Canon EOS 60D Enthusiast DSLR: Guided Tour

What you need to know to start taking great pictures with this camera right now.

Whether you've just bought the Canon EOS 60D or are seriously considering it, this Guide gives you an in-depth look at the camera's key features and the nuts and bolts of how it works.

Canon EOS 60D


Welcome to the Adorama Learning Center's Guided Tour of the Canon EOS 60D. In this tour, you will learn how to get great photos using this enthusiast-oriented 18MP APS-sensor DSLR. Even better: You'll also learn some tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of this powerhouse camera. The Canon 60D is a substantial camera, with a rich feature set that should satisfy the creative needs of first-time DSLR users to photography enthusiasts and even part-time pro's. The first mid-range Canon DSLR to have an articulated screen, the 60D uses the same highly-regarded 18MP APS-C sensor that can be found on the higher-end 7D. Thanks to its polycarbonate construction it is lighter and slightly smaller than the Canon 7D but more solidly built and fully featured than the Canon Rebel series of intro-level DSLRs.

The Canon EOS 60D is a camera to grow with. Once you have familiarized yourself with its basic controls, I encourage you to explore the many advanced features this camera has to offer. One key feature is the ability to control TTL flash wirelessly using Canon's Speedlite flashes such as the Canon 430 EX II. In fact, you can control multiple flashes without tethering them to the camera, and because it's a TTL system, flash exposure is calculated automatically but can be adjusted from within the camera.

Canon makes an extensive array of lenses from very wide to long telephoto and macro, so your ability to be creative is limited only by your budget and lens choices.

Before we take a deep dive into how the Canon EOS 60D works, let's see what comes in the box.


Canon EOS 60D



Box contents depend on whether you bought the camera body alone, or in a kit with a lens. But typically you will find: The camera, lens (if bought in kit) and body and lens caps,  two CDs – a Software instruction manual, and an EOS digital solution disk that contains the following software: Digital Photo Professional 3.1, ImageBrowser 6.7, EOS Utility .1, PhotoStitch 3.2, Picture Style Editor 1.9 and EOS Sample Music. You'll also find a battery and charger, (the same power source that is also used in the 7D and pro-level Canon 5D Mark III, among other models), USB and A/V cables, a 60D neckstrap (most likely the only neckstrap you'll need), a handy pocket guide which fits in a wallet and explains all of the camera's basic functions, and a comprehensive 322-page instruction manual.

An SD card is not included, but you'll need at least one. Since the Canon 60D produces larger image files and 1080p high-definition video, I recommend a Class 10 SDHC or SDXC memory card; a lower-class card might cause breaks in the video, and slow down the camera's performance—an important factor if you plan to shoot sports where you'll be using the 5fps burst mode a lot. Also, I recommend getting a card with at least 8GB capacity—more (16-32GB) if you plan to shoot shoot a lot of HD video. You can find appropriate SD cards at the Adorama Memory Card department.


Setting Up The Canon 60D


The first thing you should do when you unpack this camera is charge the battery, a process that should take a couple of hours. Mount the lens by aligning the white or red dot on the lens to the corresponding dot on the camera's lens mount. Turn the lens until it clicks in. Turn the camera on by moving the switch under the control dial on the left side of the top of the camera. You will be prompted to set the date and time. Use the four-way toggle switch (on the right side of the camera back, surrounding the “Set” button” to navigate through the choices. Once you've completed that, look through the viewfinder and press the shutter release halfway down until you hear a double-beep confirming that the lens has focused. Turn the diopter dial (upper right corner of the viewfinder) until the image you see is sharp. Now you're ready to start shooting.

One of the first controls you will want to familiarize yourself with is the four way toggle switch (Canon calls it the Multi Controller), which dominates the right back of the camera. Use this to navigate through any menus and screen prompts. Practice using this control, since it takes a practiced touch and it is very easy to accidentally turn the surrounding Quick Control dial.

Make sure the lens IS (image stabilization) and AF (autofocus) switches are turned on. You can always turn them off later as needed, but for general hand-held shooting they should remain on all the time.


