Home News Buyers Guide Forums FAQ Links About Advertising
    DIGITAL CAMERA DATABASE | COMPARE CAMERAS | RECENT & UPCOMING REVIEWS | ALL OUR REVIEWS | Top Rated Cameras
 
DCRP Review: Nikon D60  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 3, 2008
Last Updated: January 22, 2012

View Printer Friendly Version

 

Advertisement

The D60 is an updated version of Nikon's popular D40x entry-level D-SLR. The D60 ($749) retains most of the features that made the D40x a great camera. Those features include a 10 Megapixel CCD, super-fast performance, a 2.5" LCD display, an easy-to-use interface, and lots more.

How did Nikon top that? By adding these features to the D60:

  • EXPEED image processing "concept"
  • Dual dust reduction system combines sensor dust-off with an "Airflow Control System" to move dust away from the CCD
  • Active D-Lighting brightens shadow areas of a photo as the shot is taken
  • Includes new 18 - 55 mm kit lens with Vibration Reduction
  • New image retouching options, including Quick Retouch, NEF (RAW) editing, cross star filter, and stop-motion animation

One notable exception from that list is live view: I guess Nikon isn't ready to jump on that bandwagon with their consumer SLRs just yet.

The D40x, and the D40 before it, were two of my favorite low-cost digital SLRs. Will the D60 continue the tradition? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

There are "officially" two D60 kits available, though a third one may be available in select locations. The first kit includes the new 18 - 55 mm VR lens ($699), while the second has that lens plus a 55 - 200 mm VR lens ($899). I've spotted a third kit at my local Costco warehouse, featuring the 18-55 and 55-200 lenses, a 1GB SD card, and a camera bag, all for $875.

Here's what you'll find in the box for each of these:

  • The 10.2 effective Megapixel Nikon D60 camera body
  • F3.5 - 5.6, 18 - 55 mm Nikkor VR AF-S DX zoom lens
  • F4.0 - 5.6, 55 - 200 mm Nikkor VR AF-S DX zoom lens [dual lens kit only]
  • EN-EL9 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Body cap
  • Eyepiece cap
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Nikon Software Suite
  • 190 page camera manual (printed)

Since the D60 isn't sold as a body only kit, you'll find either one or two lenses in the box with it. Both the 18-55 and 55-200 lenses feature Vibration Reduction, which is Nikon's term for image stabilization. If you have any other Nikkor lenses laying around, keep in mind that they need to be AF-S in order to have autofocus support on the D60. The 18-55 lens performed fairly well, though I did notice some minor corner blurring at wide-angle, as well as some purple fringing. The 55-200 didn't have those issues, but some slight vignetting (dark corners) was evident in telephoto shots.

Like all D-SLRs, there's no memory card in the D60's box, so you'll need to pick one up (if you don't have one already). The camera supports both SD and SDHC memory cards, and I'd recommend starting out with a 2GB card. It's definitely worth spending a little more for a high speed card when you're using it with a D-SLR.

The D60 uses the same EN-EL9 lithium-ion battery as the D40 and D40x. This battery packs 7.4 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is decent. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, live view off
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon EOS Rebel XSi 500 shots LP-E5
Nikon D40x 520 shots EN-EL9
Nikon D60 500 shots EN-EL9
Olympus E-420 500 shots BLS-1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 450 shots DMW-BLA13
Pentax K200D 550 shots 4 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 750 shots NP-FM500H

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

Battery life has gone down slightly on the D60 when compared to the D40x before it. In the group as a whole, the D60 is a bit below average. And, since the camera doesn't support a battery grip, what you see above is the best you'll get.

I want to mention a few issues about the proprietary battery used by the D60 and most of the cameras in the table above. First, they're expensive -- an extra will set you back around $40. Secondly, if your battery runs out of juice, you can't use an off-the-shelf battery to get you through the day. The only camera on the above list that takes AAs straight out of the box is the Pentax K200D, so it's a fairly uncommon feature these days.

Nikon MH-23 battery

When it's time to charge the battery just snap it into the included charger. It takes just ninety minutes to fully charge the EN-EL9. This isn't one of those handy chargers that plugs right into the wall -- you must use a power cable.

