Canon EOS-60D Review

Using the Canon EOS-60D

Record Mode

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:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 4GB card (optional)
5184 x 3486
RAW 24.6 MB 130
3888 x 2592
16.7 MB 190
2592 x 1728
11.1 MB 300
5184 x 3456
Fine 6.4 MB 490
Normal 3.2 MB 990
3456 x 2304
Fine 3.4 MB 940
Normal 1.7 MB 1930
Small 1
2592 x 1728
Fine 2.2 MB 1500
Normal 1.1 MB 3100
Small 2
1920 x 1280
Fine 1.3 MB 2580
Small 3
720 x 480
Fine 300 KB 10780

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:

Shooting 1
  • Quality - each of these can be selected separately
    • JPEG (Large/Fine, Large/Normal, Medium/Fine, Medium/Normal, Small 1/Fine, Small 1/Normal, Small 2, Small 3)
    • RAW (RAW, mRAW, sRAW)
  • Beep (on/off)
  • Release shutter without card (on/off)
  • Image review (Off, 2, 4, 8 sec, hold) - post-shot review
  • Peripheral illumination correction (enable/disable) - reduces vignetting when using modern Canon lenses
  • Redeye reduction (on/off) - whether the redeye reduction lamp is used
  • Flash control
    • Flash firing (enable/disable)
    • Built-in flash function setting
      • Flash mode (E-TTL II, manual)
      • Shutter sync (1st curtain, 2nd curtain)
      • Flash exposure compensation (-3EV to +3EV in 1/3EV increments)
      • E-TTL II metering (Evaluative, average)
      • Wireless function (Disable, internal + external, external only, internal + multiple external) - I'll save the details about this functionality for the manual
    • External flash function setting - shown when a modern Canon Speedlite is attached, and will look similar to the above
    • External flash custom function settings - set the custom flash settings on modern Canon Speedlites
    • Clear external flash custom function settings
Shooting 2
  • Exposure compensation (-5EV to +5EV) + AE bracketing - see below
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer (Disable, low, standard, strong) - see below
  • Picture Style (Standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user 1/2/3) - see below
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, flash, custom, color temperature) - see below
  • Custom white balance - select an image to use as a reference for the custom WB feature
  • White balance shift/bracketing - see below
  • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)

Shooting 3

  • Dust Delete Data - create a "dust map" for using with Digital Photo Professional
  • ISO Auto (Max 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400) - how high Auto ISO will go

Shooting 4

  • Live view shooting (enable/disable)
  • AF mode (Live mode, live mode w/face detection, quick mode)
  • Grid display (Off, rule of thirds, complex)
  • Aspect ratio (3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1)
  • Exposure simulation (enable/disable) - whether the live view image simulates the actual exposure or brightens as-needed so you can compose your shot
  • Silent shooting (Mode 1, mode 2, disable) - I told you about these earlier
  • Metering timer (4, 16, 30 secs, 1, 10, 30 mins)
Playback 1
  • Protect images
  • Rotate image
  • Erase images (Select & erase, delete all in folder, delete all)
  • Print order - tag photos for printing
  • Creative filters (Grainy B&W, soft focus, toy camera, miniature) - more on this later
  • Resize image
  • RAW image processing - more on this later too

Playback 2

  • Highlight alert (on/off) - shows clipped highlights
  • AF point display (on/off) - shows the AF points that were used
  • Histogram (Brightness, RGB)
  • Image jump with main dial (1, 10, 100 images, date, folder, movies, stills, rating) - how the jump feature works in playback mode
  • Slideshow
    • Display time (1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20 secs)
    • Repeat (on/off)
    • Transition effect (Off, slide-in, fade 1, fade 2)
  • Rating (Off, 1 - 5 stars)
  • Control over HDMI (on/off) - allows compatible HDTVs to control the camera with their remote controls

