground-up to be digital|
||6.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, 3,072 x 2,048 pixel images|
||ISO of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1000|
||3 frames per second, photo-centric design touch shutter button in Play mode and camera returns to Record mode.|
||Compatible with all Canon EOS system lenses and accessories, focal length multiplier of 1.6|
Ask a photographer, be they professional or amateur, to name the first couple of camera manufacturers they can think of, and chances are that one of those would be Canon. Ask the same photographer what the Canon name means to them, and many would suggest that they associated the name with innovation, the company having brought such technological advances as Eye-Controlled Focusing (Canon EOS 5, 1992) and the USM ultrasonic motors used in the more recent Canon EF lenses, which are extremely quiet and very fast.
Canon film cameras cover the full range from models such as those targeted at professionals (the EOS 1 and 1N for example, and more recently the EOS 1V, to those targeted at the consumer (such as the tiny ELPH series or the EOS Rebel cameras). At PMA 2000, Canon announced the EOS-D30, their first digital SLR, and followed it late last year with the EOS-1D, an ultra-rugged, true professional-grade four megapixel camera with a blazing 8 frames/second maximum exposure rate.
Now, Canon has updated their proprietary CMOS sensor technology (a significant part of the success of the D30), doubling the resolution to 6 megapixels. That, plus a handful of minor design and feature tweaks has produced the EOS-D60, a new six megapixel "semi-pro" digital SLR that will replace the D30 in the marketplace.
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...
With a nearly identical body design to the previous EOS D30, the EOS D60 looks and feels very similar to the film cameras with which it shares the EOS name, and bears a particularly strong resemblance to the EOS Rebel G camera (known in Europe as the EOS 500N, and in Japan as the EOS Kiss). This similarity to the EOS line will make transition to digital much easier for photographers used to the EOS film cameras, avoiding any relearning of the camera's layout. With a weight of somee1.8 pounds (840 g) or so with the batteries and flash card, but minus the lens, the D60 is about the same weight as its nearest rival the Fuji FinePix S2 Pro (as of this writing, announced, 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). By comparison, Canon's ultra-rugged EOS-1D professional SLR is almost twice as heavy. While it couldn't necessarily be described as "light," the EOS D60 does tie with the Fuji S2 for the title of "lightest interchangeable-lens SLR digital camera" - and the difference in weight with other digital SLRs is very noticeable. Despite it's relatively svelte proportions though, the EOS D60 has a solid heft and displays a very high build quality. The camera measures 5.9 x 4.2 x 3.0 inches (149.5 x 106.5 x 75 mm), also without the lens, batteries or flash. This is a touch (0.2-inch) wider than the S2 Pro, but a full inch shorter and about 0.1-inch slimmer. Nikon's D1x is 0.3-inch wider and deeper than the EOS D60, and fully 1.8 inches taller - but this again does not account for the D1x's built-in portrait grip, and the D60's accessory grip adds about 1.75 inches to its height.
The front of the camera features a standard Canon EF lens mount. There's also the lens release button, a depth of field preview button (on the lower left of the lens mount as viewed from the rear), a flash popup button (on the upper left of the lens mount) and the redeye reduction lamp/focus illuminator light (the clear window at upper left in the view above). (As a side note, if you haven't seen one of these krypton-filled focus-assist lights, you'll likely be as amazed as I was. It's hard to imagine something that small putting out that much light!)
The top of the camera features the Shutter button, Mode dial and a small status display panel that reports most of the camera's settings. (New on the D60 relative to the D30 is a backlight feature for the top display panel. Very welcome when shooting under dim lighting!) Also on top are the Main dial and several control buttons (metering mode, flash exposure compensation, drive mode, AF mode, and white balance). The top of the camera also contains a hot shoe for mounting an external flash unit. The hot shoe has the usual trigger terminal in the center, as well as four other contacts for interfacing to Canon EX Speedlite flashes, and hole for a locking pin to prevent rotation of the speedlight. Fixed neck strap eyelets are located on both sides of the top of the camera as well.
On the hand grip side of the camera, towards the rear of the handgrip there is a large door which opens forward, behind which the CompactFlash slot (which supports Type-I and Type-II cards including the IBM MicroDrive) is located. Underneath the CompactFlash slot is a small gray eject button for removing the CompactFlash cards.
The opposite side of the camera features a hinged rubber flap behind which are the digital (USB) and NTSC/PAL selectable video out sockets. Below this are two more sockets, likewise protected by a rubber flap. The forward of these sockets is a standard PC flash sync terminal, while the rear socket is for an N3 remote control. A design wrinkle here relative to the D30 is that the covers for all these sockets are attached to the camera body, eliminating concerns of losing the little screw-in covers used on the D30 to cover the two bottom sockets. Big kudos on this feature, little screw-in covers just beg to be lost. (Nothing comes for free though - While the large flap does a good job of sealing the digital and video sockets, I found it a little tricky to get its various projections and dimples properly seated again after having it open.) You can also see more clearly in this picture the depth of field preview button (bottom) and flash popup button (top) on the side of the lens mount.
The back panel of the EOS D60 is home to many of the camera's controls, as well as the large, bright LCD screen, and is identical in all respects to the rear panel of the D30. On the left-hand side is the main power on/off switch, as well as several buttons related to menus and playback, including the Menu, Info, Jump, Index/Enlarge, and Playback buttons. Underneath the LCD screen is the Delete button, and to the right of the screen is the Quick Control dial, in the center of which is the Set button. Above and to the left of the Quick Control dial is the Quick Control Dial switch, which enables or disables the Quick Control dial. The button in the center of the Quick Control Dial acts as a menu selection button, and also turns the top-panel backlight on and off when that feature is enabled via the appropriate menu selection. The LCD display screen itself is located near the left center of the back of the camera, directly below the optical viewfinder. On the top right corner of the optical viewfinder is the diopter adjustment knob, recessed slightly to prevent accidental changes, and featuring a ridged surface to give grip. Finally, the AE/FE lock button and the focusing point selector button are located in the upper righthand corner of the back panel.
The very flat bottom of the camera reveals the metal tripod mount, as well as the cover for the CR2025 backup button battery, and the main BP-511 Lithium Ion battery chamber cover. The main battery compartment cover is removable, necessary when installing the optional portrait grip on the camera. A small latch lever at the outside edge of the battery chamber cover unlocks it so that it may be opened. The battery compartment cover is far enough from the tripod socket that you should be able to swap batteries without removing the camera from your tripod mount. The large surface area of the camera's bottom provides a stable mounting surface for use with a tripod.
An optional extra for the Canon EOS D60 is its portrait grip, which carries two batteries, doubling the camera's battery life. Seen above from the front, the portrait grip is connected to the camera by way of the tripod socket. With the battery chamber cover removed, the "dummy battery" protruding from the top right of the portrait grip extends into the D60's battery chamber, carrying power from the grip's own battery chambers. The Shutter button is just visible on the lower right corner of the portrait grip, and also visible is the ridged wheel used to tighten or loosen the screw on the top of the portrait grip into the D60's tripod socket.
On the back of the portrait grip, you can see the dual battery chambers, and the other side of the wheel for locking/unlocking the portrait grip to the camera. There's also a sliding latch which opens the battery compartment. At bottom right are duplicate controls for the AE/AF and focus zone selector buttons.
Finally, on the bottom of the portrait grip we see a metal
tripod thread, allowing the camera to be tripod-mounted even when the portrait
grip is being used. There's also another metal strap eyelet recessed into the
base of the portrait grip, intended for use ith Canon's Handstrap E1. This is
a large, padded leather strap that wraps around the back of your hand, providing
added security when hand-holding with long lenses. The Shutter button and a
duplicated Main dial are to be found on the bottom right corner of the portrait
grip, and just above and to the right of these, tucked safely away on the inside
of the bulge below the dummy battery, is a switch which can be used to disable
the controls on the portrait grip (which you'll find very useful the first time
you leave the grip attached to the camera and revert to landscape shooting -
were it not for this switch, you'd be driving yourself nuts taking photos of
people's waists every time you bumped the shutter button on something!)
