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While this review of the 60D isn’t exactly “Hot off the Press“, it’s actually a pleasure of mine to bring a more realistic real world use review of this darn good camera. Aperturent.com loaned us a 60D over a month back which was great. In fact it was so great Tiffany and I immediately purchased one for us to use for a destination wedding. Several shoots later and getting more and more familiar with the camera, it’s time to write this review as someone who’s put the camera through several trials and test.
Having already covered Canon’s 18mp sensor lineup with reviews of the 7D and T2i earlier in 2009/2010 there isn’t much to say about the sensor of the 60D as much as the new ergonomics and features built into the camera. So for those wondering about the sensor performance of the camera, it’s pretty much on par with the 7D and T2i. I suggest you check out my reviews for some samples there, or great reviews such as this one from DPreview.com that goes into full depth about the technicalities and comparisons between cameras.
What you can expect from this review is a candid account of what I like, and don’t like about the 60d. It’s a good camera but it’s far from perfect, and with the release of the D7000 from Nikon looked obsolete fairly quickly if you compare the two. Yet tech specs on paper tend to quickly not matter as soon as you are in the field with the camera, so thus the concentration on more real world usage.
For some more resources on the Canon 60D, or Canon in general I highly suggest these websites/forums
The Canon 60D – Ergonomics, changes, and the interface
A major concern on the internet when the 60D was first announced was how the body was going to be constructed from high impact plastic instead of the old magnesium alloy used in the xxD series before. Many people feared it as a sign of downgrading the xxD cameras from prosumer level to standard consumer, while others cried that the 60D wouldn’t be as resistant to being damaged as other cameras (though maybe those concerned should concentrate on not throwing their cameras everywhere). Well after using it for a month in some pretty heavy usage situations, and also currently comparing how the 60D feels against my 5D Mark II, I really don’t feel a quality difference at all. The 60D feels robust, there’s no outward creaking that annoys me, and the camera feels weighty enough compared to say a Canon T2i that it feels quite professional. Overall it feels great in the hands with grips at the right places, and feels like it can take a good bit of abuse.
The back of the 60D looks very different compared to the 50D. One of the main selling points is the articulated screen which will be addressed later, so first we’ll talk about the new button layout. Where the Canon 50D engaged both the left and right hand of the photographer for navigation, the 60d is almost completely navigated with the right hand. The only option during use for the left is the mode dial, the on/off switch, and delete during image navigation. Even the rebel has more options on the left during image navigation and use than the 60D. While it can be argued that this makes the camera easier to use, I find it absolutely annoying only for the fact that even after a month it’s confusing when using the camera. I miss accessing the menu with my left hand, all my Canon camera’s were that way for a long time. In fact it feels like the camera is slower to navigate because you only really use your right thumb and now it has to travel more places to use the interface. Something removed from the camera compared to the old xxD series is the white balance/metering mode button. You can changed the set button to emulate either white balance/metering. The picture styles button is also missing, which was given a second life when it came to video functionality, this was annoying. So if you read between the lines you can probably tell the camera’s missing some buttons I miss.
Outside of that the camera works pretty much the same as all the other Canon cameras. The mode dial on top has a slight change, there’s a lock on it now (and option you can now purchase for $100 for your 5D Mark II, and 7D) which you need to engage to change the dial. Its a neat feature that takes a little getting used too, but once you do it helps with storage and if the camera gets knocked about, definitely a keeper. What’s really annoying, and my god Canon needs to fix this is let the dial rotate completely both ways. If you are on manual and you want to go to video, you have go 11 clicks in one direction to access it, where on the wheel it’s just 4 clicks the other way. That’s annoying. At least put the video option up by the advance mode options. It would of been extra nice to have a selection dial like the 7D. It’s a pity also that there is only one C option up top, as this feature is something that really kicks butt.
Note the removal of the old joystick control that’s been there since the Canon 20D. In it’s place canon has placed a round 4 way controller on the wheel with a set button in the middle. It actually has been pretty easy to use, and hasn’t been a problem for me to navigate the user interface with. I prefer old joystick option, but that’s more a nostalgic reaction and this new location didn’t affect how the camera worked at all. The new controller is slightly raised from the wheel so using it really isn’t an issue for those concerned about how it looks in photos.