Shortcuts for Snapshooters

Before we tap into the 60D's most powerful features, let's take a look at three ways less experienced photographers can get more mileage out of this camera.

Green Mode: If you consider yourself a snapshooter and are intimidated by the many controls on the camera, you can start off by simply using the Green mode. Go to the mode select dial on the left side of the camera's top, press the center button down to unlock the dial, and select the green rectangle. In this mode the camera will make all the exposure, color and focus choices for you based on what it thinks are the best settings for any given scene. Press the shutter release partway down and the camera will set focus and exposure. A green focus confirmation light will glow steadily This works most of the time, but the power of this camera is how much you can do with it when you take full control.

Canon 60D Mode DialUse the Basic Zone: The Mode Dial is divided into three sections: Creative Zone (manual and semi-manual modes designed for more advanced photographers), the Green Mode described above, and the Basic Zone. The Basic Zone consists of icons representing different kinds of shooting situations; turn the dial to any of these icons and the camera will automatically choose the best exposure, focus, color balance, flash and other relevant settings for the best possible photos for the chosen mode. Let's look at each of them.

Flash off: The Flash-Off mode is ideal for shooting in situations where flash may not be permitted, such as a museum or a concert.

CA (Creative Auto) combines the best of full auto and manual control by allowing users to select the desired photographic effect (blurred background, stop action, etc) without needing to learn the technical terms such as f/stops and shutter speeds. In CA, you press the “Q” button, located on the back of the camera, and a menu appears on the LCD monitor which describes the effects in plain language.

In Portrait mode, the camera chooses the best exposure and color balance for natural-looking skin. It also chooses the largest aperture so the background is pleasingly out of focus.

Landscape mode forces the camera to focus to infinity. This is useful when riding on a tour bus and shooting through windows. (Tip: Avoid shooting through windows as much as possible, because there will be annoying reflections.)

Macro mode is ideal for photographing flowers or other subjects up close. It is best used with a dedicated macro lens such as the

The Sports/Action mode is designed to freeze action. The camera chooses faster shutter speeds and burst mode in order to capture fast-moving subjects. Hint: The camera only uses the center focus spot in this mode, so be sure your subject is always centered in the frame.

Night Portrait mode combines flash to illuminate the person you're photographing with an accurate exposure of the background. This combination of flash and long exposure gives your photos a more natural look. Hint: The background “ambient” exposure may be too long for a sharp hand-held photo. In these situations, you will need to find a way to support your camera either by placing it against a wall or table, or using a tripod.


Canon 60D flash


Operating The Flash

As with most cameras, you can easily override the flash's default settings in all but the Green Mode, which operates the flash automatically at all times. Here's how to adjust the flash  with this camera.

1. To adjust flash strength, hit the “Q” button. In the info screen, on the left side of the second row from the bottom you'll see a flash adjustment icon. Highlight that and hit “Set”, and you can then use the thumb dial to increase or decrease flash output but up to 3 stops in either direction. This is a great feature that advanced photographers can use in conjunction with the Exposure Compensation feature (also accessible via the Q button) to manually balance the flash output with the ambient light.

2. You can also turn on Red-Eye reduction. In this mode, the camera detects if it is dark and if so, the flash gives off a quick burst of flashes. This serves to make your subjects' eyes diaphragms shrink, reducing the chance of glowing red eyes. The problem? The pre-flash is annoying. Better to use a separate off-camera flash, which will eliminate red-eye. However if you must use this feature, go to the Menu and in the first “Red Camera Settings” list, the second item from the bottom, Red-Eye Reduc, lets you turn the feature on. By default, it's off.

Hint: You have fewer flash control options when shooting in Auto mode. That's fine, since the camera will probably choose the appropriate flash mode for you.

Tip: When photographing people in low light, warn them that this may happen so they can turn away during the quick light flashes then look towards the camera when it counts.