Being a digital SLR, the D60 has plenty of accessories available, and I've compiled some of them into this chart:

Accessory Model # Price * Why you want it
Lenses Varies Varies While the D60 can use almost any Nikon F-mount lens, it will only support autofocus on AF-S and AF-I lenses
External flash

SB-400
SB-600
SB-800

From $105
From $176
From $310
Get more flash power and less chance of redeye with these Speedlights. The SB-800 can be used to control wireless flashes.
Wireless Speedlight Commander SU-800 From $240 While not a flash itself, this can be used to control other flashes wirelessly
Sync Terminal Adapter AS-15 From $19 Attaches to the hot shoe, providing a port for a flash sync cable
Angle finder DR-6 From $182 Lets you look into the viewfinder from above
Eyepiece magnifier kit DG-2
DK-22
From $55
$5
You'll need of these pieces to mate this 2X viewfinder magnifier with the D60
Wireless remote control ML-L3 From $16 Take a photo without touching the camera
AC adapter EH-5a
EP-5
From $70
$40
Power your camera without draining the battery; you need to buy both of these parts!
Video cable EG-D100 From $9 View photos on your television
D-SLR bag 5872 $50 Holds the camera and a few lenses
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Two quick things to mention about accessories. First, you'll have to spend over $110 to get the AC adapter for this camera, which is nuts. Second, Nikon doesn't include a video output with the cable (everyone else does), and if you want one, that'll be at least $9.


Nikon Transfer

Nikon includes a number of software products with the D60. The first is Nikon Transfer, which you can use to transfer images from the camera to your computer. Nikon Transfer gives you a thumbnail view of the photos on the camera, and there are various ways to sort through them. Once you've picked your photos, just hit "Start Transfer" and away it goes. The software not only copies the photos to the destination of your choice, but it also lets you select a second, backup location for them.


Nikon ViewNX

Once that's done, you'll find yourself in Nikon ViewNX, which you can use for organizing and sharing photos. Here you can the usual thumbnail view, and you can assign photos to various categories, or give them "star" ratings. ViewNX lets you see the focus point used on a photo, listen to voice memos, and convert RAW images to JPEGs.

The RAW editing features are pretty lousy. You can adjust the exposure compensation and white balance, or select a Picture Control (more on that later), but that's it. In addition, you can only adjust these items while looking at the thumbnails which, while not the end of the world, seems a bit silly to me.

If you want more advanced RAW controls (and who doesn't), then you'll have to either use Adobe Photoshop CS3 (with the latest Camera Raw plug-in) or pony up at least $115 for Nikon's Capture NX software, which I described here.

So what is RAW, anyway? The RAW image format (Nikon calls it NEF) stores unprocessed data from the camera's sensor. Thanks to this, you can adjust all kinds of image properties without degrading the quality of the image. So, if you botched the white balance, you can change it in your RAW editing -- it's almost like getting a second chance to take a photo. Since the bundled software hardly lets you do anything, you'll want to pick up a better RAW editor to really take advantage of the format.

The downsides of the RAW format are that 1) the file sizes are significantly larger than JPEGs, 2) camera performance is slower, and 3) you must post-process each image on your computer in order to convert it to a standard image format. Okay, that last one isn't entirely true -- the D60 does let you perform basic RAW edits on the camera itself.


Camera Control Pro 2

Capture NX isn't the only optional piece of software that you can get for the D60. There's also Nikon Camera Control Pro 2, which costs a whopping $160. As its name implies, CC Pro lets you control the D60 from your Mac or PC over the USB connection. When you take a photo, it goes straight to your computer. It's worth pointing out that the D60's biggest rival (the Canon EOS Rebel XSi) includes remote capture software in the box, though that's unusual.

Nikon includes a nice, thick manual with the D60. The manual should answer any question that may come up about the camera, though it's not the most user-friendly read. I do appreciate how Nikon didn't use a tiny font -- even the "fine print" is large. The documentation for the software will be installed on your computer.

Look and Feel

The Nikon D60 is easy to mistake for the D40 or D40x, as all three cameras look exactly the same. That makes it a smaller-sized camera made of high grade plastic. The camera is well put together in most respects, with the one weak spot being the door over the memory card slot.

The D60 has a more substantial grip than the Canon Rebel XSi and Olympus E-420, though it's still smaller than I'd like (though I seem to have large fingers). There are a fair amount of buttons scattered around the body, and not all of them in are logical places. That said, the buttons you'll use most often are within easy reach of your fingers. I would recommend getting your hands on the D60 before you buy it, as not everyone is a good "fit" for small SLRs.

Alrighty, let's take a look at how the D60 compares with others cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon EOS Rebel XSi 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 in. 46.5 cu in. 475 g
Nikon D40x 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 46.3 cu in. 482 g
Nikon D60 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 46.3 cu in. 495 g
Olympus E-420 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in. 38.6 cu in. 380 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 5.3 x 3.8 x 3.1 in. 62.4 cu in. 480 g
Pentax K200D 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in. 55.8 cu in. 630 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 5.3 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. 58.4 cu in. 545 g

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the D40x and D60 have the same dimensions -- they're identical. The D60 is a bit heavier, possibly due to its new dust reduction system. The camera falls toward the small end of the spectrum amongst its peers.

Okay, enough numbers, let's start our tour of the D60 now!

