Canon EOS D60 SLR Review

Steve's Digicams

Canon EOS D60

Steve's Conclusion

There's going to be quite a battle in 2002 in the mid-price, 6-megapixel, digital SLR market. Canon's D60 is just now shipping with a really incredible price of $2199, Nikon is releasing the new D100 in June at about the same price, maybe even less? Both the Canon and Nikon folks told us at PMA 2002 that they would be "very aggressive" in the pricing structure of their new SLRs. Canon gets the jump on the market by several months as their existing D30 production line required only minor changes to begin producing the D60 cameras. Nikon on the other hand has to "tool up" for an entirely new product.

By summer 2002 Fuji will begin shipping the S2 Pro and the newcomer to digital SLRs Sigma, will release their SD9 , it employs the newly developed Foveon X3 CMOS imager. It will be interesting to see just how competitive they are against the "big boys." The X3 imager technology looks very interesting but the question remains -- who will manufacture this sensor, how many will they produce and what companies will integrate it into their cameras? We've seen a lot of so-called "breakthrough" products go by the wayside in the last few years for one reason or another. Kodak, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sharp, Sony, Toshiba and other CCD manufacturers have large fabricating plants, they can lower the OEM costs to fight off new competition.

The Canon EOS D30 was the winner of our Best Amateur Digital SLR of 2001 award and for good reasons. It was the first affordable (under $5000) digital SLR on the market, it uses Canon EF lenses and it was the first to employ a large area CMOS imager. In the year and a half since the D30's release it's been virtually unchallenged except by Fuji's S1 Pro. The D30 has gained wide acceptance from both the amateur and professional communities, many pros bought and used D30's while waiting on the EOS 1D to arrive. Even now with the EOS 1D available, many of those pros still continue to use their D30's.

Canon has upgraded and improved the D30's feature set with:

  • 6-Megapixel CMOS imager, 3072 x 2048 square pixels

  • The RAW files now contain an embedded 2048 x 1360 JPEG image that can be easily extracted with the included software. (You'll find one of these on our D60 Sample Photos page)

  • New "Medium" size image choice of 2048 x 1360 pixels

  • The D60's auto focusing system is three times more sensitive in low light than the EOS D30's (EV 0.5 vs. EV 2.0).

  • The active focusing points are now illuminated in red on the focusing screen, making it easier to confirm focusing point selection and AF completion.

  • Improved image processing buffering means the D60 is almost always ready to take the next shot even during burst captures. The buffer status is now numerically displayed in the eyelevel viewfinder.

  • Shorter shutter release lag time, I didn't do any scientific testing but after owning a D30 for more than a year the D60 is clearly faster.

  • The top data LCD is now illuminated, making it easier to view and change camera settings in low light

  • The color LCD is now brighter for easier viewing of menus and recorded images in bright light

  • You can store up to 3 sets of Shooting Parameters including contrast, saturation, sharpness and color tone. These values can now be changed in-camera, no computer needed! The new color tone parameter lets you shift the white balance slightly towards red or yellow.

  • Improved signal processing system allows for exposures as long as 30 seconds without the need of a Noise Reduction feature. (Check out the incredibly clean 30 sec picture on our D60 Sample Photos page)

  • ISO sensitivity range is now 100 - 1000. The ISO 1600 option has been dropped

  • Cosmetic changes, the mode dial now has a silver colored top, the covers over the I/O ports are now one large rubber flap instead of a flap and two separate covers (which always got lost), the On/Off switch is easier to operate and Canon has added their "Digital" logo on the front of the body.

  • Less expensive -- the D30 was $2999, the D60 with twice the resolution of the D30 is now just $2199 !

The D60 with its 6-megapixel images is a very capable studio camera and I have some 13x19" prints that prove that point very well. Many people commented on the D30's images as looking very "film like" and I'm happy to say that the D60 continues that tradition. The D60's images are even better, it's obvious that Canon has been working very hard to make them as natural looking as possible. There's apparent digital "noise" at ISO settings above 400 but this noise looks more film grain than image defects. Photographers that do long night exposures will love the D60. The D30 was an excellent long exposure camera but the Noise Reduction option doubled the time required to process the image. The D60 no longer requires the use of a Noise Reduction option, it's ready to shoot another 30 second shot almost as soon as the shutter is closed from the first one. And these 30 second (and longer using Bulb) exposures are amazingly clean and free of "hot pixels" when shot at ISO 100 or 200.

