What a difference two years makes in DSLR Land. The replacement for 2008’s 50D, the new Canon EOS 60D not only has more resolution, higher ISO capability and the ability to take Full HD videos, it even has a swivel LCD screen. Given all these improvements, the price happily remains the same. Let’s see if this $1,100 camera is worth the cash…
Features and Design
Front on, the EOS 50D and 60D could be twins other than the remote control sensor on the new camera’s pistol grip. Like the older model, the 60D is a dressed-in-black DSLR with a nicely textured surface. The hefty camera feels solid, as it should since it weighs about 1.5 pounds before the lenses are attached. You have a choice of 60-plus EF and EF-S lenses to choose from; we tested it with an EF-S 18-135mm stabilized zoom. Canon is always judicious with labels and decals so the 60D has a subtle vibe (if carrying a black brick around can be subtle). On the front you’ll also find an AF Assist lamp, lens release button, DC-in and a mono microphone. There’s an input on the side for an external stereo mic in case you want enhanced sound for your videos. Nice touches are audio level controls in the menu system. Speaking of GUIs, the menu system is the basic tree/branch format Canon’s used for years. It’s not an iPad but understandable and easy to use.
When you look at the top of EOS 60D you’ll notice a key feature that separates this type of DSLR from those targeted to newbies—it has a large status display. Since avid shutterbugs want to know exactly what their settings are, a quick glance at the LCD display does that. As you tweak the camera (ISO, metering, focus and so on) you can quickly see the changes. Press a button with a light blub icon near it, and the display lights up for making adjustments in the dark. On the left side is the mode dial and this has a new wrinkle. You must press the button in the middle of the dial to turn it since it locks into position. Canon said they did this in response to consumers whose dials moved during a session. This has never happened to us but if it makes people happy, why not? For the next go-round, Canon engineers should allow the dial to turn 360-degrees so you don’t have to turn it back-and-forth to access the 15 options ranging from auto, full manual and movie. Sitting behind the auto pop-up flash is a hot shoe and there are four buttons above the LCD display (AF, Drive, ISO and Metering) to access those features. Near these buttons is a nicely-positioned jog dial for advancing through options and an angled shutter button on the comfortable grip.
The back of the EOS 60D features the major design difference with the 50D. Instead of a fixed position 3-inch LCD monitor, the 60D has a vari-angle 3-incher rated 1.04MP versus 921K of the discontinued model. Tiltable screens are great for taking shots at different angles rather than just eye level. When you’re not using the screen, it can be turned inwards to protect the surface. Good stuff…
Of course you’ll find the viewfinder here with diopter control – it’s fairly bright with 96% coverage. A feature popping up on more cameras is an Electronic Level Display where an onscreen line appears, helping you take a straight horizon. It easily appears on the 3-inch LCD by pressing in the Info key in Live View but takes engaging a custom key setting to see it in the lower part of the viewfinder; it’s not as cool since it just shows angle intensity (1-9) not a line like you’d see in a flight sim. It’s helpful but not nearly as good as the LCD display. The Sony SLT-A55V has this in its viewfinder screen because it’s an EVF rather than the optical viewfinder used in most other DSLRs.
Another difference between the 50D/60D is the red dot record button for HD videos found here. Unlike a digicam where you simply hit the record button and capture movies, with this DSLR you need to turn the mode dial to Movie, then hit the button. It’s just an additional step, no big issue. We did have an issue with the new 8-direction Multi-Control Dial which is within the larger Quick Control Dial. It’s not very intuitive as to what this inner dial controls (it’s used to select AF points among other things). From left to right you’ll see easily understandable keys for on/off, delete, menu. Info, playback, Q for quick access to camera adjustments which vary by mode, AF on and zoom keys to closely examine images.
On the right side is the SDHC/SDXC card compartment while the left has a small speaker and external mic, mini HDMI, USB and remote control ins/outs. The bottom of the Made In Japan ESO 60D has a metal tripod mount and the battery compartment.