Check out our Canon EOS 60D review inside. Will Canon's mid-level DSLR come out on top?
Canon EOS 60D Overview
Just over the $1,000 crest within the digital camera landscape, there resides a formidable force of mid-level DSLRs. The Canon EOS 60D is one of the shining stars next to the Pentax K-7 and Olympus E-3, but the fiercest competition comes from the Nikon D7000. Testing both the Canon EOS 60D and Nikon D7000 side-by-side was not only a top quality adventure, but also a study in technological advances that have transpired within the mid-level DSLR market. Both cameras record Full HD 1080p, offer multi-point AF, and crank out low noise images at high ISO levels. Canon's new EOS 60D has a flip-out, rotating LCD screen, a few image effects, and boosts the megapixels to 18.0. We feel that the Nikon D7000 edged out the EOS 60D at the end of our journey, but the Canon EOS 60D is still one of the best DSLRs in its class.
Canon EOS 60D Design
Some significant changes have met the Canon EOS 60D compared to its predecessor, the Canon EOS 50D; the most blatant being the 3-inch Clear View LCD with 1,040,000 pixels. Not only is the screen a jump in resolution, but it also flips out and rotates 270 degrees. The 60D is the first EOS DSLR to feature the vari-angle LCD, and it sports a 3:2 aspect ratio. The EOS 60D also migrates its camera controls to the right side of the LCD, and embeds an 8-way directional pad into the center of the spinning Control dial, thus abolishing the small joystick found on the EOS 50D. To accompany the Control dial, the Canon EOS 60D carries over the vertical dial located near the shutter button. Ergonomically, we liked Canon's dial setup over the Nikon D7000's.
You'll also notice that the Canon EOS 60D has an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot in place of last year's CF card slot. This makes the EOS 60D far more versatile, since 2010 has been the year of SD card domination. For a viewfinder, the Canon EOS 60D has a 96% field of view and a Live View button is conveniently located to its right. The Quick Menu button allowed us to adjust options on the LCD with ease, and the EOS 60D featured a line of quick adjustment buttons near the secondary LCD screen, including AF, Drive, ISO, and Metering. The mode dial was designed to remain locked while shooting, only to be accessible when its center button is pressed. The Canon EOS 60D has a popup flash, runs on a large rechargeable lithium ion battery, and features an HDMI terminal for Full HD playback. There's also a 3.5mm Mic jack for video recording, which is becoming a standard feature on DSLRs.
One of the best parts about the EOS 60D is the fact that it's compatible with Canon's full line of EF and EF-S lenses. We had the pleasure of shooting with the EF-S 18-135mm lens, which is equipped with Autofocus and Image Stabilization. The Canon EOS 60D is also compatible with Speedlite flashes and external microphones, thanks to its hot shoe, and the viewfinder eyecup can be removed for cleaning. Although the Canon EOS 60D does not appear to be as solidly built as its competitors, the camera is highly efficient when it comes to ease of use.
Shooting with the Canon EOS 60D
In addition to a few major architectural advancements, the Canon EOS 60D packs in some useful new features as well. First off, the camera is faster. It has a 0.1-second startup time and can capture up to 5.3fps of up to 58 Large/JPEG and 16 RAW images. Surrounding the EOS 60D's 9-point AF system is a 63-zone Dual-layer sensor, which measures color and adjusts exposure accordingly. We found the Dual-zone layer to minimize blowouts and over-exposed highlights, which is something we've battled with on Canons before. AF on the 60D is lightning quick, and the camera includes high-speed X-sync, which allows for up to 1/250 sec. synchronization with a flash in burst mode. We did find that the Nikon D7000 was faster when it came to menu navigation and playback, as the Canon EOS 60D was held up in certain places during picture review or menu selections.
Video mode has also been revamped, offering a Manual Exposure mode and the ability to adjust the Mic levels via a stereo decibel slider, along with a built-in Wind filter. The Canon EOS 60D also offered AF during video recording, but it failed to match the speed and quietness of the Nikon D7000. This was a major hang-up for EOS 60D, as we had to manually deploy the shutter button halfway in order to focus in video mode. Of course, we were greeted to a loud, jerky, mechanical sound and slow focusing, so we found that it was best to manually focus in video mode. The Canon EOS 60D also has a Movie Crop function, which allowed us to crop a 640x480 (VGA) video to the equivalent of a 7x magnification—perfect for capturing close-up subjects that we couldn't reach with our focal length.