The articulating screen is a Canon DSLR first, and I have to admit it is pretty useful. When used in conjunction with live view, it allows some pretty cool angles while shooting macro, and even video. The hinge system feels strong, and it’s great having another way to protect your LCD (by turning it backwards) while storing your camera. I enjoy the 16:9 wide screen that came out with the t2i and playback on it has been a pleasure to look at and pretty accurate to what shows up on the computer. The only drawback with the screen is that the sensor to “Flip” the screen into proper orientation seems to jump early in some place. There’s a location where you will have the LCD in an orientation that’s usable only to have the menu screen upside down. How much will you anyone use it in this orientation I’ve no idea, but I found myself adjusting the screen a few times during macro shooting. (The orientation is pictured below).
Another major difference to note from the Canon 50D and the Canon 60D is the change of storage media. The 60D uses SD storage, and is compatible with the new SDXC (Mega capacity) cards. As a user of CF cards for years now I’ve never been too much a fan of SD cards. They tend to be slower and also more flimsy than CF cards in my experience. Their smaller size actually made them easier to lose. Yet that was years ago and it seems like SD cards have made leaps and bounds when it comes to speed (though they are still way too flimsy for my taste). What you can’t deny is the price difference between SD cards and CF cards. 8 gigs of SD of fast speed average around $25, capping at $49 if you go the luxury route where CF cards can be nearly double the price. Availability is also a factor as SD cards can be found pretty much anywhere for cheap, where CF cards are limited to brick and mortar specialty shops (normally at a premium) or online. So as much as it pains me to say, it looks like SD is in and it’s the future for storage on consumer level devices. Heck almost all laptops, desktops, and even tv screens have SD readers in them now. Amazing.
Overall the changes to the body aren’t bad. It’s just more of a nuisance after getting used to how the old layout was. Considering that the 40D brought the controls to the bottom from the left, this may be a small negative overall. It would of been really nice to have a white balance/metering button, a sync port (removed on this model), and also a dedicated video button, but for the price differences it’s understandable why Canon left them out. Here’s a quick list of likes/dislikes about the outside of the camera
While the outside design of the Camera has changed, the user interface is still pretty much the same. Like the Canon 7D the Canon 60d has a built in wireless flash controller (essentially a ST-E2) that will do wireless TTL, and manual triggering of Canon EX flashes. The software interface allows you to modify this via the “Flash Control” menu option. Owners of the 40D/Mark III cameras or after may notice they have this option, the only main difference is the 7D and 60D have the extended option of “Wireless Func.” under the Built-in Flash func. settings. Unlike the 7D which allows you to control 3 groups with the wireless, the 60D limits wireless functionality to 2. This really isn’t a major problem at all, the wireless system is something that’s cool to have, but really never used by many people even when the options there. It’s not something that should be removed, by all means it’s actually very cool, but infrared reliability isn’t great and there are better options for wireless flashing available to a user that the inconvenience of IR really rears it’s ugly head. This is for the end user to determine though, and the inclusion of the wireless function does add value to the camera.
Another sales point for the camera is the ability to apply creative filters to an image, re size the image in camera, and also Raw image processing in camera. It’s another case of “Wow that’s neat, but I’ll probably never us it more than once”, but even more so than the wireless flash option. If one doesn’t have access to a laptop (like traveling and packing light, or just in general) this can be a fun time waster in between shooting. Something this may be really useful for is in use with conjunction with an Eye-Fi card which is supported by the 60D. One can edit in their camera, make creative modifications, and send the newly created image straight to wherever their Eye-Fi destination is. Potentially useful for bloggers or photojournalist at the cutting edge of technology.
Outside of those changes the menu system and interface of the 60D is the same as most recent Canon cameras.