We're indebted to Canon USA, Inc. for the following series of photos and illustrations. They show the design of the original D30, but also apply to the D60, since the two cameras are based on the same core body design. They reveal some interesting aspects of the camera's design and operation, and hold intriguing possibilities for the future...
First and foremost, a key factor in the D30 and D60's design is that they weren't just modifications of an existing film body: The body was designed from the ground up to be a digital SLR, which is a significant part of why Canon was able to make it so compact. Not having to dedicate space to the usual film transport and focal plane mechanism, the designers were able to save considerable space. The diagram below shows a schematic illustration of the D60's body in cross-section. You can see from the way the components are stacked that it would have required much more space for the engineers to simply have tacked electronic components onto a film camera's body.
The illustration below expands on the cross-section above,
showing how light passes through the D60's body to both the autofocus and flash
sensors. As shown by the red lines, autofocus happens by virtue of a partially
transmissive region in the middle of the main mirror. A secondary mirror reflects
the light down to the base of the camera body, where it passes through a lens,
reflects from yet another mirror, and thence into the AF sensor itself. Focusing
can thus be continuous right up until the mirror flips up for the exposure itself.
The TTL (through the lens) flash sensor resides at the top of the camera, behind the pentaprism. Here, a small mirror and lens pick off a portion of the light passing to the viewfinder. (Note that this is before the focusing elements of the viewfinder optics, so it achieves more area coverage than you might expect.) The light reflects from a mirror, passes through a lens, and thence to the photodiode that measures returning flash energy. This design requires a pre-flash for metering, but is the same system used by other EOS cameras. This means that all EOS-compatible Canon flash units will be fully functional with the EOS D60. This approach also avoids the difficulties inherent in adapting camera designs based on Off-The-Film (OTF) flash metering. The disadvantage is that the metering occurs a small fraction of a second before the shutter opens. The strong advantage though is that it alleviates problems relating to differences between sensor and film reflectivity. (I found the flash metering of the D60 to be exceptionally accurate.)
The real "guts" of the D30/D60 is a cast plastic optical box holding the lens mount on the front, the pentaprism on top, and the CMOS image sensor on the rear. This compact arrangement is a major factor in the small profile and light weight of the D60 overall.
Here's a look at the D30/D60's optical box from the back, revealing several interesting features, as detailed in the photo's caption. (The comments we made back then now seem a bit more prophetic...)
The design of the original D30 struck us with its modularity: Canon's engineers obviously weren't designing with one camera in mind, but an entire family. In our conversations with them, Canon USA's technical folks made much of the component shown in the photo below, the "Engine" that handles the D30/D60's image processing. Again, note our comments in the photo caption below.
The shot below shows both why the D60 has a very rigid, rugged "feel", but also part of why Canon themselves don't claim it to be a "professional" model. The body is composed of heavy gauge stamped metal: Very rugged and rigid, but clearly not in the same class as the die-cast body of the EOS-1D. Still, there's no doubt that this isn't a "plastic" camera!
CMOS versus CCD & what's it all mean?
Back when the D30 was first introduced, Canon's use of a CMOS image sensor was seen as pretty revolutionary - and it still is. To my mind, the D30's widely noted superb tonality can be traced directly to the CMOS sensor technology Canon used in building it. Accordingly, I think it appropriate to include the following section (copied from our D30 review) here, to give a little background on CMOS vs CCD sensor technology. (Thanks to IR News Editor Mike Tomkins for his work in researching and largely writing this technology briefing.)
To understand what CMOS sensor technology can bring to a digital camera, first
of all you need some understanding of how CCD and CMOS sensors work, and what
they do differently. CCD, or Charge-Coupled Device image sensors, were invented
at the end of the 1960s by scientists at Bell Labs, and were originally conceived
not as a method of capturing photographic images, but as a way of storing computer
data. Obviously this idea didn't catch on; today we instead have RAM (Random
Access Memory) chips in our computers which are, ironically enough, manufactured
using the CMOS process.
Where CCDs did catch on, however was recording images by 1975 CCDs were appearing in television cameras and flatbed scanners. The mid 80s saw CCDs appearing in the first "filmless" still cameras CCDs rapidly attained great image quality, but they weren't perfect. Perhaps most significantly, CCDs required a manufacturing process which was different to that used for manufacturing other computer chips such as processors and RAM. This means that specialized CCD fabs have to be constructed, and they cannot be used for making other components, making CCDs inherently more expensive.
Interline Transfer CCDs consist of many MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) capacitors arranged in a pattern, usually in a square grid, which can capture and convert light photons to electrical charge, storing this charge before transferring it for processing by supporting chips. To record color information, colored filters are placed over each individual light receptor making it sensitive to only one light color (generally, Red, Green and Blue filters are used, but this is not always the case). This gives a value for one color at each pixel, and the surrounding pixels can provide eight more values, four each of the two remaining colors from which they may be interpolated for our original pixel.
After the exposure is complete, the charge is transferred row by row into a read-out register, and from there to an output amplifier, analog/digital converters and on for processing. This row-by-row processing of the CCD's light "data" is where the sensor gets the term "Charge-Coupled" in its name. One row of information is transferred to the read-out register, and the rows behind it are each shifted one row closer to the register. After being "read out", the charge is released and the register is empty again for the next charge. Repeat the process a number of times, and eventually you read out the entire contents of the CCD sensor. (Think of a bucket brigade, moving water from point A to point B by pouring it from one bucket into the next...)
A number of disadvantages to this approach to sensor design now become apparent,
in addition to the already mentioned cost. For one thing, the entire contents
of the CCD must be read out, even if you're only interested in a small part
thereof (for example, when using the digital zooms that are all the vogue in
digital cameras, you have no interest in a large part of the sensor's data,
so why take the time to read it out?) There are also a number of supporting
chips required for the CCD sensor, each of which adds to the complexity and
size of the camera design, increasing cost and power consumption. CCDs also
suffer from blooming (where charge "leaks" from one light receptor
into surrounding ones), "fading" (a loss of charge as it is passed
along the chain before being read out), and smearing (where the image quality
can be adversely affected by light arriving during the read-out process, leaving
streaks behind bright scene areas).
There's also the issue of speed. The step by step process used in a CCD is not exactly conducive to very high speed, and for just this reason a second type of CCD exists. The Frame Interline Transfer CCD features a read-out register as large as the light receptor area is, allowing the entire contents of the CCD to be read out in one pass. This, though, adds significantly to the area of silicon required, and hence to the cost of the CCD.
This is where CMOS image sensors step in. CMOS, or Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, is actually a generic term for the process used to create these image sensors, along with numerous other semiconductor items such as computer RAM, processors such as those from Intel and other manufacturers, and much more. CMOS image sensors can be made in the same fabs as these other items, with the same equipment. This technology is, of necessity, very advanced with the amount of competition in processor and other markets contributing to new techniques in CMOS fabrication. Add to this that there is a very significant economy of scale, when your fab can make not only CMOS image sensors, but other devices as well, and you find that CMOS image sensors are much cheaper to make than CCDs.
This cost advantage is even more significant when you consider the way a CMOS sensor works. The Active Pixel CMOS image sensors used in digital imaging are very similar to a CCD sensor, but with one major difference supporting circuitry is actually located alongside each light receptor, allowing noise at each pixel to be canceled out at the site. Further to this, other processes can be integrated right into the CMOS image sensor chip, eliminating the need for extra chips things such as analog/digital conversion, white balancing, and more can be built into the CMOS sensor. This reduces cost of supporting circuitry required, as well as camera complexity, and also power consumption, as does the fact that CMOS sensors require a significantly lower voltage than CCD sensors. CMOS sensors themselves also claim lower power consumption than CCD sensors, with one manufacturer claiming their CMOS sensors draw some 10x less power than equivalent CCD sensors.
CMOS sensors have other advantages, as well. For one thing, they can be addressed randomly. If you're only interested in a certain area of the image, you can access it directly and don't need to deal with the unwanted data. Blooming and smearing are also less of a problem with CMOS sensors. CMOS sensors are capable of much higher speeds than their CCD rivals, with one CMOS chip we've heard of capable of running at over 500 frames per second at megapixel resolution.