Front of the Nikon D60

Here's the front of the D60, with the lens removed. As with the D40 and D40x, the camera has no built-in AF motor, That means that if you want autofocus, you must have an AF-S or AF-I lens attached, as they have their own AF motors. Nikon has built up a good collection of zoom and telephoto primes with the built-in motor, though there are currently no wide-angle or standard primes available with AF-S. If you want a Nikon D-SLR that can use all your Nikkor lenses, then you'll need to step up to the D80 or D300.

Like nearly all D-SLRs, there's a crop factor to mention -- 1.5X in the case of the D60 -- so the 18 - 55 mm kit lens has the field-of-view of a 27 - 82.5 mm lens. To release the lens you have attached, simply press the button to the right of the lens mount.


The holes for the Airflow Control System. Image courtesy of Nikon USA.

Inside the lens mount is the D60's new dust reduction system. Nikon takes a two-prong approach to dust removal. The first one should sound familiar to anyone who's looked at digital SLRs recently: the camera uses ultrasonic pulses to literally "shake" dust off of the low-pass filter. The second part of the dust reduction system is rather unique, and Nikon calls is the Airflow Control System. There are tiny holes located at the front of the viewfinder chamber. When the mirror flips up to take a photo, air is channeled through these holes, taking the dust with it. If you want to see some nice animations of how both of these systems work, visit this page on Nikon's website, and click on number three on the right side of the page.

Directly above the Nikon logo is the D60's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. It has a guide number of 12 at ISO 100, which is the same as on the D40x. Checking the competition, the Canon Rebel XSi and Pentax K200D have guide numbers of 13, the Olympus E-420 and Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 score a 12, with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 holding up the rear with a GN of 11. If you want more flash power, you can add an external flash via the camera's hot shoe that I'll show you in a moment.

Just to the right of the grip is the camera's AF-assist lamp, which the camera uses as a focusing aid in low light situations. It's nice to see a camera with a dedicated AF-assist lamp, instead of just using the flash. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer, and it's used for redeye reduction as well.

The last thing to see here is the receiver for the optional remote control, which is located just under the red triangle on the grip.

Back of the Nikon D60

The main thing to see on the back of the D60 is its 2.5" LCD display. This screen, unchanged from the one on the D40x, has 230,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. As I mentioned earlier, the D60 doesn't support live view -- so this screen is for menus and post-shot review only.

Classic view Graphical view

Like most cameras in this class, the D60 uses the LCD as a information screen when you're taking pictures. There are two info screens to choose from, called classic and graphic (which looks like a lot like the logo of these site), and they display plenty of useful data. When you put your eye to the viewfinder, the screen turns off automatically (a feature not found on the D40/D40x), courtesy of an eye sensor.

After pressing the "zoom in" button I can quickly change any of the settings on the screen. Assist Images illustrate when each option is appropriate. A help screen is available for each of the options here

By pressing the "zoom in" button the lower-right of the LCD you can quickly change any of the options shown on the info screen. If you're not sure what a particular option does, just press the "zoom out" button, and that'll bring up a help screen. The camera displays "Assist Images" for each setting, showing you what kind of situation a given setting is appropriate for. There's also a help screen available, which describes each option.


Warning screen

Speaking of help, sometimes you'll see a blinking question mark on the info screens above. Press the Help button and the camera will tell you what's up. All-in-all, Nikon has made the D60 exceptional easy to use.

Getting back to the tour now -- directly above the LCD is the D60's optical viewfinder. The viewfinder is average-sized, with a magnification of 0.8x (equivalent to 0.53x in 35mm terms), and it can display 95% of the frame. Below the field-of-view is a line of shooting information, which includes the usual things: shutter speed, aperture, focus lock, shots remaining, and more. There's a diopter correction slider on the right side of the viewfinder which will focus what you're looking at (handy for those of us without perfect vision).
{Paragraph updated 9/26/08]

To the right of the viewfinder is the AE/AF lock button, which is also used for protecting photos in playback mode. Continuing to the right, we find the D60's one and only command dial.

Below those items is the four-way controller and the delete photo button. You'll use the four-way controller for navigating menus and reviewing photos you've taken.

The last items of note on the back of the D60 can be found to the left of its LCD. They include buttons for:

  • Playback mode
  • Menu
  • Zoom out + Help
  • Zoom in + Info + Quick Setting Adjust

Alright, time for the next view!

Top of the Nikon D60

The first thing to see on the top of the D60 is the hot shoe, right in the center of the photo. It supports i-TTL flash metering with the SB-400, SB-600, and SB-800 Speedlights, and you can also use Nikon's wireless Creative Lighting System with the SB-800 flash or SU-800 controller. You can also use third party flashes with the D60, but you'll probably have to set both the camera and flash's exposure settings manually. The camera can sync as fast as 1/200 sec with an external flash.

