For those of you with Nikon DSLRs looking to change cameras, buy for someone else or in need of a second body, the D60 is the direct replacement to the D40x and is identical to its predecessor externally. Actually that's not entirely accurate, but you'll have to look hard to see why.
Nikon D60 Specification
- Sensor: CCD- 10.2 Mp
- Image Size: 3872 x 2592
- Lens: Nikon F mount with AF contacts
- Focus: Advanced TTL Auto/Manual
- Exposure: Auto prog./AP/SP/M/
- Metering: 3D Matrix/CW/Spot
- Monitor: 2.5in TFT LCD
- Other Features: 3fps for 100 shots
- Movie Mode: No
- Storage: SD or SDHC Cards
- Batteries: Li-Ion Pack
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 126x94x64mm - 495g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
If we were to look at the D60 from a resolution point of view, it competes with the older EOS 400D. This sounds great as the Nikon is newer, so has better other features. However, with the advent of the EOS 450D, Nikon are losing out by 2Mp. Even though they have a camera with 51 autofocus points, the D60 only has three thus being outdone again by the Canon's 9 focus points. The comparable Pentax K20D has 11 points and, like the Nikon, the Olympus E-510 has three.
Nikon D60 Modes and features
Looking closely, will single out the subtle difference in the two bodies. Sandwiched nicely between the screen and optical viewfinder are two motion sensors and these deactivate the screen when you move your eye to the viewfinder.
Switching on the camera activates the sensor cleaning which incorporates the same ultrasonic wave technology as you will find on the D60's bigger brother, the D300. This action is also performed when turning the camera off.
Looking at the bright screen has a default creamy, grey colour with information dotted all over. The right side is dominated by a quick use menu which is accessed by pressing the i button on the bottom left of the camera. The main screen shows the shutter speed and aperture in bold lettering as well as a quick reference diagram next to it. When the shutter speed is manipulated in Shutter priority or Manual, a series of dashes around the aperture diagram adjust to a slower or faster speed. Likewise, when the aperture is changed, the circle shrinks and expands to show how open or closed it is.
Neither of these features can really be used to judge the shutter speed or aperture unless you get used to them through a massive amount of use. It's the same thing as using the noise of your car engine to judge how fast you're going.
Inside is where the upgrades have been made. In fact, it seems at first glance, that the D60 may have been released solely to get a new model out with the EXPEED sensor and to show off the Vibration Reduction (VR) lens.
However, Active D-lighting has been added to the D60 which, like the dust removal, is taken from the D300. For those who have not owned a Nikon digital compact in the last few years, this is an upgraded feature from the compacts normal D-Lighting which allows you to take a shot with reduced contrast.
The Active D-Lighting adjusts the shot at the time of shooting instead of post processing. Not surprisingly, the D60, being an entry level DSLR, hasn't got the same leeway that the D300 has and the Active D-Lighting is a simple On and Off affair instead of the Low, Medium and High options.
An Electronic Rangefinder mode has been added and this is available in Manual focus only. In the Set-up menu, CSM/Set up must be changed to Full, then Rangefinder will appear as option 19 in the Custom setting menu. When shooting, the display usually reserved for showing under or over exposure in Manual mode is used to show whether the shot is in focus or not.
This means that the age old action of having to focus and recompose for off centre objects comes back into play as the camera will only say whether the subject in the centre is focused or not and the rangefinder can't be used in Manual mode.
In addition to the usual RAW and Jpeg recording modes, a combination of the two can be taken of a single image. The RAW images taken in this mode, or in RAW only mode can also be converted to JPEG in camera. This is the same feature as is available on other makes in this classification like the Canon EOS 400D.
One cool feature available is similar to the Multiple image feature found on the Pentax K20D. Image overlay allows you to combine two images into one. The difference with the D60 is that any images on your memory card can be used as long as they are RAW. With the Pentax, the images used have to be taken at that moment and they are overlaid at the time of processing.
To help with the ultrasonic wave dust removal at the start up and power down, Nikon have installed a small vent just to the bottom corner of the wall next to the mirror. This uses the airflow created by the reflex action of the mirror to carry the dust away from the sensor and out of the mirror chamber.
An ingenious idea that ensures the sensor remains dust free if the ultrasonic wave fails to remove it all.
Nikon D60 Build and handling
Excepting the minor cosmetic difference to allow for the motion sensor, the Nikon D60 is a clone of the D40x and share the same size and weight. The D40x review mentioned a cheapish feeling to the plastic used as the casing and I have to agree that the D60 is no different. As with all Nikons, though, the camera feels solid and comfortable to hold.
The menu has been broken down into five separate tabs for quick access. These are for Playback, Shooting, Custom, Setup and Retouch options. Luckily, the Playback and Shooting menus only have one page each to reduce the amount of time flicking through scores of options and sub-menus.
This all makes for the camera being very easy to use and with it being directed at entry level consumers, that's a good thing.
