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Nikon D60 Gordon Laing, March 2008

 

Nikon D60 Verdict

The Nikon D60 may not be a world apart from its predecessor, but it remains a good, solid, 10 Megapixel entry-level DSLR. It’s very easy to use, handles well and produces great looking – if slightly over-saturated – images in its fully automatic modes. As such it’s an ideal model for first-time DSLR buyers who are perhaps upgrading from a point and shoot. And of course there’s wealth of manual control for when they’re ready to get creative.

In terms of the new features, there’s nothing truly groundbreaking. It’s good to have anti-dust facilities, although in our tests – like other DSLRs – they were far from infallible. The Active D-Lighting can indeed retrieve detail in highlight and shadow areas, but often at the cost of noise in the latter – and like other tonal range adjustment systems, it’s doing little you can’t already do with careful exposure and tweaking in software later.


Nikon D60 with DX 18-55mm VR


The stop motion mode can produce some fun results, but if you opt for the smoothest 15fps option, the 100 frame limit will only get you six seconds of footage – and without an Intervalometer you’ll need to fire the shutter by hand for every single one of these exposures. And remember you can feed a batch of manually fired images from any camera into cheap or even free software to produce a time-lapse movie on your computer.

The eye sensors to switch the screen off are a nice addition though, as is the rotating screen information when you shoot in the portrait orientation – inspired by Sony’s Alpha DSLRs and Konica Minolta’s before them.

 
Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
 

By far the best new feature of the D60 though is the option to buy it with an affordable stabilised kit lens. The new Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR is a superb budget option, delivering great quality images that are sharp across the frame, along with quick and quiet focusing and optical stabilisation which allows you to handhold shots three times slower than normal. It’s one of the classiest kit lenses around and buyers of the D60 should definitely go for it over slightly cheaper bundles with the older non-VR model.

By sharing the same core specification as the earlier D40x though, the new D60 also inherits its problems. It uses a fairly basic 3-point AF system, has neither a depth-of-field preview, Live View facilities nor an optional battery grip (from Nikon anyway), and like the D40x and D40 models, it requires lenses with built-in focusing motors in order to autofocus. Nikkor lenses without AF-S in the title become manual focus only, which is annoying if you wanted to try, say, the 50mm f1.8 model.

Many of these key downsides are addressed by its rivals, so without further ado, how does the D60 compare?

Compared to Nikon D40

 
Nikon D40
 
 

Our first comparison is against Nikon’s cheapest current DSLR, the D40. The entry-level D40 is on the surface virtually identical to the D60, with the major difference being resolution: 6 Megapixels versus 10.2. Dig a little deeper though and you’ll find the base sensitivity of the D40 is 200 rather than 100 ISO and crucially for fans of action photography, it inherits the D50’s unusually fast flash sync speed of 1/500. Compare this to the 1/200 flash sync speed of the D60 and most other non-pro DSLRs.

In the D60’s favour, it features anti-dust facilities, Active D-Lighting, eye-sensors to switch the screen off when you’re composing a shot, rotating screen information, stop motion recording, and most importantly of all, the option to buy it with a stabilised kit lens. For most people though the question will be whether you want 10.2 Megapixels and that stabilised kit lens. If so, go for the D60. If not, save yourself some money and go for the cheaper D40 – remember, you can always buy a better stabilised lens in the future. See our Nikon D40 review for more details.

Compared to Nikon D80

 
Nikon D80
 
 

The D60 may share the same sensor and shutter mechanism as the D80, but Nikon’s higher-end model is a much more powerful camera in many respects. It features improved build quality, a far superior viewfinder experience with optional grid-lines and a depth-of-field preview, a sophisticated 11-point AF system with autofocus support for older lenses, accurate feedback from the battery, an upper screen for shooting information and direct control over popular settings like White Balance and ISO.

The D80 is therefore much better-suited to enthusiasts or anyone who wants to grow with their camera in the future. And the D60’s advantage of a stabilised kit lens is countered by typical D80 kits with longer zoom ranges. So unless you love the smaller and lighter body of the D60 with its slightly friendlier approach, the D80 is well worth paying the extra. See our Nikon D80 review for more details.

Compared to Canon EOS 400D / XTi

 
Canon EOS 400D / XTi
 
 

The earlier Nikon D40x was released to compete directly against Canon’s best-seller, and the new D60 continues that battle. Both cameras deliver roughly the same quality results, although the D60 has punchier output by default and its new kit lens is noticeably superior, not to mention boasting stabilisation. The D60 is also friendlier in operation, which will please first-time DSLR owners, although experienced photographers will prefer the Canon’s quicker access to settings like ISO and White Balance.

So far so close, but the Canon 400D / XTi boasts a much more sophisticated 9-point AF system and depth-of-field previews, along with greater compatibility with older or budget lenses; it also comes with RAW processing software. It all depends on your preferences, but the Canon is a technically more powerful camera and an average kit lens aside, is better-suited to enthusiasts. See our Canon EOS 400D / XTi review for more details.

Nikon D60 final verdict

The earlier Nikon D40x was an interesting proposition as it was essentially a D40 fitted with a 10 Megapixel sensor to better compete against Canon’s EOS 400D / XTi. Unfortunately, the D40x inherited several weaker aspects of the D40 which may have been acceptable at an entry-level price point, but which sat less comfortably when priced similarly to the Canon.

The new Nikon D60 finds itself in a similar position. Its relatively basic 3-point AF system and reliance on lenses with AF motors to autofocus remains a problem compared to the Canon. But Nikon has ticked two important boxes with the D60 by equipping it with anti-dust facilities and a new kit lens with stabilisation. Admittedly, the Canon also has anti-dust and neither system is infallible, but the option of an affordable kit lens with stabilisation is a crucial advantage. Canon may also now have a stabilised version of its EF-S 18-55mm, but it’s unlikely to make it into many 400D / XTi kits.

Ultimately there’s two kinds of people who’ll be considering the D60. First-time DSLR owners and enthusiasts on a budget. The former will love its ease of use, friendly menus, foolproof metering and vibrant images using the automatic settings. Enthusiasts will also benefit from these, but in the long term could become frustrated by the limitations of its 3-point AF system, indirect access to popular settings, reliance on lenses with AF motors, and the lack of depth-of-field previews and an official battery grip – not to mention the absence of RAW processing software in the box. Enthusiasts will arguably be better-served by more sophisticated DSLRs like the Canon 400D / XTi, or if they can stretch the budget, Nikon’s own D80.

So if you’re an enthusiast on a budget, think very carefully about the limitations of the D60 and whether they’ll frustrate or restrict you in the future. If you fear they will, then you’ll be better off considering a different camera.

If you’re buying your first DSLR though, the Nikon D60 is an excellent choice, although do carefully ask yourself if you really need its 10.2 Megapixels. Unless you regularly make huge prints or tight crops, you could be equally well-served by the cheaper D40.

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Good points

Small, light and well-built.
Very easy to use with helpful menus.
Virtually fool-proof metering.
Excellent DX 18-55mm VR kit lens option.

Bad points
No auto-focus with certain lenses.
Some settings require too many button presses.
Anti-dust system not infallible.
Basic 3-point AF and no DOF preview.




Scores

(compared to 2008 budget DSLRs)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

16 / 20
18 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
14 / 20

80%
 

 

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