Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
The Canon EOS 60D is Canon’s latest addition to their DSLR line and sits between the Digital Rebel T2i and EOS 7D in terms of both price and features. The 60D presumably is intended to eventually supersede the EOS 50D—though the 50D is still listed as a current model on Canon’s web page. The EOS 60D’s features are a mix of those from the old EOS 50D, the EOS T2i and the EOS 7D—with a few entirely new features seen for the first time on the EOS 60D
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An 18MP sensor with 4 channel readout. Very similar to the sensor found in the T2i and EOS 7D, though the 7D has 8 channel readout to speed up operation.
Full HD video at the same selectable resolutions and frame rates as the Rebel T2i/7D. Manual exposure setting is possible.
There is a "wind" filter which can be used when recording audio along with video. The built-in mic is mono, but there is a jack for a stereo mic. There is manual
control over audio volume (64 steps), but changes cannot be made during shooting.
The AF system has the 9 points found in the Rebel T2i, but all are cross (dual axis) sensors as in the 50D. The 7D has a more advanced AF system with 19 cross type sensors.
63 zone metering as in the Rebel T2i and 7D
The viewfinder has 96% coverage (the 7D is 100%).
The ISO range is 100-6400 plus "H" (12800), same as the T2i and 7D.
The EOS 60D now uses SD cards like the T2i. The 7D uses CF cards.
Canon has abandoned the BP-511 battery of the 50D in favor of the LP-E6 which is used
in the EOS 7D (and 5D MkII).
The maximum frame rate is 5.7 frames per second (fps), between the 3.7 fps of the T2i and the 8 fps of the 7D
The LCD has a 3:2 aspect ratio and Canon’s current (and excellent) anti reflection
For the first time on any Canon DSLR, the EOS 60D has a tilt and swivel LCD. This
doesn’t help much for conventional still photography, but it can be very useful in Live
View mode and when shooting video.
The weathersealing is somewhere between that of the T2i and the EOS 7D. It’s not super weather sealed, and it’s not designed to be used in heavy rain, but it shouldn’t quit if
it sees a little drizzle!
The shutter is good for 100,000 cycles. Max speed is 1/8000s and sync is 1/250s
There is an electronic level, but only for the horizontal axis. The 7D has both
horizontal and vertical levels, the T2i has none.
There is a dedication position on the mode switch for video and a dedicated
"start/stop" button. When not in video mode, the button starts and stops Live
The mode dial has a locking button in the center which must be pressed before rotating the dial to change modes. This makes it harder to nudge the dial and inadvertently change modes. Hopefully Canon learned their lesson with the A2, which had a similar, but notoriously fragile, mode change locking button.
The on/off switch is now directly below the mode control dial (as in the EOS 7D)
The buffer should be good for about 58 JPEGs or 16 RAW images. Better then the T2i, not quite as good as the EOS 7D for JPEGs.
The 4 way controller used for menu selection, AF zone selection etc. is now incorporated inside the rear QCD on the EOS 60D.
Last, but certainly not least is the EOS 60D list price of $1099 (though it’s now discounted to below $1000).
You can look at the EOS 60D as a Rebel T2i but with a better viewfinder, better AF, higher frame rate, a tilt and swivel LCD, an electronic level, a rear QCD, a larger capacity battery and overall better ergonomics. Alternative you can look at the 60D as an EOS 7D, but with a less advanced AF system, less weather sealing, a slower frame rate, no vertical electronic level, no AF microadjustment, a smaller JPEG buffer and using an SD card rather than CF. The primary unique feature of the EOS 60D is the tilt and swivel LCD screen.
It’s notable that all three EOS models (T2i, 60D and 7D) have the same size and resolution sensor (18MP APS-C). The T2i and 60D sensors are essentially identical, while that of the 7D uses a more advanced data readout system to enable faster data download for higher frame rates.
The EOS 60D is arguably the most capable of all the EOS DSLRs when it comes to shooting video. Not only does it have an LCD that swings out, tilts and swivels, but it also has a full set of video modes, from 1080p HD to standard VGA with selectable frame rates:
Full HD 1920×1080, at either 24fps (actual 23.976) or 30fps (actual 29.97). In PAL mode, either 24fps (actual 23.976) or 25fps (actual 25.00)
HD 1280×720, at either 60 fps (actual 59.94) or 50fps (actual 50.00)
Standard definition 640×480, at either 60fps (actual 59.94) or 50 fps (actual 50.00)
Crop mode: 640×480, at 60 or 50 fps crops the video image so you record with effectively about 7x the magnification youd get in other video recording sizes. This feature is shared with the current Canon EOS Rebel T2i camera as well.
