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The Nikon D40 is a perennial favorite with students and entry-level consumers who want a D-SLR. The value pricing, compact design, and a good mix of features make it a hot seller even today. The D40x had some improvements, but apart from the megapixel count there wasn't enough to warrant an upgrade.
The D60 is the successor to the D40x, and brings a host of new features while remaining as compact and light as ever. Officially it's replaced the D40X in the market, but the question remains: is it really worth the upgrade? That's exactly what we're going to find out.
Frankly it took me a while to figure out if there were any physical differences between this model and the D40X. They are perfectly identical in size and build. Only on close inspection did I notice the metal finish on the model dial, which is the one thing that physically sets the D60 apart from the D40X (apart from the label of course).
The D60's size is 126 x 94 x 64 mm, making it one of the most compact D-SLRs in the world. The fact that I used 'compact' and 'D-SLR' in the same sentence would be indication enough that the camera is simplistically designed and aimed to appeal to the crowd that wants to move on from regular cameras into something that gives them more control and better results.
Indeed, the controls are as straightforward as they can get; they give users access to scene modes and auto modes at the flick of a switch. But don't be fooled by all the simplicity, as the D60 packs enough power to please even hardcore enthusiasts.
The grip is very comfortable, especially since the design allows a good amount of free space between the grip and the lens, making the camera convenient to hold for long periods. Its weight of 522g with the battery (471g without) also helps to keep your camera bag light. But even though the camera body is light, it doesn't feel fragile in any way. All the components seem durable and secure, and the movable parts give a reassuring snap or click.
The megapixel count stays at 10.2 this time as well. Considering the segment this camera caters to, it's definitely not a bad thing. The improvement, however, comes in the form of EXPEED processing — Nikon's new image processing system that's used by heavyweight models such as the D3 and the D300.
A notable and long overdue addition is the new Airflow sensor cleaning system that comes on every time you turn the camera on or off. The effectiveness of this system may be debatable, but it's definitely better than nothing.
The kit lens (AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR) supports image stabilization. For those new to the Nikon entry-level cameras, one of the reasons these camera bodies are lower priced is because the autofocus mechanism has been moved to the AF-S and AF-I lenses instead. So while you can still attach the regular Nikkor AF (or compatible) lenses to the camera, you wouldn't be able to use autofocus with them. This would be a drawback if you're moving on from an older Nikon model to one of these, but considering that these cameras are clearly 'entry-level', experienced users with a pre-existing lens collection are clearly not a target.
Unfortunately Nikon decided to stick with the 3-point autofocus system with the D60. The competing brands in this category give you a minimum of 5-point autofocus, so I was really hoping Nikon would boost that in the D60.
There are quite a few additional bells and whistles in the D60, namely an auto rotating interface, JPEG post processing, and stop motion movie function, but the features that really make the camera interesting are in-camera RAW processing and Active-D lighting.
If you prefer shooting in RAW mode, chances are you'd appreciate a good RAW+JPEG mode in your camera. While the D60 does offer this, it surprisingly records JPEG in only the basic quality level in this setting. While it's okay for a preview, you'd have to process RAW into JPEG through Photoshop to make it usable. Just make sure you have the latest Camera Raw 4.4.1 plugin for Adobe Photoshop.
So, while there are enough good features to justify this camera, let's see how well it performs in our tests.
When I do a direct image quality comparison with the Nikon D40X, images on the D60 seem slightly less sharp. The D40X gave results that were a bit punchier when it comes to colors and sharpness levels. As good as that may be for casual shutterbugs, experienced users would prefer results that are a bit more accurate. I had to set the D60's sharpness level a bit higher to get the same level as the D40X. Not a big issue at all.
The colors were all perfectly reproduced without any needless extra saturation. Sure, you can set the colors to a more vivid mode to get happier pictures, but the natural color reproduction was brilliant.
I especially enjoyed the way the camera accurately captured the mood lighting of the locations I was in and gave me just the kind of results I wanted. Its reproduction of reds, yellows and oranges were spot-on.
As I mentioned earlier, in landscape shots I did find some of the finer details missing at full resolution. I could have used the 'sharpen' tool, but I can't do anything about tiny details that weren't captured to begin with. But considering that the full resolution is 10.2 megapixels, chances are you'll rarely use that size for any practical purposes.
Even at higher ISO sensitivity levels the D60 performed surprisingly well. I can easily use images shot in ISO 1600 for smaller prints, and even use images shot in ISO 3200 for web photos. This was one of the biggest plus points for me.
The camera shoots at 3fps, which is faster than the 2.5fps of the D40X. Considering that the D60 supports SDHC cards, the data writing speed is impeccable. Even the interface was super-fast, with absolutely no slowdown for any function. I could zoom in and out of an open image as I pleased, in super speed, without experiencing any lag.
The D60 is an excellent D-SLR camera to start with. It offers you a huge range of functionality, and being a Nikon, you'll easily be able to find a good variety of accessories for it. Its attractive pricing of Rs 32,995 (street price for body + 18-55mm VR kit lens) puts it around the same price range as the Canon EOS 400D, but well below the newly launched Canon EOS 450D. But existing Nikon D40/D40x users might want to hang in there a little longer. Though the D60 is a great camera, it doesn't have many substantially new features to warrant an upgrade. But I'd unreservedly recommend it for new users!
Specs – Nikon D60
124 x 94 x 64 mm
|LCD Type||2.5", 230,000 px|
|Effective Pixels||10.2 Megapixels|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 (3200 with boost)|
|Shutter Speed||30-1/4000 sec + Bulb|
|Format||RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG (Basic)|
|Scene Modes||Children, Close-up, Landscape, Sports mode, Portrait mode, Night portrait|
|White Balance||6 positions, plus manual|
|Flash||Auto, Red-Eye, Slow, Red-Eye Slow, Rear curtain|
|Self Timer||2-10 secs|