Canon EOS 60D at a glance:
- 18-million-pixel CMOS sensor
- 3in, 1.04-million-dot vari-angle LCD screen
- In-camera raw processing
- In-camera Speedlite control
- 1920×1080-pixel HD video capture at 30, 25 or 24fps
- Street price around £1,000 (body only)
With both the cameras either side of the Canon EOS 50D featuring 18-million-pixel APS-C sensors, it was only a matter of time before it was replaced. So it came as no surprise when, in August this year, Canon announced that, after two years’ service, the EOS 50D was going to be discontinued in favour of the new Canon EOS 60D.
However, while the new camera is a direct replacement for the EOS 50D, the introduction of the 18-million-pixel EOS 7D has a seen a slight shift in the position of the ‘double-digit’ camera within the EOS range. No longer is the double-digit EOS the last step before professional DSLRs are reached. That position is now occupied by the EOS 7D and EOS 5D Mark II. This repositioning means the Canon EOS 60D has undergone some remodelling befitting its stature.
The most important feature of the Canon EOS 60D is that, like the cameras above and below it in the range, it uses an 18-million-pixel, APS-C-size CMOS sensor. It also makes use of the impressive low-pass filter of the EOS 7D, which means it should match the 7D’s impressive detail resolution.
Speaking of impressive details, the Canon EOS 60D uses the same 1.04-million-dot, 3in screen as the EOS 550D, which should be beneficial when manually focusing in Live View mode or simply for checking that captured images are pin sharp. One feature we weren’t expecting when we first saw the camera was an articulated screen. This is a first for an EOS digital camera, although Canon has used vari-angle screens on some of its compact and bridge cameras, including the new PowerShot G12.
Being able to tilt the screen upwards is handy when shooting at a low angle, but the fold-out screen will also be beneficial when using one of the other standout features of the Canon EOS 60D: video. Video capture has been a feature of DSLRs for well over a year now and it is no surprise to see it included in the Canon EOS 60D. The vari-angle screen should allow videographers to look for creative angles to shoot from, offering an alternative to simply positioning the camera’s screen directly in front while recording.
However, it isn’t all upgrades and improvements, as there has been a significant structural change to the Canon EOS 60D when compared to its predecessor. The new camera has a polycarbonate or, as it used to be known, plastic, outer body reinforced with an aluminium frame. This helps distinguish it as a lower model in the range below the magnesium-alloy EOS 7D, and it does offer a small benefit in that it is cheaper to construct, which helps to keep the cost of the camera down.
As the Canon EOS 60D is a blend of the EOS 550D and 7D, as well as including a few features of its own, I was keen to seen exactly how it performed. With an 18-million-pixel CMOS sensor and a street price that should soon drop below £1,000, the Canon EOS 60D has the potential to be the best enthusiast DSLR camera on the market today.
As you would expect in a £1,000 camera, the Canon EOS 60D inherits much of its technology from the ‘prosumer’ EOS 7D, starting with the 18-million-effective pixel, APS-C-size CMOS sensor.
This sensor outputs 3:2 ratio, 5184×3456-pixel images, which, at 17.9 million pixels, is actually slightly smaller than 18 million. These images can be saved in both raw and JPEG format and, like other Canon DSLRs, you can select the size of the raw files.
At the heart of the EOS 60D is a Canon Digic 4 processor, which is used in all the current generation of EOS DSLRs.
Just as in a computer, the processor runs the camera’s operating system and enables the processing and running of features, including in-camera conversion of raw files and video capture. Speaking of video capabilities, the EOS 60D is the first ‘double-digit’ EOS camera to have this feature, and users will be pleased to know that once again the EOS 60D inherits much of its video technology from the EOS 7D.
One feature that used to be lacking from Canon EOS digital cameras was wireless flash control. On older EOS cameras, controlling a flash wirelessly requires another Canon flash or external transmitter. This is in contrast to enthusiast Nikon and Sony cameras, which have wireless flash control built into the camera.
Canon addressed this by adding wireless flash control to the in-built flash of the EOS 7D and, again, this feature has filtered down to the EOS 60D.The ability to process raw images in-camera has been around for a few years, but the Canon EOS 60D takes the processing and management of these images a stage further. As well as being able to make basic adjustments to the colour, contrast, noise reduction and sharpness of raw images, a number of filter effects can also be applied.
The Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Miniature and Grainy B/W effects can be applied to raw images, as well as JPEG files. Although not particularly groundbreaking, they do offer a way to visualise how images may look when more advanced adjustments are applied via a computer.
More of a benefit than the ability to perform basic image edits in-camera is the EOS 60D’s unique ability to rate images using a 1-5 star rating system. This enables photographers to quickly sort the good images from the bad while out in the field, saving time later. For more on this new addition see Features in use below.Another example of how Canon has repositioned the EOS 60D is the fact that it uses SD cards rather than CompactFlash cards.
Despite the costs of both types of memory rapidly decreasing and storage capacities increasing, it is still a factor in separating professional cameras from entry-level and enthusiast models. CompactFlash cards typically have faster reading and writing speeds, and offer professional photographers and videographers an advantage when shooting long bursts of images or when capturing lengthy footage. However, as the shooting rate of the EOS 60D is only 5.3fps, compared to 6.8fps in the EOS 50D, most enthusiast photographers should not be concerned with the use of the SD format unless, of course, they have already invested in expensive high-performance CF cards.
Most photographers can’t help but begin to review their images on their camera before they have even got home. Until now, though, the process has largely been confined to deleting those you aren’t pleased with, while remembering those that need some work. Thankfully, the EOS 60D has introduced a very simple way to review images in-camera by making use of an existing system.When reviewing images on the LCD screen, images can be rated out of five stars, with, for example, the best images awarded five stars, average ones three stars, and those fit only for your computer’s recycle bin one star. This rating is saved into the image’s metadata, where it can be used in image library software such as Adobe Bridge, Lightroom or Aperture.
In practice, the process is simple. As well as being able to rate images via the standard Quick Menu options, there is a separate Image Rating mode in the Playback menu, which allows images to be scrolled left or right, with the up and down controls adjusting the star rating. After copying the images to my computer’s hard drive, I found that all the star ratings appeared below the image thumbnails in Adobe Bridge. This is one feature I hope all camera manufacturers adopt in the future.
Build and handling
There are a number of differences in the build and handling of the Canon EOS 50D and the new 60D. The biggest of these is the decision to switch from a magnesium-alloy body to an aluminium shell with polycarbonate and glass fibre. Spending £1,000 on an enthusiast or prosumer camera would normally guarantee a camera an magnesium-alloy body, so it is a bold decision by Canon to use polycarbonate instead.
However, the camera feels solid and substantial and doesn’t have the same light, almost hollow, feel of many polycarbonate entry-level cameras. Changing the body material is also one of the factors that keeps the camera at a competitive price. Canon has looked at ways of keeping the camera strong and light, but without using more expensive magnesium alloy.
The decision to change the body material also separates the cameras in the EOS range. The EOS 7D is now very much the ‘baby’ EOS-1D Mark IV. That said, despite its lack of a metal body, I would still deem the EOS 60D as an excellent backup for a professional photographer.
As the body of the EOS 60D is smaller than that of the EOS 50D, you would also expect it to be lighter, particularly given the choice of materials. In fact, despite being a few millimetres smaller in every dimension, the EOS 60D is heavier than its predecessor, but only by an insignificant 25g.
The smaller body of the EOS 60D also necessitates some changes to the button placement compared to other Canon EOS cameras.
Gone are the various buttons that used to sit below the screen on the EOS 50D; they have been moved to the right-hand side of the body. Although not identical, the button placement of the EOS 60D has more in common with the EOS 550D than the EOS 7D, and I suspect that all future EOS DSLRs will move towards having all buttons on the right of the camera, particularly if vari-angle screens become more common.
While the EOS 60D retains the control dial familiar from prosumer and professional DSLRs, it has been slightly altered for the EOS 60D. The equally familiar joystick control for navigating menus and selecting AF points has been lost and replaced with a thumb cursor control that fits within the control dial. Canon has stated that the reason for this change is to make it easier to operate the camera, particularly to change AF points, when the BG-E9 battery grip is being used.
This is because users had to reach further to use the joystick, whereas the new control wheel cursor control is easier to get a finger to. Unfortunately, a battery grip wasn’t available to test the handling, but even without the grip the new control is a significant improvement on having the separate control. That said, it may take some time for existing Canon users to become familiar with it.
