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Canon EOS 60D review: Canon EOS 60D

Canon EOS 60D

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
7 min read

The Good

Very fast; articulated display; excellent video quality and options.

The Bad

Some annoying interface conventions.

The Bottom Line

The Canon EOS 60D is in many ways a great camera: fast, feature-packed, and with excellent photo and video quality. Some annoying aspects of its control layout dim its shine a little, however, so try before you buy.

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 ones I shot more than a year ago. 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.

Like the D7000, the 60D is fast--though it's slower than its predecessor in some aspects. It powers on and shoots in 0.2 second. It takes only 0.3 second to focus and shoot in good light, which rises to 0.5 second in lower-contrast conditions; these are significantly faster than the 50D, thanks to the updated autofocus system. Two sequential shots run 0.5 or 0.6 second, for JPEG and raw, respectively. These lag behind the 50D, but that's likely because of the 60D's much larger files. At 5fps, I can't really call the 60D's burst performance disappointing, but it's a full frame slower than the 50D and a bit more sluggish than the D7000. This may also be attributable to the large files. It's still fast enough for anyone who's not shooting fast-moving pro sports or land-speed-record wildlife. The same goes for the autofocus system: it's fast and relatively accurate enough for most amateurs.

  Canon EOS Rebel T2i Canon EOS 50D Canon EOS 60D Canon EOS 7D Nikon D7000
Sensor (effective resolution) 18-megapixel CMOS
(4 channel readout)
15.1-megapixel CMOS
(4 channel readout)
18-megapixel CMOS
(4 channel readout)
18-megapixel CMOS
(8 channel readout)
16.2-megapixel CMOS
(4 channel readout)
22.3 mm x 14.9mm 22.3 mm x 14.9mm 22.3 mm x 14.9mm 22.3 mm x 14.9mm 23.6 x 15.6mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 6,400/25,600 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 3.7 fps
6 raw/34 JPEG
6.3 fps
16 raw/90 JPEG
16 raw/58 JPEG
15 raw/94 JPEG
n/a raw/100 JPEG
magnification/ effective magnification
95% coverage
95% coverage 0.95x/0.59x 96% coverage
100% coverage 1.0x/0.63x 100% coverage
Autofocus 9-pt AF center cross-type 9-pt AF center cross-type 9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 19-pt AF all cross-type; center cross-type to f2.8 39-pt AF
9 cross-type
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability n/a 150,000 cycles 100,000 cycles 150,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Metering 63-zone iFCL 35 zones 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 2016-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
None H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/25p/24p; 720/60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/25p/24p; 720/60p/50p 720/24p Motion JPEG AVI
Rated estimated max HD video length 4GB
(12 minutes)
n/a 4GB
(approx. 12 minutes)
(approx. 12 minutes)
20 minutes
LCD size 3 inches fixed
1.04 megapixels
3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3 inches articulated
1.04 megapixels
3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Memory slots 1 x SDHC 1 x CF 1 x SDXC 1 x CF 2 x SDXC
Wireless flash No No Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 550 shots 640 shots n/a 800 shots 1050 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.0 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 5.7 x 4.1 x 3.1 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 5.2 x 4.2 x 3.0
Body operating weight (ounces) 18.6 29.8 27 35 27.3
Mfr. Price $799.99 (body only, est) $1,099.99 (body only) $1,099.99 (body only) $1,699 (body only) $1,199.95 (body only)
$899.99 (with 18-55mm lens) n/a $1,399.99 (with 18-135mm lens) $1,799.99 (with 18-135mm lens, est) $1,499.95 (with 18-105mm lens)
Ship date March 2010 October 2008 November 2010 October 2009 October 2010

Though the camera still only supports a three-shot bracket, the range has been expanded to three stops (in 1/3-stop increments). And at users' request, the company has added a 3:2 aspect ratio setting. From a specification perspective, there are some backward steps, including a less durable shutter mechanism than the 50D.

Canon's version of an easy mode, Creative Auto, now operates via what it calls "ambience selection"--Standard, Vivid, Soft, Warm, Intense, Cool, Brighter, Darker, and Monochrome--for which you can set it to one of three levels. I'm still not a big fan of CA, especially in this class of camera. The scene modes also now utilize the ambiance selection options, making them a little more flexible. (For a full accounting of the 60D's features and operation, you can download the PDF manual.)

Though it lacks the coverage of the D7000's, the viewfinder is still big, relatively bright, and comfortable to use. But elsewhere, my biggest gripe is with the design. It's as if Canon purposefully tried to deviate from the very functional 7D layout just to be different, or--even worse--to make the camera less fluid to use in order to "persuade" commercial shooters to buy the more expensive model. For instance, the new mode dial has a locking button to prevent accidental turns. That's good. But the button is in the middle of the dial, and pressing it down while turning is quite awkward. Worse, rather than offer a dedicated Live View/Video switch as on the 7D, the 60D has a video mode on the dial. When you do a lot of jumping back and forth between still and video, having to constantly rotate the dial back and forth almost completely around gets foot-stompingly frustrating. And the custom settings still don't support most video options. Canon has also replaced the wheel and joystick controls with a wheel with a multiway rocker switch inside it. I found the switch too flat with little tactile feedback.

The 60D is in many ways a great camera; it's fast, with a great feature set, especially for video, and produces excellent photos and videos. It's just not quite as fast as the D7000 for burst shooting, and I wish Canon would stop randomly futzing with its interfaces (which it does with the point-and-shoot lines as well). But if shooting video is your primary goal, it does edge out the D7000 in that respect.

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)  
Canon DOS Rebel T2i
Canon EOS 7D
Canon EOS 60D
Nikon D7000
Canon EOS 50D
Nikon D90

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


Canon EOS 60D

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Image quality 8