The EOS 1D is the clear winner in the speed category but the D60 is no slouch at 1/3 of the price. Canon has clearly improved the way that the image processing buffer works as well as making it considerably larger to accommodate the 6-megapixel images. The D60's buffer can handle eight unprocessed images at a time and that's a lot of data considering those are close to ten megabytes an image. When shooting in JPEG mode the D60 is capable of processing eight Large/Fine images in about six seconds. It slows down a little when shooting in RAW mode but not much, eight RAW images can be processed in about eight seconds. This is very fast for a "non-pro" camera by anybody's standards. Capturing images in the Single Drive mode is literally non stop now, the D60 is ready to go as soon as the auto focus is locked and never seems to not be ready unless the CF card is full.

In Continuous Drive mode the D60 captures images at just over three frames per second. The D60 is quite robust especially when used with a high-performance CF card like the Ridata 512MB (rated at 20x) or the Lexar 16X Pro Series cards. It's also well matched for use with the IBM 1GB Microdrives too. Even though the EOS 1D is clearly a faster camera with a much faster AF system, the D60 is still very capable of being a "sports" camera for the non-pro users out there. The average user will never need a faster camera, just a larger CF card :-)

Low light auto focus is a bit of a problem with the D30, especially when using a long lens. Many times it will hunt and go through the entire focus range before failing to get a lock. The D60 is noticeably better in low light focusing because of its ability to work down to EV 0.5 versus EV 2.0 for the D30. Canon has also changed the way that the focus assist illuminator functions with the auto focus system whether using an external "EX" speedlight or not. Speed-wise the AF system is almost exactly like that of the D30, it's good but it's certainly not in the same class as the EOS 1D. When used with an EF lens with ultrasonic focusing motor it's still quite impressive. The AF focus points in the viewfinder are now illuminated, this gives the user much better feedback than the tiny AF "[ooo]" icon on the D30's viewfinder status line. With the D60 the focus points now glow red when they are active. It's like a heads-up display, you don't have to take your eye off of the subject to know what the AF system is doing.

The most common and troubling problem with digital SLRs is dirt and other contaminants getting on the imager. They manifest themselves as visible spots on the finished images that are especially noticeable when shooting at small F-stops above F11. We never had this problem with a film SLR because you advanced the film after every shot. With a digital SLR the imager never moves and is exposed to the world of dust and dirt every time the shutter opens. The D30 suffers the least from this problem and I expect the D60 to perform similarly in this regard. There is a protective filter in front of the imager and I believe that CMOS imagers do not create the same kind of dirt attracting surface charge as CCD imagers. Over the past year I have fielded many emails from users complaining of dirty imagers and almost every one of them were using cameras like the Nikon D series, Fuji S1 Pro or Kodak DCS. When I notice spots on my D30 images I plug in the AC adapter, remove the lens, open the shutter and hit it with a few blasts of canned air. It might take a couple of cleanings like this to do the job and then I'm back in business again sans the spots. Other dSLRs often require an expensive and/or time-consuming trip to the service center for proper cleaning.

Battery life is nothing short of fantastic. The D60 uses the same high-capacity (yet physically small) BP-511 lithium rechargeable battery pack as the D30. This battery is also used by the Powershot G2, G1 and Pro 90IS cameras as well as numerous Canon video camcorders. You can take between 450 and 600 pictures per charge depending on how much you use the built in flash or AF illuminator. This number can be further extended by the use of the BG-ED3 Battery Grip which holds a second BP-511 battery. The BG-ED3 automatically switches over to the second battery when the first one gets too low. It adds a portrait grip and vertical shutter release as well as another Command Dial, FEL and AF Start buttons. The grip extends the height of the body giving your right hand more contact area and its added weight changes the center of balance when using a big lens. Like many 35mm film cameras, the D60 and D30 were ergonomically designed around this optional battery grip. The D60 is perfectly useable and lighter without the grip but any serious user should consider it as a required accessory.

