Nikon's D60 digital SLR combines the Expeed processor of the D300 and D3 with the 10.2-megapixel CCD sensor and feature set of the D40x. The What Digital Camera review investigates...
Nikon D60: Features
Nikon D60 Review – CCD Sensor
The Nikon D60 has bucked Nikon’s recent trend of using CMOS, as it still uses a CCD (which is cheaper to make). In this case it’s the same 10.2MP version that was used in the D40x. This at first makes us wonder whether the D60 will display more image noise than we’ve seen in recent cameras, though with the same Expeed processor of the Nikon D300 and Nikon D3, this fear may well be unfounded.
Nikon D60 Review – Dust Reduction
This is also the first Nikon camera to incorporate a dust-reduction system. Like many other systems, the D60 uses vibrations of the low pass filter to dislodge dust from the sensor, but it also incorporates a brand new Airflow Control System which leads air in from the mirror box towards small air ducts near the camera base. This supposedly directs dust away from the sensor. This system is silent and invisible; there are no discernible holes in the camera to let light as well as air into the camera.
Nikon D60 Review – Active-D Lighting
From the Nikon D300 and Nikon D3 models, the new camera has inherited Nikon Active-D Lighting feature, a more advanced version of the D-Lighting system of old. Active D-Lighting compensates for difficult or contrasty conditions by opening up the shadows, highlights and midtones of an image to gain the optimal range of tones. This can be performed as you shoot or added to the images later, in which case a duplicate file of the photo is saved to the memory card.
Nikon D60 Review – In-Camera Retouching Tools
There’s a host of new retouching tools available in-camera, notably Raw processing. You can shoot Raw, and adjust colour and tones, then save the result as a JPEG for direct printing, for example. Nikon has also added a raft of post production filters including a starburst-type filter which can be used to add a touch of magic to highlights, while other more-conventional filters, such as monochrome, sepia and so on, are all present. A new stop motion function allows you to take a sequence of images and play them back as a movie – ideal for YouTube movie makers and budding Nick Parks, of Wallace and Gromit fame.
Nikon D60 Review – Shooting Info Display
As with the Nikon D40 and Nikon D40x (but not the D80 and above) there is no top-plate data LCD. Instead, the shooting information is read from the 2.5in monitor on the back, as with Olympus
and Sony cameras. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) is much the same beginner-friendly system used on the Nikon D40/Nikon D40x too, with an intuitive aperture diagram so that users can see how the f-stops relate to the aperture size. An animated mode dial also comes into play when you change modes via the real dial. A choice of layouts and backgrounds is available and you can even set your own background wallpaper with your own images. There’s also the more sober, traditional style display of data for more advanced users.
Nikon D60 Review – Metering, Flash and Shutter Speeds
The nitty-gritty of any camera is its photographic features and the D60 has plenty to offer. The 3D Colour Matrix Metering II has filtered down from the recent high-end Nikon models, and the camera shoots at a reasonable 3fps up to 100 JPEGs. It also supports i-TTL flash, through the use of the in-built flash and in conjunction with Nikon’s Speedlight flash units, backed up by Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. Among the shooting modes is the standard PASM array, along with a variety of scene modes, which we’d expect from an entry-level model.
Shooting speeds cover 30 seconds to 1/4000sec and include Bulb and a Time option, while sensitivity stretches from ISO 100 to 1600, with a Hi setting offering the equivalent of ISO 3200. There’s also a wide exposure compensation range of ±5EV in 1/3 increments, but there’s no
auto exposure compensation bracketing, which is pretty much a standard nowadays and I think is a useful learning tool, and failsafe.
Nikon D60 Review – AF System
Like the Nikon D40 and Nikon D40x, the Nikon D60 features the Multi-CAM 530 module to operate its autofocus. This provides a 3-point AF system, but with no internal AF motor, the camera is dependent on the lens motors to actually focus. The system works with Nikon AF-S and AF-I lenses but some functionality, including metering and focusing, will be lost if you use other Nikon lenses. If you’re switching from a Nikon film camera, I recommend checking the compatibility of any lenses you already own to avoid disappointment.
As we’d expect from an entry-level camera, the D60 has a built-in pop-up flash with a guide number of 12m @ISO 100. The flash has a number of common modes, including red-eye reduction, front and rear curtain flash, slow sync and even flash exposure compensation.
Nikon D60: Handling
Nikon D60 Review – Disappointing AF
Let’s clear up thae Nikon D60 AF system first – it’s frankly disappointing. Apart from its speed, which is fairly slow, the three AF points fail to match that of most of its competitors, which is a shame. The AF is too slow to catch moving subjects, which can result in missed opportunities. The combination of dual lens and camera AF drives would quicken the autofocus and solve the problem. We’re sure Nikon has economic reasons for the system, but it nevertheless lets down the performance.
Nikon D60 Review – Easy to Handle
In other ways, the D60 is much better. The handling itself is very nice. The Nikon D60 is a small camera but the grip is deep enough for a good hold with a reasonable balance and external controls that are easy to reach. It’s nicely designed, maintaining the distinctive Nikon look within a small, lightweight body.