Canon lens focus image stabilization control



Focus and Image Stabilization

All Canon-branded lenses focus automatically, although there's a switch at the base of the lens that turns this feature off if you prefer to focus manually. Most non-Canon lenses are, likewise, autofocus, although there are a handful of exceptions. Many Canon and non-Canon lenses made for Canon DSLRs also offer Image Stabilization (IS), which allows you to hand-hold the camera in lower light and still get sharp images.

The advantage of IS is that it lets you hand-hold the camera in lower light while reducing the likelihood of camera shake. Other factors—from the aperture chosen to whether you're using a wide-angle or telephoto lens, and even how much coffee you recently consumed—can also affect stability but IS improves your odds of getting a sharper photo in low light without flash, or when shooting in flash and slow exposure mode.


flip-out LCD monitor Canon 60D


Shooting Movies

The Canon 60D is a great choice for shooting HD video and will deliver high quality results.  By default, it will record 1,920x1080 resolution HD video at 30p, but it can be changed to  a cinematic 24fps at full resolution, 60fps at 780p or 650p. To shoot video, turn the Mode dial to the movie camera icon. This will black out the optical viewfinder and activate Live View mode so you can see the image on the LCD monitor. Use the Q button to access the various controls and change from the camera's defaults. You can change color balance, focus mode  and resolution this way.

To start shooting video, press the red dot button immediately to the right of the viewfinder. A red dot will appear on screen to indicate you are actively shooting. Press the same button to stop recording. Want to customize your movie settings? See the Custom Settings section, below.


What Do The External Controls Do?

Let's take a tour through the Canon 60D, starting with the top left side of the camera. The big dial is the Mode dial. Press the center button to rotate it to the desired setting (see details, above, in “Shortcuts for Snapshooters.”) In addition to the snapshooter modes there is the creative zone, designed for more experienced photographers who understand how to use a camera in Program, Tv (shutter priority), Av (aperture priority), Manual, and Bulb modes, and prefers using custom settings. The camera's on/off switch is below the Mode dial. Be sure to switch it off when not in use, since the camera battery drains faster when switched on, even when it is inactive.

The Hot Shoe can accommodate a shoe-mount flash or can hold a shotgun microphone for better quality audio when shooting video. The right side of the the camera's top is dominated by an LED display and five buttons, which (from left to right) control autofocus (single shot, always-on AI Servo, and AI Focus), Drive (single frame, burst rate, self-timer), ISO setting, metering pattern (center-weighted, average, spot), and a backlight so you can see the LED in low light. Atop the grip sits a thumbwheel, which sets shutter speed in manual mode but is otherwise used to navigate through the camera's control settings in conjunction with the control wheel on the back of the camera. And of course at the front of the grip is the shutter release.

Back of camera: The back of the camera is dominated by the big flip-out LCD monitor. It rotates 280 degrees and can be used to compose while holding the camera at very high or low angles using Live View. Don't need to see all of the data on the LCD? Flip it so it's facing the camera. Above the upper left corner of the LCD is the Delete button; to the immediate right are the Menu and Info buttons. The Info button shows exposure information and key camera settings, depending on whether you're in image preview or viewing mode. The “Q” button gives you quick access to the camera's key settings and is a real time saver. The info screen it calls up will show you exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation, meter mode, will turn on the camera's electronic level (yes, it has one!), controls flash output strength, color mode, white balance, dynamic range, accesses the camera's custom controls, focus settings and focus points, metering pattern, and image file type.

To navigate through these on-screen menu items, use the four-way Multi Controller switch or the surrounding Quick Control Dial along with the thumbwheel located on the camera top. To the right of the viewfinder is a button with a white camera icon next to a red button. This is the Live View button; when the Mode Dial is turned to the Video mode, press this button to record videos. On the upper right is another small cluster of buttons: The AF-on button, which activates the autofocus, and the Plus and Minus preview buttons, which double as the AE/FE lock button and AF Point Selector when in shooting mode.

The Autofocus/Manual Focus and Stabilizer on/off switches can be found on the lens bodies, while a button on the front to the left of the lens with a lightning icon turns on the pop-up flash. (Advanced users also need to keep the pop-up flash up to signal and activate off-camera wireless flash.)

