Canon EOS-60D Review

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.

Back views of the Canon EOS-50D and EOS-60D
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:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon EOS-60D 5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1 in. 74.2 cu in. 675 g
Nikon D7000 5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in. 64 cu in. 690 g
Olympus E-5 5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in. 74.7 cu in. 800 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 4.9 x 3.5 x 3.0 in. 51.5 cu in. 392 g
Pentax K-7 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. 56.2 cu in. 670 g
Samsung NX10 4.2 x 3.4 x 1.6 in. 22.8 cu in. 349 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 5.4 x 4.1 x 3.3 in. 73.1 cu in. 599 g

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?

Front of the Canon EOS-60D

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.

Back-angled view of the Canon EOS-60D

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.

Back of the Canon EOS-60D

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.

Top of the Canon EOS-60D

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:

Option Function
Movie mode I'll get to this later
Night portrait Scene modes
Creative auto mode An auto mode with a twist; see below for more
Flash off Turns off the flash for both photos and AF-assist
Full auto mode A more traditional point-and-shoot mode, with most menu options locked up.
Program mode Point-and-shoot, but with access to all camera options. A Program Shift feature lets you use the main dial to move through various shutter speed/aperture combinations.
Shutter priority (Tv) mode You set the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture. The shutter speed range is 30 - 1/8000 sec.
Aperture priority (Av) mode You set the aperture, and the camera selects the appropriate aperture; aperture range will vary depending on your choice of lens. For the 18 - 135 mm kit lens, the range is F3.5 - F36.
Full manual (M) mode You select both the shutter speed and aperture, with the same ranges as above.
Bulb mode Allows you to take exposures for as long as the shutter release button is held down. Use of the remote shutter release cable is highly recommended.
Custom mode Your favorite camera settings, easy to reach

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:

Quality setting Low speed High speed
RAW+ Large/Fine JPEG 12 shots @ 3.0 fps 8 shots @ 5.0 fps
RAW 19 shots @ 3.1 fps 17 shots @ 5.3 fps
mRAW (10M) 25 shots @ 3.0 fps 21 shots @ 5.2 fps
sRAW (4.5M) 35 shots @ 3.0 fps 32 shots @ 5.1 fps
JPEG (Large/Fine) Unlimited @ 3.1 fps Unlimited @ 5.0 fps
Tested with a Panasonic Class 10 SDHC card

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.

Side of the Canon EOS-60D

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
  • HDMI
  • USB + A/V output
  • Remote control

Side of the Canon EOS-60D

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.

Bottom of the Canon EOS-60D

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.