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Canon EOS D60

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

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Page 5:Optics

Review First Posted: 2/22/2002

As with other digital SLRs I've tested, there's not a great deal to report in the "optics" sections of this review. 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. Key features of the Canon EF lens series are models with the exceptionally fast, silent "ultrasonic" focusing mechanism ( a coreless motor built into the lens body itself), and the exceptional range of optically stabilized models that permit hand-holding way beyond light levels that would normally require the use of a tripod.

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!

Autofocus System
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. ;-)

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