Hands-On Preview of the Canon EOS 60D Digital SLR (UPDATED)

Aug 25, 2010
By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

Canon 60D peek

Canon unveiled its newest digital SLR this morning, the 18-megapixel EOS 60D which boasts a full 1080p HD video recording mode and a 3-inch swiveling LCD screen. The 60D is a replacement for the 15.1MP Canon EOS 50D, a prosumer digital SLR that received mixed reviews when it was released two years ago.

The 60D, like it's predecessor, uses a smaller APS-C CMOS image sensor which magnifies lenses by 1.6x. The 60D will ship at the end of September for an estimated priced of $1,099, body only. It will also be sold as a kit with Canon's EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom lens for $1,399. The Canon BG-E9 battery grip for the 60D will sell for $270.

In addition to the HD video mode and the tilting, twisting, turning superfantastic upside down LCD screen which helps you compose over-the-head or low angle shots, the 60D has a decidedly lighter build than its predecessor.

We got to take a pre-production 60D for a spin a few weeks ago and while it didn't feel fragile in comparison to the 50D, it was not as hefty as that camera which was built like a tank.

According to a Canon rep we spoke with, the 60D has a polycarbonate plastic resin exterior over an aluminum chassis. It weighs 2.3 ounces lighter than the 50D: 26.6 ounces (60D) vs. 28.9 ounces (50D).

Weighing Options
Though camera weight may seem like a small point, it gives us an eye on how Canon is positioning the 60D. Where the 50D ($1,399) and the 7D ($1,700) had similar sturdy builds, the 60D ($1,099) leans more towards the entry-level Canon Rebel T2i. That's not such as bad thing -- the T2i is a great little camera -- but it's important to consider if the 60D whets your whistle.

Along with the extensive use of plastic, the 60D is more rounded and angular than the 50D was. There's also more texturized rubber on the exterior of the camera and it's easy to hold and feels good in your hand. There's a new mode dial that locks into place to prevent accidental switches. (Yes, it happens.)

To move the dial to another mode, you have to press a button in the center. It seemed to work pretty well and was not nearly as sticky as a similar system on the Pentax K-7.

In another indication that Canon is gearing this camera towards the amateur set, shooting speed is slower than the 50D, with the 60D offering 5.3 frames per second bursts compared to 6.3fps for its predecessor. The 60D's buffer offers 58 JPEGs or 16 RAW images before it locks up.

The 60D's autofocus system does not seemed to have changed in three generations of cameras in this class: 9-point AF with all cross-type sensors. In our testing with a pre-production 60D, the AF system was, unsurprisingly, right on par with what's come before it: not bad but not exactly sprightly if you're planning on shooting fast action sports. Instead of a Compact Flash Card as on the 50D, the 60D accepts SD/SDXC/SDHC cards.

The 60D uses the DIGIV 4 processor and offers adjustable stereo sound through the mic jack. ISO ranges from 100 to 6400 standard, with the ability to expand it to 12,800 in the camera's custom function settings.

ISO 100, 1/200th, f/4.0, 100mm
(Click to enlarge.)

Mind the Gap
The Canon rep we spoke with claims they've narrowed the space between the micro lenses on the 60D's image sensor to create "gapless microlenses" which absorb more light and help reduce noise. While we can't give a verdict on image quality since it was a pre-production camera we were testing, we can say the 60D fared a lot better than expected at ISO 1600-3200. (See some examples of images we shot on the next page.)

So while most of the general specs of the 60D aren't that impressive on paper, the key to this camera is two things: the 1080p HD video mode and the articulating screen, which is a first for a Canon DSLR.

We shot with the camera in and around The Cloisters in upper Manhattan and genuinely enjoyed the experience. (It's not like working with a 1D-series DSLR but what is?)

The twisting LCD with its 104 million dots of resolution helped us compose overhead shots of the ornate carved stone faces in the top sections of columns at The Cloisters (see image on the next page.)

Video Star

Though we didn't shoot a lot of video -- there weren't too many interesting moving objects -- HD movies were a snap to record thanks to the dedicated video button on back of the camera. There's also a new wind filter to clean up the sound; and a movie crop mode for trimming clips and zooming in to 7x. It's only offered for standard definition video though.

Like the 7D and the T2i, video comes in several formats in the 60D: 1080p at 30, 25, and 24p; and 720p at 50 and 60p. Maximum recording time is 11 minutes. The camera has an 8-channel read-out and can capture 14-bit images. The 60D's viewfinder offers 96% coverage. There's also wireless flash control and in-camera RAW image processing.

Canon's added a smattering of built-in filters for tweaking your shots in camera: grainy B&W filter, soft focus filter, miniature filter, and a toy camera filter. We tried them all and they were...cute. (That's really all there is to say about them.) There's also a way to put copyright info onto your images without having to remove them from your camera.

Yes, the 60D is an interesting low-mid-tier digital SLR but probably not the breakthrough camera pro photographers have been waiting for. That could be on it's way though. The big Canon Expo show is taking place in New York City next week and who knows what's on the horizon.

To see more sample images, go to the bottom of this page and click through.

ISO 1250, 1/40th, f/2.8, 25mm
(Click to enlarge.)

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