Setup 1

  • Auto power off (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30 mins)
  • Auto rotate (Camera+PC, PC only, off)
  • Format card
  • File numbering (Continuous, auto reset, manual reset)
  • Create/select folder
  • Eye-Fi settings
    • Transmission (on/off)
    • Connection info
Setup 2
  • LCD brightness (1-7)
  • Date/time
  • Language
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Sensor cleaning
    • Auto cleaning (enable/disable) - at startup and shutdown
    • Clean now
    • Clean manually - flips the mirror up
  • Lock main dial (on/off) - whether you need to "unlock" the main dial in order to use it

Setup 3

  • Battery info - displays capacity, health, and the shutter count since it was last charged
  • Info button (Camera settings, electronic level, shooting functions) - choose which of these screens is displayed when you press the Info button
  • Camera user setting (Register, clear) - save current settings to the mode dial
  • Copyright information - this is new, and it allows you to embed the photographer's name and other details into the metadata of a photo
    • Display copyright info (on/off)
    • Enter author's name
    • Enter copyright details
    • Delete copyright info
  • Clear all camera settings
  • Firmware version

Custom functions

  • I. Exposure
    1. Exposure level increments (1/3-stop, 1/2-stop)
    2. ISO speed setting increments (1/3-stop, 1-stop)
    3. ISO expansion (on/off) - opens up ISO 12800
    4. Bracketing auto cancel (on/off)
    5. Bracketing sequence (0/-/+, -/0/+)
    6. Safety shift (enable/disable) - whether the shutter speed or aperture are automatically adjusted in Av or Tv mode to get a good exposure
    7. Flash sync speed in Av mode (Auto, 1/250 - 1/60 sec auto, 1/250 sec fixed)
  • II. Image
    1. Long exposure noise reduction (Off, auto, on) - for exposures longer than 1 second
    2. High ISO speed noise reduction (Standard, low, strong, disable)
    3. Highlight tone priority (enable/disable) - improves highlight detail and dynamic range, but increases noise in shadow areas; minimum ISO setting rises to 200; see below for more
  • III. Autofocus/Drive
    1. Lens drive when AF impossible (Focus search on/off) - whether the camera keeps trying to focus when it's having trouble
    2. AF point selection method (Activate with focus point button / adjust with multi-controller, activate auto selection with focus point button / manually select focus point with multi-controller)
    3. Superimposed display (on/off) - whether focus points are illuminated in viewfinder
    4. AF-assist beam firing (Enable, disable, external flash only, IR AF-assist beam only) - the last option only uses infrared AF-assist beams found on certain flashes, instead of burst of light
    5. Mirror lockup (enable/disable) - flips the mirror up earlier than normal to prevent blur caused by its movement
  • IV. Operation/Others
    1. AF and metering buttons (0 - 9) - you can customize what the shutter release, AE lock, and AF-on buttons do, with ten options to choose from
    2. Assign SET button (Default/nothing, image quality, Picture Style, white balance, flash exposure compensation, electronic level in viewfinder)
    3. Dial direction during Tv/Av (Normal, reverse)
    4. Focusing screen (Ef-A, Ef-D, Ef-S)
    5. Add image verification data (on/off) - for use with the optional Original Data Security Kit
  • Clear all custom functions

My Menu settings

  • Up to six of your favorite menu items can go here; menu can be set up on the camera or with EOS Utility

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:

View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
ALO Standard
View Full Size Image
ALO Strong
View Full Size Image

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
View Full Size Image
Highlight Tone Priority on
View Full Size Image

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.

Lens used: Canon F2.8, 60 mm macro

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.

Lens used: Canon F4.0, 70 - 200 mm IS

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 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

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:

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

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 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

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!

ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
ISO 12,800 (H)

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (ACR)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

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.

Movie Mode

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.

Click to view original movie (1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 68.5 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)
Click to view downsized movie (1280 x 720, 30 fps, 7.1 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Click to view original movie (1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 63.6 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)
Click to view downsized movie (1280 x 720, 30 fps, 6.8 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)

Playback Mode

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.

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