Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent image quality up to ISO settings unthinkable just one camera generation ago
- Extremely high detail and resolution at base ISO, good per-pixel sharpness
- Very good low-light performance, with low noise levels and good retention of detail
- Good ergonomics, well shaped and comfortable hand grip
- Customizable user interface
- In-camera raw conversion options and Creative Filters give easy creative options
- Excellent LCD screen is articulated (great for videographers and tripod users)
- On-screen Q-Menu offers good access to shooting settings
- Good quality 1080/720p video output with a range of frame rates and control over exposure
- External microphone socket
- Useful highlight tone priority mode
- Good battery life
- Comprehensive software bundle
Conclusion - Cons
- Slow AF in Live Mode reduces benefit of articulated screen for stills shooting
- White balance often excessively orange under artificial light
- Slight tendency to overexpose in contrasty conditions
- Post-processing options oddly arranged (and don't provide access to the Ambience options)
- Plastic construction not as reassuring as its metal-bodied peers
The announcement of the 60D caused a great deal of consternation, particularly amongst existing owners of the X0D series cameras. The slot in the market previously occupied by the 50D is now split between the 7D and the 60D, and the newer model is much more about broadening its appeal to less-expert photographers than it is about directly replacing the 50D. The result of this repositioning is that the metal body and control joystick that had been identifiers of this series vanish, as do some of the features that more advanced users may consider important, such as AF microadjust. The 60D does though gain the sensor from the 7D and a tilt/swivel version of the high-res screen first seen on the 550D, all at a launch price some 15% lower than the 50D's, despite the strong Yen pushing most camera prices upwards (so it's fair to assume that a direct 50D replacement would have launched at an even higher price).
So the key questions to answer are: how detrimental are these feature losses and how significant an impact will they have on the people buying the camera (some of whom might not have bought a 50D, choosing to hold on to their Rebel or find an older, second-hand model instead)? And the simplest answer is that for most users, only the loss of the joystick is likely to be disappointment, and that there is every chance that more people will benefit from the gain of the movie-friendly swivel screen.
The 60D's image quality offers few real surprises, given that it utilizes essentially the same sensor and processor as the 550D and 7D. Despite having more pixels than the 50D, which would usually count against it in our pixel-level testing, the 60D improves on its predecessor even at the pixel level - producing very good high ISO images with few signs of the pattern noise (banding) that the 50D could be prone to. In fact, all round image quality is a step forward from the 50D in just about every respect.
Dynamic range, noise and color are all up the the high standard we'd expect from our experiences with this sensor in its sister models. It's a sensor that - after all - helped the 7D and 550D produce some of the best image quality in their respective classes. Looking at images from the 60D alongside its competition we are impressed to see that it holds its own very well against the recently announced (and soon to be reviewed) D7000, and (less of a surprise) that it outperforms the new multi-aspect sensor of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 towards the upper end of the ISO scale.
As usual you can get a bit more out of the 60D's images in terms of detail and dynamic range if you process from RAW, and you gain the ability to tailor the high ISO noise reduction to your precise tastes. Generally though the default JPEGs are likely to be pretty well suited to most people's needs.
Despite being a slightly repositioned, less expensive camera than the 50D, it's hard not to compare the 60D to its predecessor. The loss of joystick on the back of the camera makes several aspects of control, not least AF point selection, slightly slower and more fiddly. The eight direction controller that replaces the joystick isn't bad but it isn't as conveniently positioned for to-the-eye shooting and we have found that it can be slightly awkward for selecting diagonal points.
Equally the removal of functions from the top-of-camera buttons makes the camera faster to get to grips with, but (arguably) slower to use once you're familiar with it. The Q Menu is quick and easy to understand but isn't quite as fast as a series of dedicated buttons - meaning there are more occasions when you'll have to take the camera from your eye and adjust the settings on the screen. These changes might not be noticed by anyone new to the X0D series, it's only 40D and 50D users who are likely to so much as raise an eyebrow.
However this increased reliance on the rear screen hints that the 60D is trying to stretch beyond the classic DSLR use pattern. And for video shooters the large, detailed and articulated LCD will more than outweigh the tweaks made to viewfinder shooting. Sadly the contrast detection autofocus is still slow enough to reduce the usefulness of the articulated screen for handheld stills shooting, but tripod users and shooters of static subjects should appreciate it.
The Final Word
The 60D is built from familiar enough components and with familiar enough controls that it presents no real surprises in terms of image quality or operation. Both of these areas have been strengths of recent Canon DSLRs, so it comes as no shock to discover that the 60D is a very capable camera in terms of both useability and output.
However, customers who previously would have bought the X0D series now have to decide whether it's the 60D or 7D that better suits their needs. It's not a criticism of the 60D to suggest that some of them could reasonably decide that they need the 7D's additional features. The more pertinent question is whether the 60D makes sense as an upgrade from the 550D/Rebel T2i. From our testing, it appears to offer no appreciable image quality benefit, but purely in terms of ergonomics - the larger grip, better viewfinder and two-dial control system - we think it's well worth considering. If you're someone who will benefit from the swivel screen it's an even easier decision. And, for the Rebel upgrader it's a better option than a second-hand 40D or 50D in almost every respect.
It may have turned its back on the semi-pro, but the 60D is still a camera that should enthuse the enthusiasts.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Enthusiast photographers beginning to outgrow their first DSLR. Videographers wanting control over their footage.
Not so good for
Demanding users who need the greater speed, sophistication and durability of a semi-pro grade camera.
The 60D is probably best understood as a 'super Rebel' - it's a more comfortable, more flexible and faster-to-use version of Canon's justly popular entry-level DSLRs. The twin dial controls, better grip and bigger viewfinder will delight stills shooters while the articulated screen and movie control will please would-be videographers.
There are 37 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. A reduced size image (within 1024 x 1024 bounds) is provided to be more easily viewed in your browser. As always the original untouched image is available by clicking on this reduced image.
|Canon EOS 60D samples gallery - Posted 8 November 2010|