An entry-level DSLR with many features to help novice users but also a good set of manual controls.Nikon is touting its D60 model as 'one of the smallest Nikon digital SLRs ever'. Released less than a year after the slightly lighter D40, it's identical in size and also the same size and weight as D40x that followed. It also has the same 10.2-megapixel CCD sensor and a very similar feature set to the D40x. The review camera was supplied with the new AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, which will be bundled with the camera body and sports a built-in Silent Wave Motor and Vibration Reduction. . . [more]
Nikon is touting its D60 model as 'one of the smallest Nikon digital SLRs ever'. Released less than a year after the slightly lighter D40, it's identical in size and also the same size and weight as D40x that followed. It also has the same 10.2-megapixel CCD sensor and a very similar feature set to the D40x. The review camera was supplied with the new AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens, which will be bundled with the camera body and sports a built-in Silent Wave Motor and Vibration Reduction.
As with the D40 and D40x models, the D60 can only be used in autofocus mode with AF-S and AF-I lenses because it lacks a built-in focus drive motor. All other lenses must be focused manually. However, a noteworthy addition to the new model is the provision of two ways of removing sensor dust, whereas dust removal was not provided on the earlier models.
The main dust removal system uses standard low-pass filter vibration. The secondary system sends a flow of air through the mirror box to prevent dust from accumulating in the first place. Active D-Lighting is another new addition to the D60's feature set and is an evolution of the D-Lighting function that was introduced in Coolpix digicams a little over a year ago.
Front view with flash raised.
While D-Lighting was a post-capture adjustment in the digicams, on the D60 you can engage Active D-Lighting before you shoot by pressing a button between the shutter release and the mode dial. The associated processing adjusts the image immediately after it's captured, pulling back over-exposed highlights and boosting blocked shadows to provide a usable dynamic range in shots.
Another new addition is an eye-start sensor that cuts power to the LCD when you put your eye to the viewfinder. The LCD will also rotate its data displays according to whether you shoot with portrait or landscape format. The display options are essentially the same as the D40 and D40x, with three 'info display formats': classic, graphic and 'wallpaper'. Examples are shown below.
The Graphic information display.
The Classic information display with the orange colour setting.
The Graphic display rotated for vertical shooting.
You can set the background colour in the Classic format to black, blue or orange. The Graphic background can also be adjusted to provide white, blue or orange backgrounds. The wallpaper setting lets you use one of your own photographs as a background, with data overlaid in light on dark or dark on light lettering. The Help function from earlier modes is duplicated in the D60.
Also new in the D60 is the ability to process NEF-RAW files in the camera. It's pretty limited; you can only convert the raw files to JPEGs, although you can choose from available file sizes and quality settings. White balance settings and brightness levels can be fine-tuned at this stage and you can change the 'Optimise Image' adjustments. Interestingly, these changes can only be made to files captured in the P, A, S or M modes.
A rather odd addition to the D60's feature set is the ability to create a stop-motion movie from a sequence of shots. Users select the starting, middle and ending shots and choose the frame size (VGA, QVGA or QQVGA) and rate (15, 10, 6 or 3 frames/second) and the camera does the rest. It's an odd little novelty that's probably more at home on a digicam than a DSLR but may please entry-level users.
Build and Controls
Typical of Nikon DSLRs, the D60 is well-built with a comfortable grip that carries the company's red triangle logo. The polycarbonate body is nicely engineered and finished and the battery, card and interface port covers close securely. The shutter operates with a fairly loud mechanical click, making it obvious when a shot is taken.
The lens mount is made of metal and designed for Nikkor AF-S and AF-I bayonet-mount lenses. Supplied accessories include a rechargeable battery, quick charger, USB cable, rubber eyecup, camera strap, body cap, eyepiece cap and accessory shoe cap. A camera remote control is available as an optional accessory.
Overall, the D60 has a similar control suite to its predecessors, with a mode dial that carries settings for Auto, the 'Advanced' P, S, A and M shooting modes plus seven 'Digital Vari-Program' settings for point-and-shoot photographers. (Interestingly, an entire chapter in the user manual is devoted to point-and-shoot photography, indicating the main target audience for this camera.) The seven pre-sets include Auto (flash off), Portrait, Landscape, Chile, Sports, Close-up and Night portrait. Unlike many recent DSLRs, the D60 does not support live viewing on the LCD screen.
The D60's shooting menu.
As in the D40x, the D60 lacks dedicated buttons for commonly-used settings like drive modes, ISO, flash settings and image size and quality. There's a Function button on the side of the camera, between the lens release and flash button, which can be customised to access one of these settings. (The default setting is for drive mode and self-timer adjustments.) However it's inconveniently located and provides little real assistance when you have to adjust several settings.
Not unexpectedly, no depth-of-field preview button is provided. However, the omission of any bracketing settings is unfortunate, but probably not surprising, given the target market. There's only one Command dial, which is located on the rear panel. When shooting in Manual mode, it operates the shutter speeds and you must hold down the exposure compensation and turn the dial at the same time to adjust aperture settings.
Sensor and Image Processing
The CCD image sensor is the same as in the D40x and probably made by Sony. Measuring 23.6 x 15.8 mm it has an approximate pixel pitch of 6.08 microns and produces a top image size of 3872 x 2592 pixels. The default base sensitivity is ISO 100 and the top setting is ISO 1600, with an additional Hi-1 setting boosting sensitivity to around ISO 3200.
The D60's sensor unit with associated electronics.
Nikon's EXPEED image processor is used in the D60 but doesn't appear to provide the speed advantages the processor produced in the D300 and D3 models. This may be partly because the relatively small buffer memory can only accommodate six NEF.RAW files or up to 100 JPEGs.
NEF.RAW files from the D60 are compressed before saving and saved as 12-bit files. Only one option is provided for recording RAW+JPEG files, with the JPEG size fixed at 3872 x 2592 pixels and compression at Basic. Typical file sizes provided in the camera are shown in the table below.
Shots per 1GB card
3872 x 2592
3872 x 2592
3872 x 2592
2896 x 1944
1936 x 1296
As with the D40 and D40x models, images are stored on SD cards and the D60 supports the SDHC format. Continuous shooting speeds of up to three frames/second are supported. Like almost all current DSLRs, the D60 has a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface for fast data transfer to a computer. It also comes with a video interface that is PAL and NTSC compatible.
Playback options include the usual full-frame view with or without data overlay. Vertical shots are rotated automatically and users can magnify parts of image by up to 25x (depending on image size) to check focusing. It's easy to scroll through images with the control dial and shots can be deleted or marked for protection with the buttons on the rear panel. Four- or nine-shot thumbnail indexes can also be viewed and shots can be assigned to folders or tagged for automated printing.
The playback menu.
Pressing the top button on the arrow pad ('multi-selector') toggles the single-frame display through four settings: image only, image with brief shooting data displayed below the frame, image with comprehensive shooting data overlaid (three pages) and image plus histogram overlay. The histogram is a brightness display only but is large enough to be useful. You can also opt to display flashing highlights and shadows to show where image data may be lost.
Image display with abbreviated shooting data below the frame.
Image display with comprehensive shooting data (page 1).
A new addition to the D60's playback menu is a Retouch Menu for in-camera editing adjustments. Functions supported in this menu include Filter Effects, which include Red, Green and Blue colour biases and a Cross Screen that produces radiating lines around bright highlights. A Quick Retouch setting lets users adjust contrast and saturation through three steps. D-Lighting enhancement and red-eye correction are also provided in this sub-menu, along with trimming and resizing and monochrome conversions. Black-and-white, sepia-tone (yellow-brown) or cyanotype (blue) settings are provided.
The retouch menu.
Colour balance adjustments can also be made to correct colour casts in shots. You can also imprint the shooting date or date and time on images and save a copy for printing. Stop-motion animations (see above) are also created in playback mode.
Nikon's software bundle has always been more miserly than the software provided with other manufacturers' DSLR cameras and nothing has changed with the D60. It consists of Nikon Transfer for downloading images to a computer and ViewNX a browser application with very basic raw file conversion capabilities. A copy of Apple's QuickTime is also provided.
Nikon Transfer is typical of automated file downloaders. When you connect the camera to a computer via the supplied USB cable it finds the image files on the memory card and displays a message 'Copy pictures to a folder on my computer using Nikon Transfer' and set up a folder carrying this label (regardless of whether you want it to do so).
If you select a different primary destination folder, the software will display the 10 most recently used destinations. You can also create a new sub-folder within the destination and choose how it will be named, as well as being able to rename files automatically as they are transferred. You can also backup files to a second destination as they are being transferred from the camera.
