Nikon D60 review: Nikon D60

I'm not entirely certain why, but while the D40 had a flash sync speed of 1/500 second, the D40x and now the D60 have a sync speed of 1/200 second, as does the Canon Rebel XSi. Both the Pentax K200D and the Olympus E-510 sync at 1/180 second, while the Sony A200 and Panasonic Lumix L10 have sync speeds of 1/160 second. If you don't know what a sync speed is, it's the fastest shutter speed you can use with the camera's built-in flash. Since there are times when you need a fast shutter speed to stop the motion of a subject, but still might need to use the flash as fill flash (perhaps for a backlit subject in motion, such as a soccer player running toward you down the field), the general rule is that a faster sync speed is better. As such, the Nikons' and Canon's sync of 1/200 second is the best of the budget bunch, but it would've been even nicer if Nikon would've kept the 1/500 second speed of the D40.

The D60 performed well in our lab tests, showing a slight improvement over the D40x in its low-light shutter lag and RAW shot-to-shot times, but was a tad slower on start up, though it's still plenty fast. The camera took 0.4 second to start up and capture its first JPEG and took 0.5 second between subsequent JPEGs with the flash turned off. With the flash turned on, that stretched to 0.8 second, while the camera took 0.5 second between shots when shooting RAW. Shutter lag measured an impressive 0.4 second in our high contrast test and 0.7 second in our low contrast test, which respectively mimic bright and dim shooting conditions. However, in my field tests, the camera did get confused on several occasions when shooting in dim light. Sometimes, it would fail to achieve focus in situations where a lot of cameras were able to achieve focus. When it was able to focus in dim situations, it locks rather quickly, but it just isn't quite as reliable as some more expensive Nikons, or as reliable as I remember the D40x to be. In our continuous-shooting test, the D60 was able to capture an average of 2.8 frames per second (fps), putting it extremely close to Nikon's claim of 3 fps.

Image quality from the Nikon D60 is very nice, though our numerically based color accuracy test, and close side-by-side scrutiny with images from other very accurate (and more expensive) models, showed that its images aren't quite as color accurate as competitive cameras we have tested so far. However, most people won't be able to tell a major difference in this area. Unless you're completely fanatical about colors being represented absolutely exactly as they exist (something most consumer-oriented film rarely did back in the day), then it shouldn't be a major issue for you. This is especially true since the D60 turned in pleasing, if slightly oversaturated, colors and in other ways its image quality is nice for a camera of its class.

The D60 includes Nikon's 3D Matrix Metering II to determine exposure when not using center-weighted, or spot metering. Nikon's Matrix mode does a very good job of determining the best exposure for a given scene. Generally, it seems to make the most logical compromise between preserving highlight or shadow detail. For example, if faced with a high contrast scene and the area of highlight detail is significantly smaller than the main area of shadow detail, the camera will likely sacrifice the highlights to hold onto the shadows. However, since the system also compares the given scene with a database of images, the camera should notice if you're shooting a portrait, or other scene, in which a simple compromise wouldn't be best. I have to say that I am impressed with the camera's metering.

As has been the case with other Nikon SLRs recently, the D60 does a very good job of keeping noise in check. At ISO 100 and ISO 200, noise is virtually nonexistent and only starts to creep in at ISO 400, though it doesn't take away any significant amount of sharpness or shadow detail. By ISO 800 a minor amount of grain is present, a very minor amount of sharpness becomes softened, and an equally small amount of shadow detail falls away. Even at ISO 1,600 there is a decent amount of shadow detail and a ton of sharpness given such a high sensitivity in an entry-level SLR. At ISO 3,200, which Nikon calls Hi1, noise is quite heavy, a large amount of shadow detail is lost, and while noise obscures a lot of sharpness, there's still quite a bit. Still, I suggest sticking with ISO 1,600 and below whenever possible.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200
0.5 
0.6 
1.2 
0.3 
Nikon D60
0.4 
0.5 
0.7 
0.4 
Olympus Evolt E-510
1.3 
0.8 
1.3 
0.4 
Pentax K100D
1.2 
0.5 
1.3 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Typical continuous-shooting speed  
Nikon D60
2.8 

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