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Nikon D60 Gordon Laing, March 2008
 

Nikon D60 lens and stabilisation

The Nikon D60 has an F-mount which can accommodate most Nikkor lenses, although the latest models are required to support all the exposure, metering and flash features. Like its predecessor and the D40, the D60 does not feature the built-in motor required to auto-focus older lenses. These lenses will still work on the D60, but you’ll need to manually focus them. The D60 will only auto-focus with AF-S or AF-I compatible lenses. If you’re using third-party lenses, check for AF-compatibility; if they state compatibility with the D40 and D40x, then they will also autofocus with the D60.

Nikon D60 - lens mount
 






Nikon omitted the motor to keep the size, weight and cost down on these entry-level DSLRs, but have understandably come under some criticism for doing so. While most of its modern zoom lenses are AF-S models and therefore autofocus fine on these bodies, the majority of its older or fixed focal length lenses are not, and therefore become manual focus only on the D40, D40x and D60. This sadly includes the popular 50mm f1.8 lens, and even the DX 10.5mm fisheye. Ultimately if you own, or are thinking of picking up any non AF-S compatible lenses and want auto-focus capabilities then buy yourself a D80, or even a second hand D50 instead.

Like all Nikon DX-format DSLRs, the D60’s sensor dimensions result in the field of view of all lenses being reduced by 1.5 times, so the DX 18-55mm VR kit lens delivers an effective focal range of 27-83mm. The range of bundled DX 18-55mm VR kit lens is shown below.

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Nikon D60 with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR coverage
Nikon D60 with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR at 18mm
Nikon D60 with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR at 55mm
DX 18-55mm VR at 18mm (27mm equivalent)
 
DX 18-55mm VR at 55mm (83mm equivalent)


Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR stabilisation

One of the biggest selling-points for the D60 over its predecessor is the bundling of an optically-stabilised kit lens: the Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR, although beware, some slightly cheaper bundles include the earlier non-stabilised DX 18-55mm. As an optically stabilised system, you’ll see the effect through the D60’s viewfinder, although with a equivalent maximum focal length of 83mm, any wobbling isn’t that obvious.

To test the stabilisation on the DX 18-55mm VR, we took a series of photos with it zoomed-into an equivalent of 83mm, where traditional photographic advice would recommend a shutter speed of 1/80 to eliminate camera shake. Our sequence therefore started at 1/80 and reduced by one stop each time until 1/5. We performed this sequence twice, first without VR enabled, and secondly with VR enabled. Below are 100% crops taken from the non-VR and VR images at a shutter speed of 1/10.

Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR Vibration Reduction off / on
Nikon D60 with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR - VR off
Nikon D60 with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR - VR on
100% crop, DX 18-55mm at 55mm, 1/10, 100 ISO, VR off
 
100% crop, DX 18-55mm at 55mm, 1/10, 100 ISO, VR on


Without VR enabled, we found we needed a shutter speed of at least 1/80 to completely avoid camera shake, whereas with VR enabled, we could achieve the same effect at 1/10. This corresponds to three stops of compensation and is a valuable facility to have at your disposal. We’d therefore highly recommend any D60 buyers go for the kit with the VR lens rather than the slightly cheaper one without – it’s well worth paying the small extra.

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Nikkor 55-200mm VR

Nikon D60 focusing

Like its predecessor and the D40, the new D60 employs a Multi-CAM530 focusing module with three focusing points. This makes it considerably less sophisticated than the nine-point AF systems of rivals like the Canon EOS 400D / XTi or the 11-point system of its bigger brother the D80. That said the D60’s three point system is fine for general use and we rarely experienced a time when it didn’t snap onto the desired subject. If you’re into tracking subjects which regularly move around the frame though, the 400D / XTi or D80 could be a better bet.

