While at Photokina, I had the chance to play with both of these cameras throughout the week. In the process, I got a bunch of shots at various ISOs, explored the settings, and got a general feel for the cameras. So here’s a quick mini-review of the new APS-C kids on the block:
The Canon 60D was a highly anticipated camera for me personally, being a longtime user of the XXD family. Upon announcement and release of the specs, I became a bit skeptical. Holding the camera in your hands was another matter. I might even say it was the most comfortable DSLR I’ve ever held. It’s contoured to your hands much like the 7D is, just in a smaller and lighter package. The controls are laid out in a logical manner, but you lose access to some things, such as Picture Styles, White Balance (why?!), and FEC. However, some of the buttons are programmable, so if you can’t live without direct access to WB, you can program it in. You also have access to settings with the Quick Control Screen (which I’ve never been a big fan of) at any time with a press of the Q button. I also lament the loss of the multi-directional joystick, which was replaced by the 8-way controller inside the rear wheel. It doesn’t have precise tactile sensation, and I had trouble directing focus points with it. Otherwise, ergonomically, the 60D feels great but loses a few key controls over the previous models.
Many try, but nobody quite knows how to do a swivel screen like Canon (except maybe Panasonic), and on their first attempt with a DSLR, they’ve knocked the ball out of the park. The screen is sturdy and swivels smoothly. Having shot plenty of video with the 7D, and having shot extensively with a swivel-screened G6 in the past, I am quite excited for the potential that the 60D offers in video-making. Filming with the swivel screen open felt both natural and comfortable, and I’m sure many film-makers will love it. However, there’s one major gripe I have with video implementation on the 60D, and that is the mode dial on the top left. With the 7D and D7000, you can switch to video instantly with the flick of a switch on the back of the camera. With the 60D, you need to hold down the unlock button in the middle of the mode dial and turn it to the end (a three finger operation) where the video mode is located. And since you’re usually shooting in creative modes, that’s as far away as it possibly gets. This is a pain for those who want to seamlessly switch between stills and video. Why doesn’t the dial rotate a full 360 degrees like those on lesser cameras such as the S90?
The Nikon D7000, with its magnesium alloy shell, immediately felt like a tank in the hands. The controls were familiar and well sorted. I’ve you’ve ever shot with a D90 or a D300; indeed it felt like a cross between them, but with new refinements. Video is easier than ever, with a switch just like the Canon 7D for immediate access. Regarding the actual video itself, it’s a mixed bag. There’s a bit of hype surrounding it’s ability to auto-focus. And indeed it can, but don’t expect any miracles. I found it had trouble focusing closely, the AF motor made quite a bit of noise, and while it could follow along, there was definitely a bit of lag time to focus. Of course you can focus manually, and indeed, its capable of high quality, professional results – just see this video by Jarvis & Co. I wish I could show you the video I took at the show using auto-focus, but it seems to have vanished into my SD card’s grave yard.
Handling is as good as you can expect from a Nikon DSLR. Drive Mode takes the shape of the rotating dial under the mode dial, as on the D300 instead of the D90. Like the 60D, there are custom modes, which seems to be a welcome first for Nikon, and an improvement upon previous “setting banks”. The viewfinder is bigger and brighter than the 60D, one thing that Nikon consistently manages to get right. The new auto-focus array is very nice and locks on quickly. And at 16mp, this is actually the second highest megapixel count camera in Nikon’s lineup (not that I really care about that). Being that I am due for a new camera, I have entertained thoughts of getting a D7000, but this large pile of Canon glass will probably stop me from doing that.
Image Quality and Noise
Let’s take a look at some high ISO sample images, since that seems to be what most people are interested in. These were all shot in good lighting at Photokina. So you won’t get the kind of noise levels that are notorious in very low lighting conditions. Click the image for full size. Comments on the noise and image quality are below.
Obviously these are not studio samples shot under identical lighting conditions such as is done at most testing and review sights (if you want that, click here.) The idea here is to get a general idea of a camera’s noise performance at a variety of ISOs. Obviously the Nikon’s saturation was cranked higher than the Canon’s. Upon viewing the images at full size, I’m seeing a clear difference in the type of grain between the two cameras. The 60D has a more smudgy, loose pattern, whereas the D7000 has a tight, pixelated pattern. At ISO 1600, I might even give the edge to the 60D, although the sharpness of the D7000 is impressive (could be the in camera sharpening). Where the D7000 really seems to pull ahead is at ISO 6400, which to my eyes looks better than the 60D’s ISO 3200 shot. The land of ISO 12800 again gives favor to the D7000. ISO 25600 is splotchy and loaded with hot pixels, but still usable with some post processing. Overall, it seems that the D7000 pictures have more punch and clarity, but again that could be in camera processing. The statements by the Chase Jarvis team that the D7000 had noise performance on par with the D3 were slightly exaggerated. In the end, it seems the D7000 has nearly a one stop advantage over the 60D, certainly appealing to those who shoot often in low light environments. To be fair, the 60D is no slouch either, and it’s good to see noise improvements across the board for both models.
What do you think?
Here’s an in-depth review by the one and only Ken Rockwell.
Here’s a couple of (hands-off) comparisons from around the net:
Nikon D7000 Vs.Canon 60D Vs. Canon 7D by Dan Carr Photography
Canon 60D vs Nikon D7000: Best Midrange SLRs? by Light and Matter
Jesse Warren is an XXD shooting photog who also wouldn’t mind toting a D7000. He also works for Aputure in Shenzhen.