One of the reasons for the change in button placement is the new articulated screen. This folds out 90° from the side of the camera and can rotate through 270° to allow the screen to be viewed from in front of the camera, or when standing directly below it. The hinge seems solid and the extremities of the screen rotations are in 90° increments. This is important as it means the ‘point of no return’, where further turning will potentially damage the screen or hinge, is very obvious. I found that the EOS 60D handled very well.
The placement of the buttons made the camera easy to operate and the Quick Menu allows easy access to all the major shooting options. Similarly, there is the option to change the function of various AF metering buttons, although this isn’t completely customisable; there are instead nine selectable button configurations. The on-screen menu itself is very easy to navigate and will be familiar to both Canon DSLR and compact camera users. Importantly, it is very easy to read the on-screen display due to the high-resolution screen.
When it comes to the build and handling of the EOS 60D, it is quite easy to dismiss the camera on the grounds that the polycarbonate body doesn’t meet the high standard set by the EOS 7D. However, rather than thinking of the EOS 60D as a compromise, it is more appropriate to think of it as taking the best of the control of the EOS 550D and building upon this to create something completely new.
White balance and colour
Image: In the default standard colour mode, images have a good level of colour saturation and contrast
I was very impressed with how the EOS 60D rendered colours. Overcast autumn days are never a photographer’s favourite, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the colours of JPEG images were straight from the camera. In AWB and overcast white balance settings, greens are replicated almost perfectly without being too blue or yellow. Similarly, earthy autumn colours were bold without being over-saturated and unrealistic.
Image: Even when taken in the shade on an overcast day, the colours and contrast captured by the EOS 60D produce images suitable for printing straight from the camera
During testing I rarely felt the need to take the camera out of AWB mode, as it produced well-balanced results regardless of the situation. I also found that when indoors under tungsten lighting, the results retain some of the ambient orange colour. Selecting the tungsten setting reduces this, but some of the atmosphere is lost. It is preferable to use the Kelvin setting option set to 3,400K, as this produces a slightly warmer image than 3,200K, which is the preset tungsten value. Of course, there is a custom white balance setting available for situations where a perfectly neutral white balance is required.
Like both the Canon EOS 550D and EOS 7D, the EOS 60D uses Canon’s 63-zone iFCL metering system. While this system may not have as many zones as other cameras, which have hundreds or thousands of them, you do have to question how many an evaluative metering system actually needs.
For the most part the EOS 60D performs extremely well in its evaluative metering mode; in fact, I rarely had to take it out of this mode or adjust the exposure compensation. Where I did have to adjust the exposure it was generally to darken images by around 0.3EV when shooting in the shade.
I found that the system has a tendency to lighten dark areas a fraction more than I would have desired. The only time I found exposures actually needed lightening was when photographing white lilies near a window. Here the metering was understandably fooled by the bright white flowers and consequently darkened the image.
Image: In evaluative metering the EOS 60D prioritises the foreground until the sky becomes around half the total image
One interesting test I performed was photographing a landscape scene with a bright overcast sky. I took a series of images starting with the viewfinder being completely filled by the landscape, with no sky visible.
I then proceeded to tilt the camera upwards, taking shots at regular intervals as the amount of sky in the frame increased.
Interestingly, the metering system produced a good exposure for the foreground each time, until it reached the point where the image was split 50/50 between foreground and sky. This produced almost the optimum exposure with a slightly darker but detailed foreground, and a bright but not completely burnt-out sky.
As soon as there is more bright sky than foreground in the frame, the exposure changes dramatically, with the metering now exposing solely for the bright sky.
Although it is obvious that the evaluative metering would adjust to expose for the sky in this way, it was interesting to see how dramatically it can affect exposure with only a slight shift.
Like the EOS 550D, the EOS 60D uses nine cross-type AF points, rather than the 19-point system used by the EOS 7D. Again, this helps to cement the 60D’s position between the two cameras. With the Nikon D300S boasting 51 AF points, I was a little concerned that the nine AF points of the EOS 60D may be somewhat limiting. However, I found that the nine points covered the key areas in the frame.