With these advantages, you'd think CMOS would be a shoe-in to replace CCD in digital cameras, but thus far it has really only impacted the lower end of the market, with CMOS rapidly becoming dominant in the entry level digital cameras and tethered cameras. Why hasn't CMOS taken over at the high end? Well, up until now, image quality has not been on a par with CCD CMOS sensors, with their many amplifiers at each pixel, suffer from so-called "fixed pattern noise". The amplifiers aren't all equal, and this creates a noise pattern across the image. In the D60's CMOS sensor, Canon has tackled this by first taking the image off the CMOS sensor in 10 milliseconds, and then reading just the fixed-pattern noise from the sensor in the following 10 milliseconds. Subtract the second image from the first, and you neatly remove the noise.
There's also the fact that CMOS sensors are generally less sensitive than their CCD counterparts. High end "Full Frame" CCD image sensors have a "fill factor" of 100%, because the whole CCD sensor area is being used for light capture but in a CMOS sensor the fill factor is lower, because the extra circuitry alongside each pixel takes up space. This space can't be used to capture light, and so you lose some of it Two techniques exist to combat this firstly reducing the size of this support circuitry, and secondly the microlens. Reducing the size of the support circuitry is the less ideal of the two methods the smaller you make it, harder the sensor is to manufacture, and the more expensive it becomes. The microlens is considered to be the better answer, then. Essentially, the support circuitry is covered by an opaque metal layer, and a microscopic lens is placed over the entire area of the light receptor and support circuitry, redirecting the light that would otherwise fall on the support circuitry and focusing it on the light receptor.
Canon's EOS D60 is the first high-end digital camera we've seen using CMOS technology, and it is likely that the projected price advantage the camera has in comparison with its nearest rivals (the Fuji FinePix S1 Pro and Nikon D1) is in large part due to the choice of the CMOS image sensor. The image sensor in the EOS D60 is only ever so slightly smaller than those used in these two cameras, and significantly bigger than the sensors used in consumer cameras, as can be seen in the comparison photo above, which shows the CCD sensor from Canon's PowerShot S20 digital camera alongside the CMOS sensor from the EOS D60. The illustration below shows the difference in sizes (to scale) of a consumer CCD, the EOS D30/60 sensor (they're both the same size), the D1/D1x/Fuji S1 Pro sensors (also all the same size), an APS film frame, and a standard 35mm frame.
Canon thus far has been fairly closed-mouthed about their CMOS sensor technology, but have talked about a few details of it. As with other Active-Pixel CMOS sensors, theirs does in fact have a signal amplifier located at each pixel site. More intriguing though, is that they also claim to have an A/D (analog to digital) converter at each individual pixel site as well. If this last is true, then it must be a very different sort of A/D than is normally used with CCDs, as those circuits are quite complex and space-consuming. We suspect we'll hear more details as Canon's patent position is solidified, but it sounds as though there's been some genuine innovation in Canon's back labs. It's unusual these days to see a company moving toward vertical integration, developing component technology in-house rather than farming it out to specialist companies. As the digicam market continues to evolve, it will be interesting to see whether Canon's sensor technology will constitute a competitive advantage for them relative to other manufacturers. (A note, added February, 2002: Canon has continued to be fairly close-mouthed about their CMOS technology. No new details have come to us in the year or so since the D30 was first introduced...)
A near-duplicate of the D30's viewfinder, the D60's viewfinder is excellent on all fronts, providing great information, easy use, and high accuracy. Relative to the viewfinder display in the D30, the D60 adds information on maximum shots available in the buffer, remaining frames, and a flash exposure compensation icon to alert you whenever you've got exposure compensation dialed in for the flash. While we don't have a formal test for it, the "eyepoint" of the viewfinder seemed quite high, making it comfortable to use with eyeglasses. The dioptric correction is also excellent, covering a broad range from -3 to +1 diopters. I measured its accuracy at 94 percent, closely agreeing with Canon's official specification of 95 percent frame coverage. (I have to say though, that I'd really like to see it be a full 100% coverage - Viewfinder inaccuracy is a pet peeve of mine.) The viewfinder display conveys a lot of information about exposure and camera status, as shown in the illustration below. (Courtesy Canon USA, Inc.)
Important to note in discussing the D60's viewfinder system is that the rear-panel LCD display is not usable as a viewfinder. Instead, the optical viewfinder uses a mirror to intercept the image on the way to the shutter and the sensor. Thus, when the camera isn't actively taking a picture, the light from the lens is directed only to the optical viewfinder, and so isn't available to the sensor to drive a live viewfinder display on the LCD. With the exception of the Olympus E-10 and E-20 (which use a beam-splitter prism instead of a mirror, at some cost in light sensitivity), all digital SLRs operate in this fashion.
While not strictly a viewfinder function, the capture-mode Info display shown on the rear-panel LCD screen probably deserves mention at this point. The optical viewfinder carries quite a bit of information about camera status as shown above, but there's even more available on the rear panel, just by pressing the Info button. Rather than the exposure settings shown in the optical viewfinder, this display shows shooting mode, auto-bracketing and flash exposure compensation, shots and memory card space remaining, ISO setting, and the status of all custom-function options selected (albeit in a very terse numerical format). New to this display since the D30 is the "Parameters" indicator in the middle: The D60 now supports multiple parameter settings, that can be loaded from a host computer for rapid selection. Between this screen, the optical viewfinder display, and the LCD data readout on the camera's top, the D60 is one of the most "informative" cameras I've yet worked with.
Like most digital SLRs, the sensor in the EOS D60 is smaller than a 35mm film
frame. This means that the "effective" focal length of your lenses
will be 1.6x their normal values on 35mm cameras. Just to be clear, nothing's
changed about the lenses or their behavior, it's just that the CMOS sensor is
effectively cropping a smaller area out of the lens' coverage circle. The net
result is that shooting really wide angle photography is tough with digital
SLRs, the D60 included. At the other end of the scale though, it's like having
a 1.6x teleconverter on your lenses with no cost in light loss or sharpness.
Thus, a 300mm telephoto has the same "reach" as a 480mm on your 35mm
film camera. And of course, a f/2.8 300mm is a lot cheaper than a f/2.8
500mm! The net of it is that a 31mm focal length has the same angular coverage
as a 50mm lens on a 35mm SLR, and the common 17-35mm zoom lenses have a range
equivalent to 27-56mm on film cameras.
When I tested the D30, I asked Canon for a fair range of lenses to test as well. (My favorite was the 100-400mm optically-stabilized zoom, equivalent to a 160-640 mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Great fun at my son's soccer game, and the optical stabilization was really a dream to use, worked extremely well.) The surprise contender was their 24-85mm lens (shown above), equivalent to a 38-136mm. It showed some bad coma in the upper left-hand corner of the frame when wide open, but outperformed a costly 28-70mm L-series lens overall. The hands-down winner for corner to corner sharpness though was a 100mm f/2.8 fixed focal length macro lens. I've found that digital cameras really show up the least lens defects, so getting good glass to use with your high-end SLR is very important. That said, the relatively inexpensive 24-85mm EF-series zoom mentioned earlier turned in a surprisingly good performance. (NOTE: A professional user of the D30 commented that in his use, while the 24-85mm performs very well on artificial targets like the ISO-12233 res chart, he found that the 28-70mm consistently gave him better results on "natural" subjects. I don't have any side by side examples of my own to prove or disprove this, but will try to get a 28-70mm from Canon to put it to the test. (No promises on time frame for this though.)
I've now had quite a bit of time shooting with both prototypes of the D60, as well as a full production model, and am thoroughly impressed by its resolution and excellent rendition of fine detail. Based on my tests so far, the D60 is the highest-resolution camera I've seen yet, in almost four years of testing. Very impressive!
