Nikon D60 SLR Review

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Nikon D60

Steve's Conclusion

The new D60 is an update of the successful D40x model from last year. Improvements over the D40x include a Image Sensor Cleaning system, a motion sensor that automatically switches the LCD display from portrait to landscape, and a "Stop Motion" video feature. The D60 retains the 10-megapixel image sensor, a continuous capture rate of 3fps and a sensitivity range from ISO 100 - 1,600. This "entry-level" dSLR boasts a 2.5-inch LCD, 12 exposure modes, shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30, 3 area AF system, Retouch menu, SD/SDHC card storage, and USB 2.0 connectivity while weighing only 1 lb.,1 oz. or 495 grams (without battery).

Novice or not, everyone will appreciate the compact ergonomics of the D60. This camera is lightweight enough to use all day. It provides a durable and professional feel with a well designed control layout. The Shooting Information screen (see page 3) is clear, informative and easy to read on the 2.5-inch color LCD. Although Nikon did not bump the LCDs size up to 3", as seen on some other dSRLs, this 2.5-inch display is actually very legible. The Shooting Information screen displays the values for camera settings that you'd find on the monochrome LCD of a professional dSLR model.

The look of menu system on the D60 has changed from that of the D40x. I have to say it is very bright and clear to understand. You'll probably want to set the CSM/Setup Menu to Full (see page 4) so you can see all of the available camera options. The menus are very well organized, even if you are new to dSLRs. The onboard HELP Menu System with Assist Images makes the D60 a truly easy-to-use dSLR for the novice user. The D60's Question Mark icon (?) indicates that help is available for the currently selected item; just press the HELP button beside the LCD monitor to see a context-sensitive HELP page.

The D60 includes in-camera editing features through the Retouch Menu, which include D-Lighting, Red-Eye Correction, Image Trim, Image Overlay, Monochrome (Black and White, Sepia and Cyanotype) along with Skylight, Warm Tone and Color Balance filter effects. New effects and controls include Quick Retouch, NEF (RAW) Processing, Cross Star and Color Intensifier filters. The Optimize Image setting lets you adjust color, contrast and sharpening of your images. The settings include: Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, Custom and Black and White, each of which are automatically adjusted (with the exception of Custom).

For those who are used to the electronic viewfinders found on many consumer digicams, you'll appreciate the optical thru-the-lens view that doesn't go blank while following a moving subject in continuous capture (burst) mode. Nikon's continued the use of the penta-DACH mirror type optical viewfinder, offering an approx. 95% view of the captured frame, with plenty of exposure information in the viewfinder and a comfortable rubber eyecup. When shooting in burst mode, the mirror return was fast enough to provide an essentially continuous viewfinder image, as long as the camera is using a fast shutter speed.

Even though Nikon has billed the D60 as an "entry-level" dSLR, you'll find enough exposure options to suit most photographers. The wide range of manual controls including Shutter & Aperture priority offer experienced users as much of the exposure process as they need. Most users will enjoy the 8 Digital Vari-Program Modes including a full Auto, Auto Flash-OFF, Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close Up and Night Portrait. Each program mode considers ambient lighting conditions and adjusts aperture, shutter speed, white balance, hue, tone, sharpening and more - all accessible to you by just turning the Mode dial.

Shooting performance is quite impressive for a entry-level dSLR. From power-on until capture of the first image took 6/10 of a second. Shutter lag, the time delay between depressing the shutter and capturing an image, was almost instantaneous (less than 1/10 of a second) when pre-focused. Autofocus shutter lag ranged between 1/10 and 6/10 of a second, depending on the degree of focus change required of our Nikkor zoom lens. In single-shot mode, I was able to capture images at 4/10 - 5/10 of a second intervals without flash, and between 8/10 and 2.1 second intervals with flash, depending on subject distance. In continuous shooting mode, the D60 even bettered Nikon's promise of 3 frames per second! I was able to consistently capture 10 images in 2.8 seconds (approx. 3.5fps). Our tests used the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens in our kit, shooting Large/Fine JPEG images, Program AE mode, image preview On, ISO set to 100, using a Kingston (high-speed) 4GB SDHC memory card.

