HandlingThe EOS 60D is a bit of a mixed bag in this field. On the one hand, the camera has visibly been very well made. The assembly is flawless and the materials are clearly high quality. Although the EOS 60D doesn't have a weatherproof casing—unlike the K-5 and, to a lesser extent, the D7000— it still feels sturdy and built to last. The swivel screen is a nice touch too, particularly for the video mode, and the various buttons are generally more easily accessible. The buttons that were previously located under the screen have been moved to the right, just under your thumb, and those on the camera's right shoulder have been realigned.
In spite of this, Canon has made a few surprising choices. As well as ditching the excellent mini thumblever in favour of a directional touch-pad and click-round wheel (see sidebar), the on/off button has been moved to the very left-hand edge of the camera, which means you can no longer switch it on and take a snap near-simultaneously. Plus, there's no separate video-record button. This means you have to use the mode selection dial to switch to the video function, and then hit the Live View button. Overall, the D7000 has a better laid-out interface. Its directional touchpad is easier to access and you can start filming video at any moment once the on-screen viewfinder has been activated.
More picky users may find the noise of the built-in flash popping up particularly irritating, and will also be bugged by the viewfider's 96% coverage (the K-5 and D7000 both cover 100% of the field). Then again, you may also find it something of a relief to hear that depth of field gauge has finally been moved to the correct side of the camera, for easy access with your index finger.
On-screen image quality is excellent, with a deltaE of 2.4 (good computer monitors generally can't do much better), a gamma that's an almost perfect 2.2 and just a very slight blue tinge in light shades. The EOS 60D is the first digital camera to have our new screen test included in its review, but we can already tell you that quality of the display varies dramatically between this camera and its competitors.
ResponsivenessThere's not much to say here: the EOS 60D sets a new standard with almost instant start-up (the sensor is cleaned when you switch the camera off) and a fast autofocus that only slows down slightly in low light.
Things are a little more problematic with the on-screen viewfinder, however. While Nikon and Pentax have largely improved their autofocus systems in Live View shooting mode, Canon's is still noticeably slower than the systems found in the average compact camera. This means it isn't much use in practice—unless you can be sure to stay away from he likes of running children and jumping animals. Apart from that, the 60D is a very responsive SLR.
Picture QualityAs expected, genuine expert SLRs are becoming something of a rarity. Like the competitors' models, and now even in entry-level models, speckling noise starts to appear at 1600 ISO. At 3200 ISO, Canon keeps noise under control with a touch of smoothing, but the pictures are still pretty decent up to 6400 ISO. At this point, the EOS 60D feels further removed from a film-based camera than the K-5 or D7000, as while the 60D takes Jpeg shots with visible chromatic aberration, the Nikon and Pentax models tend to show the kind of speckling fuzz and glowing brightness typically seen in 35 mm SLRs. However, the Canon's pictures do have a less coarse granularity to them.
Overall, the D7000 seems to be the best of the bunch in this category, but it seems that the days when one model stood out head and shoulders above the rest are now clearly over. Plus, a blind test showing the photos to various people in our office showed that picking 'the best' shots was ultimately a matter of personal taste.
You may be wondering why we only gave the EOS 60D four stars in this field. The reason is simple: the phase detection autofocus system just isn't reliable enough. With the contrast detection autofocus (on-screen viewfinder, below right), focusing is incredibly accurate and the whole frame looks clear and sharp, both in wide-angle and telephoto mode. This also serves to confirm the quality of the 18-135 mm lens (a lens we already liked with the EOS 550D).
With the same camera settings, the shot on the left shows the phase detection autofocus and the shot on the right show the autofocus by contrast metering.
Compare the Canon EOS 60D to other digital cameras in our product face-off.
VideoLike its rivals, the EOS 60D films in Full HD. Interestingly, the video is recorded as 1920 x 1088 pixels instead of in the standard 1080, but that doesn't have any visible impact on quality. The picture quality in video mode is truly excellent, with loads of fine detail and hardly any speckling video noise.
The sound is OK, but it's captured in mono and isn't particularly impressive. Thankfully, you can hook up an external mic, which will definitely be handy for anyone who's serious about video.
- High-quality build, well-defined swivel screen
- Good picture quality in video mode
- General responsiveness: start-up, saving shots, autofocus
- Handles ISO sensitivity well
- Excellent handling
- Autofocus not reliable enough via optical viewfinder
- Autofocus slow with on-screen viewfinder
- Some nice design features lost (mini thumbstick, on/off button moved etc.)
- Built-in microphone records mono sound
The Canon EOS 60D has plenty of qualities that stand it in good stead against the Nikon D7000 and Pentax K-5. However, although it's an excellent expert SLR with plenty of great features (notably the swivel screen), it's perhaps a little too much of a lightweight to pose any real threat to its two main rivals.