Once files have been transferred, the destination folder opens automatically and JPEG images can be viewed as thumbnails. Raw files can only be viewed in ViewNX. Movie files are displayed in QuickTime. Nikon Transfer supports all popular colour spaces as well as Nikon's WT-3 and WT-2 wireless file transmitters.
ViewNX is an image viewing application for JPEG and NEF.RAW files. It has three viewing modes: thumbnail grid, thumbnails plus image and full screen mode. You can view and edit image metadata and display focusing area and histograms for shots. Alerts can also be displayed to warn you of lost highlights and shadows.
Selected images can be rotated through 90 degrees, tagged with any of 10 coloured labels or assigned a star rating (up to five stars). These tags can be used to sort images for printing, emailing or slideshows. A slider near the top right corner lets you adjust the relative sizes of the thumbnails and viewed images.
Hitting the 'Convert Files' button on the toolbar automatically converts raw files into JPEG or TIFF files and you can elect to save the latter at 8- or 16-bit depth. Converting a NEF.RAW file to a 16-bit TIFF file takes about 25 seconds.
Raw file adjustments in ViewNX.
Raw file adjustments are pretty basic and include exposure levels, white balance and an automated 'Picture Control', which lets you change the Picture Control setting. You can create and save your own Picture Control pre-sets if you wish by launching the Picture Control Utility. Converted raw files can be saved as JPEG or TIFF files, the latter at 8- or 16-bit depth.
Creating a new custom setting in the Picture Control Utility.
The main user interface carries a tag: Open with Capture NX. Clicking on the Help button allows you to download a 30-day trial version of Capture NX, which normally sells for around $350. Interestingly, the version of Capture NX we received for the D3/D300 review could not open raw files from the D60. When we checked for updates online we were informed that no updates were available, even though Capture NX was listed as a possible download. We were not impressed.
The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR kit lens adds the benefit of image stabilisation (which Nikon calls 'Vibration Reduction') to the D60 camera and is worth the additional cost over the standard 18-55mm lens that was offered with previous models. Although it appears to have a plastic mount, the lens is well-built and has a wide, ridged zoom ring that provides an excellent grip.
Zooming from the 18mm position to 55m requires approximately a quarter of a turn, which is comfortably managed. The focusing ring is narrow and very close to the front of the lens. It's only usable when the slide on the lens barrel is switched to the M position and movement involves the entire central section of the lens barrel. This makes using angle-critical filters a little tricky.
A second slider switches the VR function on and off. Nikon claims the VR stabilisation in this lens will provide up to three f-stops in shutter speed advantage over a non-stabilised lens (which we would support for shots taken in adequate lighting). Only one stabilisation mode is provided (there's no special provision for steadying the lens while panning).
Pictures from the test camera were generally sharp, although the AF system had occasional problems with focusing and tended to hunt in dim lighting and with fast-moving subjects. With stationary subjects the powerful AF light reduced hunting to a minimum and was effective with close subjects after dark.
Saturation was slightly elevated, particularly in pinks and reds, and similar to the results we've obtained from many digicams. Imatest showed resolution to be very close to expectations for a 10-megapixel camera, with little difference between results from raw and JPEG files. It also revealed only slight edge and corner softening. The graph below plots the results of our Imatest tests for the varying focal lengths and apertures offered by the kit lens.
The expected decline in resolution with increasing ISO sensitivity was also revealed by Imatest testing but it was considerably less than we've found in many digital cameras (see graph below). Image noise could be detected in shots taken with the Hi-1 setting (ISO 3200 equivalent) but it was much less noticeable than we're accustomed to, although shots appeared to be a little soft. (Interestingly, the only difference we found between 30-second exposures at high ISO settings with and without noise-reduction processing was the doubling of the processing time caused by dark-frame subtraction.)
Lateral chromatic aberration was generally low and only ventured into the 'moderate' level at the 24mm focal length. At the 45mm and 55m settings it was classified as 'negligible'. The graph below plots the average CA for each lens setting on the basis of our Imatest tests. The red line marks the border between 'insignificant' and 'low', while the blue line marks the border between 'low' and 'moderate'.
White balance performance was only average. The auto white balance was unable to totally correct the colour casts of either incandescent or fluorescent lighting. The pre-sets over-corrected slightly but, in both cases, the colour casts were easily corrected in editing software. In camera adjustments were a bit 'hit-and-miss' as it's difficult to assess the finer nuances of colour adjustment on the camera's LCD. In contrast, the performance of the built-in flash was excellent throughout the camera's ISO range.
