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DCRP Review: Nikon D60
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 3, 2008
Last Updated: September 15, 2008
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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 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.
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: