Originally Posted: December 5, 2010
Last Updated: December 15, 2010
The Canon EOS-60D (priced from $1099) is a midrange digital SLR that features an 18 Megapixel CMOS sensor, rotating LCD display, 5.3 frame/second continuous shooting, and Full HD movie recording, in addition to the usual things like manual controls and expandability that you'll find on most every camera in this class. Those of us who have been following Canon D-SLRs for a long time got a laugh out of the name of the camera. After all, back in 2002, there was an EOS-D60 -- and I owned one.
Anyhow, the EOS-60D is the follow-up to the 50D, and it has a lot in common with its big brother, the EOS-7D. Here's a chart comparing all three cameras (you may need to widen your browser window for it to fit):
There are some pretty huge improvements on the 60D when compared to its predecessor. First, you've got the same 18 Megapixel CMOS sensor as the EOS-7D. You also get a higher resolution, rotating LCD, an improved metering system, wireless flash support, an electronic level, and Full HD movie recording. The bad news? The EOS-60D has a composite (read: plastic) rather than metal body, slower continuous shooting, and fewer custom functions than the 50D. Even so, you're really getting the best of the EOS-7D in a body costing $600 less.
Ready to learn more about the EOS-60D and whether it's right for you? Keep reading, our review starts now!
What's in the Box?
To the best of my knowledge, the EOS-60D will be available in three kits. You can get just the body only ($1099), the body with an 18 - 135 mm lens ($1399), or the body with an 18 - 200 mm lens ($1499). Here's what you'll find in the box for all three of those:
- The 18.0 effective Megapixel EOS-60D camera body
- LP-E6 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 135 mm IS EF-S lens [18-135 kit only]
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 200 mm IS EF-S lens [18-200 kit only]
- Wide strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROMs featuring Canon EOS Digital Solution and software instructions
- Fold-out pocket guide + 322 page camera manual (printed)
The EOS-60D supports both EF and EF-S lenses, and you can buy the camera with or without one. Mine came with the 18 - 135 IS EF-S lens, which is average. It's pretty soft unless you close down the aperture, and purple fringing can be strong as well. While I can't say this with 100% confidence, I assume the 18 - 200 mm kit lens performs similarly. If you want to use another lens, Canon (and other manufacturers) have literally dozens to choose from. Just remember that there's a 1.6X crop factor, so the field-of-view on a 50 mm lens is really 80 mm.
Digital SLRs never come with memory cards, so you'll need to supply your own. As you saw in the comparison table at the beginning f the review, the EOS-60D now uses SD/SDHC/SDXC media, instead of bulkier CompactFlash cards. I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card for still shooting, or an 8GB card (at the very least) if you'll be taking a lot of movies. You'll want a high speed card (Class 6 or faster) for best results.
The 60D uses the same LP-E6 rechargeable lithium-ion battery as its big brother, the EOS-7D. This battery packs a whopping 13.0 Wh of energy into its relatively compact shell, which is as high as you'll find? How does that translate into battery life? Have a look:
The EOS-60D has the best battery life in its class and, as you saw before, it easily beats out the more expensive 7D, as well. If you are shooting exclusively with live view, expect those numbers to drop down to about 320 shots per charge, which is on the lower end of the spectrum for a D-SLR or interchangeable lens camera (at least those that I have numbers for).
All of the cameras in the table above use proprietary lithium-ion batteries. These batteries tend to be expensive, with a spare LP-E6 setting you back at least $58. In addition, should that battery die, you can't just grab an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day. That is, unless you buy the...
EOS-60D with optional battery grip
Image courtesy of Canon USA
... optional battery grip! The BG-E9 battery grip ($187) can hold a pair of LP-E6 batteries, giving you double the battery life. The grip also includes a magazine which holds six AA batteries, which can save the day should the LP-E6's run out of juice.
When it's time to charge the LP-E6, just pop it into the included charger. The charger plugs right into the wall (though this might not be the case outside of the USA), and it can refill the battery in about 2.5 hours.
Digital SLRs support a load of accessories, and the table below covers just a fraction of those available for the EOS-60D:
And believe it or not, those are just a few of the accessories available for the 60D! Other options include viewfinder accessories (angle finder, focusing screens, etc), macro lights, car chargers, and lots more.
EOS Utility - Main Screen
Canon includes version 23 of their EOS Digital Solutions Disk with the EOS-60D. The first application that you'll probably bump into is EOS Utility, which is sort of a gateway to all the other software programs. Here you can download photos from your camera, use remote capture, adjust camera settings, create Picture Styles, or monitor a folder (used with the optional Wireless File Transmitter).
EOS Utility - Selecting Photos to Download
If you choose to select and download images to your computer, you'll get the screen you see above. Once photos are transferred to your computer, you have two ways of viewing and editing them.
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
The "consumer-friendly" option for viewing images is ImageBrowser (for Mac) and ZoomBrowser (for Windows). On the main screen, you get the usual thumbnail view, with quick access to image e-mailing, printing, editing, and slideshows.
Double-click on a JPEG image and you'll bring up the photo in its own window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment feature, for those who don't mess with all those controls.
The Browser software can be used to view RAW images, but that's about it. If you want to edit them, you'll need to use the next product.
Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X
Digital Photo Professional is Canon's RAW editing application. The main screen isn't too much different from Image/ZoomBrowser, with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail + shooting data screen. The batch processing tool lets you quickly resize and rename a large number of photos.
RAW editing in DPP
The RAW editing tools in DPP are quite robust. Basic properties you can edit include exposure, white balance, the tone curve, Picture Style, saturation, and sharpness. In addition to adjusting the basics that I described above, DPP also lets you tweak color tone, saturation, the tone curve, both luminance and chrominance noise, and lens aberration (such as distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing).
If you want to edit the camera's RAW images with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you'll be pleased to hear that they are fully supported, assuming that you have Camera Raw 6.2 or newer.
I'm sure that most people in the market for a camera like this know what RAW is, but in case you don't, here's a quick explanation. RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. Thus, you can adjust settings like white balance and exposure without damaging the original image, so it's almost like taking the photo again. The downside is the large file size (compared to JPEG), fewer shots in continuous shooting mode, and the need to post-process each image on your computer before you can turn it into a more common format like JPEG. The EOS-60D supports three different RAW sizes: full size, medium, and small.
Remote camera control, complete with live view
Back when I mentioned EOS Utility, I said that it supports remote capture, so here's some more detail on this handy feature. This software you control the camera right from your computer, with access to most camera settings. The live view feature is fully supported, complete with a histogram, composition grid, and the ability to enlarge the frame and manually tweak focus. Photos are saved directly to your computer, though they can be stored on the camera too, if you wish. You can also take movies using Remote Capture, though the files are initially stored on the camera. When you're done recording, the software will allow you to copy the video files over to your Mac or PC.
Remote Capture also lets you set up the My Menu feature (more on that later), and it can also be used to send Picture Styles that you've created to the camera. The Picture Style editor (another piece of software) lets you open up a RAW image, adjust color, the tone curve, contrast, and sharpness, and then save the results as a new Style.
One last software product to mention is PhotoStitch. This helps you combine multiple photos into a single panorama. The 60D doesn't have a Stitch Assist feature like Canon's PowerShot models do, but that doesn't mean that you can't do it yourself!
The EOS-60D includes a thick, detailed manual, and you'll need it -- this is a complex camera. While it won't win any awards for user-friendliness, it should answer any question you may have about the camera. Documentation for the software bundle can be found on an included CD-ROM.
Look and Feel
The EOS-60D is a fairly large digital SLR. One of the big changes (that some people have been grumbling about) is the change from an all magnesium alloy body on the 50D to a composite-over-aluminum body here. While obviously I'd prefer an all-metal body, the plastic body on the 60D feels very solid. Add in the nice rubberized surfaces and it's a camera that's easy to hold in your hands.
|The back of the EOS-50D and 60D
Images courtesy of Canon USA
In addition to the switch to a mostly plastic body, the EOS-60D also has some significant changes to its back side. The first is the rotating LCD display, which I'll touch on more later. You'll also notice that all of the buttons that were below the LCD on the 50D have been relocated (or eliminated) on the 60D. Instead of the dedicated joystick that was on the 50D, Canon has added a four-way controller inside the main control dial on the 60D -- I definitely prefer the former. There's also a new button for opening up the Quick Menu.
At the beginning of the review I compared the size of the 50D, 60D, and 7D. In case you missed that, the 60D is slightly larger than the 50D (to accommodate the rotating LCD), though the plastic body makes it quite a bit lighter. The EOS-7D is both larger (but not by much) and heavier than the 60D.
Now let's see how the 60D compares to other cameras in its class:
Naturally, the mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are going to be the smallest and lightest cameras in the group. If you ignore those, the 60D comes in second place when it comes to bulk, with only the Olympus E-5 above it.
Okay, enough numbers, let's start our tour of the camera now, shall we?
Here's the front of the EOS-60D, sans lens. As I mentioned, the 60D supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion ratio. Unlike some D-SLRs (notably from Pentax and Olympus), Canon cameras don't have image stabilization built into their bodies, so you'll need to look to the lens for that feature. To release the attached lens, simply press the button to the right of the mount.
Behind the mirror is an 18 Megapixel CMOS sensor, similar to the one found on the EOS-7D. To keep dust off of the sensor, the camera uses an ultrasonic dust removal system, that activates when the camera is powered on or off. The low-pass filter also has a fluorine coating, which helps to repel the stuff in the first place. If you still have dust spots on your photos, the camera can create a "dust map", which allows you to remove the spots using Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.
Straight up from the lens mount is the 60D's built-in flash, which is released electronically. This flash has a guide number of 13 meters at ISO 100, which is typical for this class, and it supports focal lengths as low as 17 mm. In a big step-up from the 50D, the EOS-60D now supports wireless flashes, with the built-in flash serving as the "master'. For what I can glean from the manual, you can have up to two groups of off-camera flashes. Naturally, you can also attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a moment.
What else can be found on the front of the camera? Over on the right, just above the EOS-60D logo, is the camera's monaural microphone. Over on the grip you'll find the receiver for the optional wireless remote control, with the shutter release button above it. The white circle is the redeye reduction/self-timer countdown lamp, while down at the lower-left of the lens mount (and hard to see here) is the camera's DOF preview button.
The biggest design change between the 50D and 60D is the addition of a flip-out, rotating LCD display -- the first on a Canon D-SLR. While it's not going to be of much use when shooting with the viewfinder, it's indispensable when using the camera's live view feature. Shooting over crowds, taking ground-level photos, or just using the camera on a tripod is a whole lot easier with rotating displays like this. The screen rotates a total of 270 degrees, from facing your subject all the way around to facing the ground. It can also be put in the traditional position shown below, or closed entirely.
And here is the LCD in the position that people are most familiar with. If I'm not mistaken, this is the same LCD that's found on the EOS Rebel T2i, and that's a good thing. This "Clear View" display has a whopping 1.04 million pixels, so everything is very sharp. I found outdoor visibility to be good, and the screen's overall viewing angle was impressive, as well.
Live view, complete with histogram that blocks a good portion of the frame (you can turn it off)
As with the 50D before it, the 60D allows you to take photos and record movies using the LCD. This live view feature allows you to see 100% of the frame, preview white balance and exposure, view a live histogram, detect faces, and enlarge the frame for precise manual focus. Both outdoor and low light visibility was very good, and the live view has a fluid refresh rate, as well. Downsides of live view include slower focusing performance than using the viewfinder (especially if you're using contrast detect AF) and a significant drain on your battery.
The 60D has three autofocus modes available in live view mode. They include quick mode, live mode, and live mode with face detection. Quick mode is the one I use the most, due to its responsiveness. When you take a photo using Quick mode, the camera flips the mirror down (thus turning off live view), uses the built-in AF sensor to lock focus, and then flips the mirror back up, restoring the live view. In most cases, you'll get focus lock in a second or less. The two live modes use the CMOS sensor itself for focusing on a spot that you designate using the camera's joystick. If you're using the live face detection mode, then the camera will look for someone's face and make sure they'll be properly focused and exposed. If the box on a face has arrows on it, then you can use the multi-controller to switch to other faces the camera has found. The problem with the two live modes is that they're very slow -- focus times are in the seconds in most cases. Thus, don't expect to be using for action shooting like you could on a compact camera.
Zoomed in 10 in live view mode
I find live view to be especially useful when manually focusing. You can enlarge an area of the frame, which allows you to make sure that your subject is properly focused.
I'm not even close to level here
Something else you can see in live view is an electronic level (for tilt only). The camera will indicate when the horizon is level (the line will turn green), which is a must-have feature for people like me who can't ever seem to get it right. You can also display the level information in the optical viewfinder, after changing a few settings.
An additional benefit of the live view feature is called silent shooting. Since the camera isn't doing any mirror-flipping when the photo is actually taken, you can take photos with a lot less noise than if you were using the optical viewfinder. Silent shooting mode 1 is what most people will want to use, with the only caveat being that the burst rate drops a bit, to 5 frames/second. Silent mode 2 will keep the shutter closed until you let go of the shutter release -- so you can get the camera away for your subject before the "click" disturbs it. You cannot shoot continuously using this second mode. You can also turn this feature off entirely, which Canon recommends when using Tilt-Shift lenses.
|LCD info screen and the Quick Control menu||Quick Control screen when using live view|
When the LCD is not being used for live view, you can use it for showing the current camera settings (Canon calls this the Quick Control screen). You can change virtually any of these settings by pressing the Quick Control button and then navigating to the option you want to change. A secondary info screen is also available, showing things like the color space, white balance shift/bracketing, color temperature, and more, though you can't adjust anything. If you're in live view mode, there's a scaled down version of the Quick Control menu, allowing you to change the AF mode, drive setting, white balance, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimizer, image quality/size, and flash exposure compensation.
