Nikon D60 Review
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Nikon D60 Exposure
The Nikon D60 gives you all the exposure options you'd expect in a high-end prosumer SLR. Available exposure modes include Full Auto, Program AE, Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes with shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds available in 1/3 EV steps, as well as a Bulb setting for longer exposures. Also provided are 6 scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Macro and Night Portrait), plus a Flash-Off Auto mode. See the Modes and Menus tab for more details on each exposure mode.
The D60's x-sync speed for flash use is 1/200 second, the same as the D40x, but down from the D40's 1/500 flash sync speed. What's up? It turns out that the D40, like the D70, D70s, and D50 before it, had a relatively slow mechanical shutter, but "gated" the CCD for its shortest shutter speeds. This means that the CCD itself is actually exposed to incoming light for a longer period of time (perhaps 1/100 - 1/200 second), but the camera manipulates the chip's control voltages to only allow light collection for a much shorter period of time. This makes it easy to produce very brief exposures without the expense of a really high-speed mechanical shutter, and as a consequence also permits very high x-sync speeds. The downside is that large light overloads can cause streaking or smearing in its images. See our discussion of "Shutter Control vs CCD Gating" in our D80 review for more detail on this topic.
The good news is that the D60 won't have that problem, unlike the D40; but the x-sync speed is slower as a result.
A very nice touch that's common to other Nikon DSLRs is that, while in Program AE mode, you can rotate the Command dial to select different combinations of aperture and shutter speed settings than those normally chosen by the autoexposure system. (That is, if the automatic program would have chosen 1/125 second and f/5.6, you could instead direct the camera to use 1/60 at f/8 or 1/30 at f/11, to get greater depth of field.) This is a very handy option for those times when you need some measure of increased control, but still want the camera to do most of the work for you.
An interesting feature when using Manual exposure mode is the electronic analog exposure display visible in the optical viewfinder data readout. This shows the amount the camera thinks an image will be over- or underexposed, based on the settings you have selected, and helps you find the best exposure for the subject.
ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 3,200, adjustable through the Shooting display, or via the Shooting menu itself. Scrolling past the 1,600 setting offers a HI-1 setting, which is one full EV step above 1,600, equating to a value of 3,200. Auto ISO lets the camera adjust the ISO automatically, up to a maximum of 1,600. The No Flash scene mode also auto-adjusts the ISO up to 1,600.
White Balance Options
White balance modes on the Nikon D60 include Auto (usable from 3,500K to 8,000K), Incandescent (set to about 3,000K), 7 Fluorescent settings (consisting of Sodium-vapor lamps (2,700K), Warm-white (3,000K), White (3,700K), Cool-white (4,200K), Day white (5,000K), Daylight (6,500K) and Mercury-vapor lamps (7,200K)), Direct Sunlight (5,200K), Flash (5,400K), Cloudy (6,000K), Shade (8,000K), and Preset (which allows you to manually adjust the white value by using a white card or object as a reference point). All white balance settings are adjustable on a 2-dimensional Blue-Amber / Green-Magenta coordinate grid by use of the Multi-Selector arrows when you're in the White Balance menu screens (with the exception of the Preset option, which is not adjustable). Each of the +- 6 horizontal (yellow-blue) steps on the fine-tuning grid corresponds to 5 mired of color shift, while the +/- 6 vertical (magenta/green) steps correspond to arbitrary gradation of CC (Color Correcting) filters.
Nikon D60 Metering Options
The D60 has three metering options: 3D Color Matrix II, Center-Weighted, and Spot. The 3D Color Matrix II setting integrates exposure information from a large number of areas across the frame (useful when brightly colored or very dark subjects occupy a significant portion of the frame) with distance information from the microchip in D- and G-series lenses. The result is much more accurate metering response than more conventional center-weighted metering would provide. Like the D80, the D60 uses a 420-segment RGB metering sensor for its 3D Color Matrix II metering (vs the 1,005-segment one in the D200, D300 and D3), but does still use the same 30,000-image database for judging exposure. Center-Weighted metering measures light from the entire frame but places the greatest emphasis (75%) on a circular area 8mm in diameter, corresponding to a bit less than 7% of the total frame area. Spot metering takes a reading from a 3.5mm circle centered on the active focus area only. The D60's spot metering sensor measures from a circle covering 2.5% of the frame.
The D60's Exposure Compensation adjustment increases or reduces the overall exposure from -5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments, in all exposure modes.
When reviewing images on the LCD monitor, you can call up a histogram and a highlight function to give you a complete readout on the exposure. This is a useful tool to examine your exposure in the camera instead of waiting to download images and then deciding to reshoot. One change from the D80 though is that the D60 only shows a luminance (brightness) histogram in playback mode, not separate red, green, and blue histograms. You can however view RGB-L histograms of captured image in a round-about way, from the D60's Retouch menu.
Nikon D60 Continuous Shooting & Self-Timer Modes
The Nikon D60 offers a single continuous shooting mode, accessed via the Drive Mode option on the Shooting display and Shooting menu screens. Only a single continuous drive mode is offered (vs the separate low and high-speed modes on the D200 and D300), with a frame rate of 3 frames/second. This matches the performance of the D40x, though the burst length has increased from about 7 large/fine JPEGs to over 20 for the D60. The D60 also sports the obligatory self-timer mode, with delay options of 2, 5, 10, and 20 seconds. There are also delayed (2 second), and immediate remote control single frame release modes.
No Automatic Exposure Bracketing?
Bracketing is the practice of taking shots above or below the indicated exposure for a given subject, a way to make sure that you get at least one properly-exposed image of difficult subjects. Most digital cameras these days offer some sort of automatic exposure bracketing, and all prior Nikon DSLRs did as well. We were thus rather surprised to find no option for bracketing on the D60. In our own shooting, we find ourselves using the auto-bracketing feature quite frequently. While it does give you three times as many shots to deal with on the computer later, it's a great hedge against lost detail due to blown exposures on tricky subjects. We recognize that Nikon was aiming for dead-simple usage on the D60, but auto exposure bracketing is a feature we think even relatively novice shooters could use and benefit from.
Nikon D60 "Image Optimization" Options
The Nikon D60 also offers the by-now-familiar Optimize Image menu, accessed through the Shooting menu, which lets you choose various presets for Normal, Softer, Vivid, and More vivid colors, special color and sharpness settings for portraits, plus an option for snapping black-and-white images.
The custom option lets you adjust sharpening, contrast (tone compensation), color mode (normal or vivid modes in sRGB color space, or Adobe RGB for people working in color-managed computer environments), color saturation, and overall color hue. All of these go quite a bit beyond the capabilities you'd normally expect to find in an entry-level DSLR.
One area where the D60 is more limited than the D80 is in its black-and-white shooting mode. The D80 lets you apply color filters when shooting in black and white mode, mimicking the effect of color contrast-enhancing filters on a black-and-white film camera. The D60 offers only a single color-to-monochrome rendering.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D60 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot 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 digital camera 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...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon D60 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.