Canon EOS 60D
Text and Images by Lynne Eodice
Video by Dennis Eodice
The EOS 60D is Canon’s most recent digital SLR aimed at the enthusiast/serious shooter market, and is the next generation of the EOS 50D. This camera is a good upgrade for photographers seeking to move into more professional territory, beyond, say, the entry-level Canon EOS Rebel T2i. But it’s so user-friendly right out of the box that photo hobbyists can easily go from a point-and-shoot camera to shooting with the 60D.
Overview of Features
The 60D features an APS-C sized 18-megapixel CMOS sensor (as compared to the 50D’s 15MP), and a new DIGIC 4 Image Processor. I was impressed with the quality and color rendition of the images I captured, especially compared to those taken with my Canon EOS Digital Rebel from several years back. The 60D also offers an ISO range from 100 to 6400. This can even be expanded to ISO 12800 to shoot under extremely dimly lit conditions. But for most low-light situations that you’re likely to encounter, ISO 6400 is more than adequate, and ISO 12800 is bound to reveal digital noise.
Canon EOS 60D
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The 60D’s mode dial offers the typical standard basic scene zone (including Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports and Night Portrait modes), as well as a basic zone (Full Auto, Flash Off, and Creative Auto), and a creative zone (P, Tv, Av, M and B) for more advanced shooting. What I really appreciated was the addition of the more conveniently located on/off switch right under the mode dial (with my other Canon EOS cameras, this switch is located on the bottom right side on the back of the camera). There’s also a lock button in the center of the dial to prevent accidental operation.
ISO 100, 400, 3200, 6400
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Canon has switched from a AF-point-selecting joystick in the EOS 50D to a multi-control dial on the back of the 60D. With this dial, I found it very easy to scroll through images that I had previously photographed and to change the auto-focusing points. You can also correct white balance, move the AF frame or the magnifying frame during Live View shooting.
The 60D is also the first EOS DSLR to include a 3-inch Vari-Angle LCD monitor, which flips out from the back of the camera body. It allows you to set menu functions, do Live View shooting, shoot video, and play back images and video. You can also rotate the angle of the LCD monitor, which is a great tool for times when you want to shoot a subject that’s positioned low to the ground (but when you don’t want to get down low yourself), or when you want to shoot over the heads of a crowd and actually see what you’re shooting. I set several menu selections and really enjoyed playing back my images on this screen. The only issue I had was with shooting still images with the Live View screen. I found that auto-focusing operated slower when using Live View than when I used the viewfinder.
The Ambience option in the basic scene modes is a new feature in the 60D. For example, you can choose from vivid, soft, warm, intense, cool and brighter settings. Each ambience is a modification of the respective shooting mode’s image characteristics. You can also select the “Lighting or Scene Type,” which is very similar to a list of white balance presets.
Also new are the Creative Filters, which enables you to apply Grainy black-and-white (seen above), Soft Focus, Toy Camera, or Miniature filter effects to an image in-camera and save it as a new file. I had fun with several of these (particularly Grainy BW). The 60D offers a RAW conversion mode too, which allows for a range of camera settings like Auto Light Optimizer, Noise Reduction, White Balance and Picture Style to be applied to a RAW file.
This camera also offers the ability to tag your images, which makes it easy to find and filter your photos, or as a way to organize slide shows. These tags are also accessible through the supplied software or even third-party packages like Adobe Lightroom and Bridge.
One of the ways you can purchase the 60D is in a kit with an EFS 18–135mm f/3.5-f.6 IS (image stabilizing) lens. I put the camera and this lens through its paces at several local scenic areas. To begin with, I found the camera easy to handle and on the lightweight side (especially compared to my sturdier EOS 5D Mark II). I used some of the basic scene modes (Landscape, Action, and Close-up), as well as the Av and Tv modes. I found that the image stabilizer enabled me to get sharp images without using my tripod, and several times I was shooting indoors in rather low light. I also enjoyed experimenting with a few of the Creative Filters after the shoot.
The D60 is capable of shooting full High Definition (1920×1080) and (1280×720), as well as Standard Definition (640×480) and (Crop 640×480) movies. My videographer husband shot video with this camera, and was impressed by the sharpness he got, even with moving subjects. The camera has several manual controls—shutter, aperture, ISO speed and audio recording—which allow you to customize your videos. Another plus is the camera’s capability to use an external microphone for greater audio quality. The only limitations are the lack of true AF and automatic zoom. The maximum recording time for one movie clip is 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
Overall, I found the Canon EOS 60D to be a great and highly user-friendly camera. The image quality is wonderful, it has great ergonomics, and an awesome feature set.
