Using the Canon 60D To Capture Life

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I was trained by the school of photography that forced me to try to create compelling images with any camera that was handed to me. My mentor is a Pulitzer Winner for New York Newsday and always shot Nikon, but I went with Canon. So as a 5D Mk II and 7D user, holding and using the Canon 60D felt just like I was home again.


Ergonomics

The 60D feels different than the 7D and the Rebel T2i, the cameras it is positioned between in the line-up. It doesn't have the plastic and lightweight comfort of the T2i or the powerhouse feel of the 7D. Instead, it feels a bit in-between. The grip is relatively small in my hand, but my fingers still have a very firm hold on the camera. If I had to choose any of the three cameras for street photography, it would be the 60D because of the light weight combined with the fairly solid build quality.

There are days when I go for some casual shooting before work. Many times I'll have my 35mm F/1.4 L attached to the camera I chose for the day. The lens and body combination is very balanced and comfortable to quickly bring up to my eye, focus, and shoot.

For my shooting style, I tend to shoot in manual mode. With that in mind, the shutter and aperture dials feel almost the same as my other cameras, but the back dial does feel a bit smaller. Does that mean it is difficult to use? No, not at all. My thumb can still quickly access it if needed.

Perhaps my favorite part of the new ergonomic design is the mode dial. In order to change the shooting mode, one needs to depress the center button. This is a very important feature for many reasons:

- If the camera is in your bag and you go to take it out, the dial may not be in the position you last had the camera in. Many people tend to neglect checking this before they start shooting.

- If your camera is strapped around you and the mode dial bumps into something, the mode may have been switched, and all your settings will have been thrown off. That won't happen now.

- Similarly, as an event and party shooter, I've had many people bump into my cameras and switch the mode dial. That won't happen so easily with the 60D.

It's a very nice protective feature to have.

Autofocus

When I played with a prototype of this camera last summer before it was announced, the focusing reminded me of the Rebel T2i. Apparently, this was just the prototype acting up a bit.

In low light, the Rebel T2i's center focusing point often proves to be the strongest. Amongst many photographers, it is also the most used. In my tests, the 60D has inherited a strength of the 7D, snappy and accurate focusing in low light situations at all focusing points.

Veteran users of Canon cameras will be very pleased to know that the AF system has these finely tuned tweaks.

Customizable Options

Like other Canon DSLR cameras, the 60D has a custom menu that allows the user to further tailor the camera's settings to their particular needs. The settings that I usually change are:

- Turning off the Autofocus confirmation beep (not in the custom menu)

- Allowing the camera to let me manually choose the autofocus point.

- Disabling the AF-assist beam firing (because it doesn't suit my stealthy shooting style) 

In the Streets

There are some mornings where the facial expressions of half of midtown Manhattan look like they prettied themselves up and emerged from the subways as victims of the zombie apocalypse. Combined with the Canon 35mm F/1.4 L, the 60D can quickly focus on moving subjects and snap sharp images of them.

When shooting street photography, I usually tend to switch the camera into Aperture priority so that I can focus more on creating the image vs. manipulating the settings.

At a Concert

One of my favorite events to shoot is concerts because of the raw emotion and feelings that can be captured. The 60D, 35mm F/1.4 L and 85mm F/1.8 accompanied me to an underground show where my friends in the band Mancie performed at the Knitting Factory. On the 60D, the 35mm is approximately 50mm and the 85 is approximately 135mm.

All of these photos were shot using Canon's AI Servo focusing system, which automatically tracks moving subjects on a specific focusing point. What really surprised me was just how fast the autofocusing was at every single selected focusing point. This helped me to capture facial reactions and moments that happen in a split second. Even in a dark venue like this, the 60D was still able to nail great photos.

Minor post processing (shifting the tint levels and color balance levels) was performed in Lightroom 3.

These were shot anywhere from ISO 1600 to 3200, and none were processed for noise reduction. One of the reasons why the ISOs were raised this high was to achieve faster shutter speeds, which ranged anywhere from 1/60th to 1/160th.

What also helped was the Medium and Small RAW image format shooting, which allowed me to shoot more photos because of the smaller file sizes.

Photographing a Newborn

If you're the photographer amongst friends and family, then the Canon 60D can prove to be a very tempting and affordable option. A long time friend of mine just had a newborn son with her husband and they invited me over to come see the little tyke. I offered to shoot images of him for them. I was equipped with the Canon 60D, 35mm F/1.4 L, 580 EX II, and Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible.