The EOS-60D has an optical viewfinder as well, and it offers slightly better coverage than the one on the 50D. This viewfinder has a magnification of 0.95, so it's pretty large. The coverage is 96%, up from 95% on the 50D. The viewfinder has the typical focus point illumination feature, as well as the line of data below that can show shots remaining, aperture, shutter speed, the electronic level, and much more. You can adjust the focus of the viewfinder by using the diopter correction knob on its top-right corner.
To the left of the viewfinder is the button for deleting photos. I found this to be kind of an inconvenient location. Over on the other side we have the button for activating and deactivating live view, and recording videos when the mode dial is set to the movie position.
Continuing to the right, we find these three buttons:
- AF-On - activates the autofocus system
- AE lock + zoom out (in playback mode)
- Focus point selection + zoom in (for both live view and playback mode)
That focus point selection button allows you to switch between automatic or manual selection of the 60D's 9 focus points.
Moving back toward the LCD, you'll find the Menu, Info, and Quick Control buttons. The first button's function is self-explanatory, the second toggles the information shown on the LCD, and the third activates the Quick Control menu I showed you above.
Below those is what Canon calls the Quick Control dial. The dial can be used for all sorts of things, including adjusting exposure, navigating menus, and playing back photos. Inside of the dial is the relocated multi-controller, which is mainly used for working with the camera's menus. As I said earlier, I prefer the joystick on the 50D to the multi-controller here. You can set the Quick Control dial to be locked by default, so you don't accidentally change anything. To unlock the dial for a set amount of time, press the aptly named Unlock button beneath it.
Speaking of buttons, the last thing to see on the back of the 60D is the button for entering playback mode.
The first item of note on the top of the camera is the mode dial, which is chock full of options. In order to turn the dial, you first have to depress the button in the middle to unlock it. I could do without the lock feature, though apparently people like it, as Canon is now offering an upgrade to 7D and 5D Mark II owners who want a locking mode dial. Anyhow, here are all of the options on the mode dial:
This is how you adjust the aperture in Creative Auto mode
The EOS-60D has two auto and five scene modes. The Creative Auto mode offers a bit of manual control, though Canon does their best to disguise what you're actually doing. The first thing you can adjust is the "ambience", which includes things like vivid, soft, warm, brighter, and monochrome. For many of these ambient settings, you can adjust how strong the effect is, in three steps. You can also adjust how blurry the background is, from 1 to 5. This is, of course, essentially the same as adjusting the aperture in the manual shooting modes. The only other things you can change in Creative Auto mode are the drive mode and flash setting.
Naturally, the 60D has the usual set of manual exposure controls too, including a bulb mode. There's also a dedicated spot on the mode dial for your favorite camera settings.
Moving on with the tour, you'll find the camera's hot shoe at the center of the photo. The camera will work best with Canon's EX Speedlites, which integrate with the 60D's TTL metering system. These flashes also support high speed flash sync, and you can adjust their settings right from the camera's menu system. If you're using a non-Canon flash, you'll have to set the exposure manually, and you'll be limited to a x-sync speed of 1/250 sec. As I mentioned earlier, you can also use the built-in flash to control two groups of wireless Speedlites.
Continuing to the right you can see the camera's LCD info display, which shows virtually every camera setting imaginable. A backlight can be turned on by pressing the little button with the light bulb to its upper-right.
Above the display are four buttons (five if you included the LCD backlight). They're for:
- AF mode (One-shot, AI focus, AI servo)
- Drive mode (Single-shot, low or high speed continuous, 2 or 10 sec self-timer/remote control)
- ISO speed (Auto, 100 - 12,800) - available in 1/3 or 1-step increments
- Metering mode (Evaluative, partial, spot, center-weighted average)
A quick note about those three AF modes. One-shot AF locks the focus when you halfway-press the shutter release button. AI Servo keeps focusing, even while the button is halfway-pressed, which is great for moving subjects. The AI focus mode chooses between the two automatically, based on what's going on in the scene.
Now let's talk about the continuous shooting mode on the EOS-60D. It's a bit slower than the 50D, but that's to be expected, given the increase in resolution. There are two speeds to choose from: low and high. Here's what kind of performance you can expect out of the 60D:
The EOS-60D turned in a pretty good performance, with a nice burst rate and decent buffer capacity (save for in RAW+JPEG mode). The camera doesn't stop shooting when it reaches the limits shown above -- it just slows down considerably. Do note that while you can compose the first shot in a burst using live view, the screen goes dark after that.
The last things to see on the top of the camera include the main dial (used for adjusting manual settings, navigating menus, and playing back photos) and shutter release button.