The variable-angle LCD monitor is very useful for video applications. It can be angled to shield it from bright sunlight or adjusted for comfortably shooting overhead or floor-level shots. The monitor’s slightly wider 3:2 aspect ratio means a larger image during video shooting, whether in HD with its 16:9 ratio, or in standard-def mode. The high resolution display has over 1 million dot resolution.
In addition the EOS 60D also has excellent audio features including:
A built-in microphone (mono), with standard 3.5mm stereo jack for external microphones
Choice of automatic or manual recording level control for sound (in manual, the user can select from a 64-step range to maintain consistent recording levels, depending on ambient conditions). Sound recording can also be disabled completely.
Built-in Wind Filter (selectable in sound recording menu, when in video mode). The filter can easily be switched on or off (default setting is off)
Exposure control can be either manual or fully automatic (where the camera chooses ISO, aperture and shutter speed). In manual mode you can choose shutter speed and aperture and the camera will select ISO, or you can set all three parameters (shutter, aperture and ISO) manually. Shutter speeds range from 1/30s (at 24 or 30fps) or 1/60s (at 50 or 60 fps) to a maximum of 1/4000s.
The EOS 60D also has an in-camera movie editing feature, allowing users to shorten a video file by clipping segments from the beginning or the end, removing unwanted portions of video without the need for downloading to a PC and using video editing software.
The built in electronic level of the EOS 60D can be set to display an “artificial horizon” type display on the LCD which shows when the camera is level with an accuracy of about 1 degree. This can be used before (but not during) shooting to setup the camera.
Here’s a sample HD video shot with an EOS 60D.
The EOS 60D has the typical small built in flash that all the non-professional Canon EOS DSLRs have, The guide number is 43/13 (ISO 100, in feet/meters) and it covers the area of view of a 17mm lens (on the APS-C frame). However in addition to its function of providing flash illumination it has a second function which may be of more interest to more advanced photographers. The pop-up flash of the EOS 60D can control multiple external speedlites (as long as they have wireless slave capability, like the 430EX II and 580EX II). The built in flash acts as a master controller by emitting a series of brief coded optical pulses which send information to external speedlites telling them when to flash and how much flash power to use.
The degree of flash control is quite extensive. The built in flash can control a single external speedlite or multiple external speedlites. The speedlites can be arranged in three groups (A, B and C) and each group can contain multiple speedlites. All the speedlites in all three groups can be fired at once if a large amount of flash power is required. The A and B groups can also be controlled independently to provide different flash fill ratios (all slave flashes in the same group are set to the same fill ratio). The built in flash can also be set to fire along with the external speedlites if desired.
Output ratio (A:B)
Difference in output
A outputs 8X more light than B (a three-stop difference)
A outputs 4X more light than B (a two-stop difference)
A outputs 2X more light than B (a one-stop difference)
Equal output (no difference)
B outputs 2X more light than A (a one-stop difference)
B outputs 4X more light than A (a two-stop difference)
B outputs 8X more light than A (a three-stop difference)
The external speedlites can also be set to fire using manual flash power settings or to use flash exposure compensation. Again different settings can be used for groups A and B.
Four different “channels” are available for speedlite control. This allows up to 4 different photographers to control 4 sets of external speedlites in the same studio without interfering with each other. Note that the wireless control is optical and not radio, so each of the slave units must be able to “see” the master controller (in this case the built in flash on the EOS 60D). They can sometimes “see” via a reflection indoors, but outdoors they need the optical sensor on the slave unit turned towards the controller, and it’s always to good idea to do that anyway for maximum range and reliability. The sensor is on the front of the external speedlites, but all compatible speedlites have heads which tilt and swivel, so although the body of the external speedlite may be facing the EOS 60D controller, the flash head can be pointed in any direction.
The EOS 60D has a built in single axis electronic horizontal level. There are two readout modes. The first is reached by pressing the “INFO” button twice, and this displays a horizontal level on the rear LCD. The level looks something like a bank indicator on a aircraft. When the camera is level the horizontal line is green. When the camera is tilted, the line is red and the angle corresponds to the tilt angle. The resolution is 1 degree.
The second display mode is activated by setting a custom function which assigns level display to the “SET” button. Then, when the “SET” button is pressed there is a display in the viewfinder that indicates tilt. It uses the exposure level display. When the camera is level, a single LED segment is lit in the center of the scale. As the camera is tilted additional segments light up showing the direction and amount of tilt. One additional lit segment corresponds to 1 additional degree of tilt.
The level display in the viewfinder can’t be displayed at the same time as the normal display. That means if you level the camera with your eye to the viewfinder watching the level display and then 1/2 press the shutter to get exposure and focus, the display switches from level display to the normal metering mode.
