Why I like the Canon 60D.

I bought my second Canon 60D last week.  I thought I would explain why.  This Spring I undertook a large (for me) video project and I ended up doing interviews with 14 oral surgeons in 7 different locations.  I kept the lighting as simple as I could.  Most of the venues had a mix of sunlight thru the windows and florescent lights from the ceiling.  In most cases I filtered small, battery powered LED's to daylight and mixed them in.  If I was careful enough to do a custom white balance before I started shooting then the color looked just fine.  If I depended on AWB I won sometimes and I lost sometimes.

When I started the project I assumed that the Canon 5dmk2 would be the preferred shooting camera for the best quality.  But it didn't work out that way.  I found the menus in the 60D to be easier for me to understand.  I found the deeper depth of field of the smaller sensor to be a godsend in most set ups.  But most of all I found the simple, manual control of audio to be easiest to use.

I have a 7D and it also shoots nice video but it doesn't have the option to control sound levels manually.  I use it to shoot "B-roll" when we don't need sound, or to shoot fast moving stuff when operating the camera in a "live" situation overrides overriding the automatic level controls.

The Canon 60D also has a big, bright LCD monitor on the back that flips out and is positionable.  It's a big plus for shooting a seated subject.  I always tend to use a Hoodman loupe when I shoot view.  It's easier to see the screen if you block out the ambient light.

I'm sure that you can tweak out a full stop better high ISO performance with the 5Dmk2 but for the kind of interviews I was doing it would have been inconsequential.

My working methodology was pretty simple.  I'd clip a Sennheiser lavalier microphone to the person's shirt button plaque or white coat lapel and put the microphone transceiver in their pocket. Then I'd put the microphone receiver in the hot shoe of the shooting camera and plug the cable into the camera's microphone socket.  I'd ask the doctor some questions for practice and check and set levels while we chatted.  Once I had good levels that didn't clip I would push the button at the top right of the camera (from camera operator's point of view).  That button gives two levels of magnification which makes fine focusing any optic a piece of cake.  On the third push of the button you're back to the live frame and ready to push the dedicated button to start recording.

Sometimes I would use a 50mm lens on my primary interview camera but I would want a second camera angle at the same time so I would have something different to cut away to.  It would keep the video from being so static.  I noticed that, when I used a 5Dmk2 the footage looked different.  Even if I did custom white balances in the same spot.  I decided I wanted two identical shooting cameras.  It would also be good for those times when I have a second video shooter and I want everything to cut together well.

I was looking on the used shelf at Precision Camera for bargains and I found a lightly used 60D with an extra Canon battery and a 16 gigabyte Delkin SD card for a whopping $675.  At a time when camera bodies seem hard to come by I thought it was a good deal.

I shot the two 60D's with different lenses on the front at a big Freescale Semiconductor event on Tues. this week.  I shot raw files and did lots of unnecessary pixel peeping as I post processed them in Lightroom yesterday.  What I saw was all good.

The camera can get noisy at 1600 ISO, especially so if you underexpose.  I'm not perfect.  Underexposure happens to me.  But the nice thing is that the grain is well behaved.  Very little color splotching occurs and there's just an increase in what looks like monotone noise.  It's handled very well by the noise reduction menu in LR.

When I shot on a tripod and used normal, reasonable ISO's like 200,  400, and 800 I got rich, saturated colors and high resolution.  In this case I was mostly limited by the cheap Tamron 11-18mm lens I was using for ultra wide angles.  I was pleasantly surprised with the high sharpness of the 24-120mm  L zoom.  And I was generally pleased by the performance of Canon's cheap, kit zoom, the 18-55mm version 2.  All of the lenses had various geometric distortions but the two Canon's were pretty well corrected by the profiles in the lens correction menus in LR.

The camera handles well, sips battery power conservatively (same battery as the 7d and 5d2), does nice live view and feels good in my hands.  Your hands may be bigger......

What I like a lot about the cheaper cameras  is that they use SD memory cards.  I can buy tons of 8 gigabyte cards at around $13 a whack from Amazon and the class 10's seem to handle all the video I throw at them very well.

To recap:  Good video.  Good audio.  Light and small but with a good finder.  Uses cheap SD cards without coughing or sneering.  Wonderful LCD monitor with swivel.  High megapixel count with very pretty files in raw.  Graceful handling of noise.  CHEAP (compared to the 7D and the 5Dmk2).

I'm glad I bought another one.  I'd like to do more personal video projects in the west Texas desert (once the Summer is over.....in November) and it's nice to have ten or twelve SD cards to play with so I don't have to spend valuable shooting or sleeping time downloading cards and backing up files.  With SD card prices so low it's just like buying rolls of film....

I like cropped frame cameras.

I also like shooting video with these cameras.  So much so that I've decided to write an ebook about how I do it.  I'm spending July with Ben going thru everything I ever wanted to learn about video and the way these cameras can be tweaked to do video as part of my research on the book.  It should be done, designed, edited and ready on the first of Sept.  I'll keep you posted.