On this side of the camera you can see the flash release button, the hidden I/O ports, and the speaker.
The I/O ports, which are behind a rubber cover, include:
- External mic - new to the 60D
- USB + A/V output
- Remote control
One of the other big differences between the 60D and its predecessor has to do with memory cards. Where the 50D used CompactFlash cards, the EOS-60D uses slimmer SD, SDHC, and SDXC media. You can see the SD card slot here, and it's protector by a reinforced plastic door of average quality.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the EOS-60D. Down here you'll find a metal tripod mount, plus the battery compartment. The door over the battery compartment is also of average quality.
The included LP-E6 battery can be seen at the lower-right.
Using the Canon EOS-60D
The EOS-60D is ready to start shooting as soon as you flip the power switch. The camera does run its dust reduction cycle during the power-on sequence (for about two seconds), but you can interrupt it by pressing the shutter release button.
Focus speeds depend mainly on two factors: whether you're using live view, and what lens you have attached. When shooting with the viewfinder with the 18 - 135 mm kit lens, the camera locked focus in 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle and around 0.4 - 0.8 seconds at the telephoto end of the lens -- pretty quick. In low light, the camera takes about a second to lock focus, and is much quicker if you use the AF-assist flash. Now, if you;re using live view, expect longer waits. Using "quick mode", add about 1/2 second to those focus times to account for the necessary mirror-flipping. If you're using the "live" (contrast detect) AF modes, you'll wait anywhere from one to three seconds for the camera to lock focus. And forget about low light with live AF -- you'll listen to the lens grind back and forth for several seconds, only to find out that it couldn't lock focus (and the AF-assist flash cannot be used, either).
As for shutter lag, there isn't any to speak of. Shot-to-shot delays are minimal too, regardless of the image quality setting.
To delete a photo you just took, just press the aptly named delete button!
Now, here's a look at the image size and quality choices available on the EOS-60D:
Canon provides three RAW sizes on the EOS-60D, which is great if you don't need those gigantic 25 MB files. You can take a RAW image alone, or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing.
The EOS-7D has a detailed, yet easy-to-navigate menu system that looks great on its ultra high resolution LCD. About the only thing it needs is some kind of help system. The menu is divided up into several tabs, covering shooting, playback, setup, and custom settings, plus a menu that you create yourself. Since each tab contains exactly one "page" worth of items, you never have to scroll down to see more options. Below is the full list of menu options, save for the movie menus, which I'll discuss later:
My Menu settings
While I hopefully explained most of the 60D's options in the section above, there are a few items that warrant further discussion. The first is the camera's auto exposure (AE) bracketing feature. This allows you to take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. The interval between each shot can be as little as 1/3EV, or as much as 5EV.
The Auto Lighting Optimizer feature is designed to brighten the dark areas of your photo. It's on by default, at the "standard" setting, and you can turn it higher, lower, or off entirely. If you're shooting RAW, you can tweak the ALO setting in Digital Photo Professional. Here's an example of this feature in action:
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You can see that there's a noticeable difference between any of the ALO settings, and not using it at all. The "standard" setting may be a little too much in some situations, and I think "strong" is overkill unless you've a really strong difference in contrast. Do note that noise levels may increase when using this feature, though odds are that you won't notice.
A somewhat related feature is called Highlight Tone Priority, and it's buried in the custom settings menu. This feature aims to reduce highlight clipping, though the ISO is boosted to 200 (no big deal) and you lose the ability to boost shadow detail with the aforementioned ALO feature. Does it work, though? Have a look:
|Highlight Tone Priority off
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|Highlight Tone Priority on
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As you can see, the highlight tone priority feature does indeed improve highlight detail. If you view the full size images, you'll see the downside: shadows get a lot darker.
WB shift and bracketing (at the same time, no less)
Naturally, the EOS-60D has plenty of manual white balance adjustments. The custom white balance option allows you to use a white or gray card as a reference, for accurate color in mixed or unusual lighting. Another option is to manually set the color temperature, which can be adjusted between 2500K and 10000K, in 100K increments. If either of those are a little off, you can use the WB shift to move the white balance in the green, blue, magenta, and amber directions (see screenshot). You can also bracket for for white balance, with the camera taking three shots in a row, each with a slightly different WB setting. Heck, you even even do fine-tune and bracket at the same time!
One thing that's missing from the 60D that was available on its predecessor (as well as the 7D) is the ability to "micro-adjust" the focus for up to 20 registered lenses.
Since I'm hitting the playback and movie options later, we can move on to the photo tests now! I used a variety of lenses for these, and I'll tell you underneath each of the photos.