The Canon 60D – Real world use
Now to using the 60D in the real world. I’m personally not a fan of taking shots in a studio of little setups so one can compare iso levels, dynamic range, and various other aspects of the camera and lenses while looking at the same old photos. It’s not that those test and setups are useless, on the contrary they are great, but those test have long been done by other review. Since trying out the 60D for a few days from Aperturent, and also picking up one afterward I’ve been able to use the camera through various scenarios. There’s been the standard portrait shoot, the destination wedding, school work shooting, and of course general shooting. In each one the 60D performed well. Autofocus was accurate, the camera has a nice quick click to it, and both Tiffany and I found the camera to be responsive to everything we needed. The 60D is pretty much what you would expect a Digital SLR to be in this generation. Fast to turn on, fast to focus, reasonably fast fps, and no bottlenecks in the usage. Paired with great L-Series lenses and fast memory cards (very important if you want your SLR’s to feel fast) the 60D didn’t have any use hiccups the whole time.
So lets talk about how the 60D during certain types of shooting. Lets start with portraiture.
The 60d is great for portraits, but than again so is the Canon T2i/7D/5D Mark II and more. I was impressed with the results with the 60d when the camera was paired with lenses ranging from the 24 1.4L all the way to the 300 4L IS. The images were sharp, contrasty, and colorful. This is as much the lenses one uses on the camera as the camera itself though. I was very impressed by how the 100 2.8L IS macro and the new 70-200 2.8L IS II performed on the camera. This is probably from how Canon is optimizing their new lens systems to work for the higher megapixel cameras. Compared to the T2i I like the 60D’s ability to manually enter white balance, it help make portrait sessions easier because its nice getting it right while one shoots. In studio the 60D rocked at portraiture, and worked wonderfully to give great accurate results.
While editing some of the image files from a recent shoot, Tiffany did notice that there was noticeable noise at ISO 400 on the 60D files compared to the 5D Mark II. I personally notice that iso 1600 on the 60D wasn’t as usuable as on the 5D Mark II, but on par with the Rebel T2i and 7D. In this situation it maybe more us being spoiled with full frame cameras. The 60D files did seem to have less leeway with recovery, exposure, and color than the 5D Mark II had, even at low iso shooting. Banding, and luminance noise was quicker to show up during editing.
Overall the 60D was good for portraits, when paired with a great lens. Anyone looking to purchase a 60D for portraits I suggest picking up a prime lens like the Canon 50 1.4, or one of the third party nice 17-50 2.8 solutions. People with deeper pockets look at high end L series glass like the 24-70 2.8L, 70-200 2.8L IS II, 100 2.8L IS Macro, 50 1.2, or 85 1.2l II as great portrait lenses. Look below for more samples of portraiture.
The Canon 60D for weddings
Tiffany and I had a great wedding in Cancun in November which proved a great test for the 60D. One of the things that was really cool about the 60D was that it shared the same battery as the 5D Mark II, which is a major awesome point when it comes to packing since you don’t have to bring a bunch of battery chargers. The light weight of the 60D also made it a pleasing camera to use during the trip, as it was easy to lug around and be at the ready. This was particularly useful during night when the bride and groom to be challenged the island to drinking and Karaoke :).
As a wedding camera the 60D performed amazingly. Tiffany had an easy time using it during the wedding and so did I. It was perfect paired with a 5D Mark II and is even better because of its light weight and use of the same battery. The 7D one ups the 60D only for the fact that it uses CF cards also.
Something that is of annoyance to me is the lost of the sync port. My style of wedding photography mixes on board flash with strobes, so I normally have a pocketwizard triggered by the sync port of my camera. This isn’t an option anymore with the 60D, and requires the purchases of a separate triggering unit.
The Canon 60D for General use
In all the advertising for it the 60D doesn’t claim to be a master of any type of photography, and this actually makes it perfect for general usage photography. With a decent FPS rate compared to the T2i and 5D Mark II, the 60D performs well at sporting events or any events that require a decent FPS speed. I found the 60D just right when it came to most general application photography we were going for such as macro shooting, commercial shooting, and even simply walk around shooting.