By current standards, the review camera showed relatively slow response times, although it was quick to start, taking just over 0.5 seconds to power-up. We measured an average capture lag of 0.35 seconds, which reduced to just under 0.1 with pre-focusing. The camera took a little over one second to process and store a JPEG image and just under three seconds for each raw file.
In continuous shooting mode, both JPEG and raw files were recorded at intervals of 0.3 seconds. It took 5.5 seconds to process and store 10 high-resolution JPEGs and 10 seconds for six raw files. Data capture rates were relatively slow, even with high-speed memory cards, as can be seen in the table below.
ATP Pro Max SDHC 4GB
Verbatim Premium SDHC 4GB
Panasonic Pro High Speed SD 1GB
Verbatim SD 1GB
JPEG (high res.)
The illustrations below show the effect of different 'Optimise Image' settings on colour reproduction.
The Vivid setting.
The Softer setting.
The Portrait setting.
Slight barrel distortion can be seen in shots taken with the 18mm setting.
Distortion is minimal at 55mm.
Flare spots can be seen in shots with strong backlighting.
The Cyanotype setting adds a blue cast to B&W images.
Slight coloured fringing was found in shots taken with the 24mm focal length.
30 second exposure at ISO 200.
30-second exposure at the Hi-1 (ISO 3200) setting.
Image sensor: 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD with 10.75 million photosites (10.2 megapixels effective)
Lens mount: Nikon F mount (with AF contacts)
Focal length crop factor: 1.5x
Image formats: JPEG (Fine, Normal, Basic compression), NEF (RAW), RAW+JPEG (Basic only)
Image Sizes: 3872 x 2592, 2896 x 1944, 1936 x 1296
Image Stabilisation: Lens-based only
Dust removal: Vibration of low-pass filter; air flow through mirror box, Image Dust Off reference data (requires optional Capture NX software)
Shutter speed range: 1/4000 to 30 seconds in steps of 1/3EV; Bulb, Time (via optional ML-L3 wireless remote control)
Exposure Compensation: -5 to +5EV in steps of 1/3EV
Self-timer: Can be selected from 2, 5, 10 and 20 sec. duration
Focus system: Nikon multi-CAM 530 with TTL phase detection, 3 focus points and AF-assist light
Focus modes: Single-servo AF, Continuous-servo AF, Auto-servo AF; predictive focus tracking automatically activated according to subject status in single and continuous AF modes. Manual focus available.
Exposure metering: TTL with 420-segment RGB sensor; matrix, centre-weighted and spot (approx. 2.5% of frame) metering
Shooting modes: P, A, S, M plus Digital Vari-Programs (Auto, Flash off, Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up, Night portrait)
Optimise Image settings: Normal, Softer, Vivid, More vivid, Portrait, Black-and-white, Custom
Colour space options: sRGB (x2), Adobe RGB
Custom functions: 19
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100-1600 (expandable to ISO 3200 equivalent)
White balance: TTL white balance with main image sensor and 420-segment RGB sensor; 8 modes; fine-tuning possible
Flash: Built-in pop-up flash GN 12 (ISO 100/m); hot shoe for supported flash units. i-TTL balanced fill-flash available.
Flash exposure adjustment: -3 to +1EV in steps of 1/3EV
Sequence shooting: Up to 3 fps
Storage Media: SD/SDHC cards
Viewfinder: Eye-level penta-Dach mirror; approx. 95% FOV; 0.80x magnification; diopter adjustment -1.7 to +0.5 dpt
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch low-temperature polysilicon LCD with 230,000 dots; brightness adjustment and auto off via eye sensor possible
Live View modes: n.a.
Data LCD: n.a.
Playback functions: Single image full frame and index (4 or 9 images); playback zoom, slideshow, histogram/highlight display, auto image rotation; stop-action movies
Interface terminals: Hi-speed USB (MTP & PTP protocol); Video (PAL/NTSC)
Power supply: EN-EL9 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (up to 500 shots per charge)
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 126 x 94 x 64 mm (body only)
Weight: Approx. 495 grams (body only)
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RRP: $999 (body only); $1,199 (as tested, with 18-55mm VR Nikkor lens)
Rating (out of 10):
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- Ease of use: 8.5
- Image quality: 8.5
- OVERALL: 9