For manual controls, the Canon EOS 60D has a shutter speed range of 1/8000 sec. to 30 sec., Kelvin meter adjustment for White Balance, and an ISO range of 100 to 12,800. In Photo mode, the EOS 60D's AF system was very fast, especially while using the viewfinder. However, Live View brought on the focusing hiccups, costing up time and loud mechanical noises. We had FlexiZone AF, which allowed us to move the focus box around the screen in order to settle on a particular portion of the picture. The Canon EOS 60D also included a gamut of Scene modes, and a highly effective Auto mode. We had a Creative Auto mode that allowed us to choose color ambience and background blur, and in Playback mode we could apply Grainy B&W, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, and Miniature effects to images and save them as separate files. We could even process RAW images within the camera and edit videos in Payback mode.
Battery life on the Canon EOS 60D was great, lasting longer than most cameras we've tested in this arena. The EOS 60D also has a digital horizon meter for making sure shots are level. The Canon EOS 60D is one of the most proficient cameras in its class when it comes to shooting, but it rests in the shadow of the D7000 when it comes to an overall experience.
Canon EOS 60D Still Image Quality
Canon was thinking big for 2010, so the EOS 60D gets a giant 18-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor with Digic 4 processing. Not only is this a significant boost over last year's 50D, but the 60D has the highest megapixel count in its class. Images can be recorded in RAW, JPEG, or RAW+ JPEG. We know that pixels do not account for quality, but the Canon EOS 60D offered nothing shy of excellent when it came to snapping. However, it was the Nikon D7000 that slightly nudged the 60D over when it came to image quality.
The constant within the Canon/Nikon wars always centers on color. Canon's palette is definitively warmer, while Nikon's adheres to the more natural elements of hue and tonality. The Canon EOS 60D definitely exhibited warmer colors than the Nikon D7000. But we were able to discern some magenta colored fringing along contrasted edges at full resolution with the Canon EOS 60D, while the Nikon D7000 did not exhibit this type of amateurish problem. The D7000 also seemed to offer more clarity and felt more comfortable at higher ISO levels. When we shot with long exposures at low ISO levels with the Canon EOS 60D, quality was fantastic. In the end, the Nikon D7000 gave a more professional image performance, while the Canon EOS 60D felt more like a glorified Rebel.
The Canon EOS 60D is still one of the top shooters in its class when it comes to still image quality, but if you're looking for the best, our bet is on the Nikon D7000.
The Canon EOS 60D shoots 1080p Full HD video at up to 30fps, and it is good. The EOS 60D has the edge over the Nikon D7000 when it comes to framerate, since the D7000 has a maximum 24fps in video mode. Low light shooting with the Canon EOS 60D offered plenty of exposure, but a fair amount of noise that accompanied the camera. The focusing issue was the biggest disappointment, as the EOS 60D required the shutter button to be pressed halfway in order for the camera to focus while recording.
This was loud and slow, and we were forced to use manual focus whenever possible. The ability to connect an external microphone made the Canon EOS 60D more versatile, and sound quality was greatly improved with the use of our Rode Videomic. We highly suggest going with an aftermarket microphone, as the built-in microphone is anything but advanced. There was a huge dip in ambient background sound when we added the Videomic, and sound clarity was highly elevated.
Canon EOS 60D Final Answer
There's no doubt about the fact that the Canon EOS 60D is a fantastic camera for serious photography hobbyists. Its revamped architecture brings a vari-angle LCD, SD card compatibility, and intuitively placed external controls to the table. The Canon EOS 60D also gets a megapixel boost, larger viewfinder coverage, and a speedier set of tools. The Canon EOS 60D also offered significant improvements in video mode as well, and proved to be exceedingly easy to use for the average novice.
But we don't think Canon was expecting the monstrosity that is the Nikon D7000, which comes along and attempts to trounce the 60D every chance it gets. The D7000 is faster, has a better AF mode in video, rocks a dual SD card slot that designates between pictures and videos, and has a more professional build. But the most crucial trait on the Nikon D7000 comes down to its superior image quality, and in this price range, we really don't see any other camera coming close to the D7000.
Here's how we think you should go about your mid-level DSLR quest. Look at ease of use. The Canon EOS 60D is far easier to use than the D7000, especially if this is your first DSLR. Photographers who are more serious about shooting, but are on a budget or do not need the big, bad D700 should look into the D7000. It's that simple. The Canon EOS 60D is a great tool to learn on while the Nikon D7000 is a bit more advanced.