Moving to the right, we find the D60's mode dial, which is chock full of options. The items found here include:

Option Function

Night portrait

These are all scene modes
Close-up
Sports
Child
Landscape
Portrait
Flash off Disables the flash entirely. Do note that the AF-assist lamp is still active.
Auto mode Point and shoot with some menu options locked up.
Program mode Still automatic, but with access to all menu options. The Flexible Program feature lets you scroll through several shutter speed / aperture combinations by using the command dial.
Shutter priority mode You choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture. Shutter speed range is 30 - 1/4000 sec.
Aperture priority mode You choose aperture, camera picks appropriate shutter speed. Range depends on lens used. For the kit lens it's F3.5 - F36.
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself (same ranges as above). A bulb mode is also available for super-long exposures: the shutter will remain open for as long as the shutter release is pressed, up to 30 minutes.

As you can see, the D60 offers several scene modes for you beginners, but when you're ready for something more advanced, there's a full suite of manual controls as well.

To the upper-right of viewfinder are two buttons. The first turns on the D60's new Active D-Lighting feature, while the second adjusts the exposure compensation (-5EV to +5EV in 1/3EV increments). D-Lighting has been on Nikon cameras for several years now, but it's always been something you used after a photo is taken. Active D-Lighting lets you brighten dark areas of your photos as the picture is taken. It does this by breaking the scene into smaller sections, and adjusting the brightness and contrast appropriately for each one. Does it work? Have a look:

Active D-Lighting Off Active D-Lighting On

Something unexpected happened here. Not only did Active D-Lighting brighten things up (look at the printer, the desk, and all the junk on it), but it also did a much better job at dealing with the window. The window is almost totally blown out without D-Lighting, and properly exposed with it.

If you're thinking, "what's the catch", then I'll tell you. Images are going to be a bit noisier with D-Lighting and, more importantly, the camera will perform a lot slower. There's a roughly three second delay after you take a photo with Active D-Lighting, so you may want to avoid using it when you're taking action shots. The burst mode is also a LOT slower if this feature is turned on. Don't forget that D-Lighting is also available in playback mode, though I don't think it'll be quite as effective as what you see here.

Above that pair of buttons is the power switch, which has the shutter release inside it.

Side of the Nikon D60

Before I tell you what can be found on this side of the D60, I'll mention those two switches on the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. The top one switches between auto and manual focus, while the button one turns Vibration Reduction on and off.

Just to the right of the lens mount are two buttons (with the lens release below). These buttons are for:

  • Flash release + flash mode (varies, but includes auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, fill flash w/redeye reduction, slow sync w/redeye reduction, slow sync, rear-curtain slow sync) + flash exposure compensation (-3EV to +1EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Function button - see below

The function button is customizable. By default it toggles the self-timer on and off, but you can also have it change the release mode, image quality/size, ISO, or white balance.

At the far right of the above photo are the D60's I/O ports, which are protected by a rubber cover. The two ports here include video out (cable not included) and USB. As you'd expect, the D60 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so data transfer to your computer will be quick.

Side of the Nikon D60

On the other side of the D60 you'll find its memory card slot. The plastic door that covers this slot feels especially flimsy.

Bottom of the Nikon D60

On the bottom of the D60 you'll find a metal tripod mount (in line with the lens, of course) and the battery compartment. The door covering the battery compartment is of average quality.

The EN-EL9 battery is shown at right.

Using the Nikon D60

Record Mode

Despite the addition of a dust reduction system, the D60 is still ready to start taking photos a fraction of a second after you flip the power switch.

While autofocus speeds have a lot to do with your choice of lens, generally they were quite fast. With the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, focus times ranged from 0.1 - 0.3 seconds at wide-angle, and around twice that at telephoto. In low light, the D60 focused quickly and accurately, thanks to its powerful AF-assist lamp.

As you'd expect, shutter lag wasn't an issue on this digital SLR.

Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, except if you're using Active D-Lighting. If that's the case, then you'll have to wait around three seconds before you can take another photo.

After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button to review and/or delete the shot you just took.

Now, let's take a look at the image size and quality choices on the D60:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 2GB SD card (optional)
Large
3872 x 2592
RAW + Basic JPEG 10.1 MB 140
RAW 9.0 MB 158
Fine 4.8 MB 258
Normal 2.4 MB 502
Basic 1.2 MB 974
Medium
2896 x 1944
Fine 2.7 MB 450
Normal 1.3 MB 862
Basic 700 KB 1678
Small
1936 x 1296
Fine 1.2 MB 974
Normal 600 KB 1776
Basic 300 KB 3000

The D60 can take RAW photos, either alone, or with a Large/Basic quality JPEG. It would've been nice had they used Normal or Fine quality instead, or at least given you the choice. I explained the benefits of the RAW format back in the software discussion.

Images are named using the following convention: DSC_####.JPG, where #### is 0001 - 9999. File numbering is maintained ever if you switch or erase memory cards.