There are four AF points placed at the top, bottom and sides, exactly one third of the way into the frame. If you try to keep to the Rule of Thirds, the subject of your image will usually be placed at one of these points, or in the very centre of the frame. So while it may be preferable to have the 7D’s 19-point system, in practice the nine points of the 60D are enough for most images.
Setting the camera to use one of the single AF points is straightforward: you just press the button on the top-right of the back of the camera and then use the new control button to select the point. As a left-eye shooter this was a little awkward for me, but no different from any other camera I have used. It is easy to locate and find the relevant buttons while still keeping the viewfinder held to the eye.
The lens snaps almost immediately into focus, and it is one of the fastest focusing systems I have tested. Even photographing low-contrast subjects in dull light doesn’t prove a problem for the AF system, and it responds quickly where other cameras would have to search back and forth for focus.
Continuous AF is just as fast and is able to keep up with moderately moving subjects, such as people running. Although not designed especially for the rigours of sports photography, the continuous AF and 5.8fps shooting rate, along with some careful timing, should allow the 60D to meet the demands of most enthusiast sports photographers.
Noise, resolution and sensitivity
With a highly populated sensor it was a wise decision for Canon to limit the sensitivity of the EOS 60D to ISO 6400, with an extended ISO 12,800 option available. When at the maximum ISO 6400 setting, images look very good considering the amount of noise that such images would have suffered just a couple of years ago.
The noise reduction causes a softening of image detail, but even at this sensitivity the EOS 60D is able to reach around 24 on our resolution test chart, which is about on par with most 12-million-pixel DSLRs at ISO 100.Colour noise is visible in images at ISO 1600, and it becomes slightly more apparent as the sensitivity increases.
For the most part it is fairly unobtrusive and comes in the form of very faint patches of green or magenta in shadow areas. It is fairly straightforward to remove in raw-editing software. Luminance noise starts to affect images at ISO 800, but it is not until ISO 3200 that it starts to give images a slightly granular texture.
Image: With an 18MP resolution, the EOS 60D can resolve a great deal of detail, although JPEG files do require sharpening. For best results the raw files are far superior
With the EOS 60D able to reach an impressive 30 in our resolution chart test, the camera has a high resolution that can make a real difference when capturing fine details.
For example, I was able to photograph a wild mushroom on a woodland floor and it was only on inspection afterwards that I noticed a tiny fruit fly was sitting on the top of it. As we have seen before in Canon cameras, JPEG images are soft by default.
Increasing the sharpness by one or two notches in the Picture Style settings can help counter this. For best results shoot raw files and process the images in Canon’s DPP software, which comes with the camera.
The software is very easy to use, and a great deal of detail can be resolved even by just using the default raw conversion settings.Although such high resolutions are something we will begin to see more and more at enthusiast level, for now the Canon EOS 60D is a perfect compromise between resolution, high ISO performance and noise reduction.
Resolution charts: These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 lens. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get the results of our dynamic range lab test in time for publication. However, from pictures taken in the field I was impressed with the amount of detail in both highlight and shadows areas. In particular, I found that despite some images appearing to have burnt-out white highlights, some detail was actually recoverable.
Similarly, it is possible to brighten shadow areas to reveal hidden details. Images can be lightened by around 2EV before there is a marked increase in noise at higher sensitivities. Given the tonal range in the images I have taken with the camera, I would estimate that the dynamic range of the EOS 60D is around 12EV, which would put it on a par with most other DSLRs we have reviewed this year.
Viewfinder, LCD, live view and video
Although the viewfinder of the Canon EOS 60D offers 96% rather than 100% coverage, it is bright and doesn’t distort at the edges. As you would expect, it is difficult to use the viewfinder to manually focus in dull light. Manually focusing is far easier in bright light, and AF confirmation is available in the viewfinder to double-check the accuracy.
Live View mode has the facility to digitally zoom in to the live image, which allows for much more precise manual focusing. This is particularly true given the 60D’s high-resolution, 1.04-million-dot, 3in screen. It is the same screen as used on the EOS 550D and is one of the best screens we have seen, both in terms of colour rendition and contrast, and resolution.
Automatically focusing in Live View mode is, to say the least, sluggish. The contrast detection is very slow, particularly when compared to the extremely fast contrast-detection AF of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2. We have also recently been spoiled with the Sony Alpha 33, which offers faster phase-detection AF in both Live View and video-capture modes.
