The D60 arrives in the wake of the D3 and D300 and slots into the range above the D40 (which stays on as part of the Nikon crew) and below the D80 replacing the D40x. And the similarities to that camera are obvious as soon as you pick the thing up.
The D60 has a very compact and lightweight body with a nicely sculpted handgrip on the right into the base of which the rechargeable battery slots. A port on the side houses the SD/SDHC external storage card. The small top plate lacks a data LCD but has a large mode dial with its key shooting modes. These include the usual P, A, S and M modes along with a seven subject programs that include child, portrait and landscape modes to name a few. There’s a full auto setting too.
A control wheel on the rear can be used to select various settings in the mode the camera is set to and on the front, the shutter release and on/off switch perch on the leading edge of the hand grip. Just behind sit the exposure compensation and D-Lighting buttons.
A small pop-up flash provides a modicum of lighting having a guide number (GN) of 12 at ISO 100. In terms of sensitivity, the D60 has a good range from ISO 100 to 1600; there is a boosted “Hi” mode too, enough to provide plenty of flexibility in most lighting conditions without reverting to flash all the time.
Image noise can be a problem at higher ISOs, at ISO 800 and above sadly the same is true here even with noise reduction on and despite Nikon’s EXPEED engine strutting its stuff, a processor that works so well on the D3 and D300, the application here is less successful in terms of noise control.
However, it does optimise the image quality particularly in terms of white balance and colour and provides a set of tools, such as vivid, more vivid and the like, to tweak the look of images. Other parameters in the Optimise Image controls allow you to customise sharpening, tone, colour profile (Adobe or sRGB for example), hue, and saturation.
In terms of image size and quality you can shoot JPEGs (basic, normal and fine) and RAW + (basic) JPEG as well, so you get a reasonable range to play with. On a 1GB SDHC card in basic I could shoot up to 451 images while in RAW that drops to 73 or you can get around 65 RAW + JPEGs.
The camera’s kit lens is a new, AF-S DX VR Nikkor with 18-55mm focal range and F3.5 to F5.6 maximum aperture range. As the VR indicates this is a Vibration Reduction lens so it has a built-in anti-shake system using active optics that quickly adjust to compensate for camera shake for example.
As with all recent Nikons the menu system used in the D60 is intuitive and comes with a natty help screen system activated by pressing the “?” button. Depending on the mode or function you’re interrogating, the help system will provide you with tips and hints and, well, help to get the most from the camera.
Menus, playback, and scrolling are all accomplished from back plate buttons that surround the camera’s 2.5-inch screen, there’s a direct delete and auto-focus/auto-exposure lock button.
The latter is just to the right side of what is actually, a rather small viewfinder, however its 18mm eye point is good, but if you wear spectacles as I do, it only affords enough of a view to see all extremities of the otherwise bright and clear finder with the eye cup removed.
Other snazzy bits of kit have been included however. For a kick off, the viewfinder has a pair of small sensors below it that deactivate the screen as the camera nears your eye. Active D-Lighting helps with high contrast scenes (and it can be applied to images post-shoot if you don’t want the camera to interfere before you’ve had chance to go through the shots.
A stop motion mode allows you to create your own Wallace and Gromit-alike mini movies, you pick the first and last image in a sequence and the camera will play them back as movie and they can be saved to PC in AVI format
Another bonus is the large information display that rotates to match the camera orientation and the fact you can choose the way information is displayed either using an animated display with helpful hints of as an interactive set of icons accessed via the back plate “OK” button and scrolling through the options.
In this way, you can get a small help screen and access to the (major) settings of your choice for fast and helpful control of the camera. And as for fast, the D60 has almost instant start up (with the anti-dust animation system start screen playing on the screen when switching the camera on and off), there’s a 3fps top drive mode in JPEG Fine setting for up to 100-frames.
The three-zone AF system is a modest set-up but works reliably, metering is also very effective and white balance control also worked well, but the auto setting did leave a subtle orange colour cast in mixed lighting.
The D60 comes in three outfits, or rather a body kit and two lens kits, one a non-VR lens kit with the same overall specification as the 18-55mm F3.5-F5.6 VR lens version and you pay a commensurately higher price accordingly.
Because handling and ergonomics are so good and the camera is very simple to use - left on Auto, it is as simple to use as point and shoot compact - it’s sure to appeal to those wanting that bit more from their hobby than mere snaps. And it will offer a helping hand to those trading up from, say a compact camera.
However, I cannot help feel the noise performance could be much better, particularly given I’ve just been spoilt rotten by the D300 and D3 both of which perform excellently in that regard.
Nevertheless, the D60 does add a host of new features to the older, D40x mix and as such, displays a very positive move forward in the range of camera’s Nikon now offers in its consumer DSLR range.
Fast, easy to use and able to produce excellent results at lower ISO settings, the D60x is worthy successor to the D40x and certainly worth a look for anyone wanting to get that bit more from their photography in a compact, responsive package.
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