I've got no complaints about how the 60D handled our standard macro test. Colors are pleasing, without the color casts that sometime appear under our studio lamps. The subject has the "smooth" appearance that is common on D-SLRs, though plenty of detail is still captured. There's no noise to be found here, nor would I expect any.
The minimum distance to your subject will depend on what lens you have attached to the camera. For the 18 - 135 and 18 - 200 mm kit lenses, that distance is 49 and 45 cm, respectively. I used the Canon F2.8, 60 mm EF-S macro lens for the above photo, which has a minimum distance of 20 cm. If you're really into macro photography, you may want to consider one of Canon's dedicated macro lenses.
I brought my L-series glass out for the night test shot, and the results are very impressive. The scene is tack sharp from one edge of the frame to the other, with the only issue here being some minor highlight clipping. Noise isn't a problem, and neither is purple fringing. Taking photos like this is easy, since you've got full control over the shutter speed.
Now, let's use that same scene to see how the EOS-60D performs at high sensitivities in low light. Since the resolution of the camera is so high, the crops don't show a very large area, so I recommend viewing the full size images whenever possible.
ISO 12,800 (H)
Everything is as smooth as butter through ISO 400. At ISO 800 there is a very small amount of noise, but it's not nearly enough to concern me. There's a bit more at ISO 1600, but again, it's barely noticeable. You will be able to more readily spot the noise in the ISO 3200 photo, making this a good time to stop or switch over to RAW. The ISO 6400 image has noise and detail loss, and things look pretty lousy at the "high" ISO 12,800 setting.
What if I told you that you could make the ISO 3200 and 6400 photos look a lot nicer by spending about one minute of your time post-processing some RAW images? Here's your proof:
At ISO 3200, the improvement from using RAW is fairly minor. There is a bit more detail (and grain-style noise, as well), and better dynamic range on that US Bank sign. The difference is much more noticeable at ISO 6400, which turns a smudged photo into something much more usable.
We'll see how the 60D performed at high sensitivities in better lighting in just a moment.
Lens used: Canon F3.5-5.6, 18 - 135 mm IS
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 135 mm kit lens (I can't speak to the 18 - 200, since I didn't have one). You can see the effect of this distortion by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. The 18-135 also display some corner blurring at wide-angle. Vignetting didn't seem to be a problem with this particular lens.
There's a fair amount of redeye in our flash test photo. The EOS-60D relies on its relatively weak redeye reduction lamp to shrink your subject's pupils, and that doesn't usually work too well. If you do end up with redeye, you'll have to fix it on your computer, as the camera has no digital removal tool.
Lens used: Canon F3.5-5.6, 18 - 135 mm IS
Here's the second ISO test in this review, which is taken in our studio. Since the lighting is always the same, you can compare these photos with those I've taken with other cameras over the years. For some reason, there's a bit of a brownish cast here, which did not show up in the macro photo (taken minutes before). Again, these crops only show a small portion of the scene, so be sure to view the full size images! And with that, let's see how the EOS-60D performed across its sensitivity range in normal lighting:
ISO 12,800 (H)
Everything looks great through ISO 800, with not a spec of noise to be found. You'll see a slight increase in noise at ISO 1600, but it's still totally usable for all print sizes. The image gets darker at ISO 3200, but noise levels don't increase markedly. Only at ISO 6400 and 12,800 do we really see any noise, with the former still be usable for small prints.
Let's see if we can't make those ISO 6400 and 12,800 photos look better with some RAW post-processing!
As with the night shots, you get images with more detail when you shoot RAW and do some basic noise reduction and sharpening on your PC. You are getting more grain-style noise in your photos as a result, but I think most folks will prefer that over the smudged details in the JPEGs.
Overall, I was very pleased with the EOS-60D's photo quality, though the 18 - 135 mm kit lens leaves something to be desired. Exposure was accurate on most occasions, though the camera can definitely clip highlights at times. Photos taken with the kit lens are on the soft side but, as the night shots illustrated, with a quality lens you can get much sharper results. You can also try closing down the aperture (to around F8) to get sharper photos out of the 18-135, though you may need to boost the ISO to compensate for the slower shutter speeds that result. There's little to complain about in the color department, though noticed being occasional troubles in artificial lighting. As the tests above hopefully showed you, the camera keeps noise to a minimum until you reach ISO 1600 in low light, and ISO 3200 in good light -- most impressive. And, even higher sensitivities are usable if you shoot RAW and do some basic post-processing. Purple fringing is a function of the lens (most of the time), and it's pretty strong with the kit lens.
Now, I invite you to have a look at our photo gallery for the EOS-60D. Browse through the photos, maybe printing a few if you can, and then you should be able to decide if the photo quality meets your expectations.