One of many help screens in the menu system

Moving onto menus, now. The D60 has the same menu system as Nikon's other recent D-SLRs. Getting around the menu is easy, and if you're confused about any of the options, just press the Help (zoom out) button for an explanation. The menu is divided up into five parts: playback, shooting, custom, setup, and retouch.

Here's the full list of menu options for you:

Playback menu
  • Delete (Selected, all)
  • Playback folder (Current, all)
  • Rotate tall (on/off) - automatically rotate images taken in the portrait orientation
  • Slideshow
    • Start
    • Frame interval (2, 3, 5, 10 secs)
  • Print set (Select/deselect, deselect all) - for DPOF print marking
  • Stop-motion movie - for viewing movies that you've created; more later
Shooting menu
  • Optimize image - some powerful tools are buried down here
    • Preset (Normal, softer, vivid, more vivid, portrait, black and white)
    • Custom
      • Sharpening (Auto, normal, low, medium low, medium high, high, none)
      • Tone compensation (Auto, normal, less contrast, medium low, medium high, , more contrast, custom) - the custom option lets you use a tone curve that you created in Nikon Camera Control Pro (optional)
      • Color mode (Ia, II, IIIa) - the first one is for portraits (sRGB), the second one is AdobeRGB and for images that will be retouched, and the third one is for landscape shots (also sRGB)
      • Saturation (Auto, normal, moderate, enhanced)
      • Hue (-9° to +9° in 3° increments)
  • Image quality (see above chart)
  • Image size (see above chart)
  • White balance (Auto, incandescent, fluorescent 1-7, direct sunlight, flash, cloudy, shade, preset manual) - see below
  • ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, H1/3200)
  • Noise reduction (on/off) - used when ISO is over 400 or if shutter speed is slower than 8 sec
  • Active D-Lighting (on/off) - described earlier

Custom settings menu - the full list is only shown when the CSM/Setup menu option is set to 'full'.

Reset - back to defaults
1. Beep (on/off)
2. Focus mode (Auto-servo, single-servo, continuous-servo, manual)
3. AF-Area Mode (Closest subject, dynamic area, single point) - the camera only has three focus points
4. Release mode (Single frame, continuous, self-timer, delayed remote, quick response remote) - see below
5. Metering (Matrix, center-weighted, spot)
6. No memory card (Release locked, enable release) - whether you can take a photo without a memory card inserted
7. Image review (on/off)
8. Flash compensation (-3EV to +1EV in 1/3EV increments)
9. AF-assist (on/off)
10. ISO Auto (On, off, max sensitivity, min shutter speed) - see below
11. Function button (Self-timer, release mode, image quality/size, ISO sensitivity, white balance) - define what this button does
12. AE/AF Lock (AE/AF lock, AE lock only, AF lock only, AE lock hold, AF-on) - how this button operates
13. AE lock (on/off) - Whether pressing the shutter release halfway locks exposure
14. Built-in flash / Optional flash unit (TTL, manual) - the latter lets you select the flash strength from 1/32 to full power
15. Auto off timers (Short, normal, long, custom) - how long the menus, post-shot review, and metering last
16. Self-timer (2, 5, 10, 20 secs)
17. Remote on duration (1, 5, 10, 15 mins) - how long the camera waits for input from the remote control
18. Date imprint (Off, date, date & time, date counter) - print the date on your photos; the date counter prints the number of days before or after a selected date
19. Rangefinder (on/off) - whether the exposure meter in the viewfinder shows focus distance in full manual mode


Setup menu
  • CSM/Setup Menu (Simple, full, My Menu) - see below
  • Format memory card
  • Info display format (Classic, graphic, wallpaper) - you can select the info display format for the manual and automatic modes separately; the wallpaper option lets you use a photo as a background
  • Auto shooting info (on/off) - choose whether the info screen is shown automatically; again, you can have different options for the auto and manual shooting modes
  • World Time - set the time zone, date, date format, and daylight savings time setting
  • LCD brightness
    • Brightness (-3 to +3)
    • Auto dim (on/off) - whether screen dims slowly while shooting info is displayed
  • Video mode (NTSC, PAL)
  • Language
  • Image comment - attach text comments to your photos
  • Folders (Select, new, rename, delete) - folder management
  • File number sequence (Off, on, reset)
  • Mirror lock-up (on/off) - for cleaning the CCD
  • Firmware version
  • Dust off reference photo - for the dust removal feature in Nikon Capture NX
  • Auto image rotation (on/off) - whether camera orientation info is saved in the EXIF data
Retouch menu (I'll discuss all of these in the playback section)
  • Quick retouch
  • D-Lighting (Low, normal, high) - see below
  • Redeye correction
  • Trim
  • Monochrome (Black & white, sepia, cyanotype)
  • Filter effects (Skylight, warm filter, red/green/blue intensifier, cross screen, color balance)
  • Small picture (640 x 480, 320 x 240, 160 x 120)
  • Image overlay - combine two RAW images into one
  • NEF (RAW) processing
  • Stop-motion movie

There's lots to talk about, and I'll save the playback options for a bit later in this review. First up: the Optimize Image option in the Shooting Menu. There are several presets available, plus a custom option. The custom option is where you can adjust sharpening, contrast, saturation, and more.