ISO 100-6400, expand to 12,800 with a custom function
Auto pop-up E-TTL II auto flash, Live View, Creative Filters
Canon EF mount; Compatible lenses: Canon EF lenses (including EF-S lenses)
(35mm-equivalent focal length is approx. 1.6x the lens focal length)
EOS 60D Body, Eyecup Eb, Wide Strap EW-EOS 60D, USB Interface Cable IFC-130U, Stereo AV cable AVC-DC400ST, Battery Pack LP-E6, Battery Charger LC-E6, EOS Digital Solution Disc and Instruction Manuals “Great Photography is Easy” Booklet and “Do More with Macro” Booklet
Rechargeable Lithium-Ion LP-E6 battery; Built in battery (date/time backup); Optional AC adapter
The K-r falls into the PENTAX lineup as an entry-to-mid-range DSLR, most similar to last year’s K-x (reviewed here), with upgrades that bring it a few notches up toward the flagship K-7. The 12.4-megapixel K-r comes in red, white or black (I reviewed the red model, which attracted the attention and compliments of plenty of onlookers), and at $849.95 MSRP, the kit includes a DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
Although the K-r is in fact feature-packed, there’s the sense that the camera is refreshingly gimmick-free and straightforward in its intention to be, first and foremost, a tool for capturing quality images. Its ease of use is just what a photographer might want when making the move from, say, a prosumer compact digicam to the world of SLR shooting.
Design & Ease of Use
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Despite its compact size and plastic body construction (the lens mount is stainless steel), the K-r feels like a serious piece of equipment in-hand; it is heavy enough to feel sturdy and yet light enough to hang from your neck for extended periods. Note that’s ever so slightly larger than the petite K-x. Another feature to make the shooting experience feel undoubtedly professional is the loud, satisfying click of the shutter release. The layout of menu buttons, the big wedge of a handgrip, the contoured thumb grip on the back, and the placement of the shutter release all align for shooting comfort. The 3-inch LCD with Live View is impressively bright and clear, having been bumped up in resolution from that of the K-x (921,000 dot versus 230,000). And then there’s the viewfinder, with its thick rubber padding—especially comfortable when standing with an eye smashed against it for long stretches of time while photographing surfers, as I did. Once again PENTAX has included the green button on the camera—this time right behind the shutter release where it can be accessed quickly and easily—which can be programmed to quick-jump to a feature of the photographer’s choice so as to bypass wading through many layers of digital menu.
The K-r shoots stills in JPEG and RAW and 720p High Definition video in .AVI format. Memory records to SD/SDHC memory cards, with the option now for SDXC memory card compatibility via a firmware update. Another smart upgrade is the fact that the camera is Li-Ion battery compatible and can also be adapted to use AA batteries, so that the photographer has flexibility—incredibly important for traveling to a place where you might not have access to outlets for charging.
Night Scene HDR versus Auto Picture Mode click thumbnails to enlarge
PENTAX has loaded the smallish, stylish K-r with options for advanced shooting—Manual, Program, Sensitivity Priority, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority—but they have also made it easy to capture in Auto Picture mode and through scene modes tailored for specific shooting situations, such as: sunset, surf & snow, night, and kids & pets for fast-moving subjects. New to the K-r is the built-in Night Scene HDR mode which captures three images, with exposure optimized for dim lighting, to generate a single HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. I actually found that the Night Scene HDR mode worked well in daytime shade, helping me to capture close-up shots of howler monkeys in the jungle of Costa Rica without a disturbing flash. In addition to scene modes, the K-r includes a similar menu of Digital Filters to that of the K-x. In reviewing the K-x last year I was slightly dismayed by the filter that tries to replicate the look of shooting with a Fish Eye lens, and had hoped that an upgrade would be made this time around, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. The other filters, Toy Camera in particular, are fun to use.
For shooting action, the fast 6fps burst capture capability was great, and the built-in optional Shake Reduction feature was extremely helpful in snapping sharp shots of fast-moving subjects when I didn’t have a tripod. The advanced 11 point SAFOX IX autofocus system tracked the subjects quickly as they sped across the frame, with additional aid from the AF assist lamp.
