Nikon D60 Digital SLR Camera Review . . . continued


I used the Nikon D60 for six weeks, far longer than any other digital SLR we've reviewed. The D60 accompanied me on two different photography trips, the first a minor outdoor trek through Point Pelee National Park in Ontario (Canada) shooting birds and landscapes. The second trip was an extended urban walkabout in London, England shooting architecture, historic interiors and events. My primary camera on both trips was the Nikon D3, but it was set aside deliberately for several days during each trip in order to concentrate on the D60. In addition, back in Toronto I carried the D60 in the car almost exclusively for a couple of weeks, doing some shooting whenever opportunites arose.

The Nikon D60 is a happy and versatile collection of engineering and user-friendly controls. Whether you're using it in full Auto mode, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual mode or in one of its many, accurate and forgiving Scene modes, careful composition and attention to subject matter and lighting will reward any photographer with satisfyingly sharp and accurately colored photos. The D60 is only a small handful, with a well designed rubber-textured grip, a well-placed shutter button with positive feeling half-press and full-press response, shooting mode and major adjustment buttons and dials within easy reach (and often reachable by touch alone, without taking your eye away from the viewfinder). The ergonomics — the manner in which the physical design of the camera body and its general controls fit natural expectations — are typically Nikon, that is to say extremely good and possibly the best in a large class of competitive and highly competent entry-level digital SLR cameras.


Controls, color management, ergonomics and all the fancy features and functions aside, the true measure of any camera is its ability to accurately capture what the photographer sees through the viewfinder. The Nikon D60 does this very well indeed. Good composition and proper attention to light consistenly rewards D60 shooters with good to excellent images. Nikon has put several generations of photography wisdom into the autofocus and automatic exposure & metering programming in the D60 and it shows. Operating the D60 in full auto mode (P on the selector dial) is a great experience. We were regularly amazed by the D60's ability to pick the right focus point, correct exposure and aperture and capture wonderful images.

Using this diminutive SLR inevitably induces "chimping" which is that habit of checking every shot in the LCD monitor immediately after taking it. That the LCD on the D60 is large, bright, high resolution and displays accurate color doesn't hurt of course and is probably the main reason that users of earlier SLR models from any of the makers will stare at the D60 LCD in amazement. Why the camers makers didn't start using these better quality small LCD monitors prior to 2007 is beyond me, but that's the way it was. In any case, evaluating individual photos on the LCD monitor is now a much more productive and accurate effort especially when combined with a quick look at the image histogram which can be set to automatically display if you like.

Handling the D60 on walkabouts, while hiking, taking it out of your camera bag and so on is a pleasure. The camera body is matte-finish polycarbonate over an alloy sub-frame and feels lightweight but very solid. You can grab it at almost any point and get a good grip. The main, right side grip fits all but the largest hands and the buttons and other controls on the top and rear of the camera are labeled clearly and can be used easily, again, by all but the largest hands and fingers. Although the camera works well for people with smaller hands, do not mistake it for a weak sister or a snapshooter. The Nikon D60 can certainly be used that way if you like, but it is designed to produce great photos in the hands of anyone who cares to concentrate on the craft of photography (amateur, hobbyist or even pro) long enough to get to know the camera. It's a serious piece of gear that's deceptively easy to use.

A little respect and at least one read-through of the user guide, with the camera in your lap so you can try various settings as you read, is recommended. The Nikon D60 simultaneously offers so much control and so much automation that it's important to find a balance that works well for you. For example, the lowest ISO (sensor sensitivity/speed) is ISO 100, so if you're using the wonderful Nikkor 18-200mm Vibration Reduction (VR) zoom lens, the 16-85mm VR used for this review or any of the other VR lenses from Nikon, you've got no worries. For non-VR lenses however, choosing ISO200 as your regular setting might be a better idea in order to provide more advantageous shutter speeds when using the camera in Auto (P) mode. If you use the camera's pop-up flash or if you mount one of the excellent Nikon external flashes in the camera's hot shoe, be aware that flash sync speed maxes out at 1/200 of a second, so don't expect to stop fast sports action in low light.

The D60's Picture Controls are very handy and can be used to do a superb job of making faces look like faces and trees look like trees. Basically, you can choose from a number of preset color processing settings based on the available light and whether you're indoors, outdoors, in shade and so on. The great thing about digital cameras is that you can play with all this control without any penalty. Don't like the shot? Delete it and shoot again. Frankly though, we spent a lot less time making control adjustments than we did actually shooting a few thousands images using Nikon's default setting for each of the D60's selectable scene modes. That fact is, Nikon has been at this a long time and its legacy of knowledge about color, exposure and so many other things shows in the high quality of the programming built into this little SLR. So the manual control is available in the D60 whenever you need it, but throughout our testing and review period we just didn't need it very often.

Cons: Only three selectable focus points which means lots of lock-focus-then-recompose action — not horrible by any means, and absolutely typical of entry-level DSLRs when operating in semi-manual mode. But how much cost is really involved at the engineering and manufacturing level to give us 11 or 15 or even 21 point focus point selection? The point is that having a lot of selectable focus points also means having a lot of selectable spot-exposure points too, which means that you can meter off the selected point on which you're manually focusing. A lot of D60 users may not care about this but a number of older and several current autofocus lenses without internal focusing motors will not work in autofocus mode on the D60 because the compact SLR body does not have its own internal autofocus motor, essentially a very minor 'Con' considering the enormous number of Nikkor, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina autofocus lenses that do work beautifully on the D60. We like the D60 user manual because it's comprehensive, accurate and detailed, but it's also obviously written largely by people who are completely familiar with SLR cameras, digital photography and technology in general, making it easy for some SLR and general photography novices to quickly get lost in the details. Nikon also supplies a Getting Started guide, but like other similar guides from competing camera makers it fails to provide a series of step-by-step photo tutorials designed to help new SLR users take a series of photos of common subjects. The Diopter adjustment for the viewfinder is coarsely stepped, which means that some people may not be able to adjust the viewfinder to precisely suit their prescription, which in turn means using the viewfinder by pressing their glasses against the rubber eyecup.

Pros: Despite my focus point selection complaint, when left to automatically figure out what to focus on, the D60 does an eerily good job. Nikon's engineers and programmers really have this figured out and the D60 excels at automatically figuring out the correct focus point and exposure in a wide range of shooting conditions. The D60 can be mated with a huge range of excellent, useful (and even not so useful) lenses in almost every focal length and zoom configuration from Nikon, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina (the last three being the best known and most highly regarded third-party lens makers). Like all Nikon product manuals, the D60 user guide provides a wealth of well-organized information, so new users are especially well served. Image quality is unsurpassed, so good in fact in the hands of any photographer with a decent eye for composition and light, that you may begin to wonder why anyone would bother to spend bigger money on the fancier models. Excellent, that is to say versatile, picture controls in the camera configuration menus help you set up the D60 to get the photos you want. Color controls, Active D- Lighting for reigning in too-dark shadows and too-bright highlights, focus control, custom white balance control, exposure compensation control — all the things a thoughtful photographer wants to adjust on the fly — are either up front through buttons on the camera body, or accessible via easy-to-locate menu items. The camera responds beautifully and intuitively to control presses. The big, bright, high resolution rear LCD monitor is excellent for shot review and for making adjustments to controls and the camera configuration. All in all, the Nikon D60 is a little shooter's dream that anybody can use to create terrific photos. Moving from a point & shoot or prosumer camera to the D60 is a breeze. It's only limited by your imagination. Highly recommended.



KSN Product Rating:



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