In Canon's digital SLR range, the EOS 60D sits between the just-above-entry-level EOS 550D and the serious EOS 7D. The 60D has some of the 550D's user-friendliness, while also offering some of the 7D's high-end technology, including its advanced metering system.
The 60D, which replaces the popular EOS 50D, doesn't come cheap. You'll pay around £900 for the body only. Canon supplied our 60D with a bright and stunningly sharp 17-55mm kit lens -- a package that will set you back around £1,800.
Big and fast
At the 60D's heart beats an 18-megapixel, APS-C sized CMOS sensor, offering a magnification factor of 1.6x, no matter which lens is attached. Canon's standard-issue Digic 4 processor affords a burst speed of 5.3 frames per second. That's hardly class-leading but it's still respectable for a consumer model, as is the nine-point autofocus system.
The 60D weighs a reassuringly hefty 755g, including its rechargeable battery and an SD, SDHC or SDXC card, inserted via a slot on the camera's side. The 60D may be bulky but it feels like a piece of kit that will do the job, will last, and will repay your not inconsiderable investment.
The 60D will make you look every inch the serious photographer. It's definitely not a camera for surreptitious shooting, thanks, in part, to the satisfyingly loud 'clunk' that's heard every time the shutter fires.
The camera's response times are blink-of-an-eye quick. Flick the power switch and you can be up and shooting as quickly as you can bring your eye to the optical viewfinder and your forefinger to the shutter-release button. It's very satisfying. With the camera in autofocus mode, focus and exposure are likewise determined in an instant.
The shutter-release button is situated atop a large, well-moulded handgrip, around which you can comfortably wrap three fat fingers. The other controls, including the normal array of command dials, a scroll wheel and sundry dedicated function buttons, fall within reach of your right hand's forefinger or thumb. Consequently, operation feels fluid and natural.
The optical viewfinder is large and reasonably bright, so we didn't find ourselves constantly squinting. A large LCD display on the top of the camera allows you to make key adjustments on the fly, such as altering the drive mode, metering and ISO speed. This saves you having to drill down into the menu system proper. Adjusting each setting merely requires a button press and a twist of a scroll wheel on the back of the camera.
The standard light-sensitivity range of ISO 100 to ISO 6,400 is expandable up to an ISO 12,800 equivalent for situations where light is low but use of a flash is undesirable. Most mid-range dSLRs now offer similar 'see in the dark' abilities. Similarly, the 60D offers the ability to shoot a JPEG file on its own, or capture both a JPEG file and an optimum-quality raw shot at the same time.
The more you play with the 60D, the clearer it becomes that Canon's made a real effort to make its semi-pro camera user-friendly.
One of the clearest indications of this is the 60D's flip-out, swivelling, vari-angle LCD screen with live view. It's a first for the EOS dSLR family. This 3-inch display has a 3:2 aspect ratio (rather than the standard 4:3) and a high resolution of 1,040,000 pixels. Thus, the screen appears lifelike in its clarity, and it does an excellent job of keeping up with the action as you pan and tilt the camera.
The anti-reflective and water-resistant screen proves very useful when framing either stills or 1080p video, thanks to its swivelling nature. Incidentally, the movie mode now has its own icon on the overly crowded shooting-mode dial. That's still a novelty for a dSLR.
Another user-friendly and time-saving touch is the provision of a 'quick control' screen, summoned via the 'Q' button to the right of the swivelling display. This button brings up a toolbar on the left-hand side of the screen that allows you to make sundry adjustments in playback mode. You can also process raw images in-camera, with the resultant image saved as a JPEG.
The 60D offers some 'creative filters' to give a limited boost to your creativity. The toy, grainy black and white, miniature and soft-focus filters can be applied to both raw and JPEG images after they've been taken, rather than at the time of capture. This may not be an essential feature, but it's effective nevertheless -- particularly if you don't want to spend ages in Photoshop to achieve the same effect.
Picture almost perfect
We were very pleased with the natural, yet utterly absorbing, colour tones that the 60D delivered. Bear in mind, though, that, roughly speaking, results will improve proportionally to the amount of money you spend on a lens.
The camera's autofocus system is fast and accurate too, so that, even when faced with busy scenes, it's easier to simply recompose your frame to get the emphasis you desire, rather than switch to manual and possibly lose the moment.
The Canon EOS 60D is a pumped-up powerhouse of a digital SLR. It's crammed full of class-leading but consumer-friendly features (we've only been able to touch on them here), and it may be the only camera that an amateur photography enthusiast will ever need. Professional photographers may also find the 60D to be a robust back-up camera. If you're prepared to cough up the requisite dough, you're unlikely to be disappointed.
Edited by Charles Kloet