Flip open a door on the left side of the camera to access the microphone jack, HDMI port and A/V cable plug, as well as the USB port to connect the camera to a computer. The battery compartment and tripod mount are at the bottom of the camera, and the SD card slot is located on the right side.


Custom settings: Make This Camera Your Own

Canon 60D screen shotYou can customize the Canon EOS 60D so you can get the settings you want without spending time finding them in menus. There are several approaches to accomplishing this.

Custom Functions (C:Fn) settings: There are seven default settings that you can change, including exposure compensation level increments (1/3 or ½ stop), ISO, exposure and flash bracketing increments, noise reduction options, autofocus options, and reassigning several buttons to perform different functions. To access these custom functions, press Menu, then navigate to the second to last item on the top right, Custom Settings, and then use the Multi Controller to navigate through your choices.

My Menu Settings: You can control what modes and features appear in the LCD menu. Why bother? You can delete items you never use, making it faster to scroll directly to the menu items you most frequently use. Items inlcude Image Quality, turning warning beeps on and off, image review settings. It's worth exploring My Menu Settings, which you can change once and forget about it.

Customize your movie settings: Canon offers extensive customization for movie shooting, which you access by pressing the Menu button. The first default setting you will probably want to change is focusing. The camera's default is that AF during video shooting is disabled. You can change this by going to Menu and selecting the third button, AF w/ shutter button, and selecting Enable. Now when you're shooting a video, press the shutter release halfway down to activate autofocus. You may also want to add the ability to lock in autoexposure while shooting video, so the brightness doesn't change as you recompose. To do this, select the next item, AF and metering. Then, while shooting, press the shutter release halfway down, then press the Asterisk button to lock in exposure.

Canon 60D screen shotSix Important Menu Items

1. Quality: Most users will want to keep it set to high-resolution JPEGs in order to get the full-size 18MP images, but more advanced users may choose to shoot in RAW, or RAW + JPEG in order to have both the easier and more flexible image options.

2.  Beep: A warning noise the camera makes to confirm focus or tell you something's not working. It can be distracting when working discretely. Turn it off.

3. Image Review: You can briefly see the image you just shot in the LCD monitor. 2 seconds (the default setting) should be enough. More time can drain the battery faster.

4. ISO: The default is Auto ISO, which is fine for snapshooters, but more advanced photographers will want to take control of ISO since higher ISOs can adversely affect image quality.

5. Level: You can easily determine if your images are on the level using the 60D's built-in electronic level. You can find it in the Q menu. Look for the icon of a camera that appears out of kilter.

6. Selective Focus: You can let the camera choose the focus point automatically or use the Focus Point Selector to choose the focus area yourself. This is useful when shooting off-center subjects because it gives you pinpoint control over focus.


Did You Know... can compensate for slight vignetting based on which Canon lens is attached to the camera? Go to Menu and select “Peripheral illumination correction” and enable it. The result? A clean image with even lighting throughout.

Canon 60D screen can wirelessly operate multiple Canon Speedlite flashes with this camera? Yes, you can really learn to paint with light by going into the first Camera Menu, hitting “Flash Control,” “Built-in flash function setting,” and then hitting “Wireless function”. Choose the icon of the shoe-mount flash. Then, turn on your 430 EXII or similar flash, select the Wireless option (on the 430 EX II, press the right Zoom button continuously for a couple of seconds, until the red light in the front starts blinking) and you're ready to go. Keep the camera on “P” mode and use the flash intensity and EV controls (via the Q menu) to control ratio of flash to ambient light. I was able to run three flashes simultaneously this way! can choose up to 6 levels of color saturation, contrast and intensity via Picture Style—and then customize them to your taste? Go to Picture Style and choose from Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome. can process RAW images in the camera? Once you've shot your RAW images, you can fix color balance, remove vignetting, clean up noisy shadows (and lighten them), and reduce digital noise.

Learn more: 5 Ways to Optimize Your Canon 60D!

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