White balance fine-tuning

As you'd expect, there are numerous white balance options on the D60. There are the usual presets, including a whopping seven fluorescent options. Each of the presets can be fine-tuned, using the interface you see above, in the green-magenta and/or blue-amber directions. You can also use a white or gray card in the preset manual mode, for accurate color in really unusual lighting. You cannot set the white balance by color temperature on the D60.

I want to briefly mention the D60's focus modes. Single-servo AF locks the focus when the shutter release is halfway-pressed. Continuous-servo AF keeps focusing, even if you've got the shutter release pressed. Auto-servo will select between those two options, based on subject movement. There's also a manual focus option available, though you can flip the switch on your lens to accomplish the same thing. The D60 only has three focus points, which feels a bit behind the times in 2008.

Now, onto continuous shooting, a feature which is essentially unchanged from the D40x. Here's how the camera performed in this mode:

Quality setting Burst rate
RAW+JPEG 6 shots @ 3.0 fps, then 0.8 fps
RAW 6 shots @ 3.0 fps, then 1.0 fps
JPEG (Large/Fine) Unlimited @ 3.0 fps

Not bad at all, though some of the competition is now up to 3.5 fps. Keep in mind that the camera will grind to a halt after 3 or so shots if you're using Active D-Lighting.

One feature usually found near the continuous shooting option is exposure bracketing. Strangely enough, there aren't any bracketing options on the D60, which is disappointing.

An Auto ISO option is always available in the point-and-shoot modes, but if you want it in the P/A/S/M modes too, head to custom setting #10. You can select the maximum sensitivity the camera will use, as well as the shutter speed at which the camera starts boosting the ISO.


The My Menu option lets you select what menu items are visible

The last menu option I want to mention is the My Menu feature, which can be found in the Setup Menu. This lets you select exactly what items are in each of the five menus. This is a great way to make the menu system a little easier to navigate.

Enough about menus -- let's move onto photo quality now. All of the follow test photos were taken with the 18 - 55 mm VR kit lens, except for the night scene, which used the 55 - 200 mm VR.

Like really saturated colors in your photos? Good -- so does Nikon. Our macro test shows you just how "punchy" the color is on the D60, with the reds standing out the most here. The subject has the smooth -- almost soft -- look that should be familiar to owners of Nikon D-SLRs. There's no noise to be found here, and I that's to be expected.

The minimum focus distance will depend on the lens you can use. The kit lens can get as close to your subject as 28 cm. If you want to get closer you'll want a dedicated macro lens, and Nikon offers two that support autofocus on the D60 -- one 60 mm, the other 105 mm with Vibration Reduction.

I had this strange feeling of déja vu when I was taking the night test shots for this review. Just like when I reviewed the D40x last year, it was totally foggy in San Francisco -- it is that time of year, after all. The fog adds a bit of a color cast to the photo, and it soften things up slightly, as well. Even so, the photo looks great, with plenty of detail captured. There's no noise or noise reduction artifacting to be found, and purple fringing levels were minimal.

There are two ISO tests in this review, and the first one uses the night scene you see above. I apologize for not having a photo taken at the H1 (ISO 3200) setting available for this test. Here we go:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

There's not much of a difference between the first two photos. At ISO 400, we start to see some noise, but detail loss is minimal. Noise and noise reduction artifacting become more obvious at ISO 800, lowering your maximum print size to small or medium (and perhaps larger if you shoot RAW and post-process). The ISO 1600 shot is fairly noisy, and you're probably better off passing on this one (and the H1 setting above it) for long exposures like this.

We'll see how the D60 performs at higher sensitivities in better lighting in a bit.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the 18 - 55 mm kit lens. You can see what this does in real world photos by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. The lens had a bit of corner blurriness, but nothing too serious. There's no vignetting on this lens, though I did spot some on the 55 - 200 mm lens I also used.

There was no redeye in our flash test, and I wouldn't expect any on a camera with a big pop-up flash (and a powerful redeye reduction lamp) like the D60. If you do encounter this annoyance, you can use the redeye removal tool in the Retouch menu to get rid of it.

Now it's time for our second ISO test. This one is taken in our studio, and is comparable to other cameras I've reviewed over the years. While looking at the crops below gives you a quick overview of the image quality at each sensitivity, viewing the full-size images is always a good idea. And with that:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200 (H1)

The first three crops are as smooth as butter. You see some mild noise at ISO 800, but that shouldn't keep you from making a large size print at that setting. Things worsen at ISO 1600, but it's still very usable for small and midsize prints. The ISO 3200 (H1) setting is still pretty clean all things considered, and you'll probably want to shoot RAW to minimize detail loss at this setting.