This is an area where I'm probably least qualified to comment, given the relatively small amount of time I've spent with professional-grade SLRs. The D60 has an autofocus system with three sensors, arrayed horizontally across the frame. You can manually select which of these three you want the camera to pay attention to (handy for off-center subjects), or you can let the camera decide. When it's operating in automatic AF mode, it will use the sensor corresponding to the part of the subject closest to the camera. When shooting in full Automatic exposure mode, the camera selects either One Shot or AI Servo AF focus modes, depending on the state of the subject. If the subject remains stationary, the camera remains in One Shot AF mode. However, if the subject begins to move, the camera automatically switches over to AI Servo AF and begins tracking the subject as it moves. This is a handy feature, letting you automatically track moving subjects without having to manually adjust the focus mode.
Early rumors had it that Canon had enhanced the autofocus system on the D60 relative to that on the D30, and many were hoping for faster performance in this area. Now that the production models are out, it appears that the primary improvement is a decrease in the lower light limit for AF operation, by about 2 stops relative to the D30. AF speed seems to be about the same, although I unfortunately don't have any quantitive way of measuring this parameter. I'd really like to see a faster and more "intelligent" AF system on the D60: Canon is well-known for powerful autofocus systems on their high-end professional SLRs, so it should be reasonable to hope that some of that technology could be brought down market to cameras like the D60. This doesn't appear to have happened yet, but we can keep hoping. (And prodding Canon's product design team, which is what I hope to accomplish by this mention here. ;-)
As you'd expect, the EOS D60 provides really complete exposure control. Standard exposure modes include the usual Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority, and full Manual, as well as some "Image Zone" (scene-based preset) modes, and one of the most unique (and uniquely useful) modes I've yet seen, an Automatic Depth-of-Field mode. The "Image Zone" exposure modes include Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports, and Night Scene modes. These modes preset a variety of camera parameters to make it easier for non-expert photographers to achieve good exposures in a variety of standard shooting situations. The full Auto mode takes over all camera functions, making the D60 into a very easy to use point and shoot camera, albeit a very capable one. In a concession to the D60's smaller (and therefore more noise-prone) sensor pixels, the D60's maximum ISO speed is 1000. (Default ISO is 100, other options are 200, 400, and 800.)
As noted, I was most impressed with the Automatic Depth-of-Field mode. This mode uses all three autofocus zones to determine the amount of depth in the active subject area. Once it has determined the range of focusing distances present across the three zones, it automatically computes the combination of aperture and shutter speed needed to render all three zones in sharp focus. This struck me as a remarkably useful feature, even for professional photographers. In many situations, you want to keep several subjects in focus, while at the same time trying for the highest shutter speed (largest aperture) that will permit that. In practice, faced with such situations, I've usually resorted to just picking the smallest aperture feasible and hoping for the best. With the D60's A-DEP mode, the camera takes the guesswork out of this process and gives you the fastest shutter speed it can manage while still keeping things in focus. (In playing with this, I was often surprised by how large an aperture in fact would work. I frequently would have chosen a much smaller aperture to stay on the safe side.)
I also liked the way Canon implemented the automatic exposure bracketing on the D60. You can set the total exposure variation (across three shots) at anywhere from +/- 1/3 EV all the way up to +/- 2 EV. The nice part is that the automatic variation is centered around whatever level of manual exposure compensation you have dialed in. Thus, you could set positive compensation of 0.7EV, and then have the camera give you a variation of +/- 2/3 EV around that point.
Speaking of exposure compensation, the D60 also lets you specify the step size for EV adjustments. The default is a step size of one-half EV, but you can set an increment of one-third EV unit via the LCD menu system. (Frankly, we've always found that one-third EV compensation is just about ideal for digicam. One-half EV steps are just too broad to set critical highlight exposures accurately.)
I really liked the amount of information the D60 gives you about its exposure, not only in terms of the settings it's using, but in the form of feedback on how pictures you've captured turned out. You can select an "Info" display mode when viewing captured images on the rear-panel LCD screen, which produces the display shown at right. Notable here is that you not only can see all the exposure parameters, but you get excellent feedback on the tonal range of the image itself. One form of feedback is the histogram display at upper right, which shows how the tonal values are distributed within the image. Histogram displays are useful for directly seeing how the overall exposure turned out in an image, but I've found them to be of limited usefulness for making critical judgments about highlight exposure.
Digital cameras need to be exposed more or less like slide film, in that you need to zealously protect your highlight detail. Once you've hit the limit of what the sensor can handle, the image "clips" and all detail is lost in the highlight areas. The problem is that it's quite common for critical highlights to occupy only a very small percentage of the overall image area. Because they correspond to such a small percentage of the total image pixels, the peak at 100 percent brightness can be very hard to distinguish in the histogram display. To handle such situations, the D60 blinks any pixels that are 100 percent white on its screen, alternating them between black and white. This makes localized overexposure problems leap out at you, making it very easy to control the critical highlight exposure precisely. (The sample image shown in the display above is a pathological example, chosen to show how the feature works. In practice, you'd probably never overexpose an image that badly.)
Besides the above-mentioned exposure information and feedback, the D60's playback options include a thumbnail index display, normal full-frame viewing of captured images, and a zoomed view, as shown at right. There's also a "jump" mode, activated via the button of that name on the rear panel of the camera. Jump mode lets you very quickly move through images stored on the memory card, jumping 9 shots at a time.
Another feature deserving comment is the D60's separation of the autoexposure and autofocus lock functions. In consumer-level digicams, half-pressing the Shutter button locks exposure and focus simultaneously. You can use this to deal with an off-center subject by pointing the camera at the subject, locking exposure and focus, and then reframing the picture before finally snapping the shutter. The only problem is that you sometimes need to perform a more radical recomposition of the subject in order to determine the proper exposure. For instance, you may want to zoom in on the subject, grab an exposure setting, and then zoom back out before taking the picture. Situations like that require locking the exposure independently of the focusing, and the D60 provides for just such eventualities by way of a separate AE lock button on the back of the camera, right under your right thumb. A very handy feature indeed, for those times you need it.
Low Light Capability
Low light shooting looks to be a real strong point of the D60, with new noise-reduction algorithms introduced for the first time. The D30 was an excellent low-light performer, but the D60 looks to be even better, or at least more efficient at the same level of performance.
When operating the camera in full-manual exposure mode,
the D60 offers a Bulb exposure setting for very long exposures. Normally, exposure
times are limited to a maximum of 30 seconds in Aperture- or Shutter-Priority
modes, but in Manual mode, you can expose for as long as 999 seconds by selecting
Bulb mode and holding down the Shutter button for as long as you want the shutter
to remain open. Obviously, 999-second exposures aren't a practical reality.
Sensor noise will totally swamps the signal long before that point is reached.
The D60 does have some new tricks up its sleeve in the long-exposure department
One of the first things I noticed in comparing the D60's custom function menu options against those of the D30 was that the Noise Reduction option was missing. Chuck Westfall of Canon USA confirmed that this was the case, saying that the D60 incorporated new noise reduction algorithms that no longer needed a user option to turn them on or off. A little explanation here would might be in order.
A full discussion of image sensor noise is *way* beyond the scope of this review, but the simple story is that the most obvious and objectionable noise we see in long digicam exposures is so-called "fixed pattern" noise, caused by variations in "dark current" between sensor pixels. "Dark current" is just what it sounds like: Current (a signal) that appears even when the sensor isn't being exposed to light. When you look at a long time exposure shot with a digital camera, you'll often see very bright pixels, where minor manufacturing defects have resulted in unusually high "dark current" levels. Often called "hot pixels," these flecks of color are very distracting visually.
The normal way to deal with hot pixels is to take an exposure with the camera's shutter closed, immediately after shooting the subject. If this "dark frame" is exposed for the same time as the subject was, you can largely eliminate the hot pixel problem by subtracting the dark frame information from the actual exposure. In practice, this works fairly well, but has the disadvantage that you have to wait for the dark frame exposure to be taken, requiring an appreciable amount of time in the case of long time exposures. (If you shot a 1 minute exposure for the photo itself, you'll have to wait another minute for the dark frame exposure to be made.)
