UPDATED 8th November, 2012. Released at the end of 2010 the Canon EOS 60D succeeded the EOS 50D that came out in 2008. Despite being over two years old, the Canon EOS 60D is still listed as a current model within Canon’s DSLR range. But can it cut it against the newer competition. The What Digital Camera review finds out...
Originally released in 2008, the Canon EOS 50D quickly established itself as a popular choice for enthusiast photographers, largely thanks to its tough magnesium alloy construction and uncompromising feature set. Built around a 15MP CMOS sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 4 image processor, the only ‘must have’ feature the EOS 50D really lacked was the ability to record HD video.
As the direct successor to the Canon EOS 50D, the Canon EOS 60D not only delivers 1080p Full HD recording, but also comes armed with a number of additional improvements over the older model, not least a new 18MP CMOS sensor, an improved 63-zone metering system, and a vari-angle 3:2 aspect 1.04m-dot rear LCD monitor (the 50D sported a fixed 4:3, 921k-dot monitor).
Not quite everything has changed for the better, however. For example, unlike the EOS 50D with its magnesium alloy cage, the outer casing of the EOS 60D is constructed primarily from polycarbonate resin. The addition of a number of in-camera creative features has also been seized upon by some as illustrative of how the EOS 60D is a slightly dumbed down version of its predecessor – something the EOS 50D was never accused of.
In terms of direct competition, the EOS 60D’s chief rival is the Nikon D7000. Released within months of the EOS 60D the Nikon D7000 is aimed at the same enthusiast market and, at the time of launch, was similarly priced. Despite also being two years old the D7000 is still listed as a current model within Nikon’s DSLR range. Interestingly, both the Canon 60D and Nikon D7000 have survived the introduction of newer DSLR models higher up their respective ranges – namely the Canon 6D and Nikon D600, both of which employ full-frame sensors rather than the APS-C chips found inside the EOS 60D and D7000.
Whereas both the EOS 60D and D7000 offer Full HD video recording there are quite a number of differences between the two models. Whereas the EOS 60D boasts a higher effective resolution (18MP vs 16.1MP) and a sharper vari-angle monitor (the D7000’s 921k-dot screen is fixed), the D7000 does get a tougher magnesium alloy shell, alongside a 39-point AF system that easily bests the 9-point AF system of the EOS 60D. In addition, the D700 offers an extra sensitivity stop above the EOS 60D’s top (expanded) setting of ISO 12,800.
The design and build of the Canon EOS 60D has changed quite significantly from the 50D. Because of this it fits more naturally between the 550D and 7D. To start with, the body is made from aluminium and polycarbonate resin with glass fibre, as opposed to the magnesium alloy seen on the 7D and the previous 50D.
This has been a bit of a sticking point for EOS users, as it means that the body is lighter and not quite as rugged. Yet, in the hand it still feels very solid and actually has better waterproofing than the old 0D. On the top-plate the quick access buttons in front of the info screen are now all single-use, rather than dual function as on previous models.
The mode dial has added a locking button, which requires you to press and hold the button to allow it to turn. This is to stop the dial accidentally moving but is not a problem I had ever come across and the new dial takes some getting used to.
On the rear the biggest change is the vari-angle nature of the screen. This does mean that the screen can be stored facing the camera for protection and having the ability to use the screen at extreme angles is very handy for shots with live view, and for tripod use.
There is a dedicated live view button placed just to the right of the viewfinder – perfect for a quick thumb press – which also works as a quick record button in video mode. The thumb joystick has disappeared however and, instead, the rear wheel has been incorporated with a multi-directional d-pad.
This means that most of the functions can be controlled from this one controller; rotated, pressed around its edges, or the centre button pushed. Though this is a clever use of space it does seem to be trying to do too much and operation can be a little tricky because of it. The rotation does have an auto locking facility too, which, when enabled, is released by a button below it. The power switch has been moved to the top left and more angular Menu, Info and Quick menu buttons sit above the d-pad controller.
The camera feels modern in its design and, though heavily consumer-oriented in its buttons and layout, remains a solid and well built unit, with only slight nuisances in the mode and rear dial.
Canon has seemingly adopted an ‘if it’s not broken’ approach to the 60D’s AF system and there is certainly merit in it. The nine-point AF is fast and accurate and, for most users, offers more AF points than they are ever likely to need.
Where the lack of AF points may come unstuck is for focus tracking and pin-point focusing on a tripod, though the live view mode allows exact placing of your focus point across most of the screen in Live AF mode. The move to use of pre-flash for AF instead of a dedicated AF beam is becoming more common in consumer DSLRs and though it might not suit everyone’s tastes it does allow a much quicker focus time, though is far from subtle.
The Canon EOS 60D’s metering system certainly shows its pedigree. Using the evaluative mode, the 63-zone iFCL system had no problem in keeping both highlights and shadow detail, and only occasionally were highlights clipped to maintain an even exposure.
The Canon EOS 60D uses SD memory cards in a move from CompactFlash cards in the 50D. This, Canon tells us, is in part to support the new SDXC high-capacity cards for video users. Write speeds, using a Sandisk Extreme III 8GB card, are around 2.5sec for a combined Raw and JPEG, 2sec for a Raw, and 1sec JPEG. This means at its maximum burst of 5.3fps it can shoot eight Raw/JPEG, 16 Raw, or 105 JPEG images before filling the buffer.
Battery life is stated in the specifications as approximately 1,100 shots at 23°C, but after I’d taken over 500 shots, plus video, the battery indicator was still showing three-quarter charged.
Images are well exposed and the metering delivers even the most extreme lighting with little trouble. In widely contrasting scenes the camera can lose some highlight detail to maintain a balanced scene. However, the use of the Auto Lighting Optimiser does help.
