As it seems with every other generation of Canon dSLRs, the EOS 50D was a solid, if somewhat uninspired, follow-up to the extremely well-received 40D. Now it's the 60D's turn to be the interesting model. It combines some of the best elements of the T2i and 7D in an updated--and occasionally frustrating--redesigned body.
The photo quality is excellent overall. It delivers relatively clean JPEGs up through ISO 800. You can spot some noise in shadows at that level that's not there in ISO 400 images, but there's little detail degradation. ISO 1,600 is about as high as I'd shoot JPEGs. In part, that's because at around ISO 3,200, hot pixels start to appear as part of the 60D's noise, and they become a serious issue by ISO 6,400. You can process them away if you shoot raw. However, the trade-off seems to be tonal range; you lose a fair bit of shadow detail, which the JPEGs seem to attempt to preserve, in pursuit of cleaner images.
Exposure and metering live up to my expectations. Canon's 14-bit processing pipeline tends to deliver nice tonal range results, and the 60D seems to preserve detail in shadows and highlights pretty well.
As with its other dSLRs, Canon doesn't reveal the baseline settings for the neutral and faithful color styles, so it's kind of difficult to tweak them with confidence; I usually end up doing most of my shooting with the neutral setting adjusted for sharpness increased a couple of notches.
Compared with the D7000, the 60D's noise profile and JPEG processing looks strikingly similar. The biggest difference between the two is the automatic white balance; I found that the D7000 routinely delivered better results, and in one mixed-lighting case where I had no issues with the D7000 I had to resort to manual white balance with the 60D.
The most notable enhancement over the 50D is, of course, video capture, and the 60D acquits itself very well. Motion looks smooth, and I couldn't even force it to exhibit any rolling shutter. I did see some moire, however. At its highest quality, it seems to deliver an average bit rate of roughly 44Mbps. It offers the set of frame rates and manual exposure controls that have made Canon's dSLRs a favorite among the small but vocal group of indie filmmakers. Though the built-in microphone is mono, it sounds surprisingly good, and there's a wind filter along with the same sound controls as the 5D Mark II: 64 levels. Canon added support for the highlight-tone priority option in movie shooting as well. There's a card performance indicator that it will pop up during movie shooting with buffer status if necessary, and if your card isn't fast enough it will simply stop. To get that to happen I had to dig out a really low-end card, though.
The 3-inch articulated LCD is also a great boon for shooting video. Though it's a very nice LCD, I frequently had trouble viewing it in direct sunlight.
I wasn't quite as enamored of the 15-85mm kit lens this time around as I was when I tested it with the 7D (two different lenses). My more recent shots displayed more distortion and fringing than the. I'm not sure why this happened, and as always, user inconsistency is an option, but so is in-camera distortion control and changes to the lens manufacturing over the course of the year.