Body & Design
Where the 50D was almost indistinguishable from its predecessor (the 40D, itself simply the latest in a line that had been evolving slowly since the original EOS 10D), the 60D essentially re-introduces the 'Elan' tier of enthusiast EOS SLR. Coincidentally, the last time Canon produced a model in this class (consumer-grade construction, dual control dials, enthusiast feature set) was back in 2002 with the EOS D60.
The body is noticeably smaller than the EOS 50D, and has the same plastic-over-metal construction as the EOS 550D (Rebel T2i). As you'd expect from a camera that sits between the Rebel and the 7D, the control layout has elements of both (though thankfully for the most part it's nearer to the latter). So you get a top plate info LCD and a wide range of external controls, but you lose the joystick and some of the EOS 50D / 7D's buttons.
The other big news is that, for the first time in a Canon SLR, the screen articulates, offering the same tilt and swivel functionality as many of the company's compact cameras. The extra space taken up by the screen's hinged frame means there's nowhere for the line of buttons that appears along the side / bottom of the LCD on the EOS 7D and 50D, but Canon has found homes for them elsewhere on the body.
In your hand
The EOS 50D and 7D are both wonderfully solid and stable in the hand, but they're also both very heavy, with the 7D tipping the scales at around 2 pounds (the best part of a kilogram). The 60D is a slightly more manageable 1.6 lb (755g), which, though still hefty, produces a lot less arm and neck strain over the course of a day.
The camera feels great in the hand, but we miss the joystick for picking AF points and are far from keen on the new combined command dial / multi-directional controller, which we feel is not as well-positioned for AF point selection with the camera to your eye. Whereas the joystick needed just a small leftwards movement of the thumb, the new multicontroller demands a greater reach downwards (and to compound this, if you shoot left-eyed you may find your nose gets in the way too).
Viewfinder specs and view
The EOS 60D appears to use a very similar viewfinder to that used in the 50D - the specs are quoted as providing an extra 1% viewfinder coverage but we find it hard to believe that Canon has designed an entirely new unit for such a small change (and they certainly don't look much different). The exposure level display along the bottom now stretches to +/- 3.0 EV (compared to the 50D's 2.0 EV) and there's a new battery indicator too.
One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes direct comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.
Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'.
|Just like the camera itself, the EOS 60D offers a viewfinder that sits between that of the 550D (Rebel T2i) and the 7D above it. In comparison, both the Nikon D7000 and the Pentax K-5 offer viewfinders almost identical in spec to the 7D's.|
Most cameras at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. The EOS 60D shows 96% (vertically and horizontally) of the frame.
|Canon EOS 60D: 96% viewfinder.|
Just twelve years after Canon used one on the Powershot Pro 70, the 60D finally becomes the first EOS DSLR to gain an articulated LCD screen. It has the same 3:2, 1,040k dot display that first appeared on the EOS 550D/Rebel T2i. It's an excellent screen which certainly gains something for being articulated - it's a big advantage when shooting video as you don't have to hold the camera with arms outstretched in front of you, and it's useful for framing when shooting at unusual angles or off a tripod too.
For normal stills-photography shooting, though, it's usefulness is limited by the 60D's live view autofocus, which not unusually for an SLR isn't great. You have choice of either compact camera-like contrast-detect AF, which maintains live view but is decidedly hesitant (often taking several seconds to focus), or conventional DSLR phase-detect AF which is much faster, but requires the camera to flip the mirror down and interrupt live view each time you ask it to focus.
LCD info panel
On top of the camera is an LCD control panel (slightly smaller than the 50D's) which provides a wide range of information about camera settings and exposure. It gains the same wider exposure scale as the viewfinder, as well as a 6-level battery indicator plus manual focus and IR remote release icons, but loses file size / quality and white balance indicators (although oddly there's a vestigial white balance fine adjust reminder).