The auto white balance copes well in most conditions though appears slightly on the cool side under studio lights. Colours in the JPEGs appear to be punchier than older Canon models, and more like those from the 7D. This makes the images usable straight from the camera. /p>
Noise levels are well controlled though above ISO 800 the noise reduction does become quite noticeable in JPEG images and from 3200 ISO starts to degrade detail. The extended high setting, equivalent to 12,800 ISO, is best avoided for critical work.
Even at 200% it is nearly impossible to tell the JPEG and Raw files apart. Using default settings the JPEGs tended to be slightly darker and noise reduction can be seen in place of colour noise on high ISO files but detail levels are more or less identical.
The advantage of the Raw is the ability to bring back detail, add sharpness and alter white balance without degrading the image.
The 18MP sensor allows an impressive level of detail to be captured. The 17-85mm kit lens does show some signs of fringing around the edges but using a prime lens, shows just how good this camera can be.
Launched with a RRP of £1,099 body-only, the Canon EOS 60D can now be picked up for less that £700
body only, or around £900 if purchased with the 17-85mm IS lens that was used on this test. This represents a significant saving of around £400 on the original list price.
Given that the next model up in the Canon range – the three-year-old EOS 7D – currently costs around £1100, and the newer (full-frame) Canon EOS 6D will set you
back close to £1800, the EOS 60D offers a pretty sound investment – at least for those photographers who’ve used Canon DSLRs in the past and who have built up a range of Canon mount lenses.
For those that are not already tied to a DSLR system, the Nikon D7000 is the D60’s most direct competitor having launched at around the same time with a similar price and targeted at the same enthusiast market. It too has seen a fairly large fall in price, from around £1100 body-only at launch to nearer £700 now – almost identical to the Canon EOS 60D. Both cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses, although all said and done the D7000 did pip the EOS 60D by a single point with regards to their overall review scores.
The sensor in the Canon EOS 60D is the same 18MP model that features in the mid-range 550D, though with the low-pass filter from the 7D, for better colour reproduction. This is an APS-C sized CMOS sensor outputting at 5184 x 3456 pixels, or roughly A3 at 300dpi.
The processor is the same DIGIC 4 as the previous 50D but only a single unit, rather than the dual processors of the 7D. This provides burst shooting at a conservative 5.3fps compared to the 6.3fps of the 50D, due to the larger file sizes created by the higher-resolution sensor. The ISO offers a 100-6400 range in standard mode, with an extended ISO 12,800 available for extreme low-light work.
This is the same range as the 50D, though the ISO 6400 setting was previously an extended setting, suggesting that its quality has been improved upon. There is also an Auto ISO setting with a selectable maximum from 400-6400 in the menu. The integrated cleaning system also remains, that shakes dust and dirt from the sensor.
The metering system is Canon’s latest iFCL (intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) 63 zone affair, as featured in the 7D, and offers four options: Evaluative, Partial, Centre-weighted, and Spot. It also features a nice wide exposure compensation range of +/-5 EV.
Auto focus surprisingly remains unchanged from the 50D, with just nine all-cross type AF points, with an f/2.8 sensitivity on the centre point. This has proved to be a successful set-up but does seem sparse against its competition.
White Balance can be selected in Auto (AWB) mode, a series of six presets, a colour temperature selection and one custom mode. Further white balance compensation is available in all settings. The shooting modes cover the usual manual and priority modes (PASM), with the addition of a Bulb and Custom mode, allowing you to save your favourite settings.
There are also a set of five iconised Scene modes, alongside Canon’s Creative Auto mode, for a more graphical camera control, no-flash mode, and full Auto in the form of the ‘Green Square’. One of the more landmark additions to the 60D is the inclusion of advanced creative modes.
These are post-processing options that allow you to add creative effects such as grainy Black and White, miniature, toy Camera, and soft Focus to an image and save it as a separate file. Each mode offers a degree of control to tailor the effect to the image.
There are also in-camera options to resize images and even process Raw files into JPEGs, with a range of adjustments available before processing. The optical viewfinder offers a 96% coverage with a 0.95x magnification, for a reasonably large display, though not to the same extent as the 7D.
The LCD screen is 3in in size with a huge 1024k-dot resolution. If that’s not enough the 60D is the first EOS model to have its screen on a vari-angle mount, giving 180° horizontal and 270° vertical adjustment, allowing it to be viewed from almost any angle. Live view features a choice of three AF modes (Live, Quick and Face Detection) as well as a choice of grids and aspect ratios.
The one feature that was in little doubt as to its addition was HD video, and like the 7D and 550D it features Full HD 1080p capture at 30/25/24fps. Video exposure can be controlled in both Auto and full Manual exposure, with autofocus available via the AF-on button.
The inbuilt flash unit offers a fairly standard guide number of 13 and 17mm coverage but adds wireless flash control for up to two groups of Speedlite flashguns, making it only the second Canon EOS to do so.
The 60D has been launched into a market that has changed drastically since the arrival of its previous incarnation, in part due to the introduction of the EOS 7D. For this reason the 60D does seem more consumer-led than previous models and is designed more for ease and simplicity to allow it to fill the space more naturally between the 7D and the 550D.
The host of new features are generally to its benefit, especially in the case of the vari-angle high-resolution screen and the Full HD video capture. The mode button lock and the new multi-controller won’t suit all users however – especially those used to older Canon models. For those upgrading or looking for a high-performance mid-range DSLR however, you won’t be disappointed. The 60D is fast, easy to use and produces stunning results.
Canon EOS 60D manual
Canon EOS 60D manual – pdf
The Canon EOS 60D manual is available to download in pdf format from the Canon website
Buy a printed copy of the Canon EOS 60D manual
Get a printed manual, or printed tests for the Canon EOS 60D manual from the What Digital Camera camera manuals site
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