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Once again PENTAX has produced a stylish, intuitive mid-range DSLR that takes quality pictures, all for a very competitive price. With upgrades including a higher-resolution LCD, built-in HDR capability, faster 6fps capture, and an advanced autofocus system—all for under $900, including the lens (found for less than MSRP elsewhere), the K-r is a serious piece of equipment to consider as a first DSLR or even an upgrade.
$849.95 (comes with a DA L 18-55mm lens)
4.9”W x 3.8”H x 2.7”D; 19.7 oz., loaded
12.4-megapixels, CMOS, 23.6 x 15.8mm
4288 x 2848
Still Recording Format:
RAW (PEF, DNG), JPG (EXIF 2.21), DCF 2.0 (design rule for camera file system), DPOF, Print Image Matching III Movie (compression): AVI (motion JPG)
Video Recording Mode:
HD: 1280×720 (16:9) at 25fps in .AVI format
3-inch TFT color LCD (921,000 dots), wide angle, Live View; Optical Viewfinder (96% Magnification)
Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Metered Manual, Video; AutoPicture, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Moving Object, Night scene portrait, Flash off; Scene modes: Night scene, Surf & Snow, Food, Sunset, Kids, Pet, Candlelight, Museum, Stagelight, Night snap, Night scene HDR
ISO 200-12800, expand to 100-25600
TTL open aperture, 16 segment metering Sensitivity range: EV 1-21.5 (ISO 200, 50mm F1.4); Multi-pattern, center-weight, spot
Built-in pop-up flash, Live View, Face Detection, Creative Filter Modes (Toy Camera, Monochrome, Retro, Color, High Contrast, Soft, Extract Color, Star Burst, Sketch, Water Color, Pastel, Miniature, Slim, HDR, Posterization, Base Parameter Adjustment, Custom)
PENTAX KAF2 bayonet stainless steel mount; Usable lenses: PENTAX KAF3, KAF2, KAF, KA (K mount, 35mm screwmount, 645/67 med format lenses useable w adapter and/or restrictions)
Li-Ion Battery D-LI109, Battery Charge Cradle K-BC109, AC Plug Cord, USB Cable I-USB7, Strap O-ST53, Hotshoe Cover FK, Eyecup FQ, Body Mount Cover, Software CD-ROM S-SW110
Rechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI109, AA BATTERY HOLDER D-BH109 (optional) for 4X AA
An Intuitive Entry-Level D-SLR with Surprising Features
Walk down the street with the white Pentax K-x D-SLR in hand, and you’ll likely attract the attention of enthusiastic strangers who will stop in their tracks to ogle the camera, or even shout compliments from across the street. But even beyond its eye-catching looks (it also comes in black and a limited edition red or navy blue color), the K-x is attractive to a large number of consumers because it offers the market an affordable entry-level D-SLR with High Definition video recording and a built-in HDR processing feature. Because the $650 MSRP includes the body and kit lens, the Pentax K-x is more affordable than many new entry-level D-SLRs, including the Nikon D5000 ($630, body only) and the Canon EOS Rebel XSi ($699, kit).
An Ideal Entry-Level D-SLR
Camera manufacturers have begun to hone in on a growing, and long ignored, demographic: the Pro-Amateur, or “Prosumer.” This photographer finds the typical point-and-shoot digicam lacking in features, but isn’t yet ready to move on to a pro-level D-SLR. The Pentax K-x might offer perfect entrée into the SLR world because it boasts a few of the advanced features of its big sister, Pentax’s flagship D-SLR, the K-7, yet it also offers features like Auto Picture and Scene Modes, which are typically found in many consumer-level compact cameras.
We tested the K-x with its kit lens, the limited edition white, weather resistant DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. While shooting, we focused on how the camera could introduce D-SLR photography to those new to it by experimenting with features that might serve as good learning tools—shooting with capture modes like Shutter and Aperture Priority, and shooting in RAW+ mode for more control of exposure in processing.
The K-x’s 2.7-inch LCD features Live View, which people used to point-and-shoot cameras have come to expect, but the feature is only now becoming common in D-SLRs. The LCD also has adjustable brightness and Face Detection Auto Focus for up to 16 faces. The optical viewfinder is small, offering only 96% coverage, but is still preferable to the LCD for composition.
At 4.8-inches wide by 3.6-inches high, and weighing only 20.5 ounces fully loaded, the camera is easily light and compact enough for one-handed shooting, and won’t weigh you down when it’s around your neck for long periods of time. The grip is substantial enough that the camera feels secure in-hand and there is a nice, large space on the back of the camera for the thumb to rest, where it won’t accidentally bump buttons. It seems like a triviality, but that happens too often the way some other manufacturers’ models are set up. The K-x is compatible with every Pentax lens ever produced.
