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Review: Canon EOS 60D

Copyright © 2012 & 2015 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published: 2012.02.10, Updated 2015.03.17


All images in this entry are Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

Introduction



Canon EOS 60D
As with all my camera/lens reviews, I don’t do shots of charts or brick walls. I test my cameras in real life situations, using the equipment as I intend to use it. There are other sites with more technical statistics and specifications, geared toward gear-heads. The following review is for the average person who’s considering a 60D as their next camera.

Also, I know the camera’s been on the market for a while, so is it pointless to write a review? No. Because: (1) this site is for me — anyone else reading it is just icing on the cake; (2) the camera is still on the market and is likely to be there for many months to come; and (3) there might be just one person who’s helped by this.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I’m very pleased, not at all disappointed.

I already listed many of this camera’s specifications here, when deciding whether to buy this over the 600D (Rebel T3i). And I listed my first impressions on my other blog, here, just after receiving the camera. I’ll try not to repeat much of what was said there, but be aware that some overlap will occur.


Lenses Used In My Tests


I only own seven lenses compatible with Canon EOS cameras, and only used four of them while testing this camera. Three are “prime” (non-zoom) lenses, ranging from 28mm to 85mm in focal length, and one is a telephoto zoom lens. I list them here for reference purposes, along with which tests were performed with each lens.

Sigma 28mm f/1.8 EX DG Macro:
High ISO, burst mode, manual Kelvin, video, live view manual focus, creative filters, wireless flash

Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro:
High ISO, auto-ISO, live view manual focus, wireless remote

Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM:
auto white balance (outdoors), autofocus speed, overall image quality

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro:
Auto-ISO, auto white balance (outdoors), spot meter, auto-focus speed

UPDATE, 2014.04.28: I’ve since used all my lenses on this camera. The Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM fails to achieve desired autofocus for any object farther than a meter away, but this is common with ultra-wide-angle lenses. The Sigma 18-125mm f/3.5-5.6 DC is a low-quality lens and its shortcomings were made more obvious by the high quality of the 60D’s sensor.

Each feature of the camera that I tested is listed below, along with my impressions. The first ones listed are features that helped me choose this camera over the 600D or features that I was looking forward to using regularly. Near the end are my impressions of a few other features or settings that were incidental to my purchase.


White Balance Control


I list this feature first, because it contains my only real disappointment in the 60D so far. Unlike the Rebel-series cameras, the 60D and others like it offer specific color temperature white balance control. My first test of this was indoors, under CFL bulbs that claim to have an output of 2700K. When I set the camera to 2700K, this was my result:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

The curtains and sofa are indeed green, but nothing else in the image should have been. I also tested at 2500K, 3200K, and 4000K in the same setting, with less-than-satisfactory results. Of course, this could be user error. It could be that the lights in question aren’t emitting 2700K light.

A couple of days later, I tested this setting again, with better results. Using an off-camera flash, I was able to match the camera to the light very successfully:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

It may be that I just need more practice, and/or need to find out the actual color temperature of the lights in our living room.

When I set the camera to Auto white balance, it worked as well as my older cameras, if not slightly better, both indoors and outdoors. Here’s an outdoors example:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.


Top LCD Panel


The LCD panel on top of the camera (near the shutter button) has indeed been helpful. With my old 400D, you had to activate the entire main LCD on back to see exposure and other camera settings. With the 60D, itís nice to have those on top for quick reference. For normal shooting, I never have to turn on the back LCD.

(Both cameras have exposure information electronically displayed inside the optical viewfinder.)


Rear Control Dial


This is one of the huge differences between the Canon Rebels and any higher-level Canon DSLR. Having the second wheel to control exposure settings is as big a bonus as I thought it would be. It’s also helpful for navigation through menus.

The dial feels sturdy, as it should.

However, inside that dial is a directional control button for navigating menus. I’ll admit it’s a little small for my fingers, though I can still use it. It reminded me of the cell phone issued to me by my last employer; I had to use a pencil eraser to dial numbers because the buttons were too small.