A useful feature for landscape or wildlife photographers who will be seated behind the camera for a long period is an animated view of the mode dial when it's turned. This displays on the monitor and shows the mode you've switched to and saves having to move the camera or stand up.
Nikon D60 Flash options
As well as the hotshoe for accepting Nikon TTL and i-TTL flashguns, the Nikon D60 has an in-built flash with Red eye, Red eye Slow for lighting up dark backgrounds, Flash Slow which is the same as the previous option but without the Red eye reduction and Rear curtain sync which will fire the flash when the curtain closes instead of when it opens.
The distance guide for the built-in flash is 12m or 13m in Manual mode.
Nikon D60 Performance
I've compared the D60 to the D40x a lot in this review and that's simply due to the fact that they are so very similar.
I found using the camera annoyed me in some cases such as when reviewing the picture just taken, I pressed the quick menu button to access the features on screen and in Playback it's used as the zoom button. This means I kept cropping into the picture instead of choosing my next function.
I went on a trip to Cadwell Park and took the D60 with me. It was a miserable, cold day and the lack of light meant I had to push the ISO up meaning an otherwise lovely, sharp shot started to deteriorate. The blue Lotus was shot at ISO800 in order to get the required 1/160th second shutter speed for the panning shot.
The colour chart shot shows the same kind of results that the D40x gave in the test. Boosts in Blue and Red are contradicted by a more muted Green. The skin tone is a little flat for my tastes, but the tones have come out great.
For the landscape image, I took the picture of the lock in Landscape mode, then switched to Program to get the same scene using the Active D-Lighting. The landscape image in Landscape mode has given a nice, contrasty shot but their is a lack of sky definition that gets my goat in this mode.
Looking at the shot with D-Lighting activated, more detail has been given to the winch and sky which is great, but I don't like the more neutral lock post. If the winch and sky had the detail with the saturated grass and punchier contrast of the concrete on the shot without D-Lightenabled, I think that would be a perfect exposure.
The portrait shot produced varying results. The Portrait mode set the aperture to f/5.3 which is suitable for this type of photography. The image has the same warmness of the Programmable Aperture priority mode, but I detect a little softness.
The shot in Program mode is the best i have ever seen. The sharpness of the image is incredible with excellent detail on the eyes. I fired flash to see how it would affect the cast of the shot and the warmth has evaporated. A heavy shadow is also visible behind Becky, but that's a problem with built in flash.
The old colourchart is highlighted for comparison with other DSLRs we reviewed in the past. Blue and Red boosted and a slightly flatter Green.
The ISO was cranked up to ISO800 due to the weather, but image is good although the noise does distort the clean lines of the car. This shot was taken at f/10 with a shutter speed of 1/160th second. Take a look at our panning technique guide here.
A detail of the VR facility of the lens turned off. Handheld shot at f/5.3 1/15th second at ISO100.
The same shot with VR turned on. VR is controlled on the lens. Also shot handheld at f/5.3 1/15th second at ISO100.
Taken in Aperture priority at f/5, the arm in the background has started to slip out of focus.
A close examination of the eyes on this image shot in Program with flash shows an incredibly sharp result. The warmness of ambient light is lost.
The Portrait image isn't much warmer than the Aperture priority shot. The image is softer with shadows less defined.
The lock image in landscape mode. Gives good results, but is taken at f/7.1 which is not the expected aperture for landscape shots.
This image of the lock was taken with the Active D-Light enabled.
The same image with D-Light switched off gives a less detailed sky.
Nikon D60 Noise test
The new EXPEED processor has worked a treat on the lower ISO ratings with super smooth results on ISO100 and 200. A very very faint sharpening begins to appear on ISO400 but only at full size enlargement. Their is still plenty of detail in the petals even at ISO800, even though the noise has started to show.
ISO1600 is where the magic of the new processor shines. There's no point in fudging it and saying that no noise is evident. It is, but the amount for this kind of ISO rating is minimal. Pinkish tones have started to appear in dark areas, but plenty of detail is still available on the petals and they're all still a decent colour.
I'm amazed at the result of ISO1600 from this entry level DSLR. Well done Nikon.
The ISO100 test.
| The ISO200 test.
| The ISO400 test.
|| The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Nikon D60 Verdict
Nikon are in a position where they have an almost biblical status with a group of followers that are so loyal, it borders on fanaticism. Nikon could, in fact, sit back on their laurels, soaking up the limelight and spit out camera after uninspiring camera. Luckily, they don't. They carry on bringing out new cameras with innovative ideas that push others into rethinking their products.
I'm surprised at the resolution being only 10Mp, but hopefully this is an indication of the pixel race slowing down and it's not a bad thing.
Nikon D60 Plus points
Excellent Noise results
Rangefinder brings fun to manual mode
Attractive screen graphics
Active D-Lighting from the D300
EXPEED processor, also from the D300
In Camera RAW converter
Nikon D60 Minus points
Review stays on too long
Only three focus points
The Nikon D60 & 18-55mm f/3.5/5.6G lens costs around £530 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.
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