A Full Range Of Features
Replacing the 10.2-megapixel Pentax K2000, the K-x boasts a 12.4MP CMOS sensor with sensor-shift Shake Reduction. One of the major upgrades from the K2000 is the ability to capture widescreen HD videos in 720p resolution (1280×720) at 24 frames per second (fps), and sound with the built-in microphone. Other new, more advanced features are borrowed from the pro-level K-7, including: built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) image capture, which blends three bracketed images into a single picture for low, mid-range and highlight detail, and also a faster, more responsive11-point wide angle SAFOX VIII auto focus system. The PENTAX PRIME II image processing engine has a fast, 4.7 fps capture speed and a top shutter speed of 1/6000 of a second.
Digital Art Filters
The K-x also offers Creative Processing and Filter modes, which Pentax boasts as offering photographers “the ability to explore artistic freedom through unique special effects.” These digital filter modes appeal to the photographer who is new to shooting with a D-SLR because they offer in-camera effects that a more advanced professional photographer might seek to capture with alternative optics or manual adjustments—rather than through digital manipulation—like for instance, the “Fish-eye” effect.
We’ve seen creative art filters in D-SLRs before, most notably in Olympus’ E-series lineup. As we pointed out in our hands-on coverage of the Olympus E-620 mid-range D-SLR and even the more advanced E-30 D-SLR, built-in creative filters can offer surprisingly stunning results. DP Technical Editor, Tony Gomez, was particularly fond of the “Grainy Film” black-and-white filter offered in both Olympus cameras. However, I wasn’t instantly impressed with many of the digital art filters in the K-x. To begin with, the feature is buried deep within the digital menu options in the camera, which is not the place a major selling-point feature like this should be hidden. There is a “Green Button” on the top of the camera near the shutter, which can be customized to be a quick-jump to any feature in the menu, so I ended up setting it to jump to Digital Filters after growing tired of going through the menu each time I wanted to change the filter. The Digital Filters that the K-x offers are: Toy Camera, High Contrast, Soft, Starburst, Retro, Color Extract, Fisheye, and room for eight Custom options. The Fisheye filter was one that I was initially most excited to try out, however I would hope to see it tweaked for the next generation of this camera because it was less than impressive. There are three levels of intensity that can be set with the filter, though the effects of each did not really resemble the wide, hemispherical results of shooting with an actual fisheye lens—rather the images appeared flat with only an abrupt bulge in the center of the frame. The Color Extract filter was much more successful. The processed images appear completely desaturated save for the one color you set it to focus on (there are six colors to choose from).
Shining in Low-Light
Where the K-x shined was auto focus, which captured moving subjects very well, and in low-light, where it did well capturing low-noise images at higher ISOs. Overall, the Pentax K-x is a feature-rich entry-level D-SLR that has impressive image quality and bonus features such as HD video and HDR capture. The digital filters have the potential in the next generation to be outstanding, though they leave much to be desired for now. The compact design and Auto Picture shooting modes make it attractive to first-time D-SLR photographers, who will learn a lot about D-SLR photography from experimenting with this camera.
$649.95 (comes with a DA L 18-55mm lens)
4.8”W x 3.6”H x 2.7”D; 18.2 oz., loaded
4288 x 2848
Still Recording Format:
RAW (PEF, DNG), JPG, AVI
2.7-inch LCD (230,000 pixels); Optical Viewfinder
Manual Exposure Control:
Full manual, aperture-priority, shutter speed-priority, sensitivity-priority
Multi-pattern, center-weight, spot
Live View, Face Detection, Scene Modes, Creative Filter Modes
Video Recording Mode:
720p/24fps in .AVI format
4 AA Lithium Batteries, shoulder strap, USB cable, Hotshoe cover, Eyecup, Body mount cover, printed manual and a CD-ROM
hen Nikon announced the D90 DX-format (non full frame) D-SLR a few months back, they trumpeted the fact that it was the first D-SLR capable of recording High Definition video (720P). Since then many other D-SLR manufacturers have also added this HD recording feature to their equipment (see my Digital Insider column for more information). But HD recording isn’t the only big improvement in the D90 from its predecessor, the D80, to make it a standout camera.