In-Camera Conversion Of Raw Files


I figured this would come in handy for the rare occasions when I want to immediately give someone a copy of one of my images. Most people don’t have raw-conversion software on their computers. My parents are a good example. Since I shoot exclusively in raw format (.cr2) now, I couldn’t immediately give my parents a copy of an image they like (if I was visiting them). But the 60D can convert a raw file into .jpg in-camera, in just a few seconds. There are even a few raw-editing tools available, including white balance adjustment, exposure adjustment, and others.

For normal work, I still recommend using full-fledged raw-conversion software (DPP for Canon users). And in most cases, I actually enjoy having an excuse to not let others have the images immediately — most of them need a little work.


Long-Life Battery


UPDATED 2014.02.04

The 60D’s battery was rated for 1600 images (under optimal conditions), compared to only 550 for the other camera I considered. I was skeptical, but not anymore. Batteries have indeed come a long way in the last few years. After four days of regular use, exploring the menus, testing live view, recording nearly 200 images and three videos, I’d only used 27% of the battery’s full charge.

[Edited to add: After 16 days of regular use, more live view use, and over 400 images, the first battery still had over 45% power remaining.]

[Edited to add: Two years later, my first two batteries still maintain their charge and perform wonderfully. Example: I charged two batteries in mid-December 2013 and didn’t have to charge them again until February, after recording more than 1,400 images and several videos.]

This brings up another cool thing: any time, I can check the battery’s exact usage. The screen will show percent of charge remaining, and how many shutter actuations took place since the battery was installed. The screen also shows where the battery is positioned — either in the camera, or in the left or right end of the battery grip.

[Edited to add: The Vello BG-C6 battery grip arrived on Feb. 21. See my review of the grip here.]


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.



ISO

(Auto-ISO, ISO expansion, third-stop increments)


Both cameras I considered had a normal ISO range of 100-6400 and both were expandable to ISO12800, three full stops faster than my older cameras, and both have auto-ISO available. The 60D allows third-stop increments when adjusting ISO.

In the film days, there were only two exposure settings: shutter speed and aperture. Your ISO was set by your film, though you could “push” it later. The digital age introduced ISO as a third exposure value, something that could be changed in camera for every shot. But auto-ISO is a relatively new addition. “Tv” mode and “Av” allowed photographers to set some of the exposure values while letting the camera choose one. Now, with auto-ISO, any one of the three exposure values can be automated.

I’ve often shot in situations where I wanted the aperture and shutter speed to be constant, but the light levels were changing, and wished for auto-ISO. It didn’t disappoint. When shooting in “M” mode with auto-ISO enabled, the camera always chose the correct value. The user can also limit the auto-ISO on the high end, to avoid unwanted grain/noise.

I also will have many occasions to use the expanded ISO range of this camera, since at least half my images are made indoors under normal household lighting. So, ISO12800 was the very first feature I tested on this camera. Shutter click #1:


(Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.)
1/80, f/5.0, ISO12800

While I wasn’t happy with the white balance of that image, I was extremely pleased at how the camera handled the noise at such a high gain. (View it larger.) Sure, you could view the original size and tsk tsk over the digital noise, but it’s quite a bit better than even ISO800 just a few years ago. This ability will completely change the way I shoot in low light.

As for ISO ranges once considered very high, the noise is almost non-existent. Here’s an image shot at ISO1250:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

As for third-stop increments, this might not come in quite as handy as I’d hoped. I’m not the kind of photographic perfectionist who pees himself if my exposure is a third-stop over or under. I can correct that in post-processing or even live with a slightly dark or slightly bright image. But it’s nice to have.


Faster Exposure Speed


I liked the idea of having 1/8000 sec. available, in case I wanted to shoot at wide apertures in bright sunlight. Unfortunately, we haven’t had bright sunlight since I bought the camera.

UPDATE, 2015.03.17: Over the past three years, I’ve very often used 1/8000 as my exposure time, due to shooting at wide apertures in the daylight. It’s something that I simply couldn’t do with my older cameras.


Faster Burst Mode


This would’ve come in extremely handy if I were still shooting sports, but I’m not. (And to be honest, my last year or two of sports shooting, I rarely used burst mode anyway; I found it more productive to just wait for the right moment to release the shutter.)