The EOS-60D's movie mode is essentially the same as the one found on the EOS-7D. That means that you can record Full HD video (that's 1920 x 1080) at either 24 or 30 frames/second. You can keep filming until the file size reaches 4GB, or the recording time hits 30 minutes. At the Full HD resolution, you'll hit the file size limit in about twelve minutes. Two lower resolutions are also available: 1280 x 720 and 640 x 480 -- both at 60 fps -- and the time limits for those are 12 and 24 minutes, respectively. For those of you who use the PAL system, the frame rates will be 25 fps instead of 30 fps, and 50 fps instead of 60 fps. The 60D records monaural sound with its movies. If you want stereo sound, you can attach an external microphone to the mic input on the side of the camera.
The camera cannot focus continuously while you're recording. You can press the AF-on button to refocus, though you probably won't like what the focusing process will do to your videos (I have an example below). Manually focusing is a better bet, though that takes practice. A still photo can be taken by pressing the shutter release while you're recording a movie, and the clip will pause for about a second while that occurs.
The 60D offers you full manual controls in movie mode. Just visit the menu, change the movie exposure mode to manual, and you can then adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. You cannot, however, adjust the microphone level, or use a wind cut filter.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the H.264 codec. Canon recommends using a Class 6 or faster memory card when recording HD video.
I have two sample videos for you in this review. For each of them I've provided the original (and very large) 1080p clip, plus another version that's been downsized to 720p. The second video shows me attempting to refocus the camera as the cable car gets closer -- you'll see why you'll probably want to manually focus instead.
The 60D's updated playback mode has finally brought Canon's digital SLRs into the modern era -- or closer, at least. Yes, you can finally do some photo editing on the camera! But first, the basic features. They include slideshows (now with transitions), image protection, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and playback zoom.
You can navigate through your photos using the Quick Control dial, or you can use the main dial on the top of the camera to "jump" through them in groups of 10 or 100 photos, or by date, folder, or file type (movie or still).
RAW editing on the 60D
Images can be rotated and resized (but not cropped) right in the camera. You can now rate photos, as well, from 1 to 5 stars. Bigger news is the addition of in-camera RAW image processing and "Creative Filters". The former converts a RAW to a JPEG, with the following adjustable properties: brightness, white balance, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimizer, High ISO noise reduction, image quality (for the resulting JPEG), color space, Peripheral Illumination Correction, and Distortion Correction. The Creative Filters include grainy B&W, soft focus, toy camera effect, and miniature effect. For each of the filters you can select how much of the effect is applied, in three steps.
On the movie side, the EOS-60D allows you to trim unwanted footage from the beginning and/or end of a clip, which is quite handy.
By default, the camera doesn't tell you much about your photos. However, if you press the Info button, you'll see a lot more, including two different types of histogram.
The camera moves through photos instantly, as you'd expect on a D-SLR.
How Does it Compare?
The Canon EOS-60D is a solid offering in the midrange digital SLR space. With its very good photo quality (especially with a decent lens), rotating, super high resolution LCD, generally snappy performance, full set of manual controls, Full HD movie mode, and decent selection of bells and whistles, it definitely is a worthy successor to the EOS-50D. Yes, the switch to a composite body is a step down, though there are so many improvements on the 60D that I'll forgive Canon for that one. Some other downsides include occasional highlight clipping and color casts in artificial lighting. As usual, contrast detect autofocus is slow in live view mode, though at least there's still a "quick AF" option. There's no continuous autofocus in movie mode either, though that's typical for a D-SLR. Overall, though, I enjoyed using the EOS-60D, and it's certainly a digital SLR that I can recommend.
The EOS-60D is a midsize digital SLR made of plastic, with an aluminum chassis underneath. There has been a lot of grumbling about the switch to plastic from magnesium alloy (on the 50D), but frankly, the 60D is solid and doesn't feel like it's going to shatter into a million pieces if you accidentally bump into the wall. The camera is easy to hold and operate, thanks to a large, rubberized grip. The camera incorporates a lot of design elements from the more expensive EOS-7D, including dedicated buttons for live view and the Quick Control menu. Like the 50D, the EOS-60D supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion ratio. I was not overly impressed with the F3.5-5.6, 18 - 135 mm IS kit lens that came with my camera, which was fairly soft, with strong barrel distortion and purple fringing. On the back of the camera is a feature that separates the 60D from all other Canon D-SLRs, and that's a flip-out, rotating 3-inch LCD display. This screen is just gorgeous, with over a million pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. I found the screen to be easy to see outdoors, and the overall viewing angle was good. In addition to its powerful built-in flash, the 60D supports external flashes that can be attached to its hot shoe, or used wirelessly (a long-awaited new feature).