If you're like me, the first thing you'll likely notice about the D60's photo quality is the over-the-top color saturation. Some would call it "consumer friendly", but I think it's a little too much. The sky is often so saturated that it looks artificial (see example). I found that dialing down the saturation (via the Optimize Image feature) helps, though sometimes things end up too dull, so I would use it on a case-by-case basis.

What else can I tell you about the D60's image quality? Like all of Nikon's D-SLRs, photos are on the soft side. If you think so too, then I again direct you to the Optimize Image feature, where you can bump up the sharpening using the Custom option. Noise isn't really an issue until the highest ISO settings (1600 and 3200), and noise reduction artifacting was minimal. Purple fringing reared its ugly head a few times, especially with the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, though it was fairly mild.

As always, don't take my words as gospel. Have a look at our photo gallery, perhaps printing a few of them if you can. Then and only then can you decide if the D60's photo quality meets your needs.

Movie Mode

Digital SLR cameras do not have movie modes.

Playback Mode

The D60 has one of the most elaborate playback modes that you'll find on a digital SLR. Before I tell you about the "fancy" features, here are the basic ones: slideshows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last item lets you enlarge a photo by as much as 25 times, and then "scroll" around it.

The Retouch menu is where all the action is. Here you can do the following:

  • Quick retouch - uses D-Lighting and also boosts contrast and saturation
  • D-Lighting - brightens dark areas of a photo
  • Redeye correction
  • Trim (crop)
  • Monochrome - changes a color photo to black and white, sepia, or cyanotype
  • Filter effects - use virtual skylight, warm, red/green/blue, cross screen, and color balance filters
  • Small picture - downsize an image
  • Image overlay - combines two RAW images into one
  • NEF (RAW) processing - edit RAW images
  • Stop-motion movie - combine a sequence of photos you've taken into an AVI movie


Previewing the effect of D-Lighting

The D-Lighting feature found here is different from the Active D-Lighting option in record mode. It brightens dark areas of a photo effectively, though don't expect it to improve overall contrast levels like Active D-Lighting does. You can select low, medium, or high levels of D-Lighting, and keep in mind that the more D-Lighting you use, the noisier your photo will be.

Quick retouch works in much the same way as D-Lighting, except that "vividness" (contrast and saturation) are boosted as well.

Cross screen filter Color balance filter

Two of the filter effects are worth nothing. The cross screen (star) filter turns bright light sources in a photo into "stars". You can select various parameters, preview the shot, and then save it to a new file (see example). I can't say I've been craving a feature like this on a D-SLR, but there you go. A perhaps more useful filter is color balance, which lets you shift the color tone of a photo in whatever direction you wish (see screenshot above).


RAW processing in playback mode

The D60 is one of a very small group of cameras that actually lets you edit a RAW image right on the camera. You can change the image size and quality, white balance, exposure compensation, and Optimize Image setting. The resulting image is saved as a JPEG.


Creating a stop-motion movie

The last feature of note in the Retouch menu is the unique stop-motion movie feature. Simply select a sequence of images, choose the output size (640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120) and the frame rate (3, 6, 10, 15 fps), and you're set. You'll get a chance to preview the stop-motion movie on the screen, and if it looks good, you can save it to the memory card as an AVI file. Click here to see a short sample movie.

One less-exciting feature that I want to mention is the ability to delete photos in a group, instead of one or all of them. Thanks Nikon!

By default, the camera doesn't show you much information about your photos, but if you press up or down on the four-way controller you can get a lot more, as you can see above.

The D60 moves from photo to photo instantly in playback mode.

How Does it Compare?

The Nikon D60 is an entry-level digital SLR aimed squarely at consumers. It has a friendly interface with numerous help screens, in-camera photo editing, and very vivid color that borders on unrealistic. You also get a dust reduction system, snappy performance, Active D-Lighting, and solid build quality. There are quite a few downsides, though, including a limited selection of autofocus lenses, a small viewfinder, no live view, and poor bundled RAW editing software. The Nikon D60 isn't my favorite entry-level digital SLR -- mainly due to its soft, over-saturated photos -- but it's certainly worth a look.

If you've seen the D40 or D40x, then you've seen the D60 -- it's the same body. As entry-level D-SLRs go, the D60's is quite well put-together. Its made of high grade plastic, with the only questionable part being the flimsy door over the memory card slot. The D60 doesn't have the biggest right hand grip out there, but it's better than what you'll find on cameras like the Canon EOS Rebel XSi and Olympus E-420. While the most important controls are easy to reach, I'm not a fan of the poorly located buttons on the left side of the camera.

