Overall handling and operation

In general the handling of the 60D was a pretty positive experience - it has a larger grip than the Rebel/XXOD series, making it fit more comfortably in the hand for long periods of shooting. The 60D's plastic body also makes it feel significantly less heavy than its forerunner, the 50D, though this is as much about expectation, as actual weight difference (which is less than 100g). The decision to dedicate single functions to the four top-plate buttons behind the shutter button makes the camera faster to learn but means you're likely to end up using the Q menu more in the long run. That's not a terrible thing but will give existing users of the series more reason to feel alienated.

Specific handling issues

In general the 60D handles very nicely - it is, after all, hardly a radical development of a well-established product line. The two control dials, front and rear, are both well positioned making it generally quick and easy to change settings. The ISO button is well-placed for operation with the camera to your eye, and the repositioned depth of field preview button - now under the control of the fingers of your left hand - is arguably better positioned for operation when using long or heavy lenses than on previous Canons outside the 1D series.

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However, there is one key difference between the 60D and its X0D predecessors - the new camera has lost the joystick next to the viewfinder. The 60D does make AF point selection relatively easy (Custom Fn. III.2 allows the use of the eight-way controller to set AF points directly, with the far right shoulder button re-engaging automatic point selection) but we don't find it as fast as using the joystick on previous cameras. Because the design forces you to physically move your thumb (rather than just rocking it through 8 axes) we also found the diagonal AF points slightly awkward to select initially, despite the corresponding positions being marked on the controller. That said, after spending some time with the camera we soon got over the initial wobbles.

The 60D, with its tilt/swivel LCD, aims to make live view and movie recording much more central to the user experience. As a result the live view button is more conveniently positioned than on the 50D, just to the right of the viewfinder, and doubles as the record button when in movie mode. It's sensitive enough that you don't find the camera rocking forward when you try to start or stop video recording.

Video recording is also where you get the most of the flip-put screen - although potentially quite useful for live view stills shooting, its benefits are undermined by the slow focusing in that mode. You have a choice of using the sluggish contrast detect method (which Canon calls called Live Mode), or phase detection (Quick Mode) that introduces a screen blackout before you can take your shot and requires you to drop out of live view to choose the AF point. In an era where fast live view focus is becoming commonplace (whether it be in mirrorless cameras such a Panasonic's G2, Sony's innovative SLT series or even the more 'traditional' Nikon D7000 and Olympus E-5), the 60D's live view AF performance is disappointing - in fact it feels no different to the EOS 50D.

The 60D has a relatively high degree of control customization with a selection of variant options available for different groups of buttons. There are ten available permutations that define the behaviour of the shutter, AF-ON and * buttons, for example. It's not quite up to the level of the 7D on which you can dedicate camera functions on a near button-by-button basis but it's pretty good - especially for a camera at this level - and better than the EOS 50D.

We did find an annoying bug though - the assign 'SET' button' custom (CF IV-2) function conflicts with the 'AF point selection method' (CF III-2) function. When AF point selection method is set to option '1' (which allows direct manual selection of AF point using the multicontroller) this assigns the SET button to select the central AF point. This overrides C.Fn IV-2, 'Assign Set Button', which is the only way to get the electronic level to display in the viewfinder. We have seen this sort of unflagged function conflict before (most annoyingly in the EOS-1D Mark IV) and it is infuriating.

Another frustration is that, while most of the 60D's custom functions can be set through the Q menu and C.Fn menu, there's another, near identical option in the REC menu if you're in movie mode, this time not available through the Q menu. This kind of inconsistency makes the camera harder to configure than it should be.

A couple of Canon's long-running interface annoyances are still very much present and incorrect. Mirror lock-up is still inconveniently buried in the menus, and when enabled allows no quick method of switching back to normal shutter button behaviour. Why Canon can't simply implement it as a separate drive mode, if only as a mirror pre-fire when using the self timer like several competitors, is a mystery.

The irritating long-winded method of setting a custom white balance remains too, if anything slightly compounded by the need to change WB via the Q button. Setting a custom WB requires you to take a shot of a white or grey card, designate it as the reference image, and then manually switch to custom white balance setting (as the camera refuses to believe that having selected the reference image, you might actually want to use it). The 1D-series (and indeed Powershot) method of pointing the camera at the reference target and using it directly to set a Custom WB frankly makes much more sense.


Overall Performance

With the exception of live view focusing, the 60D is generally a very quick camera to use, as you'd expect from a design that's the result of many generations of progressive refinement. It's fast at (phase-detection) focusing and, unless you've filled the buffer by continuous shooting of RAW+JPEG images, it's very responsive to user input. This remains true for movie shooting, which you can expect to start in under one third of a second from the moment you press the record button. Overall there's very little to complain about, as you would hope with a camera costing this much.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

The continuous shooting rate of the 60D isn't quite as fast as the 50D - there's more data to move around, and the 60D doesn't have the 7D's dual processors to help cope with that fact. The performance is still perfectly creditable though, and perfectly in keeping with what you'd expect to see at this level.
  • JPEG: 5.3 fps for 44 frames, then around 1 fps. 18 seconds to recover.
  • RAW: 5.3 fps for 16 frames, then around 0.66 fps. 21 seconds to recover.
  • RAW+JPEG 5.3 fps for 13 frames, then around 0.5 fps. 22 seconds to recover.

All tests conducted with SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec Class 6 SDHC card.

Autofocus speed / accuracy

The 60D's autofocus system isn't hugely impressive on paper - it has essentially the same nine-point AF system that first appeared in the EOS 40D, but it loses the ability of its immediate predecessor the 50D to apply AF fine adjustment. We had few problems with AF accuracy though, even when using the hugely demanding EF 50mm F1.2 L USM lens. Naturally, there is always the risk that playing with fine adjustment might cause more problems than it solves, but the simple fact that there is no longer any capability to fine-tune AF might be a deal-breaker for some users.

In live view 'Live Mode' the whole package is considerably less impressive - the accuracy is great but focusing will regularly take 3-4 seconds. This not only rules out its use for moving subjects but, in doing so, also significantly undermines the usefulness of the articulated screen for hand-held stills shooting.