Using options available in the Custom Menu, the 60D's ability to manually select a focusing point proved to be very useful for capturing candid moments quickly. Coupled with the 18MP sensor and very versatile raw files, the images looked amazing out of camera and didn't require a tremendous amount of editing at all.

The ISO settings varied anywhere from 400 to 1600. When the images were processed in Lightroom 3 for the web, very little to no noise reduction needed to be applied.

Admittedly, all of these images in this section were edited. However, the only fixes applied were white balance and tint tweaks, desaturating of some color channels, raising or lowering some exposure levels, and very minor sharpening.

Conclusions

Though many may say that the 60D was a downgrade to the 50D, I've found it to be quite the opposite during my testing period.

- The autofocusing system proved to be better than the older focusing systems.

- The High ISO image quality was really quite stellar for a camera at this price point.

- The wireless flash control ability in a body at this price is also quite amazing.

- The color rendition and versatility of the RAW files' dynamic range and color depth make editing very simple.

- The light weight of the camera makes it one that you'll always want to carry around with you.

- The vari-angle LCD screen makes it easier to compose images in tricky situations where I've previously needed to have the flexibility of Spider-man.

Overall it's a very solid camera for the enthusiast, hobbyist or professional looking for another body to play around with.

Do you have questions about the camera? Let us know in the comments below.

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Hey Chris,

Great write up on the 60D, which i just recently purchased and love.  What do you think of the camera's video options?

Daniel Zana wrote:

Hey Chris,

Great write up on the 60D, which i just recently purchased and love.  What do you think of the camera's video options?

Hi Danny,

Thanks for the kind words. Ergonomically speaking, the 60D beats the 5D Mk II, 7D, T2i, and 1D Mk IV. Exposing methods are very similar to the other cameras with the exception of the Rebel which doesn't have a back dial. The 7D's switch is also a lot more useful when needing to access video recording quicker.

The 5D Mk II's full frame sensor though delivers much better video quality in my eyes.

great review, but one thing i wanted to point out about this camera that i have noticed, is that the exposure indicator seems to be off. when i shoot with it in the middle, the photos seem way over exposed and washed out. i tend to lower the exposure to about 3 notches to the left of the center, and it looks a lot more natural. is this just my model, or does yours do this as wwell, i have upgraded the formware to 1.08 and also used all of my lenses, which werenlt mentioned in the firmware upgrade list. sorry for typos, im typing this on my 3yr old g1 and its having trouble with this comment box.

Tyler Ishee wrote:

great review, but one thing i wanted to point out about this camera that i have noticed, is that the exposure indicator seems to be off. when i shoot with it in the middle, the photos seem way over exposed and washed out. i tend to lower the exposure to about 3 notches to the left of the center, and it looks a lot more natural. is this just my model, or does yours do this as wwell, i have upgraded the formware to 1.08 and also used all of my lenses, which werenlt mentioned in the firmware upgrade list. sorry for typos, im typing this on my 3yr old g1 and its having trouble with this comment box.

Hey Tyler,

You should probably get that looked at. What is your metering mode set to? I actually tend to overexpose one stop more than what the meter tells me and then bring back down in post-processing.

I bought the camera because it was not the heavy tank that my 7d's are... and it is a bit smaller for my wife... I've found that having the articulating screen has allowed me to shoot some interior shots of a rental cabin from inside a closet without having myself in the reflection in the mirror...  The one thing that I would really like is two more focus points... (like the Nikon system has...) one between the center and the outer most points horizontally... that would make it just about perfect.

I was a 50D user, so i was disapointed when Canon do not include a external sync in the 60D. Why? Everything is better, but......no external sync for flashes.

Bad, bad, bad.

Big mistake for Canon. Because, only for the sync connector y have to spent a lot of money buyng a 7D. It´s ridiculous!!!!

Gustavo wrote:

I was a 50D user, so i was disapointed when Canon do not include a external sync in the 60D. Why? Everything is better, but......no external sync for flashes.

Bad, bad, bad.

Big mistake for Canon. Because, only for the sync connector y have to spent a lot of money buyng a 7D. It´s ridiculous!!!!

Hi Gustavo,

If you're referring to a cable sync, then yes, you're correct. But you can use wireless flash control: it's in there. And I love it.