Canon 60D Impressions: The Perfect Video DSLR Keeps Getting Closer

The 60D, Canon's new midrange DSLR, is a whole lot like the Rebel T2i inside—still fantastic. It's what's outside that's better, a flip-out swivel screen and more rugged body that tug the camera closer toward video DSLR nirvana.

The 60D replaces the horribly aged 50D, sitting almost perfectly balanced between the pricier 7D ($US1900) and T2i ($US900) in terms of features and specs. It's using an 18-megapixel image sensor with a 4-channel readout that's closer to the T2i (vs. the 8-channel readout on the 7D) along with the T2i's metering system, but the auto-focusing system uses cross-type points, so it's more pro than T2i in that regard. ISO goes up to 6400 normally, and 12,800 on expanded range. It shooters faster than the T2i, too, at 5.3fps. But like an entry-level camera, it's moved to SDXC cards instead of glorious old CF.

Video is the now-standard Canon package: 1080p at 24 and 30fps, 720p at 60fps, in H.264. Our brief bout of test shooting seems to confirm the obvious: Photos and video look a lot like the stuff that comes out of the 7D and T2i. (You can check full-res, unedited samples here. Note that they're JPEGs out of the camera, not RAW, since I had no way to convert them.)

As I said, most of the actual new bits are the outside. The 1.04-million-dot swivel screen, a first on Canon's DSLRs (but a standard feature on Sony's alpha series for a while), is obviously designed for video shooters, as much as anybody else, so it'll be interesting to see how the HDSLR accessories market reacts. The benefits are obvious—it makes shooting DSLR video feel more nimble, lifting some of the ponderous weight of DSLR video's occasional inflexibility. In other words, it just handles better when shooting video, damn it. The body is semi-rugged as well, more like the 7D (versus the cheaper plasticky T2i body), even borrowing the textured grip of the pro 1D series. I like it.

Also new: The mode dial is a little more cumbersome. Now, to switch modes, you have to press and hold the button in the centre of the dial. It reduces the chance you'll accidentally switch to a mode mid-shot or something, but it made actually using the dial slightly more annoying. The new, combined multi-controller + quick dial jog wheel on the back took some getting used to as well. I've always loved the Canon jog wheel, so to suddenly have a d-pad shoved in the middle of it was a bit shocking, even if it makes sense, in the same way the standard iPod clickwheel does. The other major ergonomic shakeup is that dual-mode buttons are toasted—every major function now its own button. The ISO button changes ISO, and that's it.

Oh, and finally, the 60D has "creative filters," like a built-in Hipstamatic, for generating effects like toy camera, soft focus, grainy black-and-white and the ever-popular tilt-shift. (Seems more suited to the T2i crowd, but I digress.)

Barring any major surprises, after using it for a bit, the 60D seems like an obviously solid, if unsurprising, camera, an iterative spin on what's worked well with the 7D and T2i. So, if you need something slightly more rugged than the T2i but less pricey than the 7D, or have to have that swishy swivel screen, well, the choice is looking pretty obvious.

[Canon]

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