Canon 60D: Upgrade, Downgrade…or Sidegrade?

Canon's new 60D vs. 50D, T2i, and 7D. Where does it fit? Who is it for?

To determine what, exactly, this camera is and who might get the most benefit from it, let’s compare some of its key features to its mid-range predecessors and other DSLRs up and down the Canon line.


But taking a cue from the final season of the TV series “Lost”, which introduced us to the concept of a parallel same-time storyline with the same characters doing different things treated like a flashback or flash-forward (another “Lost” innovation) which they called a flash-sideways, I would like to propose that the 60D is simply a new kind of alternative to currently available models that combines both lower-end and higher-end features into something unique…a sidegrade.
Compared to the 50D

Sensor: The 50D had a 15MP CMOS sensor; the 60D has an 18MP one. Upgrade
ISO Range: 50D: 100-1600, expandable to 12,800. 60D: 100-3200, expandable to 12,800. Upgrade.
AF: 9 cross-type AF points for both models. A tie.
HD Video: 50D doesn’t have it. The 60D has 1080p/25fps, 720p at 50fps. Big Upgrade.
Live View: Both models have it. Tie.
LCD: 50D has a fixed 3-inch 920K dot VGA monitor. 60D has an articulated 1,040K one. Upgrade
Burst Rate: 50D shoots 6.3fps; The 60D shoots 5.3. Downgrade.
Body construction: 50D, magnesium alloy. 60D, Polycarbonate on aluminum chassis. Downgrade.
Memory: 50D, like all previous mid-range EOS’s, uses CF cards. The 60D uses SD. So they're different but is one better? I'm calling this a sidegrade.

So, is the 60D an upgrade or Dowingrade to the 50D? Depends. If you wanted to add video and don’t mind switching memory card formats, and the build quality isn’t a huge factor, then yes, it is arguably an upgrade. If you need a solid camera, are heavily invested in CompactFlash, and are not exactly gentle with your gear, then the 7D is a better bet. In any case, the 60D is not a logical progression from the 50D. Maybe the 7D is a more logical progression...

Compared to the 7D

Sensor: Both have 18MP sensors. Tie.
ISO Range: Both have identical ISO ranges, 100-3200. Tie.
AF: 7D has 19 cross-type AF points. Center point extra-sensitive with lenses f/2.8 and faster.  60D has 9 cross-type AF points, also works better with faster lenses. 60D is a downgrade.
HD Video: Both shoot HD Video at the same resolution and frame rates. Tie.
Live View: Both have live view. Tie.
LCD: 7D has a 920k dot 3-inch LCD. The 60D has 1040K dot flip-out version. 60D is an Upgrade
Burst Rate: The 7D boasts an 8fps burst rate (up to 126 JPEGs) thanks to a Dual DIGIC 4 Processor; the 60D only offers 5.3fps up to 58 JPEGs. Big downgrade.
Body construction: 7D has a weather-sealed Magnesium Alloy body. 60D is Polycarbonate over aluminum, a downgrade.
Memory: 7D uses CF cards. The 60D uses SD. Probably a Downgrade.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a significant upgrade from a 50D (or 40D, for that matter), it seems the 7D has become the next logical progression for ambitious shooters or for pros looking for a less expensive second camera body, while the 60D is a half-step down (unless video and price are important). Many pros are saying that this camera line has taken itself out of consideration as that second body for high-end shooters due to the change in memory card format.

But wait—what about the surprisingly capable Rebel T2i, technically considered a “starter” camera? Its specs reveal several interesting surprises and similarities to the 60D that muddle the choice for enthusiasts. Read on…

Compared to the Rebel T2i

Sensor: Both have 18MP sensors. Tie!
ISO Range: Both have the same ISO range, 100-3200. Tie!
AF: T2i has a 9-point cross-type sensor like the 60D, but not quite as sensitive. D60 is a slight Upgrade.
HD Video: Nearly identical specs: 1080p at 24/25/30fps, 720p at 60/50fps for the T2i, a few more fps choices than the 60D. So, the 60D is a downgrade!
Live View: Both have it. Tie!
LCD: Both have a 3-inch 1040K LCD monitor; the 60D’s articulates. Advantage, 60D.
Burst Rate: T2i burst rate is 3.7fps up to 34JPEGs, while the 60D chugs along at 5.3fps up to 58 JPEGs. Advantage, 60D.
Processor: Same as the 60D. Tie!
Body Construction: Polycarbonate/Stainless Steel Mix. A tie.
Memory: Both take the SD format. Tie.

Both of these cameras are very close in many important specs, although the T2i is slower in the important areas of burst rate and AF sensor. We didn’t even talk about metering, which is somewhat less robust in the T2i but still functions quite well. Is the difference in specs worth the extra $300 or so to get the 60D over the T2i? That depends on if you will be doing a lot of sports shooting or like to have control over your video captures. The 60D has an edge over the T2i, but that edge is surprisingly slight.

What’s Canon doing?

Canon used to have four lines of DSLRs: Low-end (Rebels), Enthusiast (10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D), Prosumer (7D, 5D), and flat-out Pro. The 60D and 7D now represent two branches of the consumer line: Standard consumers (who could go either way between the T2i and 60D and aren’t married to the CF memory card format), and Prosumers/aspiring pro’s, who are now likely to abandon the 60D line in favor of the 7D’s advanced capabilities and durability.

Ultimately, the 60D is neither an upgrade to the 50D, nor is it a downgrade, since it carries over the features and advantages of both the T2i and 7D. It’s a sidegrade--and an interesting gamble.


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