Nikon D60 - focus mode Nikon D60 - AF area
   

The D60 has four focusing modes: AF-S for single subjects, AF-C for moving subjects, AF-A which automatically selects between AF-S and AF-C, and finally, Manual focusing. You can also adjust the AF area mode to prioritise on subjects closest to the camera, subjects in a dynamic area or those fixed by a manually-selected focus point.

An interesting new feature for the D60 is its Rangefinder option, enabled in the Custom Function menu. This uses the exposure compensation scale in the viewfinder (but not on the main screen) to indicate focus distance while manually focusing. As you approach perfect focus, the scale reduces to just two markers either side of zero.


Nikon D60 anti-dust

The Nikon D60 employs two means by which to physically combat dust and foreign particles. First, like the D300 and many other DSLRs, the low pass filter in front of the sensor is vibrated in an attempt to shake-free any particles.

Nikon D60 - sensor clean
 

By default, this takes place every time you power the camera on or off, accompanied by an animated graphic, although you can select whether you’d prefer it to only occur at power up, power down, or not at all. The process takes about two seconds during startup, but you can interrupt it by pressing the shutter release.

Nikon D60 - airflow
 

The D60’s other line of defence is a debut technology for Nikon called Airflow. This exploits air pressure within the mirror box as the mirror flips-up during an exposure to propel particles out of the camera through a series of 27 tiny ducts on the lower inside of the lens mount – you can see these in the photo.

Following our usual DSLR torture-test we left the D60 face-up without a lens, inside and outside for ten minutes each, before powering it up and down twice, firing the shutter twice (to exploit the Airflow system), then searching for dust; we can’t know how much dust entered the body during this time, nor even how much was present to start with, but we know such a process would result in dust being a problem for most models.

We then took a series of photos at every aperture setting of a plain white surface at close range with the kit lens zoomed-in and focused to infinity. Dust marks normally become most apparent at the smallest apertures (eg f16 and f22), but it’s also important to test at more common apertures.

Nikon D60 dust example at f22: normal / with levels
Nikon D60 - dust example normal
Nikon D60 - dust example with levels
50% crop, 18-55mm at 55mm, f22
 
50% crop, 18-55mm at 55mm, f22, with levels

At f22, several dust marks were visible, and we’ve shown a 50% crop of four close marks above left, alongside a version with extreme Levels applied to confirm their locations. They did appear quite faint on the original image though and could easily be missed. More importantly they had become hard to spot at f16 and essentially invisible at f11 and bigger apertures.

Nikon D60 - dust off ref
 

So while the D60, like most DSLRs, hasn’t got an infallible anti-dust system, we’d say the results are better than many we’ve tested. We may have spotted several dust marks on our test images, but they were faint even at f22. That said, it’s not time to throw out the blower yet.

Finally, the D60 also supports recording of a dust reference frame for automatic digital removal of dust later, but for that you’ll need to shoot in RAW and buy the optional Capture NX software.


Nikon D60 sensor and processing

The Nikon D60 shares the same 10.2 Megapixel CCD sensor as its predecessor, the D40x, and the higher-end D80. This measures 23.6x15.8mm and delivers 3:2 aspect ratio images with a maximum size of 3872x2592 pixels, and there’s the choice of two lower resolutions.

Nikon D60 - image resolution Nikon D60 - image compression
   

Images can be saved with Basic, Normal or Fine JPEG compression, or recorded as a 12-bit compressed RAW file either by itself or accompanied with a Basic quality JPEG. Best quality Large Fine JPEGs typically measure between 4 and 5MB each, while RAW files measure around 8MB each. There’s no dedicated button for the quality settings, so like adjusting the other settings, you’ll either need to press the ‘i’ button and highlight the desired item, or enter the main menu system.

Nikon D60 - RAW processing Nikon D60 - ISO sensitivity
   

Like Nikon’s other consumer DSLRs, there’s only basic software supplied for converting RAW files – you’ll need to invest in Capture NX or third party software to do any more sophisticated processing. On the upside, the D60 allows processing of RAW files in-camera, although you can only adjust the resolution, compression, white balance, exposure compensation and the Optimise Image parameter.