The original D30 used dark-frame noise reduction, as do most other high-end digicams on the market. The D60 appears to be doing something very different though, as there's very little delay between the end of the primary exposure and the writing of the image file to the memory card. There's clearly no "dark frame" exposure involved. I suspect that this advanced noise reduction processing in the D60 is another consequence of the "active pixel" CMOS technology Canon developed for the D30 and D60. Having active circuitry associated with each pixel in the sensor array allows lots of fancy processing that would be impossible otherwise, and it looks like Canon's new noise reduction system takes advantage of this.
However they do it, Canon's new noise reduction system in the D60 is astonishingly effective. Prior to receiving the first prototype D60s to work with, Canon USA told me that they thought the D60's noise reduction was at least somewhat more effective than that of the D30. I didn't pay much attention to the low light test images from the prototype cameras I worked with, since noise performance often improves as a camera moves from prototype to production. When I finally looked closely at the results from the production D60 and compared them to those from the D30, the difference was so dramatic that I frankly checked the image files three times to make sure I hadn't made some mistake: The D60's noise levels 4-5x times lower than those of the D30s, even with an exposure time that was 4x longer! (My D30 low light tests were shot with the 28-70mm f/2.8 lens, while the D60's were shot with the 24-85mm f/3.5, and I ended up exposing the D60's shot more, producing a brighter image.) The cropped shots below give some idea of just how radically improved the D60's low light noise levels are over those of the D30: These are crops of the same swatch of the MacBeth chart in the Davebox test target, shot at a light level of 0.67 lux, the lower limit of my low-light test. (This is really dark, a full four stops darker than typical city street lighting at night.)
Image Noise Standard Deviations
Overall, this is a remarkable achievement in sensor noise reduction. If your photography calls for any amount of after-dark photography with long bulb exposures, the D60 is far and away the best camera I've seen for that purpose.
The EOS D60's built-in flash was very effective in my tests. The limited information Canon provided with the unit didn't include a guide number rating for the internal flash, but the D30's carried a guide number of 39 feet (12 meters) at ISO 100. This suggests a range of about 14 feet at f/2.8, a result that agreed well with my testing of the D60. I was also impressed by how accurate flash exposure was, as it didn't seem to be fooled by unusual subjects such as the light-on-dark of our Davebox flash range test target. (Some cameras have a tendency to overexpose this due to the dark background.) It's hard to overstate how easy it was to get exceptional results with it and in fact, I felt I really had to go out of my way to get a bad exposure.
The D60 gives you a great deal of control over flash exposure, allowing you to adjust flash and ambient exposure independently of each other, in one-half or one-third EV increments. This makes it very easy to balance flash and ambient lighting for more natural-looking pictures. The camera also boasts a custom function for "Auto Flash Brightness Reduction" that is particularly useful when using the flash for fill illumination in daylight shooting conditions. With this mode enabled, if the ambient light is above a certain level, the camera will assume you're using the flash in a "fill" mode, and will automatically back off its intensity a bit, to avoid washing out the natural lighting.
Another nice touch was the Flash Exposure Lock button, which fires the flash under manual control before the actual exposure, to determine the proper exposure setting. This struck us as very handy, akin to the more conventional autoexposure lock function for handling difficult ambient lighting conditions.
As was the case with the D30, several of the more impressive features of the Canon flash system depend on the dedicated 550 EX speedlight. (While a number of Canon speedlights will work just fine with the D60, their previous top-end 540EX unit apparently does not, so you'll need the new 550EX to fully tap the D60's flash potential.) Among these are true FP (focal plane) flash sync, flash exposure bracketing with external flash units, and flash modeling. FP sync requires a flash unit to provide uniform light output for a relatively long period of time, long enough for the focal plane shutter curtain to fully traverse the "film" plane (sensor plane in the case of the D60). On the D60, this requires a flash duration of 1/200-second. Uniform, long-duration flash pulses like this permit use of shutter speeds as high as the 1/4,000-second maximum that the D60 is capable of. This can be invaluable when you want to exclude ambient light from the exposure.
Here's the rundown on Canon Speedlights and their compatibility with the D60:
|Speedlight Model||On-Camera Capability||E-TTL Wireless
|550EX||All||Master or Slave|
|480EG||External auto plus manual operation||None|
|540EZ||Manual operation only||None|
|430EZ||Manual operation only||None|
|420EZ||Manual operation only||None|
|MR-14EX Macro Ring||All||Master Only|
|ST-E2 transmitter||E-TTL, attach to camera||Master Only|
|Non-dedicated shoe-mount units||Manual operation only||n/a|
|Studio strobe packs||Manual operation only, connect via threaded PC sync socket on camera body||n/a|
You'll note the references to "E-TTL remote" capabilities in the table above: Canon's Speedlight system permits TTL flash metering with multiple remote units, and even allows you to set differential power ratios between the slaved units, over a six-stop flash exposure range.
I explained Flash Exposure Bracketing (FEB) and flash exposure compensation above, so won't review those features in the context of external flash operation. What does deserve separate comment is the "Flash Modeling" feature of the 550EX speedlight when used with the D60. With a F550EX connected to the D60, pressing the camera's depth-of-field preview button causes the speedlight to fire at 70 flashes per second for about one second. This creates the illusion of a constant light source for your eyes, letting you preview the lighting on your subject when the flash fires. VERY handy, and likely to save lots of shoot/check/reshoot time!
As alluded to above, the "X-sync" speed of the D60 is 1/200-second. (This is the maximum shutter speed that can be used on the D60 when working with a non-dedicated, FP-capable speedlight.) When used with higher-powered studio strobe systems, Canon recommends a maximum shutter speed of 1/60-second or slower, to accommodate the time/intensity profile of such units. Finally, via a custom function menu setting, you can program the D60 to use a shutter speed of 1/200-second in Aperture-Priority exposure mode regardless of ambient light levels. (We guess this is useful, if you know you're going to be hopping in and out of flash mode, but other than a convenient preset for the shutter speed, it's little different than simply using Manual mode to set both shutter speed and aperture.)
A final benefit of the dedicated Canon speedlights is that they carry powerful autofocus assist illuminators that can extend the range of the built-in AF assist light of the D60. The AF assist beam on the 550EX is rated as good to about 50 feet(!), vs the roughly 13 feet of the lamp on the D60 itself. The 550EX illuminator is also much less obtrusive, since it's a near-infrared beam, rather than the bright white of the krypton bulb on the D60's body. (NOte too, that the ST-E2 transmitter can also be used for AF assist during non-flash photography, a handy trick.)
Continuous Shooting Mode
Among digital SLRs currently on the market, the D60 comes in about midway in terms of shooting speed. The Continuous Shooting mode is rated by Canon at three frames per second, a number that matched almost exactly my own tests (which showed a frame rate of 2.94 seconds). This is considerably faster than the 1.5 frames per second of the Fuji S1 Pro, just a hair faster than the 2.86 frames per second of Nikon's D1x, but a good bit slower than the blazing 8 frames per second of Canon's own EOS-1D. Fast enough for you? - You'll have to be the judge of that. Professional sports shooters will doubtless want more (they being a primary target of the EOS-1D), but for most situations, I expect the D60 will be plenty fast enough.
Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
The production model D60 showed the same shutter lag/cycle time performance as did the prototype I tested. Here's the numbers I measured:
|Power On -> First shot||
||Time to save a single large/fine file before removing card. Otherwise, shutdown time is effectively zero, because no lens to retract.|
|Play to Record, first shot||
||Time from playback mode to first shot captured. Very fast, as camera has "shooting priority," is always ready to shoot.|
|Record to play (max res)||
||Time to display large/fine file immediately after shot is captured. Very fast.|
|Shutter lag, full autofocus||
||AF speed will vary greatly depending on lens used. This time was with Canon 24-85mm zoom lens, focusing at fairly close range (about a meter). Quite fast.|
|Shutter lag, manual focus||
||Time with same lens as above, but set to manual focus mode. Very fast.|
|Shutter lag, prefocus||
||Delay with shutter button half-pressed and held before the exposure. Very fast.|
|Cycle Time, large/fine JPEG||
||Very fast. Shoots at 0.52 second minimum intervals for first 8 shots, then slows to about 1 second per shot to 16th shot. 17th and beyond, slows to card-dependent speed, about 5 seconds average. Buffer clearing very card-dependent, ranging from 15.97 seconds with SimpleTech 320 MB card to 85.74 seconds (!) with "Mr Flash" card.|
|Cycle Time, small/basic JPEG||
||Very fast. Identical performance to large/fine files, same buffer capacity, only buffer clearing time reduces with small files. (Buffer cleared in 8-9 seconds when shooting small files, regardless of card used.)|
|Cycle Time, RAW mode||
||RAW mode cycle times are the same while filling "first buffer" (first 8 shots), drop to a bit under 2 seconds for "second buffer"(next 8 shots), then 10-17 seconds depending on card speed for shots past number 16.|
|Continuous Mode, large/fine JPEG||
|This fast for 8 shots, then slows to ~0.91 seconds per shot.|
|Continuous Mode, small/basic JPEG||
|Same speed and run length as large/fine files, but slows to about 1.02 seconds/shot after buffer fills.|
|Continuous Mode, RAW mode||
|Same speed and run length as large/fine, but variable interval after 16th shot is 10-17 seconds, depending on speed of flash card used.|
In shot-to-shot cycle times, the D60 was quite fast, and had a very decent buffer capacity of 8 shots before it slowed. Even after the buffer was full though, shot to shot cycle times were only about a second, much better than average. (See note below about the "second buffer" though.) Shot-to-shot cycle times averaged about 0.5-second in the large/fine mode, and about the same in small/basic. Shooting at the RAW setting produced similar cycle times, though times increased as the buffer filled (typically after around eight shots, increasing to approximately 1.6 seconds). The D60 is a camera that penalizes an overeager shutter finger, at least in single-shot mode: If you press the shutter too quickly after an exposure, the camera may force you to let up on the shutter button and press it again before it will fire once more. This never seemed to happen with the second shot in a series, but the third and subsequent shots were subject to this behavior.
In Continuous Shooting mode, the cycle times averaged about 0.34-second for the first eight shots, increasing to 0.91-second intervals with each successive shot (for both large/fine and small/basic file settings). The time it took to clear the buffer however, differed depending on the type of CompactFlash card in use. The Lexar 256MB CompactFlash took approximately 28.92 seconds to clear the series of large/fine images, and approximately 8.83 seconds to clear the series of small/basic. The Mr. Flash CompactFlash card took approximately 85.74 seconds for large/fine, and about 8.97 seconds for small/basic. I also tried the SimpleTech CompactFlash, finding a faster time of about 15.97 for large/fine, and the IBM MicroDrive took about 28.24 seconds to clear the large/fine series.
Two Buffer Memories?
I was puzzled by how quickly the camera seemed to process each shot after its buffer filled (e.g., after the first 8 shots), but how long it took to completely clear the buffer. - If it was snapping additional images every second or so, how could it take 28 to 85 seconds for the buffer to empty completely? Out of curiosity, I experimented with much longer run lengths, and discovered that the D60 apparently has two buffers: After the first buffer fills, shooting proceeds at a somewhat slower pace for some number of shots (until the second buffer fills?), after which cycle times increase pretty dramatically.
I first found this behavior when shooting in continuous mode, saving RAW files to the memory card. The camera snapped about 3 frames per second for the first 8 shots, then slowed to a rate of just under two seconds per frame. After the 16th frame though, the cycle time suddenly jumped dramatically, to between 10 and 17 seconds per frame, depending on the speed of the memory card I was using. When shooting in large/fine mode, this second buffer limit takes many more shots to reach, and the slowdown isn't quite as bad. Cycle time also varied rather oddly as the run of shots continued. Shooting in continuous mode, saving files in the large/fine JPEG format, the first 8 shots were captured at intervals of about 0.34 seconds. The interval between shots 8 and 9 was 0.9 seconds, and then the intervals between shots 9-42 were about 1.1 seconds. From shot 43 on though, the interval jumped to about 3.5 seconds, and remained there. With an inexpensive "Mr. Flash" memory card, the camera actually performed slightly better, showing cycle times of about 1.04 seconds out to shot 47, at which point the interval jumped to roughly 4.2 seconds.
In single-shot mode, behavior was much the same, with cycle times roughly doubling from 0.5 to 1.0 seconds for shots 9 through 16, then increasing to something on the order of 5 seconds apiece for large/fine files on a typical memory card.
The D60's user interface is very similar to that of a traditional 35mm SLR film camera, and practically identical to that on the D30. Current users of Canon EOS SLRs should immediately feel at home. I generally comment on whether or not a camera's controls permit single-handed operation, but in the case of pro-level cameras like the D60, this is much less of a consideration, since the cameras' bulk and typical shooting scenarios generally demand the use of two hands anyway. I really appreciated the fact that the basic exposure controls are adjustable through the external camera control buttons and dials, greatly reducing your dependence on the rear-panel LCD menu system. The ability to program the Set button for quick changes of menu items such as ISO speed, image quality, and parameters even further reduces reliance on the LCD menu. When you do venture into the menu system, all of the camera's playback and setup options are available in all shooting modes, although the erase, index display, image information, and playback zoom functions are only available in Playback mode. Overall, we found the D60's user interface straightforward and efficient, although the number of options controlled by a relatively small number of buttons does require some study to become familiar with.
Power Switch: This small switch resides in the top left corner of the camera's rear panel, to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece. As you'd expect, it turns the camera on or off. Canon has improved this switch on the D60, providing a more substantial notch for a better finger grip.
Mode Dial: Positioned on the left side of the camera's top panel, this dial sets the exposure mode. Exposure modes are divided into three zones, the Image, Easy Shooting, and Creative zones. The Image Zone encompasses the Night Scene, Sports, Close-Up (Macro), Landscape, and Portrait exposure modes. The Easy Shooting Zone includes all of the previously mentioned exposure modes, plus the Full Automatic exposure mode. Finally, the Creative Zone refers to the Program AE, Shutter Speed Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual Exposure, and Auto Depth of Field Priority AE exposure modes. (We will discuss these modes in more detail under the Camera Modes and Menus section of this review.)
Shutter Button: Located on top of the right hand grip, this button fires the shutter when fully pressed, and sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed in Automatic exposure mode. Halfway pressing this button while turning the Quick Control dial sets the exposure compensation when shooting in any of the Creative Zone exposure modes.
Lens Release Button: Located on the front of the camera this rectangular button just to the right of the lens mount unlocks the lens from the mount when pressed. The lens can then be removed by rotating it about 45 degrees to disengage the bayonet mounting flanges.
Flash Button: Located on the left side of the prism housing, above the lens release button and just below the popup flash compartment, this button releases the popup flash into its operating position when the camera is on. (The popup flash cannot be raised when the camera is turned off.)
Depth of Field Preview Button: Positioned on the side of the lens mount housing, just beneath the lens release button, this button lets you preview the depth of field by stopping down the lens aperture to the current setting in any of the Creative Zone exposure modes. (Like most modern SLRs, the D60 normally focuses and meters with the lens wide open, stopping down to the selected aperture just as the picture is being taken.) When an external flash is connected, this button also fires a rapid series of flashes for one second, so that you can check shadows, light balance, and other effects, allowing the flash to be used as a modeling light. (This feature requires use of a Canon dedicated speedlight that supports this capability, such as the model 550EX.)
Main Dial: Resting on top of the camera on the right side (as viewed from the back), this ridged wheel controls some of the camera's basic operations in any of the Creative Zone exposure modes. (That is, in non-programmed exposure modes such as Aperture- or Shutter-Priority and full Manual mode.) When used in conjunction with the appropriate control buttons on the camera's top, the Main Dial also controls the autofocus mode, focusing area selection, metering mode or drive mode. In Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority modes, this dial sets the lens aperture or shutter speed. In Manual mode, the dial sets the shutter speed.