I did test the camera’s burst mode and it does indeed fire 5+ frames per second, in both .jpg mode and raw mode. The shutter sounds better than the Rebel shutters and actually not quite as loud.


Faster Flash Sync


I haven’t tested this. I normally shoot at 1/200 when using flash, and that’s quite fast enough to kill ambient light, at least indoors. In retrospect, this wasn’t so much a “feature” as it was a marketing coup. If it had been really fast, like 1/1000 sec. (like I had on my old Olympus point-and-shoot), it would be more impressive.


Larger Viewfinder


This is a huge bonus, the significance of which I hadn’t realized before I received the 60D. I remember a few years ago, looking through the viewfinder of a friend’s top-level Canon and being amazed at the size of the viewfinder. I assumed it was larger because it was a full-frame camera, and didn’t expect another crop-sensor camera (60D) to have such a large viewfinder.

It’s significantly larger than the optical viewfinder of the Rebel cameras. This should probably be played up more by Canon when marketing (except they’re usually marketing the Rebels, so it might be counterproductive). Having such a larger, brighter viewfinder is incredibly helpful when composing images or using manual focus.


Live View / Articulating LCD


These two features weren’t selling points for me; both cameras that I considered were equipped with Live View and articulating (fold-out) LCD screens. I’ve lived without live view since moving up from compacts to DSLRs, and never really saw the point of a fold-out LCD on a professional-level camera. In my mind, they were features meant to sell cameras to the average consumer who likes cool stuff regardless of whether it’s practical.

After testing, I’ve changed my mind. They actually are both practical, especially when used together.

In video mode, Live View is the only way you can see what you’re filming, since the mirror is locked up during recording. So it basically works like a camcorder’s flip-out screen.

For taking pictures under normal circumstances, I’ll still use the (large) optical viewfinder.

But for recording macro images... That’s where these features really come in handy. Using Live View, you can magnify a portion of the image 10x (electronically) and get absolute precise manual focus, something I’ve never been able to do before. I was even able to do this while handholding the camera and get some of the clearest macro images I’ve ever recorded.

This is a two-inch wide portion of a 4”x4” fence post in my back yard, recorded in cloudy conditions:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

Previously, I would have put the camera on a tripod for this, and still would’ve needed several shots to get it just right.

Using the flip-out LCD screen (facing forward), I can now compose self-portraits easy as pie. I remember all the self-portraits I’d taken in the past, where you compose the image on a mostly blank spot, then set the timer and hurry to get in front of the camera before the picture is taken. And then it’s out of focus.

Not anymore. With Live View visible on the fold-out screen, I can see my face. I can make sure one of my eyes is near the center AF point. I can take the shot at the exact moment I want (using a wireless remote control).


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

Of course it’s possible to get great self-portraits with any camera, even film cameras. But I haven’t found anything before that makes it this easy. Thinking of all the times I’m home alone with my 16-month-old, this could make it very easy to take pictures of the two of us together.

UPDATE, 2015.03.17: I have indeed used the LiveView feature to manually focus many times over the past three years — for family portraits, macros, sunsets, and more, not just macros.


Wireless Remote Control


I was willing to live without a remote control. Canon’s online specs for this camera says that the 60D works with a RS-60E3, which is a wired remote control. They didnít mention any compatibility with a wireless remote. In the cameraís manual, it says to use an RC-6 wireless remote. Neither mentions that the 60D will work with other Canon (and third-party) wireless remotes.

I already had the less expensive RC-1 wireless remote control for my Rebels, so I tested it with the 60D. It worked perfectly, even when using Live View. The above self-portrait was taken using the RC-1 to release the shutter.

This was an unexpected bonus.


Electronic Level


The electronic level was another unexpected bonus. I guess I’d missed this when reading specs pre-purchase, or I didn’t know what it meant so I skimmed over it.

Basically, the camera can tell you whether it’s level. Either in the viewfinder or on the large rear LCD screen, the level can be displayed. Since almost every image I’ve ever recorded has to be corrected for tilted horizons, this will get a lot of use from me.