Like the D40x before it, the Nikon D60 has a limited selection of autofocus lenses. While most of Nikon's new lenses have built-in autofocus motors, there are still quite a few in their collection that do not (especially wide and standard primes). It's a good idea to go over your lens collection to see if they support AF-S or AF-I before you buy the D60. Whatever lens you attach to the D60, there will be a 1.5X focal length conversion ratio. One of the new features on the camera is dust reduction, which Nikon attacks on two fronts. The first one is familiar -- the camera shakes dust off the low-pass filter when the camera is turned on and off. The second method is unique to the D60, and it involves funneling air (and dust) through special holes near the lens mount. On the back of the camera you'll find a 2.5" LCD display, which is only used for menus and viewing photos you've taken -- there's no live view here. The D60's optical viewfinder is on the small side compared to much of the competition.

As I mentioned, the D60 is definitely slanted more toward the soccer mom than the photo enthusiast. The camera offers numerous auto and scene modes, help screens for every option, and "assist images' that describe when you'd want to use one of them. In addition, Nikon did a good job with their two information displays on the LCD (graphical being my favorite), and you can change shooting options there as well. In playback mode you'll find quite a few retouching features, including redeye reduction, color filters, and D-Lighting and "quick enhance" options. You can even string several photos together into a stop-motion movie. There are manual controls on the D60 too, though not as many as I would've liked. You get full manual exposure control, numerous white balance options, and in-camera RAW editing (which is arguably more capable than the software Nikon includes with the camera). The D60 supports RAW+JPEG shooting, though the JPEGs are recorded at the Basic quality. Nikon includes with the camera). The Active D-Lighting feature improves overall image contrast, though there's a noticeable performance hit. The camera has only three focus points and, strangely enough, lacks any kind of auto bracketing.

Camera performance is the D60's strong suit. The camera is ready to start taking photos a fraction of a second after you flip the power switch, even with the newly added dust reduction system. The camera focuses quickly, in both good light and bad. The dedicated AF-assist lamp is a nice change from the flash-based systems used by most D-SLRs these days. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. The only time you'll wait before you have to take another photo is if you're using Active D-Lighting, which locks the camera up for around three seconds. The D60's continuous shooting mode is good, with the ability to take 6 RAW or RAW+JPEG shots, and an unlimited number of JPEGs at 3 frames/second. Battery life was a bit below average, and there's not much you can do about that, as there's no battery grip available.

I had mixed feelings about the D60's photo quality, and I think a lot of people will disagree with me here. I think that the photos produced by the camera are too soft, and way oversaturated. Colors are so vivid that they almost appear cartoonish, in my opinion. You can dial down the saturation a bit (and increase the sharpness) using the Optimize Image feature, though I'd use that on a case-by-case basis, as it can make things a bit too dull. Noise is kept to a minimum until the highest ISO settings, and I never found noise reduction artifacting to be much of a problem. The 18 - 55 mm kit lens has some minor corner blurring and purple fringing, and I saw some mild vignetting on the 55 - 200 mm kit lens as well. I didn't encounter any redeye during my time with the D60, but if you do, you can get rid of it in playback mode.

Overall, I consider the Nikon D60 a "good, but not great" digital SLR. While entry-level buyers will enjoy its point-and-shoot features, I think more experienced photographers will frown on its overprocessed photos, mediocre set of manual controls, and autofocus lens support. I think there are better entry-level D-SLRs out there, but the D60 is still worth looking at.

What I liked:

  • Photos have accurate exposure, low noise levels, and minimal purple fringing
  • Solid construction; feels better in the hand than the competition
  • Dust reduction system
  • Large, bright, and sharp 2.5" LCD; shooting data well presented on the main LCD, with fairly easy access to common settings
  • Full manual controls
  • Speedy performance in most areas; good continuous shooting mode
  • Effective (but slow) Active D-Lighting feature
  • In-camera RAW editing
  • Dedicated AF-assist lamp
  • Redeye not a problem
  • Useful features for beginners like D-Lighting, redeye removal, assist images, help system
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support

What I didn't care for:

  • Images are oversaturated, and on the soft side
  • Limited selection of AF-S lenses means that many Nikkor lenses (mostly primes) will not support autofocus
  • Missing some features offered by competitive cameras: bracketing, DOF preview, live view, more than 3 focus points
  • Viewfinder on the small side
  • Active D-Lighting brings camera to a crawl
  • Poor RAW image editing software included
  • JPEGs saved at Basic quality in RAW+JPEG mode
  • No battery grip available
  • Flimsy door over memory card slot
  • Video cable not included; AC adapter is way overpriced

Some other entry-level D-SLRs worth looking at include the Canon EOS Rebel XSi, Olympus E-420, Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10, Pentax K200D, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A200.

As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the D60 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

Want another opinion?

You'll find other reviews of the D60 at Digital Photography Review, CNET, and Steves Digicams.