Like its predecessor, the D60 offers sensitivity from 100 to 1600 ISO with a Hi1 option offering an equivalent of 3200 ISO. Noise Reduction is Off by default, but still applied at sensitivities of 1600 and 3200 ISO. Alternatively you can enable Noise Reduction which is then applied at sensitivities over 400 ISO and exposures longer than eight seconds. You can see samples taken with and without noise reduction in our real-life noise results page.

Nikon D60 - white balance Nikon D60 - fluorescents
   

The D60 now employs an EXPEED image processor with Nikon claiming improvements in colour and continuous tone; this only affects processed JPEG files though, as RAW files are identical to those from the D40x apart from their headers.

There’s a wide array of white balance settings including seven types of fluorescent lighting and the opportunity to fine tune presets or of course take a custom reading.

Nikon D60 - optimise image
 

Like other current Nikon DSLRs, sharpening, tone, colour, hue and saturation settings are applied using a variety of ‘Optimise Image’ presets. These include Normal, Softer, Vivid, More vivid, Portrait, Black and white, and Custom for your own choices. Colour space can be switched between two sRGB options along with Adobe RGB.

We used the default Normal preset for our Results and Gallery pages and like the D40 and D40x, found it produced consumer-friendly vibrant JPEGs out of the camera, which are ideally suited to first-time DSLR owners and those upgrading from a compact. That said, if your subject is already bright and vibrant – as was the case with many of ours – the result can be somewhat over-saturated. Thankfully, you can easily choose alternative presets or tone it down a little from the custom mode.

Nikon D60 - active D-lighting
 

The earlier D40x offered D-Lighting for adjusting the tone of existing images, but the new D60 adds Active D-Lighting which applies tonal compensation immediately after taking the photo. This claims to preserve details in highlight and shadow areas and works by first reducing the exposure, then adjusting the highlights, shadow and mid-tone areas before recording the image. There’s a slight delay while this takes place.

We found Active D-Lighting worked best at retrieving detail in shadows rather than blown highlights, and the technique inevitably resulted in greater visible noise in those boosted darker areas. As such, you may only want to use it in challenging lighting situations where you don’t want to (or can’t) do processing in software later. Active D-Lighting is disabled by default.

Nikon D60 drive modes and continuous shooting

Nikon D60 - continuous
 
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Nikon ML-L3 wireless remote control

The Nikon D60 shares the same continuous shooting specification as its predecessor and the D80: namely 3fps, although this will reduce if you’re applying noise reduction or the highest sensitivity. Obviously the delay incurred by Active D-Lighting also rules out practical continuous shooting.

Using a SanDisk Ultra II 1GB SD memory card and with the shutter speed set to 1/500 and the focusing to AF-A, we fired-off 11 Large Fine JPEGs in four seconds before the rate stalled slightly, corresponding to a rate of about 2.75fps. Depending on the complexity of the image, the stalling occurred after different number of frames, but the D60 kept shooting.

Nikon D60 - self timer
 

With the D60 set to record RAW files, we managed to shoot six frames in just over two seconds before a slight pause, again resulting in a rate of just under 3fps. So pretty normal continuous shooting for a budget DSLR.

By default, the self-timer is set to 10 seconds, but one of the custom modes allows you to change this to 2, 5 or 20 seconds if preferred. Sadly there’s no mirror lockup option though, despite the capability being built-into the camera to allow manual sensor cleaning.

Like its predecessor and the D40, there's no wired cable release option. Instead, Nikon offers its wireless remote control ML-L3 accessory and there's two dedicated options for it in the drive menu - one which fires the camera straightaway and one which fires it after a two second delay - handy for giving you time to hide it during a self-portrait.

Finally, it is possible to remote control the D60 using a computer and save the images direct to your hard disk, but you’ll need the optional Nikon Camera Control Pro software to do so.


 

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