High-Definition Video


We’d already bought the Nikon Coolpix S6100 partly for its HD video, and are relatively happy with it (and we have a decent camcorder), so I wasn’t intending to use the 60D for videos. But I had to test it. Click here to view my first video from this camera.

Since I hadn’t read the manual, I wasn’t sure how to get the thing started. My wife figured it out by accident, hence the confused nature of this video’s opening moments. I was pleased with the overall quality of the video, especially considering that it was shot under crappy indoor CFL bulbs. Once I realized video was recording and corrected the manual focus, it looks sharp.

I actually plan to record more videos, utilizing some of my high-quality DSLR lenses, just to see what’s possible.

One issue: the .mov file that resulted was incompatible with YouTube for some reason, which is why that video is hosted on Vimeo instead. (The Nikon’s .mov files work perfectly on YouTube however.)

>UPDATE, 2013.10.21: Some time after writing this review, I changed the video settings to a lower resolution, and they then worked just fine on YouTube — most of them.


SD Card


That the 60D uses a tiny SD (or SDHC or SDXC) card for image recording probably won’t be an issue for anyone moving up from the world of compact cameras. They’re already accustomed to it. Personally, I grew to love my CF cards — they’re thicker, and larger in every dimension. I have a hard time holding the SDHC card, have difficulty inserting it and removing it. But all the cameras I considered would have had this same issue for me.

As for performance, it seems to work just fine.

UPDATE, 2013.10.21: Eventually, I had to buy an SDHC card with a faster write speed (right). The original one I’d bought (left) was too slow for video and high-speed bursts.


Silent Shooting


It’s supposed to make the shutter quieter when shooting with Live View, but... As far as I can tell, it makes no difference in sound when you use this feature.


Creative Filters


The four “Creative Filters” built into this camera are there for someone else besides me, but I tested them anyway. It allows you to take a normal image, then apply any of these four filters (miniature effect, grainy black and white, soft focus, or toy camera) with varying degrees of strength.

Here’s my result of the “miniature effect”, with the original image posted below it:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

As far as I can tell, it darkened the image, increased saturation, increased contrast, and then used the “fake tilt shift” effect to trick the eye into thinking the objects are tinier than they are.


Size / Weight


It’s a larger, heavier camera than my 400D:


Copyright © 2012 by Wil C. Fry. All rights reserved.

But I’m accustomed to using a battery grip on the Rebels (see image), so the 60D doesn’t really look large or feel heavy to me. The right-side grip is thicker and protrudes more, but there’s nothing to hold onto at the bottom, so I likely will purchase a third-party battery grip, if for no other reason than to hold the camera, but probably also for the vertical shutter release button.

UPDATE, 2015.03.17: I did of course purchase a third-party (Vello) battery grip, as noted elsewhere. It has stayed on the camera.


Wireless Flash Control


The ability to wirelessly control off-camera flashes via the 60D’s built in pop-up flash is one feature Canon used to market this camera. As someone who uses wireless flash triggers regularly to control off-camera flashes, it wasn’t a selling point for me.

I did however read the pages in the manual regarding this feature; the instructions seemed needlessly complex. I doubt anyone freshly moving up from a compact camera or a lower-level DSLR would understand it at all. I’d recommend flipping through the camera’s menu settings and seeing what works.

Note that you can buy Cactus V4 flash triggers for $40-something, and the newer, better V5 triggers for about $60. Their instructions are simple: (1) put transmitter on your camera’s hot shoe, (2) put flash on receiver’s hot shoe, (3) make sure transmitter and receiver are set to same channel and that flash is turned on, (4) take pictures.

[Edited to add: I tested wireless flash control a few days later. My conclusions are posted here.]


Face Detection


[Edited to add: I discovered and tested “face detection AF mode” on Feb. 20. My conclusions are posted here.]


Images of the 60D and 60D Test Images


What the Camera Looks Like

First Day Test Shots

Second Day Test Shots

Third Day Test Shots


Conclusion


This is the camera I thought/hoped it would be, and — as it turns out — quite a bit more.








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