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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2002-07-31

It's In The Files: A D-60 Users Report
By Peter Read Miller

Photo by
When Amy Kawadler of Canon first told me about Canon's new D-60 at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, I was very skeptical. I was never a big fan of the D-30 and wondered how this new camera had improved upon it. I've been shooting with the D-60 for a month now; here are some of my thoughts.

While the bulk of my shooting is still on film and will be in the foreseeable future -I have worked with most of the major pro digital cameras, particularly the EOS-1D. Since I am not a "digital expert", I am not going into a detailed discussion of technical specs (for a through and enlightening review and analysis of the camera, check out www.dpreview.com).

Instead, I am going to relate the impressions formed by shooting the camera in a number of situations. The camera feels good in my hand, light, but substantial. The optional battery grip is nice with longer, heavier lenses, but I had no trouble holding the camera without it. The grip also gives you space for a second battery, although I got a full day's shooting of over 500 frames on one battery. I think I'd rather have the second battery on the charger, if the situation permitted.

Among the many improvements in the D-60 over its predecessor, the D-30; two really stood out to me as making the camera much more shootable. First, no noticeable shutter delay! In a camera producing files the size of the D-60's that's big-to me, really big. The second is the auto-focus confirm, i.e. the point or points you have selected for AF light up when you focus. No more looking to the top LCD to see which AF point you're on.
The camera's file writing ability is also improved, giving you an 8 frame 3.3 fps burst; or, if you plunk along about every 2 seconds you can go for quite a few frames. Perfect for shooting on strobes you want to review the images from your burst, however, you'll be waiting awhile.

Although, an improvement from the D-30, the D-60's focusing system is a far cry from the superb auto-focus Canon has spoiled us with in the 1D and 1v cameras. While I found the AF very usable in good light for features and portraits, in low light or on fast action, -its not at it's best. This, of course is a function of the camera's roots in Canon's Rebel series of SLR's-on the other hand, the D-60 is less than half the price of the EOS-1D or similar cameras. As expected, the use of fast fixed focal length lenses such as the 24 f1.4, 85 f1.8 or 200 f1.8 did improve the AF performance somewhat.

Everything else on the camera works pretty much as you'd expect. The metering seemed accurate based on my hand held meter. The LCD monitor is bright, easy to read and the menus understandable. Images on the screen appeared to show correct exposure, and of course, the D-60 has that one little feature that the EOS-1D so sadly lacks-the ability to zoom in on the review image. On camera flash worked well, and the D-60 is fully compatible with Canon's wireless multiple strobe system using their 550EX flash units.

So, we have a good camera with fine functionality in most situations-what makes it great? The files! They are big and beautiful; 18 Megs at the largest, very smooth and the RAW file option (I know, not for the deadline folks-but this is how I used the camera) gives you control of exposure, contrast, saturation, sharpness and (to an extent) skin tone; before you ever get into Photoshop. To me RAW was totally the way to go-giving you the so-called "digital negative".

I seriously shot the camera in a number of different situations including: in the studio, on location and an action portrait (shooting and lighting a wakeboarder from a second boat running parallel to her). In all of these I felt that images from the D-60 were definitely comparable with to 35mm film and even in some cases approached the quality of the 21/4 film I would usually shoot in those spots.

In the end, my skepticism has changed to admiration: I liked the D-60 a lot. It's a solid, very usable camera that produces really fine images, images that truly approach the quality of film. I'm sure that Canon will eventually give us this kind of file (or larger?) in a true pro camera (at an appropriately higher cost, of course); until that time the D-60 is, in my opinion, a great way to go.

(Peter Read Miller is a staff photographer with Sports Illustrated based in Southern California. He is a frequent contributor to Sports Shooter and will be one of the featured speakers at the upcoming Sports Shooter Workshop & Luau.)




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