In camera image processing
The Canon EOS 60D allows the user to process RAW files in the camera rather than using a PC and Canon’s DPP (Digital Photo Professional) software. While the processing range isn’t as extensive as that found in DPP it still allows quite a lot of image adjustment. The following functions are available:
Adjust overall brightness, in 1/3-stop increments
Completely re-set White Balance
Adjust Picture Style settings
Choose Color Space (sRGB or Adobe 1998 RGB)
Apply Auto Lighting Optimizer
Choose JPEG recording quality (resolution, and choice of Fine/Normal compression)
The processed RAW file is saved back on the memory card as a new JPEG, but of course the original RAW file is not changed.
If you shoot JPEG images you can make resized copies in the camera. For example if you shoot the original JPEG as a 5184 × 3456 image, you can make a resized copy in any of the following sizes:
M: approx. 8 million pixels (3456 × 2304)
S1: approx. 4.5 million pixels (2592 × 1728)
New S2: approx. 2.5 million pixels (1920 x
1280; close to HDTV dimensions)
New S3: approx. 0.35 million pixels (720 x
480; close to standard TV size)
The copy can be any size which is smaller than the originally shot JPEG. You can also select any image quality lower than or equal to that of the original
Photographers can also apply special effect filters to RAW and JPEG images in the camera and save the results as a new JPEG file. The following special effects can be applied:
Grainy Black & White
This creates a B&W copy of an original color JPEG file, and digitally adds noise for a grainy effect; contrast can be adjusted over a 3-step range)
This provides a soft focus look which can be effective with, fer example, portraits and certain types of landscapes. It is adjustable over a 3-step range
This is a special effect, designed to mimic the look of images created by some “toy” film cameras. It utilizes heavy vignetting, and users choice of natural color or a bluish-green or yellow-amber tint
This mimics the effect of using a tilt-shift lens with reverse or negative tilt, for extremely narrow zone of focus. Users can choose to have the zone of sharpness be horizontal or vertical and the zone of sharpness can be moved across the photograph)
The EOS 60D inherits the AF system of the EOS 50D (and EOS 40D). It has 9 AF zones in a diamond pattern, with each AF sensor being sensitive to both horizontal and vertical features (“cross sensors”). The pattern is the same as that of the EOS T2i AF system, but on the T2i all the AF sensors except the central one are only linear sensors. The EOS 7D has a much improved AF system with with 19 high-precision, cross-type AF sensors and more advanced selection features.
As far as I could tell, the AF performance seems similar to that of the EOS 50D, which is pretty good under most normal circumstances.
Handling the EOS 60D was a familiar experience with the typical Canon DSLR user interface. The menus have changed from the 50D and the control buttons have a different layout, but that’s just a matter of getting used to them. Once you become familiar with them you may find them easier to use than was the case with the 50D. Video is particularly easy to shoot since there’s a dedicated mode, a dedicated start/stop button and a tilt and swivel LCD which makes aiming the camera much easier than using a fixed LCD on the rear of the camera. at the time of this review the EOS 60D is the only DSLR in the Canon EOS series with a tilt-swivel LCD (but I don’t expect that to be the case forever!).
In actual use I found the user interface worked well and I could quickly get at almost any function I needed with one button push and a menu selection (often using the Quick Control Button).
The image quality looks very much like the image quality of the EOS 7D (and EOS T2i). This is pretty much what you’d expect since they all use the same basic sensor. There may be very slight sensor differences between the cameras, but nothing that appears to affect image quality to any appreciable extent. There’s no reason why the resolution should be any different from that of the T2i and 7D, given that the sensor size, pixel size and pixel spacing is the same for all three cameras
Noise performance is good and not significantly different from that of the EOS 7D and Digital Rebel T2i. The same applies to dynamic range and ISO sensitivity, with all three camera turning in roughly the same performance.
I would not be surprised if the EOS 60D displaces the EOS 5D MkII as the camera of choice for impoverished videographers since it offers pretty much the same video features, but with a tilt and swivel LCD and all at significantly less than 1/2 the cost of the 5D MkII (around $1000 vs. around $2500). However potential video shooters should be aware of the limitations imposed by the lack of any focus tracking in the 60D or any other EOSDSLR – and in fact all DSLR cameras other than the newer Sony models with a fixed mirror. The lack of focus tracking means that if you have a subject which is moving towards or away from the camera you have a few options, none of which is ideal.