Nikon D60 Review – Viewfinder
The D60’s viewfinder is fairly bright and clear and features a proximity sensor that recognises when the camera is held to the eye, so the bright LCD screen shuts off and prevents distraction. Again, this a new feature to Nikon, but we’ve seen it before on Minolta and Sony cameras.
Nikon D60 Review – LCD Display & Battery Life
The D60’s LCD itself is bright and it’s easy enough to use all the post-processing features, but the LCD is small compared to other cameras arriving in the market place. Furthermore, because the power-hungry LCD screen must be on to make exposure adjustments, we found that as the battery level dropped, the monitor kept shutting down as we tried to make changes to the camera settings. This became really frustrating towards the end of the day. Nikon quotes a battery life of 500 shots, which seems about right, but we would recommend getting a spare battery or recharging it regularly to avoid this problem occurring.
Nikon D60 Review – Burst Performance
The Nikon D60 has a good burst speed, considering the amount of JPEGs it can record in one go (if the AF can keep up). The camera records in Raw too using NEF files, and there’s a dual option of Raw + JPEG. Unfortunately this only allows the highly compressed Basic JPEG, rather than Fine JPEG, which we prefer.
However, the JPEGS are usable for reference and snapshots, while the Raw files do produce excellent results. However you will have to pay for an upgrade to Capture NX to make the most of them, the included View NX only converts NEF to TIFF or JPEG, with no processing options. Otherwise hold out until your favourite Raw converter, such as Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom, gets updated to cope with the D60’s NEF files.
We mentioned in the image quality section that the camera can occasionally underexpose images, which is reason enough for Nikon to include auto bracketing, especially since beginners may not be able to properly evaluate the images or subject as well as more-experienced photographers. The fact this is missing is something of a mystery to me. I’m sure Nikon has its reasons, and it’s not a major criticism, but it’s a useful standby for inexperienced, and even experienced photographers, to get the best exposure from a trickily lit subject.
Image Quality & Value For Money
Nikon D60: Image Quality
Nikon D60 Review – Raw/JPEG
Our major complaint is the basic setting in the Raw+JPEG option. The JPEGS are usable for reference and snapshots, while the Raw files produce excellent results. However, you’ll have to pay for an upgrade to Capture NX to make the most of them; the included View NX only converts NEF to TIFF or JPEG, with no processing options. Otherwise hold out until your favourite Raw converter is update.
Nikon D60 Review – Exposure
The D60 produces well-exposed images, though scenes with lots of sky are prone to underexposure.
Nikon D60 Review – Noise
The Expeed processor is proving its worth, with excellent noise control up to ISO 800. Even in the Hi-1 setting, of ISO 3200 (equivalent), there is little obvious noise, though not quite up to the standard of the CMOS-based Nikon D300. For low-light shooting it’s great. Even the noise-reduction filter doesn’t soften the image too much.
Nikon D60 Review – Tone And Contrast
Tonal range is good especially when combined with the Active D-Lighting in high-contrast conditions – it really opens up the midtones and shadows.
Nikon D60 Review – Colour And White Balance
The D60 and the 3D Colour Matrix Metering excels, with punchy colour and accurate neutrals. The WB struggles in certain mixed conditions, as do most cameras, but the D60 manages better than some. The postproduction tools and custom colour functions do a grand job personalising images, though better results can be obtained in Photoshop.
Nikon D60 Review – Sharpness And Detail
With 10MP, there’s lots of detail but tends to bloom in very contrasty scenes – slightly more so than the larger pixels found on a similar 6MP camera. However in all but the most extreme examples there’s excellent resolution, especially with the new 18-55mm VR lens.
Nikon D60: Value For Money
Nikon D60 Review – Kit Options
Nikon has made the D60 available in several kit options; the body only for £450, with a standard kit
18-55mm lens for £500 and with a new Vibration Reduction standard 18-55mm for £530. I’d strongly recommend the final option if you’re buying from scratch, as the extra £30 will allow you to shoot at
slightly lower ISOs and reduce noise, while reducing the chance of camera shake in general. Sacrificing these benefits for the sake of £30 seems like a false economy.
Nikon D60 Review – D60 Competitors
The launch price of the D60 is reasonable and street price will doubtless be even lower. However, there are other cameras coming onto the market that can match or beat the spec of the D60 and so prove better value overall. While the D60 has a lot of new technology, most of that technology is new only to Nikon. Olympus and Sony provide shooting info on the LCD, and dust reduction has been around since the Olympus E-1 and has appeared on plenty of entry-level cameras in recent years.
Other beginners’ models have in-built stabilisation, so saving the added cost of VR lenses (though whether this is as effective is the subject of much debate) and the forthcoming Pentax K200D, which is similarly priced, has the added advantage of dust and weather sealing – though it remains to be seen how these new models will perform.
The D60 is a bit of a mixed bag, with plenty to recommend it such as the dust reduction, and legacy technology from the D3 and D300. However, it also suffers from an older and cheaper AF system and a smallish LCD screen. But on the most important criteria the news is better. The images are excellent, especially the noise control at higher ISOs, despite the number of pixels on the LCD – surely a credit to Nikon’s Expeed processor. Overall, the D60 breaks little new ground in the DSLR market but if you?re after an entry-level model that offers great picture quality at a good price then you won’t be disappointed.