This is where to 60D gets a lot of accolades from me, the camera is pretty much a perfect fit to do everything photography wise pretty well. The articulating LCD screen really helps get different angles, the auto focus is the old 9 point AF but it just works and works well. This has always been something that disheartened me on the web, it seems some people are convinced that having more AF points mean the camera will get more in focus, and having less AF points automatically mean your af doesn’t work or it isn’t sharp. The 9 point af system used since the 20d has always been fast and accurate for me, and as Canon adds more cross type af points to their mid range line the af seems to work better. This is subjective though, but as someone who has used these cameras for general use and for critical client use they haven’t let me down. The 60D on paper has improved upon the AF points so this seems to something Canon is addressing in their own ways. Yet if it’s critical to have more AF point options one can spend some more and purchase the 7d which caters to that need.
Something that’s great about the 60D is it’s not really a camera that’s “Too much” and yet the camera will evolve with the photographer that has it. The 60D comes with enough options on it that the photographer doesn’t feel like the quickly outgrow it, which unfortunately happens with the rebel line as the photographer finds some limitations as they use it. The 60D has advance features which the photography can start using to advance their photography, yet is simple and easy to use that you can pick it up and just start shooting. If the photographer feels they can offer professional service, the 60d would transition into a “professional” camera without missing a beat. The camera is also designed well enough that it can cater to both professional and consumer general usage. More of this would be talked about in the conclusion, please enjoy some general usage photos.
The Canon 60D Video
Canon’s award winning video system lives on in the 60D. With video controls and quality comparable to the T2i and 7D there’s not much to write about. Here’s a video done for a class taken this quarter. All live video was done with a Canon 60D lit with a 500 watt tungsten light.
The Canon 60D – Compared to a Canon T2i – Should you buy it?
The 60D falls right into place between the Canon T2i, and 7D. Many people interested in the Canon T2i now have to decide between either the 60D or the T2i, and some who already have the T2i maybe tempted to upgrade. So how does the Canon 60D compare to the T2i, and is it worth difference in price?
If compared side by side the 60D immediately feels like the more robust camera compared to the T2i. The addition of the top LCD on the 60D helps hammer that feeling in, along with the better build quality. The articulating LCD is actually quite useful and is very helpful for new compositions and video recording. In short the 60D physically is a lot better camera than the T2i, and appears more professional. As silly as it may sound this can be a major influence in a person perception of you (A gripped 10D looks more professional than a Canon T2i, though its way worse quality wise).
Image quality wise the camera’s can be very similar. In fact I would say the T2i is pretty much the same image quality as the 60D. Even further if the photographer knows what they are doing, and nail exposure than the cameras could easily get comparable results to a full frame camera.
Personally I had a t2i for general usage the 60D wouldn’t be much of an upgrade. The extra features are nice, but the T2i is an extremely capable camera that produces great results. Saying that the 60D does look better. If one is a photographer looking to do more professional photography, and they are shooting with the t2i the 60D has a chance of making the photographer look more “professional”. Obviously this is subjective, but after years of seeing Rebels get balked about by people who aren’t even familiar with photography it’s a point worth mentioning.
For people looking to purchase either the T2i or Canon 60D, this is hard match. At $699 roughly for a T2i the 60D is nearly 50% more in cost. For general day to day shooters, you won’t notice much difference between the two cameras, and can easily use that extra $300 to purchase a high quality lens (which does more to make a difference in photography than cameras sometimes). If you plan on shooting professionally the 60D is a better buy and will pay the difference fairly quick. As mentioned its more robust and also is built to be used professionally. I would purchase the 60D in this situation.
Should you purchase this camera as a 2nd body to a 7D or a 5d Mark II? Quite simply yes. The 60D is capable of getting great results, the changes aren’t game changing and it’s easy to pick up, and the camera uses the same battery which is really useful. It’s not as versatile as a partner to the 5D Mark II in comparison to the 7d, but it still has that great extra reach because of crop, and a respectable FPS if that matters. You also save $500 from the 7D. Paired with the 7D the 60D still feels like it can hold its own. The only nuisance about the 60D is the different media, but SD cards are so cheap it really is just an issue of where you hold the cards over how many you have.
Conclusion will be written soon
Sample images taken with the Canon 60D.