The bottom line ... as of the writing of this conclusion (March 2002), the Canon D60 is the best possible value in a digital SLR (dSLR.) Time will tell if it is equaled or eclipsed by the Nikon D100 or any other dSLR. For those making the transition from film to digital that don't like the restrictions of "consumer grade" digicams consider this. dSLRs offer the convenience of interchangeable lenses, speedy AF systems, advanced metering systems, total exposure control, performance and above all, the best possible image quality. Canon offers some of the best "glass" in the world, their IS (Image Stabilized) telephotos and zooms are incredibly handy when a tripod isn't.

If you have a significant investment in Canon lenses you now have three choices; the EOS D30, D60 or the 1D. The EOS 1D is without a doubt the #1 choice for sports shooters but for the rest of us the EOS D60 is the one. For potential buyers the D60's $2199 price may seem high when compared to its film counterparts but please remember that pro level dSLRs were going for $10K and more just a year or two ago. We've seen a profound evolution occur in a short period of time -- the technology has improved 500% and the price has dropped almost as dramatically. This is a great time to go digital and I can't think of a better way to go than with an EOS D60.

Other comparable SLR cameras:

Nikon D100 Fuji S2 Pro Sigma SD9

Order the ShortCourses Canon D60 book today!

Canon Posts D60 Firmware Upgrade

11/25/02: Canon has today posted the EOS D60 Firmware Version 1.0.4 resolves the following issues, which may occur in the RAW mode depending on shutter release timing:

  1. Thumbnail image is black. *1
  2. Data is not written to CF card (or Microdrive). *2
*1 Only the thumbnail image is affected, there is no problem with the main image.
*2 With EOS D60 cameras that have Firmware Version 1.0.0, 1.0.1 or 1.0.2 installed, in cases where data stored in the camera's buffer memory has not yet been written to the CF card or microdrive, that data will be written when the menu button is pressed, or when the shutter button is pressed halfway.

EOS D60 Firmware Version 1.0.4 can be used to update EOS D60 cameras with Firmware Version(s) 1.0.0, 1.0.1 or 1.0.2.

Dan's Second Opinion

Steve asked me if I would write a short review on the Canon EOS D60, so here goes.

First I would like to remind those who don't know me that I owned a D30 for about 14 months and used it for all my work both in and out of the studio. My main complaint was that the D30's AF focus was not all that usable in low light. In the studio it worked great with my White Lightning Ultra studio flashes; however in low light at a wedding reception I found it difficult to focus at times. The D60 is much better in these very low light situations, having a greater sensitivity (0.5 VS 2.0 EV on the D30). I would still like to see it focus a little faster, although is has greater sensitivity and will focus in low light, it's still not the speediest AF system around.

Is it a better camera than the D30 ? Yes it certainly is and the increased resolution of the 6Mpixel CMOS sensor is a real bonus over the 3.25Mpixel sensor used in the D30. The image quality or should I say "the look," is identical to the old D30. That smooth film-like quality is still present, just a bigger file size. I really doubt one could tell which camera took what photo, the give away would of course be the difference in the file size.

So who should buy the D60? I would say any one that needs a big, fat, 18MB file. That in my mind would include studio, wedding, commercial, landscape and nature photographers.

Is it a pro camera? It is if a pro uses it !

Is it as good as the EOS 1D ? No I don't think so, the EOS 1D which I now own and use every day is Canon's masterpiece of engineering and will do things the D60 can not -- that however does not diminish this truly wonderful inexpensive marvel -- the EOS D60.

Dan Eisenman

All Pro Photo
1205 Court St, Clearwater Fl 33756
Studio Phone (727) 449-0610

Continue on to
Sample Photos

Other D60 Reviews

Imaging-Resource's D60 review

Luminous Landscape's D60 Field Report

Luminous Landscape Compares D60 to Medium Format film

DP Review's D60 review

DC Resource's D60 review

Harold Merklinger's D60 First Impressions

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