You can try to manually follow focus, but that’s not at all easy and it’s virtually impossible to accurately judge focus on a small LCD screen. You can also try to exploit the large DOF of small apertures, but of course that’s not always possible in dim light and may not be the look you want (with the background in focus). Even if it is possible it may require the use of high ISO settings and the resulting drop in image quality. You can also achieve large DOF by using a wideangle lens, but again this may not be quite what you want especially for sports and smilar distant action. Contrast detection AF is available at any time while shooting video, but it’s slow (several seconds) and may overshoot before locking in. Obviously this is far from ideal on a moving target! You can also use phase detection AF, but that requires the reflex mirror to drop, blanking out the video while the AF takes place. Even if you do get focus this way, the subject is still moving and so may quickly go out of focus again.
Professional videographers can deal with these issues and EOS DSLRs have been used to shoot some very impressive videos. However for the casual amateur videographer who wants shots of children running, motor racing or sports, it’s not really a “point and shoot” operation. It’s more like “Point and Shoot and hope the DOF is large or try to adjust focus somehow”.
Canon certainly seems to have produced another winner in the EOS 60D. It’s a very useful update of the 50D, adding more pixels, HD video, a tilt and swivel LCD and lots of other small refinements. My only complaint is that I think I’d rather have had CF card storage than SD card, simply because I already have a large collection of CF cards that I use in my other Canon DSLR bodies. The main advantage of SD cards over CF cards is that there are no pins in the socket to bend. In that regard they may be a more robust solution in the hands of consumers. The currently available SD cards aren’t as fast as the fastest CF cards at the moment, but the 60D doesn’t need an ultra fast card. SD class 6 is recommended (and probably required for shooting longer 1080p HD video sequences). When I shot with the EOS 60D I used an 8GB Kingston class 6 card and I had no problem with 1080p HD video. Transcend 8GB class 6 SDHC cards can be found for as little as around $20 each, so even if, like me, you have a collection of CF cards, buying a few new SDHC cards won’t break the bank.
My collection of BP-511/512 batteries is also getting less useful! No current DSLR now uses that battery size. If you don’t mind using 3rd party batteries from China, you can get spare LP-E6 batteries for around $8 each, so as with the SD memory cards, buying a few spare batteries isn’t a big expense (unless you insist on genuine Canon batteries which currently sell for $65-$70 each).
It’s interesting to note that all of Canon’s APS-C DSLRs now have much the same sensor and display much the same image quality. They are differentiated by features, not by basic image quality. This is exactly the same situation that existed before digital cameras came along. They all used the same film and so had the same image quality!
The tilt and swivel LCD also looks like a winner and I’d expect to see it as a feature on many future DSLRs from Canon. The only possible downside to it is that under heavy use it might make the camera less durable. You could drop an EOS 1D series body with no serious consequences, but if the LCD was folded out and you dropped it the wrong way I’m not so sure it would survive intact. I’d certainly expect a tilt and swivel LCD on the EOS 7D MkII and the EOS 5D MkIII, if and when they are released!
Are there any downsides to the 60D when compared with the 50D? Well, there are a few. The 60D has lost the AF microadjustment of the 50D and it no longer has a PC flash socket. However I suspect that not many owners of the 50D really use either of those features (though they are certainly nice to have and are used by some). The multi-axis controller in the QCD is arguably less easy to use than the separate “joystick” of the 50D. Inside the camera there is more plastic and less metal, though again that might be something the majority of users don’t really care about. I’m sure that for the typical customer the addition of HD video and a tilt and swivel LCD more than make up for the losses from the 50D. For 50D owners looking for a total upgrade, there’s always the EOS 7D, which is coming down in price now.
The body of the EOS 60D is plastic, whereas that of the 50D was metal alloy (as is the body of the EOS 7D). While this seems to worry some people, I’m not sure why. The Digital Rebel cameras have always had plastic bodies and they have proven to be very durable. For the average photographer there’s really not a significant downside to a body designed to be built from an engineering grade durable plastic.
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EOS 60D, EF 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS lens, 135mm, 1/100s @ f/5.6 ISO 6400. This shot was taken indoors and shows the high ISO capability of the 60D. The shot is slightly blurred because 1/100s wasn’t quite fast enough to freeze the action. With a faster lens it would probably have been sharper, but the ability to shoot at ISO 6400 when necessary is well demonstrated here. [Shot at the International Motorcycle Show at the Javits Center in NYC]
EOS 60D, EF 10-22/3.5-4.5 lens, 14mm 1/30s @ f/4 ISO 1000. Another indoor shot but under slightly brighter lighting and with a static subject. [Shot at the International Motorcycle Show at the Javits Center in NYC]
EOs 60D, EF 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS lens. 67mm 1/125s @ f/5.6 ISO 6400. Another example of where the ability to shoot fairly clean images at ISO 6400 saved the day. [Shot at the International Motorcycle Show at the Javits Center in NYC]