Review by Dirck Halstead

Canon continues its drive to produce high-resolution digital cameras for the professional market, at ever-lower prices. It was only six or seven years ago that any news photographer who wanted to buy a digital camera that would meet his or her needs would have to budget nearly $15,000 for a single body. In those days, we were astonished that the early Nikon and Canon cameras could deliver a 1.3-megapixel image. Once that level of resolution was attained, it became possible to use these cameras for newspaper and wire service coverage. The magazines still insisted on the quality of film (about the equivalent of 6 megapixels) to produce those big double-truck images.

Canon broke through the quality-cost barrier in late 2000 with the EOS D30. with a 3.11 megapixel resolution at a cost of about $2500. Suddenly the cameras were affordable, and magazine photographers began to add them to their bags. There were some problems that the professionals encountered with these cameras. The camera could only handle about 3 frames per second, and there were lag times as the buffer was replenished, and an annoying lag between the time the shutter was depressed and the picture was taken. This was a particular problem for me as I covered the White House, because often between the time the camera was fired up, and we were ushered into the oval office, the camera had gone to sleep. I tried resetting the sleep time, but still, all too often when I pushed the button, there was no response. This was a big problem in photo ops that would last only seconds.

Earlier this year, Canon brought out its new top-of-the line EOS-1D. The camera was capable of capturing fast-action sports events and boasted a resolution of 4.15 pixels (see the review at ). The EOS-1D can capture 8 frames per second, which is almost as fast as its film-based equivalent, the EOS-1V HS. The EOS-1D sells for about $5,500.(See Robert Deutsch's review)

What Canon heard back from the professionals was that though they liked the camera, they didn't like the time spent converting RAW files to JPEGS. (See PF Bentley's review)

Canon listened and acted. Last month they introduced the EOS D60. Although it looks almost identical to the D30, its guts have been revamped. At $2199 for the complete kit (you can also buy the camera body alone for $1999), it boasts the highest resolution in their line, coming in at an awesome 6.3 megapixels.

The camera records RAW images differently from prior cameras by writing two files at once. It embeds a smaller 3 million pixel JPEG within the RAW file. For a photojournalist on deadline, this means you can immediately open an image that can be sent to your publication without delay, yet the full 6-million pixel file is saved.

The dreaded lag time has been much reduced. Now when I raise the camera to take a picture of Bush walking to a helicopter, the camera fires. Canon achieved this by updating the D60's firmware compared to the D30. The camera already knows how much space is available on the CF card, so it doesn't have to waste time verifying that information while you wait. Also, buffer memory was more than doubled, and the speed at which the camera transfers image data to the CF card was significantly increased.

The EOS D60's high resolution and color fidelity is made possible by a newly developed 6.3 megapixel CMOS sensor with 3072x2048 square pixels, 12-bit analog-to-digital conversion and an on-chip RGB primary color filter array. The sensor is the same size as the D30's at 15.1x22.7mm, resulting in a focal length conversion factor of 1.6 as compared to the 35mm format. This is still a bit of annoyance, however, the reality is that most photographers have learned to live with these factors. To help, Canon has introduced a new 16mm-35mm 2.8 lens that replaces the previous 17-35.

Because it is based on the EOS D30, which it replaces, the D60 inherits many of that camera's advanced features including a built-in E-TTL flash, 11 shooting modes, 3AF modes, 3 metering patterns, and shutter speeds ranging from 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus Bulb. The D60's burst mode can capture up to 8 consecutive images at 3 frames per second at all image/quality settings, including RAW mode. The D60 is equipped with a USB 1.1 and NTSC/PAL video out ports as well as an N3-series remote control socket, a dedicated hot shoe for the EX-series Speedlites and a PC terminal for external strobes. The Lithium-ion Battery Pack BP-511, which is included with the camera, provides enough power to take approximately 490 images at normal temperatures.

The EOS D60 is bundled with an upgraded software package featuring powerful drivers based on those supplied with the EOS-1D, but newly upgraded for compatibility with Windows XP. Canon is also cooperating with Apple to ensure the D60 will soon be supported by the Image Capture function of OSX. Additional Canon utilities such as Zoombrowser EX, PhotoRecord, ImageBrowser, USB Mounter, RAW Image Converter, PhotoStitch and RemoteCapture are also supplied, together with complimentary copies of Apple QuickTime 5.0 and Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE.

The bad news is that the camera is already proving so popular that Canon is badly backlogged on shipment, which means that a lot of you will have to wait a few months to buy one.

Read more about the Canon D60 on Canon's website.

Dirck Halstead

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