Those using the EOS 60D in Live View would be far better focusing manually using the AF confirmation. Obviously, the slow contrast-detection focus is also an issue when using the EOS 60D’s video mode. Once again, manual focus AF is really the only choice if you are tracking a subject or panning with the camera. If you are prepared to focus manually, the quality of the video footage is superb.
Movies can be captured in 1920×1080-pixel resolution, with frame rates of 29.97, 25 or 23.976fps. At the lower 1280×720-pixel resolution, footage can be filmed at an impressive 59.94 or 50fps. Budding videographers will be pleased to hear that the EOS 60D doesn’t suffer from any significant sensor wobble, so faster panning shots are possible. The sound of the AF and the lens zooming is picked up by the in-camera microphone, but thankfully there is an external mic socket for more professional results.
Canon set the standard with the video-capture mode in its DSLRs, but the rest of the market has caught up. While the quality of the footage is great, it no longer stands out quite as far from the crowd.
Image: Nikon D7000
Normally we would mention the Nikon D300S here, but with only 12.3 million pixels it is well overdue for an update. Also, the polycarbonate body of the Canon EOS 60D means it has far more in common with Nikon’s 16-million-pixel D7000 camera, which can also be found for around the £1,000 mark.
Image: Pentax K-5
Competition will also come from the new Pentax K-5, which has a 16.3-million-pixel sensor, a magnesium-alloy body and an impressive 7fps shooting rate. It is currently a little more expensive, at around £1,200 body only. Of course, the EOS 550D should also be considered. It costs around £650 and looks to be something of a bargain when you consider that it is based on the same image sensor.
I am very impressed with the Canon EOS 60D, not least by the new handling. It seems that having to move some of the buttons due to the vari-angle screen has given Canon the opportunity to revisit the handling of the camera.
The results is a camera that almost blends the best bits of both high-end Canon and, dare I say it, Nikon DSLRs. By retaining the jog control wheel the camera feels unmistakably like a Canon, but the addition of the thumb control in the centre is similar to the control used on Nikon’s professional series. The EOS 60D is consequently a pleasure to use.
When the handling is combined with the fast AF system and 18-million-pixel sensor, the EOS 60D really comes into its own, and the addition of the vari-angle screen is another nice touch. While it is disappointing that the body is polycarbonate rather than magnesium, it does help to keep the cost down and make it more accessible to enthusiast photographers than the EOS 7D.
Whether the 60D has enough new features to warrant an upgrade for 50D users may depend on their needs, but the introduction of video and the new metering and AF system is a big draw. Similarly, 550D users will be impressed, but the 60D may not offer enough to warrant a purchase. However, for users of the 500D, 40D and even the 450D or 30D, this is probably exactly the camera you have been waiting for.
Canon EOS 60D – Key features
The EOS 60D’s viewfinder has 96% coverage with a magnification factor of 0.95x
The scroll wheel around the edge works as it has done on previous Canon EOS prosumer and professional cameras. However, the inner cursor control is a new addition
AF point select
Pressing this button when in shooting mode allows you to change which AF point is being used
Pressing this button shows the quick menu, which allows easy access to all the most regularly changed settings
Although compatible flashguns can be controlled wirelessly via the Canon EOS 60D, Canon has not included an external flash sync socket on the EOS 60D.
The EOS 60D has a dedicated menu system for Eye-Fi cards. These SD cards offer limited Wi-Fi capabilities, including the ability to upload images online for backup. The options in the EOS 60D allow the Wi-Fi signal from the card to be turned off when not in use, and the camera also won’t turn off until uploads are finished.
Auto Lighting Optimiser
Like many other cameras, the EOS 60D has a dynamic range enhancement setting called the Auto Lighting Optimiser. This doesn’t actually increase the dynamic range, but instead brightens shadows to bring out details. I found that it works very subtly, even at its strongest setting, producing a realistic effect.
Canon has made the EOS 60D SDXC-compatible. The new X(tra) C(apacity) cards will in the future have huge capacities of up to 2TB. I found that even a 4GB SD card becomes full very quickly, so being able to use the new-generation cards is essential.