Conclusion - Pros
- Good resolution and detail (especially at lower ISO settings)
- Good dynamic range (better than D40 and slightly better than D40X)
- Surprisingly good build quality, tight shut lines
- New Dust removal system and very useful manual focus rangefinder
- Very compact and lightweight yet still comfortable to use
- New kit lens offers good optical performance and effective image stabilization
- Great in-use performance, very responsive, short black-out time, very fast media write
- Good fast auto focus system
- Auto-focus assist lamp rather than requiring flash to be raised
- Very reliable metering and excellent flash exposure
- Bright, punchy 'out of camera' JPEG results using default settings
- For a Pentamirror the viewfinder delivers a surprisingly bright image
- Extremely useful, customizable automatic sensitivity (ISO)
- Active D-Lighting does a good job of lifting shadows (though slows camera down)
- All playback functions available in record review
- Very attractive and intuitive menu system
- Information display gives fast access to all important shooting parameters and now rotates
- Unlimited 3 fps continuous shooting in JPEG mode (with a reasonably fast card)
- Good SD card throughput and decent USB 2.0 transfer speed
- In-camera retouching features including sophisticated raw to JPEG conversion
- Good large LCD monitor with wide viewing angles
- Dedicated help button provides both shooting and in-menu assistance
- Programmable Fn hard button
- Value for money
Conclusion - Cons
- No lens motor in body means non-AF-S/AF-I lenses are manual focus only
- Disappointingly RAW+JPEG setting only records Basic quality JPEG's
- Default settings a little on the soft side at a pixel level
- High ISO performance good, but not as good as best in class
- No exposure or white balance bracketing
- No hard buttons (without customizing) for ISO or White Balance
- No depth-of-field preview
- Fixed exposure steps (1/3 EV)
- Disappointing automatic white balance performance in incandescent light
- Supplied software still offers limited raw conversion options
- Limited image parameter adjustment (especially for color saturation)
- No Mass Storage USB support (MTP/PTP only)
The D60 takes the successful formula established in the D40 / D40X and, well, if we're being honest, doesn't do a great deal with it at all - the leap from D40 to D40X was a lot greater than the step up from D40X to D60 (even if Nikon's naming convention might seem to imply the opposite). There's a few nice new features, and bundling the new 'VR' (stabilized) version of the kit lens is a smart move that makes the whole package a lot more appealing, but it's fair to say that the D60 is a subtle upgrade rather than a wholescale reinvention of Nikon's entry-level best-seller.
Not that this is a bad thing; the D40 sold so well (and continues to do so) because it hits all the right buttons for its target market; it's small, well made, incredibly easy to use, produces great results and, crucially, the most affordable Nikon digital SLR ever made. The D60, like the D40X it replaces offers a real performance boost (both in resolution and shooting speed) and the refinements to the user interface, the addition of D-Lighting, the excellent dynamic range and the new kit lens and dust reduction system make an excellent camera just that little bit better. The new Expeed processing reduces the visibility of chroma noise at higher ISO settings (and allows the D60 to offer a few new tricks) but the difference in output is subtle to say the least; it's still bright, vivid and 'consumer friendly' (though purists may find it a little over-saturated by default).
Everything we said about the D40X remains true for the D60; great output that's easy to achieve even for a total novice, thanks to an excellent exposure and metering system; fast, responsive operation; excellent ergonomics and an easy to master feature set that is just sophisticated enough to allow users to explore the more advanced aspects of photographic technique without being so over complex they can't be bothered. It's easy for a camera reviewer with access to the latest, greatest high end gear to get snobbish about entry level cameras, but we all found the D60 to be a camera that's incredibly easy to like and one that's surprisingly enjoyable to use.
Inevitably it's not all great news; as someone who always shoots RAW+JPEG I found Nikon's decision to retain the crippled 'Basic JPEG only' option when shooting in this mode frustrating (the Basic JPEGs are way too compressed for serious use). High ISO performance isn't quite up to Canon's standards, and the lack of 'mid range' features (most crucially exposure bracketing and a vertical grip option) may not be of importance to the target market, but seem designed purely to push more serious users up the Nikon range to the ageing D80. The lack of AF support for lenses without a built-in motor is less of an issue; there's plenty of AF-S lenses to choose from (as well as an increasing number of third-party options from the likes of Sigma), and frankly if you're looking to use more exotic glass or have a collection of older zooms / primes you're simply not going to be looking at the D60 as an option. If you do want to shoot with Nikon primes or older zooms you'll be stuck with manual focus (though this is now a lot easier thanks to the new rangefinder).
In reality the biggest challenge the D60 faces is the competition; there's been an explosion of small, affordable entry-level SLRs in the 18 month or so since the D40 first appeared, and though I've never actually used live view outside the studio there's no denying it's a strong selling point at this end of the market, as is in-body stabilization. Cameras such as the Olympus E-410 (and its promising successor the E-420) offer a fuller feature set in an equally small (and affordable) body, and you can't ignore the imminent arrival on the shelves of Canon's seriously beefed-up (though pricier) forthcoming new entry-level model, the EOS 450D, not to mention the new Sonys or the Pentax K200D.
But let's not forget what the D60 has to offer; it's still one of the most affordable cameras in its class and it represents the perfect 'upgrade' camera for anyone who has outgrown their digital compact camera and is looking to dip a first toe in the world of the digital SLR. Its output is consistently good (the JPEGs are excellent and its raw files have lots of dynamic range headroom), it's a pleasure to use and, handles well and weighs very little. And as I've stressed throughout this review, it makes getting pleasing results incredibly easy.
Rating (out of 10)
|Ergonomics & handling||8.5|