Test Results

IMAGE QUALITY: Excellent image quality throughout its ISO 100-1600 range. Resolution of 2265 lines (highest in this group) takes an almost insignificant drop to 2160 lines at ISO 800-1600. Noise went from Very Low to Moderately Low throughout the range. Color accuracy was excellent. Rank: 1 IMAGE STABILIZATION: We got an average handholding gain of 2.5-3 stops, which places it first in this group. AUTOFOCUS: Fastest of this group. While the Nikon and Sony are very close in speed, neither has the sensitivity of the Rebel, down to -2 EV. CIPA BATTERY RATING: 500 shots, 50% with flash. SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.1x3.8x2.4 in., 1.16 lb, body only, with card and battery. CARD: SD/SDHC. PRICE: $800, street, body only; $900 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Canon EF-S IS lens. INFO: www.usa. canon.com.

CALL IT A SUPER-TWEAK OF NIKON'S D40X, WITH EVEN MORE IN-CAMERA IMAGE ADJUSTMENTS.

EASE OF USE: The tiny D60 is easy to grip but not that easy to use in anything but auto modes. For instance, the clumsy flash exposure compensation involves two buttons and a dial (or you can set it with a menu). Menu organization can be odd. Viewfinder magnification is on the low side, and data can be hard to see. But startup is speedy, shutter lag minimal, and AF fast. Many menu items have help screens, and you can bring up sample photos to see the effects of controls. The 2.5-inch LCD is respectable, but there's no live view. Rank: 5

CONTROL: The D60 is the postproduction champ of inexpensive DSLRs. A favorite feature is the in-camera conversion of RAW files, which lets you tweak things like color balance, hue, contrast, and sharpness, before saving as JPEGs. Other fixes include D-Lighting (Nikon's dynamic range adjustment), redeye removal, Quick Touchup (which works something like Auto Levels in Adobe Photoshop), and filter effects. You can even make a stop-motion movie from a series of still frames. However, you can save only Basic quality JPEGs in RAW + JPEG

capture, and the only way to set Adobe RGB color space is to use a custom image profile. The burst rate for Fine JPEGs is slow for this class. Rank: 5

SYSTEM FLEXIBILITY:

Nikon is the other 800-pound gorilla here, along with Canon. If you can think of a lens or accessory, Nikon probably makes it. But not everything's perfect: The D60 will autofocus only with AF-S lenses, and you can't control accessory units wirelessly with the D60's built-in flash. Rank: 1 (tie)

WHAT'S MISSING: A better in-the-box FiAW converter than ViewNX— the optional Capture NX2 software is superb, but it'll cost you up to $180. And that wireless flash control via the pop-up.

NICE SURPRISES: Would you believe a self-cleaning sensor and software dust deletion and (a first) a momentary air puff near the sensor to remove dust? It has all three.

IMAGE ANALYSIS: The JPEG (right) has the most accurate color of the bunch—the gray is essentially perfect. But this leaves the face and flowers looking grayish, even slightly blue—we'd tweak it wanner with camera settings or in image editing. As with the Canon, noise suppression obscures detail, notably in the hair, and it also loses the small highlights in the hair shadows. RAW-to-TIFF conversion with sharpness raised slightly was quite sharp, with some detail in hair still smoothed over, and with very accurate skin tones.

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