Canon D60 Digital Camera

The D60 is the successor to the Canon D30, it has a 6 megapixel CMOS sensor instead of the D30's 3 megapixel sensor.   For complete information about the D60, you can read the 4.86 megabyte D60 user manual in PDF format; however, I also want to document a few of the more obscure features and bugs here.   Generally speaking I'm very happy that I bought the D60, but that's mostly because I no longer have to struggle with the many hassles of film photography.   I still think that the D60 was the best digital SLR for me to buy, but I experience considerable frustration with digital camera technology, so I'm still waiting for the perfect digital camera!

The D60 wasn't my first camera with auto-focus, but it was the first camera where I consistently used auto-focus.   I especially wanted this feature to improve my airshow photography and bird photography.    Before getting the D60, I was using various Pentax camera bodies (MZ-5, Z-1, MZ-M), mostly with a Tokina ATX 150-500mm manual focus lens.   I was hopeful that the D60's auto-focus together with image stabilization on the Canon 100-400mm lens (the 35mm equivalent of 160-640mm) would result in a greater number of well-focused photos.   My results have been mixed.   I certainly do get a greater number of useable photos, but it's not obvious whether this is just because having a digital camera allows me to take more photos.   When I was using the Pentax I would usually shoot around 20 rolls of 36 exposure film during a two-day airshow, to yield about 700 shots; with the D60 I shoot about 4000 shots over the two days - so I'm shooting 5 or 6 times as many photos.   The quality of the best D60 photos is much better than the quality of the best Pentax photos; this might be because I was always using ISO400 film, whereas I usually use the D60's ISO100 setting.

I've been somewhat disappointed by the D60's auto-focus capability.   I'm not saying that it's worse than any other camera's auto-focus, since I don't have experience with other cameras; but it very often produces images of moving objects which aren't particularly sharp, often produces images which are plain bad, and sometimes produces images which are totally blurred.   Since I'm photographing objects which are moving, I almost always put the camera into "AI servo" mode, rather than "one shot" mode; the AI servo mode is supposed to continually adjust the focus to account for movement.

I've heard numerous reports that the auto-focus unit that Canon put into the D60 is not particularly good, probably because they wanted to differentiate between the D60 and the top of the line digital camera, the 1D.   Well, even at a "breakthrough" price of $US2200, the D60 still isn't what you'd call a cheap camera, so this decision is rather annoying.   Worse yet, the D60 has only 3 auto-focus sensors, all located along the center line of the viewfinder, so you've always got to have some part of the subject along that center line.   At airshows there are often two planes flying one above the other, meaning that there's only empty space between them, which of course the camera can't focus on.   So you have to put one of the planes in the center, and the other above or below it, which means lots of wasted empty space in the frame.

The image stabilization lens has been of very questionable value for airshow photography.   The lens has two stabilization modes, the first for photographing stationary targets, the second for panning with targets which are moving horizontally.   If you're in the first mode then the lens compensates for vibration both in the horizontal and vertical axes, in the second mode it compensates for vibration only in the horizontal axis.   If you're in the first mode and you pan horizontally then the lens will fight against your panning and your photos will be totally blurred.   If you're in the second mode and you move the lens up or down to follow an aircraft then again the lens will fight against the movement and ruin the photos.   Since aircraft often do move up and down, I stopped using image stabilization totally, and returned to reliance on a fast shutter speed, usually 1/500th of a second, to avoid blurring caused by camera shake.


The D60 has a glass plate in front of its CMOS sensor, which prevents dust from accumulating on the sensor; however, you need to periodically clean dust off this plate.   The D60 has a custom setting selectable via the menu system which locks the mirror in the "up" position so that you can use a brush or blower to clean the plate.   However, you can only do this operation if you have the camera powered via the AC adaptor, not with a battery.    Presumably they did this to avoid the risk of the battery going flat during the cleaning process, which would result in the mirror unexpectedly swinging back into the "down" position, and possibly being damaged by contact with the brush or blower.   However, I think this is a very stupid decision - I have no control over mains power, which sometimes fails unexpectedly, whereas I know whether the battery is good or not, because the D60 shows how much charge is left in it; so now I'm at the mercy of the AC supply, which is not totally predictable even in the Western world, let alone the third world countries I often visit.   Also, I have to drag the AC adaptor cable around in my already full luggage.   And when I'm in hiking through the jungle far from AC power, frequently changing lens and exposing the inside of the camera to dirt, how the heck am I supposed to clean the sensor?   Two thumbs way down for the moronic decision to require AC power for this operation.   Quite apart from the AC adaptor issue, somehow I don't find the selection of this operation very intuitive, and I always have to re-read the user manual.   The thing which doesn't seem obvious is that after using the menu to put the sensor cleaning option to "enabled", it's necessary to press the "set" button inside the rear guidewheel before hitting the shutter release.   I never remember to hit the set button, assuming that if the menu says the option is enabled, then it's enabled.

Selection of exposure compensation also isn't intuitive.   For starters, you can't do it if the camera is in full manual mode, which is how I usually operate.   This sort of makes sense, since in this mode you're manually setting both the exposure length and the aperture, and so you can choose to deliberately under- or over-expose; however, having exposure compensation in full manual mode also would make sense - it would result in the moving exposure gauge being recalibrated lower or higher.   Regardless, even if you put the camera into some other mode, it's still not obvious how to set the compensation - you have to half-press the shutter button and rotate the top dial.

One thing which bamboozled me for several minutes while I was hiking far from a user manual or computer terminal was the message "err 1" which I got on the LCD, accompanied by the camera being totally unwilling to focus and take a photo when I pressed the shutter release.   After several minutes of head-scratching I figured out by trial and error that this error means that the camera can't talk to the lens, in this case because the lens mount contacts were dirty.   A quick clean of the one or two month old camera fixed the problem.

Perhaps the most bizarre quirk I've heard about, but which I'm not sure I've experienced myself, relates to the camera battery being drained even if the camera itself is switched off.   It seems that if you turn the camera off, but then remove the lens and replace it, then the camera will start doing something and draining power, without any indication whatsoever that this is happening.   A few hours later the battery will be mysteriously drained!   The solution to this problem is to turn the camera on and off again whenever you change the lens.