Improvements Over The D80
The D90 has a larger, 12-megapixel CMOS sensor (4288×2848), which is an improvement over the D80’s 10MP CCD sensor. And more resolution means better captured detail, especially when making large sized prints. You can also capture stills at two lower resolutions—7MP (3216×2136) and 3MP (2144×1424) if you are short on memory. The D90 also has a larger and brighter 3-inch LCD screen, up from 2.5-inches in the D80, as well as a faster Auto Focus system, a faster continuous shooting mode, Automatic Sensor cleaning, and the previously mentioned HD Video Capture—720P at 24 frames per second.
Live View Monitoring
As if these big improvements weren’t enough to excite you, the larger LCD screen also incorporates the latest Live View monitor technology, which has been one of the most discussed features in D-SLRs for the past two years. This is the technology that lets you preview your scene before you actually shoot it. Pioneered by Olympus a few years ago, it’s all but commonplace in most of the leading D-SLRs today. Many professional photographers scoff at it, preferring to use their viewfinders instead, but if you are coming from a point-and-shoot camera, Live View is what you’ve been used to all the time. So Live View monitoring should make you feel right at home with the new D90.
The D90’s all black body exudes an air of professionalism. The body only weighs in at about 1lb 6oz., but when you include the optional 18-105mm zoom that I tested it with, it’s about 2.5 lbs overall. That combined weight, while much lighter than the more professional Nikon D-SLRs, should be tolerable for the hand-held shooter, although, the D90 is definitely a two-handed camera. The optional 18mm – 105mm VR (Vibration Reduction) zoom lens provides a very good degree of image stabilization when the D90 is hand held. However, some enthusiasts might want to use a monopod or tripod.
The menu controls and mechanical buttons on the D90 are laid out very logically. The Menu button opens up a variety of sub menus, displayed in large letters on the large LCD screen, including ISO, Image Quality and Size, Movie Quality and many more. All menu adjustments are made with the easy to use 4-way controller. The Live View button is conveniently located just to the right of the LCD screen. The Info button shows the various conditions the camera uses for image or video capture, and it also displays a convenient cross-hatch pattern to help you keep horizons or objects straight. A manual exposure compensation button allows images to be under or over exposed depending on user needs. These compensation effects are visually displayed on the Live View monitor.
One of the key features that distinguish a “professional” D-SLR from the more common variety is the ability to capture images with a larger sensor, often called a “full-frame sensor.” With a full-frame sensor, you can capture every bit of imagery the lens sees. With a non-full-frame sensor (the vast majority of D-SLR cameras are non-full-frame), you are capturing on a smaller-sized sensor. This results in a magnification factor, multiplying the effective focal length of your lens- ranging anywhere from 1.5X to 2X. So, for example, a 30mm lens on a non-full frame sensor D-SLR with a magnification factor of 1.5X is in reality a 45mm lens (30mm x 1.5 = 45mm). For many D-SLR shooters, this magnification factor is acceptable, but to most professionals and advanced users, it’s unacceptable. They want every millimeter of focal length they paid for to shoot with. That’s why they cough up more money for a “full-frame” D-SLR body. These are much more expensive D-SLRs. Even Nikon’s D3 full frame D-SLR costs $5,000, body only. By comparison, Canon’s two full frame D-SLRs, the 1Ds Mark III and 5D Mark II are about $8,000 and $2,700 respectively. So we’re talking about a big investment on the camera body alone.
But D-SLRs also evolve, become more compact, retain many of the best features of their more expensive brothers, and become more affordable too. Nikon has recently introduced their 2nd generation full-frame D-SLR (they refer to it as the FX format)—the D700 (www.nikonusa.com). It’s much lighter in weight than the D3 (1.8 lbs as compared to 3 lbs), but has the same great 12MP (12 megapixel) CMOS sensor, yet is more affordable at $3,000— body only.
So what features can you expect from the D700? First and foremost is the FX format, which allows you to use every bit of the focal length of the lenses you get for the camera. It’s only the second full-frame format ever offered from Nikon, the D3 being the first. The pixel resolution is 12.1 megapixels, so that definitely qualifies as pro quality. But more importantly, the size of the individual pixels in the CMOS sensor is relatively large (8.45 micrometers), which allows for greater light gathering power and a better dynamic range of captured images, all contributing to an improved signal-to-noise-ratio. This means that even in the lowest light situations, bumping the ISO all the way up to 6400 will still give you images that are relatively clean from the noise artifacts that continue to plague captured images in other D-SLRs, based on smaller sized pixels used in their sensors.