Metering Mode / Flash Exposure Compensation Button: Just off the top left corner of the small LCD display panel on top of the camera is the shiny, black Metering Mode / Flash Exposure Compensation Button. Pressing this button while rotating the Quick Control Dial between the three metering modes: Evaluative, Partial, and Center-Weighted Averaging. Pressing the button while turning the Main Dial sets the flash exposure compensation from -2 to +2 in one-half EV increments, for both the built-in flash and any Speedlight EX external flash unit. (Flash exposure compensation cannot be used in any of the "Easy Shooting" modes.) Through the Custom Function menu, you can change the flash exposure compensation adjustment step size to one-third EV increments.
Drive Button: Located beneath the metering mode button, this shiny, blue-green button controls the camera's drive mode. Pressing it while turning either control dial cycles through Single Shooting, Continuous Shooting, and Self-Timer drive modes.
AF Mode / White Balance Button: Just behind the Drive button, this small, gray button controls the autofocus and white balance modes. Pressing the button while turning the Main Dial sets the autofocus mode to One Shot or AI Servo. (One Shot is for still subjects, while AI Servo is better for moving subjects, since it causes the camera to focus continuously.) Pressing this button while turning the Quick Control dial sets the White Balance to Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, or Custom (manual) mode, to match a variety of light sources. Both functions are only available in the Creative Shooting Zone.
Diopter Adjustment Dial: Located outside the top right corner of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the optical viewfinder's focus to accommodate eyeglass wearers, across an unusually wide range of -3 to +1 diopter.
Menu Button: Situated below the Power Switch, this button accesses the D60's LCD-based operating menu in all modes. Pressing the Menu button a second time cancels the menu display.
Info Button: Just below the Menu button, this button displays the current exposure settings on the LCD screen when pressed. In Playback mode, pressing this button brings up an information screen that reports the exposure settings that the picture was taken with, and also displays a small histogram, which graphs the exposure values throughout the image.
Jump Button: Directly below the Info button, this button allows you to jump 10 frames forward or backward when viewing images in Playback mode. Once pressed, a jump bar appears in the LCD screen, and jumping is controlled by turning the Quick Control Dial forwards or backwards. The Jump button is active only in Playback mode.
Index / Enlarge Button: Just below the Jump button, this button displays a nine-image, thumbnail index display when pressed once. A second press enlarges the currently displayed image to 3x. (Turning the Quick Control Dial allows you to move around within the enlarged image, to check the details.) The Index/Enlarge button is active only in Playback mode.
Play Button: The final button on the left side of the back panel, this button puts the camera into Playback mode, regardless of the Mode dial setting. (Turning the Quick Control dial in this mode scrolls through captured images.) Playback mode can be canceled by hitting the Play button again, or by touching the Shutter button. (The D60 is a "shooting priority" camera. It's always ready to shoot a picture, regardless of its current mode. Simply pressing the Shutter button returns it immediately to capture mode.)
Erase Button: Resting beneath the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button accesses the Erase menu, which allows you to erase the current image or all images on the card (except for protected ones). There is also an option to cancel. The Erase function works in Playback mode and the quick review mode only.
Quick Control Dial Switch: Located on the back of the camera just above the Quick Control dial, this switch activates and deactivates the Quick Control dial, helping prevent any unintentional changes in camera settings.
Quick Control Dial: To the right of the LCD monitor on the camera's back panel, this dial selects various camera settings and menu options when turned while pressing a control button or while in an LCD menu screen. When shooting in the Creative Zone (except for Manual exposure mode), turning the dial while halfway pressing the Shutter button sets the exposure compensation (from -2 to +2 in one-third or one-half EV increments). In Playback mode, this dial scrolls through captured images on the CompactFlash card. It also navigates the index display and scrolls around within an enlarged image. Depending on a Custom Function menu setting, it can also be used to control ISO speed or image quality.
Set Button: Located in the center of the Quick Control dial, this button confirms menu selections and camera settings when using the LCD menu system. Through the Custom Function menu, this button can be programmed to control the image quality or ISO speed in conjunction with the Quick Control dial. (The default is for it to have no function in record mode.) If the LCD Illuminator function is activated, pressing this button outside of a menu option turns on the status display panel's illuminator.
AE / FE Button: At the top right corner of the camera's back panel, marked with an asterisk, this button locks the exposure until the Shutter button is pressed. When pressed while the flash is activated, this button locks the flash exposure, which signals the camera to fire a small pre-flash to measure the exposure before locking it. (This decoupling of exposure lock from autofocusing is a very useful "pro" feature seldom seen on lower-end cameras.)
Focus Area Selector Button: Just beside the AE / FE button, this button allows you to choose the focus area manually or automatically in Program AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, or Manual Exposure modes. Pressing the button and rotating either control dial cycles an automatic setting, or your choice of three manually-selected focus areas. The automatic setting bases the focus on the position of the subject within the frame, and its proximity to one of three focusing points (shown as three small boxes arranged horizontally in the viewfinder). Your choice of focusing area is reflected in the top-panel LCD data readout by the position of a small "o" in the LCD data readout. If all three "o"s are displayed, the camera is in auto focus-area selection mode.
Camera Modes and Menus
Night Scene Mode: The first mode in the Easy Shooting Zone, Night Scene is for taking pictures of people at sunset or at night. The autofocus mode is automatically set to One Shot. Drive mode is set to Single Shot, and metering mode is set to Evaluative. Quality is also automatically set, to the 3,072 x 2,048-pixel, Fine compression level. Since slower shutter speeds will be used, a tripod is recommended to prevent movement from the camera. The built-in flash is available, and the ISO setting is adjustable (a speed of 400 or faster is recommended). If the shutter speed chosen by the camera is longer than about 1/60 second, the flash will pop up automatically. If Night Scene mode is used in daylight, the camera operates the same as in Full Automatic mode.
Sports Mode: This mode uses a faster shutter speed to capture fast-moving subjects. The autofocus mode is automatically set to AI Servo. Drive mode is set to Continuous Shooting, and metering mode is set to Evaluative. Quality is automatically set to the 3,072 x 2,048-pixel, Fine compression level.The onboard flash isn't available in this mode (since it can't cycle fast enough to keep up with the continuous exposure mode), but ISO is adjustable (a setting of 400 or faster is recommended).
Close-Up Mode (Macro Mode): Turning the mode dial to the macro flower symbol sets the camera for capturing smaller subjects such as flowers, small details, etc. The autofocus mode is automatically adjusted to One Shot, the drive mode is set to Single Shot, and the metering mode is set to Evaluative. Image quality setting is again set to 3,072 x 2,048 pixels, Fine. Close-up mode takes advantage of the current lens' minimum focal distance, however, an EOS dedicated macro lens and the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX are recommended for better close-up photography. (Unlike the macro mode on most consumer digicams, Macro mode on the D60 has no effect on lens focusing range, as that parameter is entirely determined by the lens being used.)
Landscape Mode: Landscape mode combines slower shutter speeds with smaller aperture settings to increase the depth of field when shooting broad vistas and sweeping landscapes. The built-in flash is automatically disabled, even if it's already raised. Because this mode uses slower shutter speeds, a tripod may be needed. Image quality is set to 3,072 x 2,048 pixels, Fine.
Portrait Mode: This mode uses a large aperture setting to decrease the depth of field, which blurs the background to emphasize the subject. ISO is adjustable and the built-in flash may be used. As with the previous modes, image quality is automatically set to 3,072 x 2,048 pixels, Fine.
Full Automatic Mode: The final mode in the Easy Shooting Zone, Full Automatic is indicated on the Mode dial by a green rectangular outline. In this mode, the camera makes all exposure decisions with the exception of ISO, which is adjustable through the menu system. Image quality is again set to 3,072 x 2,048 pixels, Fine, and autofocus mode is set to AI Focus. (AI Focus evaluates subject movement, automatically sets either one-shot AF or AI Servo AF automatically. Drive mode is set to Single Shot, and the metering mode is set to Evaluative.
Program AE: This is the first mode in the Creative Zone of the Mode Dial. Program AE works similarly to the Full Automatic exposure mode, but allows more control over the exposure variables. Aperture and shutter speed are automatically selected by the camera, but you can bias the exposure to larger or smaller apertures by turning the Main control dial, which will change the combination of aperture and shutter speed so as to maintain the same exposure value, but with a different choice of aperture/shutter speed. Turning the Quick Control dial in this mode adjusts the exposure compensation setting, to increase or decrease overall exposure.
Shutter-Priority AE: This mode allows you to manually set the shutter speed anywhere from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, while the camera chooses the best corresponding aperture setting. You have control over all other exposure variables, including exposure compensation.
Aperture-Priority AE: The opposite of Shutter-Priority mode, Aperture-Priority AE allows you to set the lens aperture (with available ranges depending on the lens in use), while the camera selects the most appropriate shutter speed. Again, you have control over all other exposure variables, including exposure compensation.
Manual Exposure: This mode provides the same range of exposure control as the other Creative Zone exposure modes (except for exposure compensation), but lets you control both shutter speed and lens aperture independently. The shutter speed range is extended to include a Bulb setting, allowing long exposures from one to 999 seconds. A display in the top LCD panel reports whether your settings are under, over, or correctly exposed.
Automatic Depth of Field AE: This is the final mode in the Creative Zone, and is meant for taking pictures of large groups or landscapes. This mode puts the camera in control of both the shutter speed and aperture values, but you can adjust the other exposure variables. (This mode cannot be used if the lens focus mode is set to manual.) When shooting in Automatic Depth of Field AE, the camera sets both the exposure and focus distance to achieve a sharp focus over a wide depth of field. It uses the autofocus system to measure the distance to the subjects covered by each of the three autofocus zones, and then attempts to set the focusing distance and lens aperture so as to render all three subject areas in sharp focus.
Playback Mode: This mode is entered by pressing the Play button on the back panel. Playback mode lets you erase images, protect them, or set them up for printing on DPOF compatible devices. You can also view images in an index display, enlarge images to 3x, view a slide show of all captured images, or rotate an image. The Info button activates an information display, which reports the exposure settings for the image and graphs the exposure values on a small histogram.
Operating Menu: This menu is available in all of the camera modes, though a few of the capture-related options are only available in the Creative Zone. Pressing the Menu button calls up the Operating menu.
Image Storage and Interface
The EOS D60 utilizes CompactFlash (Type I and II) memory cards as its image storage medium, which should never be removed from the camera while in use. (Removing a card while the camera is still writing to it could cause permanent damage to the card.) The D60 ships without any memory card included, Canon rightly figuring that purchasers will most likely either already own memory cards, or want to purchase their own high-capacity cards without incurring the markup for a bundled card. The table below shows card capacities and approximate compression ratios for the various file sizes and types, assuming a 32MB memory card, purely for the sake of reference.. Like the D30 before it, the D60 is fully compatible with IBM MicroDrives.
A year ago, when I first reviewed the D30, I felt that a MicroDrive should be considered almost standard equipment with the camera. A year later though, flash memory prices have dropped enough that you may want to consider your memory options more carefully. The MicroDrives are still very fast, and their top capacity of a Gigabyte is only just now being matched by CompactFlash cards. On the other hand, CF cards aren't prone to damage if dropped, aren't sensitive to environmental conditions such as high temperature or humidity. Also, you may well feel more comfortable having your images stored on several smaller cards than one huge one, in case of a mishap.
32MB Memory Card
The CCD RAW mode listed above deserves some explanation: This is a format that records all the data from the CCD, exactly as it comes from the A/D conversion process. It is lossless compression, meaning that the file is reduced to a smaller size, but without losing any data in the process. This thus preserves all the original data from the sensor, but is nevertheless much more compact than an equivalent TIFF file. (The effective compression ratio relative to final file size is about 2.4 to 1.)
NOTE that the D60's RAW format now automatically includes an embedded medium/fine
JPEG as well, which several of Canon's various software packages can extract
with a new button called "Extract JPEG." (RAW Image Converter
applet, TWAIN driver, Mac plug-in) This should provide a quicker workflow
for situations where your final file format is JPEG. (Although I think my
personal preference would be for the dual-file RAW/JPEG approach used in
The D60 has a USB port for (reasonably) rapid file transfers to the host computer. - I say "reasonably" fast, because the USB connection obviously won't be nearly as speedy as the FireWire (IEEE 1394) connection on Canon's EOS-1D and the Nikon D1x and D1h.) Like the D30's USB connection, the D60's is on the low side of average, speed-wise, as I clocked it at 259 KBytes/second on my G4 Mac. The specifics of the USB interface is that the camera will appear on the desktop of your computer if you have the proper driver software loaded.
I confess to being a little confused over what constitutes a "storage class" USB device these days, as I'd previously understood this to mean that a device would auto-mount on a Mac OS 8.6 or higher or Windows Me/2000/XP desktop without the need for any additional software. In the case of the D60, Canon refers to it as "storage class," but it nonetheless does require driver software to make the connection. On Mac OS 8.6-9.2, Canon supplies a Control Panel called USB Mounter that lets the D60 appear on the desktop as a hard drive. This connection allows drag-copying of files from camera to computer, but not the other way around. Under Mac OS X, the D60 is apparently supported by Apple's Image Capture Architecture, but I haven't had a chance to try this for myself yet. Under Windows XP and Me, Canon supplies a WIA driver that makes the D60 a "storage class" device under those versions of Microsoft's OS. (At "press" time, I don't know what support may be offered under Windows 98 - I believe it to be a standard non-storage-class USB connection via a TWAIN driver. - Windows 98 doesn't provide support for storage class USB devices.)
Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it
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Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
An NTSC video cable comes packaged with US models of the D60 (presumably PAL
for European ones), allowing you to connect the camera to your television set
for image playback. The video signal can be switched between NTSC and PAL via
a menu preference. All menus, etc. appear on the external video monitor, but
do note that it won't work as a viewfinder for the same reason that the rear-panel
LCD won't. (The SLR optics mean that the sensor is only exposed to light when
the shutter is open.)
EOS D60 uses the same battery form factor first seen on the D30, and now appearing
as a standard design in many of Canon's camera and camcorder lines. These batteries
are a bit larger than a 2CR5 lithium cell, and look like two of the smaller
LiIon batteries, now becoming popular in compact digicams, glued together. Canon
calls the new cell a BP-511 battery pack, and it provides 1100 mAh at 7.4 volts
for a fairly hefty wallop of 8.1 watt-hours. A separate charger comes in the
box with the D60, as well as one of Canon's standard "dummy battery"
pigtails to let the charger power the camera in the studio or when connected
to the computer for long periods. Just as with the D30 before it, it looks like
the CMOS sensor does indeed translate into lower power consumption, as you can
see in the table below:
(@ 8.0 v)
(With 8.14 watt NP-511 battery)
|Capture Mode, w/LCD||
|Capture Mode, no LCD||
|Half-pressed shutter w/LCD||
|Half-pressed w/o LCD||
|Memory Write (transient)||
|Flash Recharge (transient)||
Particularly notable here is how low the power consumption is
when the D60 is in capture mode but not actively capturing a picture. At only
101 mA, one of the BP-511 cells could keep the D60 powered-up all day (10+
hours, to be precise). When you press the shutter, the camera grabs a gulp
of power, but still only about the same amount as a prosumer digicam running
with the display off. The LCD panel seems fairly parsimonious in its power
usage as well, at only 398 mA in playback mode. These results matched my personal
sense of the camera, that it had very good battery life over a couple days
of fairly heavy usage in the studio. Overall, it looks like the D60 consumes
slightly more power than the earlier D30, but only by a relatively small percentage:
Battery life is really excellent.
The D60 will ship with a pretty complete complement of software on both Mac and Windows platforms, including Canon's signature ZoomBrowser application on the PC and ImageBrowser on the Mac. (For a look at the most recent ZoomBrowser software package, see my review of the Canon PowerShot G2.) The table below shows the software that's included for both platforms.
Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE
TWAIN Driver 4.1
WIA Driver 4.1
RAW Image Converter 2.0
(Image Capture Driver for OS X provided by Apple.)
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.)
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!
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!)
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