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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
Canon D60 6.3 Megapixel 
Digital SLR 

by Jim McGee

There are times when Digital has a definite advantage. The ability to preview images in tricky lighting conditions is one of those times.

We all know about spot metering and we all know about bracketing but no matter how long we shoot there will always be that nagging worry in the back of our minds "did I get the shot" until we see the slides or negatives come back from the lab. That worry is amplified when using unfamiliar equipment, when shooting against a deadline, or when you're in that once in a lifetime spot.

When shooting the gargoyle article for last month's issue the D60 proved to be a great partner in this respect. Gargoyles sit high up on buildings. There are huge swings in contrast if they are silhouetted against a bright or overcast sky. Many are under eaves or outcroppings and exposures can swing quickly with changes in ambient light. Further complicating these shots is the fact that the wind was gusting enough to induce camera shake when zoomed out to 600mm (400mm + the scaling factor of the camera). The ability to preview images for sharpness and exposure allowed me to be sure that I had the shot before I moved on to the next subject or location.

The D60 is surprisingly easy to pick up and use provided you have some experience in digital photography. The best compliment you can pay to any digital camera is that you don't notice it's a digital. By that I mean that the digital features stay out of your way and let you go about the business of photography. But when you want to access those features they are easy to find and use. That pretty much sums up the D60. I used it for almost a full day before I looked at the manual for the first time.

The ergonomics are good on this camera as well. It has a nice balance and the controls fall easily under your fingers. You don't have to do a lot of hunting around while your eye is to the viewfinder to figure out where things are located. 

I was particularly impressed with the meter. I threw it a few curve balls including this statue of Ben Franklin. Under a canopy of trees in low light, this dark metallic surface would have fooled many meters into underexposure. The D60 handled it easily. It may be difficult to tell with a scaled image on the Web but the D60 managed to hold detail in Ben's face. You can even read the words on the paper he's reading!

This shot was with white balance set to overcast. One flaw we did find was that the auto white balance was fooled under overcast skies and stayed in sunlight mode. It was also fooled a few times under incandescent light. This is a problem we've found with every brand of digital camera. Our best advice is to set white balance manually no matter who's digital camera you're using.

The D60 produces 6.3 megapixel images and can crank them out at three frames per second. But we found that if you really start cranking through the frames you'll find yourself waiting for images to be written to the memory card - again not unusual for a camera in this price range but annoying nonetheless. 

Which brings us to an interesting fact. Street prices on this camera have actually been going up recently. Supplies are short and a number of vendors we spoke with are on backorder with the D60, which explains the price increase. We found current street prices to be between $2,200 and $2,300 and received conflicting estimates of how long it would take to get a camera in-hand (sometimes from the same vendor). 

When supply catches up with demand expect street prices to drop below $2,000. This is a testament to the fact that Canon has done a good job with the design of the D60.

The D60 accepts type I & II compact flash cards and microdrives. Shutter speeds are available from 1/4000th to 30 seconds, flash sync is at 1/200th. Noise reduction is automatically applied to any images with exposures over 1 second and we didn't find significant noise in any or our long exposures.

Exposure bracketing is available in one half and one third stop increments up to two stops and manual exposure compensation is available up to two stops - also in half or third stop increments. In addition to shiftable program, manual, shutter & aperture priority modes there are five pre-defined modes for portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, and night scene photography.

The D60 includes a pop-up flash suitable for fill flash duty and it is fully compatible with all current Canon flash units.

 We used it with the 420EX, and like most flash systems we've tested we found the best results with a bit of flash compensation dialed in to tone down the effects of the flash. This produced a more natural look so it didn't look as though flash had been used. Both the squirrel and the arch figurehead below were taken using the 420EX and -1 stop flash compensation.

Metering, as we mentioned proved accurate using Canon's 35-zone TTL full aperture metering. Partial metering at center (approx. 9.5% of viewfinder) and center-weighted average metering are also available.

While the LCD is handy for a quick check of the image we found the LCD on the D60 to be a little more contrasty and a little more saturated than the actual image captured. That means that highlights that appeared to be blown out on the LCD were not always blown out when we got the images onto our laptop. We would also have liked to have had more flexibility in moving around and zooming in on images in the viewfinder.

Among the things that we found to be a little odd was the way the D60 handles the numbering of sequential files. As it rolls over each 50 images it created a new folder, which was a bit of a pain when loading images onto the laptop. We never did figure out if we could turn this option off before we sent the camera back.

While the D60 has a lot going for it you should know what it is that you're buying. This isn't a rugged pro camera. Think of it as a digital version of the Elan 7. If your needs include rugged use then you'll need to check out the EOS 1D which is a rugged pro digital camera. The 1D will also give you a slight advantage in image sharpness, albeit at a significantly higher price. Street prices on the EOS 1D are currently in the $5,500 to $5,700 range.

Conclusion The D60 is a solid, easy to learn, and easy to use digital camera at a reasonable price. It builds on Canon's proven metering, focus, and flash technologies to create a package that should suit all but the most demanding pros.

There is a Firmware update for the D60 available at:

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