Nikon D60 Viewfinder

The Nikon D60's viewfinder is an optical through-the-lens type, with the LCD monitor being used for image playback and menu access only. (That is, there's no live image preview available.) A pair of horizontal infrared sensors just below the viewfinder, which we've highlighted with a green rectangle in the image at right, detect your eye as it approaches the viewfinder, turning the internal viewfinder display on and deactivating the LCD shooting information display if you have the Shooting Info Auto Off option enabled. This reduces annoying glare from the LCD, and increases battery life. We've seen similar eye-detect systems on other brands before, but this is a welcome first for Nikon.

Nikon says D60's viewfinder provides a magnification of 0.8x and a coverage of about 95% (coverage was actually a little higher than that in our tests). The D60's dioptric correction adjustment (for eyeglass wearers) has a range from -1.7 to +0.5 diopter. Some of us had a hard time reaching the dioptric adjustment, a slider on the right side of the viewfinder eyepiece housing. Those of us with fingernails on our thumbs found that they worked quite well as dioptric actuators though. :-) The viewfinder has an eyepoint height of 18mm at -1 diopter. This is enough that most eyeglass wearers should be able to see the full viewfinder area without having to mash their glasses against the viewfinder bezel. The D60's viewfinder is a pentamirror design, rather than the more costly, but brighter pentaprism.

The viewfinder is actually one of the bigger distinguishing features between the D60 and D80: The D80 uses a pentaprism design, has a magnification factor of 0.94x, a higher eyepoint of 19.5mm, and a diopter adjustment range of -2.0 to +1.0. While the D60's viewfinder is every bit as capable as those on many competing DSLRs, the D80 clearly wins on size, brightness, comfort, and flexibility.


The Nikon D60's viewfinder readouts do a good job of communicating camera status and exposure settings: They're a slightly trimmed-down list of information from that found on the D80, making for a simple and relatively uncluttered display. The readout display is identical to that of the D40x, except Nikon has added a very nice focusing rangefinder readout using the analog scale, to assist in more accurately focusing lenses that do not autofocus on the D60. (As mentioned in the Optics section, the D60 will not autofocus with lenses that do not have a built-in focus motor.) Off by default, you can turn on the focusing rangefinder display via custom settings menu option 19. Because it uses the camera's AF sensor, the rangefinder will only work with lenses having a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or wider.


Viewfinder Test Results

Good accuracy from the optical viewfinder.

18mm, optical 55mm, optical

The Nikon D60's optical viewfinder proved quite accurate, showing about 98% coverage at wide angle, and about 97% coverage at telephoto zoom settings. This is above average coverage for a consumer digital SLR, especially an entry-level model, though there is a slight tilt and vertical offset with respect to the imaging sensor.


Nikon D60 LCD Display

As is the case with other entry-level Nikon digital SLRs, the LCD panel on the D60 can't be used as a viewfinder. It does, however, provide a great deal of information about your pictures after you've shot them. A variety of playback options are offered, including image-only, four flavors of overlaid information, a 4- or 9-image thumbnail display, and a zoomed playback mode with variable information. The screenshots below show several of the information displays that are available.

Playback Information Screens
The default playback-mode information screen. Folder & file names, date/time, image sequence number, and image size/quality. The first of three more detailed
information overlays.
The second detailed
information overlay screen.
The third detailed
information overlay screen.
Highlight clipping warning display.
(Blown highlights blink white/black.)
Luminance histogram overlay.

Of the various screens, one of the more interesting options on the Nikon D60 is the histogram screen. Histogram displays are common on professional digital cameras (and many amateur models now as well), regarded as almost mandatory by many pros for evaluating exposure levels. A histogram is simply a graph of how many pixels there are in the image at each brightness level. The brightness is the horizontal axis, running from black at the left to white at the right. The height of the graph shows the relative number of pixels having each brightness level. This sort of display is very handy for determining under- or overexposure. Ideally, the histogram would stretch across the entire width of the display, using the full range of brightness values available. An underexposed image will have a histogram with all the data lumped on the left-hand side, with nothing reaching all the way to the right. Likewise, an overexposed image will have all the data lumped on the right hand side.

A histogram display is very helpful in telling whether you've got the exposure right, but to my mind isn't adequate by itself. With digital cameras, it's very important not to blow-out the highlights in a picture (they're similar to color positive film in that respect), since once you hit the maximum brightness, the image just saturates, and any highlight detail will be lost. A histogram display does a pretty good job of telling you how the image as a whole is doing, but what if there are just a few critical areas that you're worried about for the highlights? If only a small percentage of the total frame is involved, it won't account for many pixels. That means any peak at the "white" end of the histogram graph would be pretty small, and easy to miss (or just plain invisible). What to do? The folks at Nikon recognized this problem some time ago, and so have provided another special display mode on the D60 (as on most of their dSLRs) that they simply call "highlights," accessible via the Playback settings menu, under "Display Mode." This mode blinks any highlights that are saturated in any of the color channels. It does this by taking the nearly-white areas on the LCD and toggling them between white and black. The shot above left shows the blown highlights blinking on an otherwise uninteresting shot.

On the D60, a luminance (brightness) graph is the only option for the histogram display in playback mode, the RGB+L histogram display option from the D80 having been dropped. We here at IR like being able to see what's going on in the individual color channels, but for the novice user the D60 is aimed at, the individual red, green, and blue histogram displays might have been more confusing than useful. One trick we learned with previous models is that an RGB histogram can be accessed in the Retouch Filter Effects menu, as seen in the screen shot on the right.

The D60 also offers the D80's excellent options for display magnification. You have the normal thumbnail or normal-sized displays available, but can also enlarge the display up to 25x (for maximum-resolution images) to examine critical focus and framing. Pressing the Magnify button enables zoomed playback, and each subsequent press of it zooms in a step closer. Pressing the "unmagnify"/Thumbnail button zooms you out. Any time you're zoomed in, you can scroll around the magnified image by using the Multi-controller. A particularly nice feature is that you can use the Command Dial to scroll between images on the memory card, at the same zoom level, and with the same relative position in each. This is especially helpful when you want to check the same detail in multiple versions of the same shot.


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