The 60D is designed mostly for the advanced amateur crowd, though there are a few things that beginners may enjoy. You've got your choice of two auto modes, including a "Creative Auto" option which allows you to change the "background blurring" (aperture) and "ambience" (Picture Style) with ease. For the enthusiast, you'll find manual exposure controls, white balance bracketing and fine-tuning, and three RAW sizes. The electronic level is also a nice extra. Naturally, the 60D supports live view, and all the usual pros and cons that come along with it. While it's generally pleasant to use, I'd avoid the two contrast detect AF options, as they're very slow. I don't like how the live histogram covers nearly a quarter of the frame, either. I think everyone will enjoy the 60D's Full HD movie mode, which allows you to take up to record up to 12 minutes of continuous 1080p30 or 1080p24 video. While monaural sound is recorded, the camera has an input for adding an external stereo microphone. You can adjust the aperture, shutter speed, or ISO in movie mode, or let the camera do everything automatically. There is no continuous autofocus, however, so start practicing your manual focusing if you plan on zooming a lot. The 60D's playback mode has been updated (finally), with new in-camera RAW processing and special effects.
Camera performance is very good. The EOS-60D is ready to start taking photos as soon as you flip the power switch, though you may want to wait for its dust reduction cycle to finish first. If you're shooting with the optical viewfinder, you'll be pleased with the camera's autofocus performance. I found that it locked focus in 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle, and 0.4 - 0.8 seconds at telephoto (with the kit lens). Low light focusing was okay without the AF-assist flash, and very good with it. Live view focusing is another story. If you're using the Quick AF mode (which I recommend), you'll wait just a bit longer than you would if you were using the viewfinder. The two Live AF modes are very slow, with focus times in the seconds (and very poor low light performance). Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. The 60D's continuous shooting mode is responsive, with the high speed mode taking anywhere from eight to an unlimited number of photos (depending on the quality setting) at at least 5 frames/second. Battery life was the best in class, and you can double it by picking up the optional battery grip (which supports AA's, by the way).
Photo quality is very good, though you really need some quality glass attached to get the most out of the 60D. Exposure was generally accurate, though the camera does clip highlights at times. Colors were pleasing in most situations, save for artificial light, where photos sometimes had a brownish cast. Sharpness depends a lot on what lens you're using. The 18 - 135 mm kit lens is on the soft side, while the much more expensive F4L, 70-200 is tack sharp. In other words, you get what you pay for. The camera keeps noise levels very low, with detail loss not appearing until ISO 1600 in low light and ISO 3200 in good light. At the highest ISOs, you can squeeze a little more detail out of the 60D by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing. Purple fringing is another lens-dependent thing, and it was quite strong with the 18-135 (and not a problem with the 70-200). Redeye was a problem on the 60D, and there's no digital removal tool to get rid of it, unfortunately.
Overall, the Canon EOS-60D is a very good choice for those with Rebels or EOS models like the 20D/30D/40D. Heck, even if you don't have a Canon D-SLR yet, it's still well worth considering. It offers a nice design (even with the plastic body), plenty of features for the enthusiast, a fantastic rotating LCD, and Full HD movie recording. Many of my complaints about the camera's image quality are related to the so-so kit lens that came with my 60D. If you attach a quality lens to the 60D, I think you'll be very happy with what it can produce, whether it's stills or Full HD videos.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality (with a good lens)
- Low noise levels through ISO 1600 in low light, and ISO 3200 in good light
- Well designed, easy to hold body
- Super high resolution 3-inch rotating LCD display; live view offers three focus modes, live histogram, composition grids, and frame enlargement
- Responsive performance in nearly all areas
- Plenty of manual controls; three RAW sizes available
- Nice continuous shooting mode takes photos at 5+ frames/second
- Handy electronic level
- Built-in wireless flash control
- Can shoot HD videos at 1920 x 1080 with sound, at your choice of 24 or 30 fps, with manual control over ISO, shutter speed, and aperture
- Best-in-class battery life
- In-camera RAW processing
- External mic input, HDMI output
- Remote capture software included
- Optional battery grip, which supports AAs
What I didn't care for:
- Some highlight clipping; photos taken in artificial light can have a brownish color cast
- Redeye a problem, no removal tool available
- 18 - 135 mm kit lens has strong barrel distortion and purple fringing (and I can't imagine that the 18 - 200 mm kit lens is any better)
- Sluggish contrast detect AF in live view mode
- No continuous AF in movie mode
- Histogram blocks a good portion of the live view
- Plastic body a step down from the EOS-50D; the joystick on that camera was better than the new multi-controller, as well
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the EOS-60D and its competitors before you buy!