Nikon D60 Digital SLR Camera
At a Glance
Updated 12/23/08: The Nikon D60 aims to hook point-and-shoot photography enthusiasts crossing over to the digital SLR dimension. The next step up from the Nikon D40x, this model adds advanced in-camera editing, including Nikon's D-Lighting technology and an in-camera stop-action-animation mode. Ringing up at $650 (with kit lens, price as of 12/10/08), the D60 is priced similarly to its competition.
In its ergonomics and design, the D60 retains Nikon's familiar look and feel, though it is somewhat simpler for novices to navigate and its small size makes it easier to tote than its big siblings, the D80 and D300. The D60 boasts 10.2-megapixel resolution, a bright 2.5-inch LCD, and solid body construction. The kit also includes the Nikkor 18mm-to-55mm AF-S lens (f/3.5 to 5.6), which provides a respectable 35mm focal length range of 29mm to 88mm.
I easily navigated the menus and changed settings using the camera's four-way navigation pad, which sits to the right of the LCD screen; a sensor rotates the display to match the orientation (vertical or horizontal) of the camera. But don't discard the manual: Once you get the knack for quickly navigating to your favorite features, this camera offers plenty of custom controls, and you may need to dig into the manual to learn how to master them. Beginners--and even users who are more advanced--may appreciate the help dialogs, accessible through the LCD with the touch of a button. These dialogs tell you what each setting means, often displaying a useful, small thumbnail to illustrate the point.
The Nikon D60 crams many features into its small body, which I found both a boon and a hindrance. For example, my fingers inadvertently obstructed the AF-assist lamp and often bumped the lens barrel. I also discovered that the camera lacks automatic bracketing functions for exposure or white balance, a feature I don't often use but expected to see. The LCD is bright and viewable in most conditions, and the viewfinder is an adequate size. Oddly, the hard-rubber eyecup pressed uncomfortably against my eye socket, unlike with previous Nikon models.
The D60's shooting-mode dial is sturdy and its icons are highly readable, though you have to navigate through the menu system to reach some desirable custom options (and that slowed me down a bit). Selecting standard scene modes using the dial on top of the camera is easy. But when shooting manually, I had to use the menu to select my ISO, and a dual-function button to change the aperture. The shutter speed is easily controlled directly via a scroll wheel--unfortunately, the dual-function button is in close proximity to the scroll wheel, which you need to dial concurrently to change aperture. While shooting night skylines, I found this combination particularly cumbersome.
One notable omission on the D60: This model lacks a live-view mode, for previewing and composing shots using the LCD viewfinder. This omission is surprising, given that many entry-level digital SLRs offer live view now.
Though very similar to the much less expensive D40, the D60 has some interesting new features, including useful dynamic range extension (Active D-Lighting), where the camera automatically compensates exposure in areas of lost detail in shadows and highlights. This function made an appreciable difference in my informal tests under high-contrast lighting, and when I shot indoors under low light its noise reduction was effective.
Another neat feature of the D60 opens the door to stop-motion-movie creation. After you shoot JPEG images and then select the images in the menu, the camera will output those images together in a short AVI clip. In playback mode, you can also view filter presets (such as warm tone, skylight) on your images, as well as before-and-after comparisons.
The D60's other, more-standard settings and modes include burst (at up to 3 frames per second), white balance, exposure compensation, macro, and black-and-white.
Overall I was pleased with the D60's performance. The bundled kit lens produced crisp images without a lot of noise; and when I tried the camera's noise-control and dynamic range features, they were genuinely useful and successfully addressed both noise and blown-out highlights. In the PC World Test Center's evaluation, this model performed competitively, although it ranked in the lower echelons for its exposures.
With the Nikon D60, you get a lot of functionality for your dollar. I would sacrifice a bit of its compact design for better ergonomics and layout, however.