When shooting NEF (RAW) images in single exposure mode, I was able to capture images at 5/10 of a second intervals, continuously without filling the buffer. In continuous drive mode, 7 NEF images were captured in 1.8 seconds, and subsequent shots could be taken at 8/10 of a second intervals. Impressively, it took less than 5 seconds for the D60 to flush its entire buffer of NEF images to our SD card. You can also shoot in RAW plus JPEG mode, however the D60 only allows you to save a JPEG/Basic image. Using it, I captured 6 sets of images in 1.6 seconds, with subsequent shots at 1 second intervals and the buffer flushing in 7 seconds.

As with the D40x, the D60 is compatible with Nikon F mount lenses. However autofocus can only be achieved with newer AF-S and AF-I CPU lenses (and the IX Nikkor CPU lenses can not be used). The AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens in our kit features a built-in Silent Wave Motor and Vibration Reduction (VR) and is an affordable, and compact, 3x zoom lens with amazing versatility. It covers the most frequently used focal range of 18 to 55mm (picture angle is equivalent to focal length from 27 to 82.5mm in Nikon FX or 35mm format) and has a Hybrid aspherical lens element, which minimizes various types of lens aberration. The closest focusing distance is 0.28 meter/0.9 foot throughout the entire zoom range. This new lens provides enhanced shooting flexibility as the latest addition to the Nikon DX-Nikkor lens lineup.

The built-in flash uses Nikon�'s dependable i-TTL flash control and has a Guide Number of 13/43 (ISO 100, m/ft., 20° C/68° F). The speedlight automatically pops up and fires when natural lighting is inadequate or to add balanced fill-flash when there is strong backlighting (Auto and Digital Vari-Program modes only). The i-TTL technology improves accuracy of fill-flash exposure and white balance by integrating color information from the speedlight's monitor pre-flash with information from the 420-pixel RGB sensor. This has been improved to provide coverage for up to 18mm wide angle lenses. You can shoot at synchronized speeds up to 1/200 second. Using the kit lens, the maximum flash range is about 15.7 feet at ISO 200 or 11 feet at ISO 100. I used ISO 100 for most all of our sample photos, and when shooting indoors, the flash did very well at illuminating the subjects with in the ranges listed above. You can also attach external Speedlights using Nikon's Creative Lighting System and i-TTL flash control. A useful tool of the D60 is Nikon's exclusive active d-lighting that helps maximize dynamic range by adjusting exposure to retain highlights, then boosting shadows.

Offering 10.2 megapixels and Nikon�'s exclusive EXPEED processor, the JPEG/Large Fine setting produced crisp images with pleasing colors and good exposure. Colors are quite saturated and most users will appreciate the effect. The TTL AF system is fast and accurate. Just like we saw with the D40x, noise levels are satisfactory and can be detected slightly at ISO 200 (dark shadow areas), becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity value is increased. Our ISO 800 shots were capable of producing useable 8x10-inch and smaller prints, even ISO 1600 looks relatively good. You can also enable Noise Reduction, which will help reduce noise artifacts in the image, however, you do loose a bit of detail in the process. Be sure to check out our samples page, where we have an example at each of the ISO settings.

The included Nikon Software Suite had everything you'll need to transfer and perform minor edits on your PC or Mac. I found out that this software was not required if you are running Vista or OS X Leopard. The optional Nikon Capture NX is a very useful tool in the editing process, offering a wealth of adjustment options for NEF files as well as JPEG and TIFF formats. If you plan on shooting a your photos in RAW mode, be sure to get Capture NX or one of the alternative RAW applications or plug-ins.

Bottom line - The new Nikon D60 is quite impressive for an entry-level dSLR, offering superb performance, great image quality, and multiple exposure options. The 3fps continuous drive mode (or 3.5fps in our testing), Sensor Cleaning system and onboard HELP Menu are distinct improvements for this soon to be popular camera. As the successor to the D40x, the D60 is sure to please the novice shooter - or even the seasoned photographer seeking a lighter camera for those long days of shooting. The latest technology is available on the D60 including Eight Digital Vari-Programs and a variety of Retouch Menus, including Quick Retouch, Stop-motion Movie and NEF (RAW) Processing. With a street price of US$749.95 or less for the camera/lens outfit, the Nikon D60 digital SLR package offers an outstanding value. You get the experience and reliability of Nikon along with a large selection of accessories.

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