Monday, November 29, 2010

My thoughts going from Sony A700 to Canon 60D

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Canon 60D and here are some of my thoughts comparing it to the Sony A700 that I have been using for almost 3 years.

Keep in mind that I don't care one bit about brand so I will try not to be partisan, but I do concentrate on features and performance in the areas that are important to me. For example, I never shoot in continuous advance mode so I don't care if a camera is 3fps, 5fps, 7fps, or 10fps. I suppose 1fps (or even 0.5fps) would be good enough for me. :) Therefore, I don't pay much attention to this spec. I do like the camera to be quick and responsive though so that is probably related to whether the camera can handle high fps. I also shoot raw so don't care about jpeg processing options.

The 60D is almost exactly the same size as the A700, but it is a bit lighter:

60D: 755g, 145 x 106 x 79mm
A700: 768g, 142 x 105 x 80mm

Here are a few things about the 60D I really like compared to my A700 (that I have discovered so far):

- AF works well at wide angles! Hooray!
- Sleep mode works properly! Hooray!
- Fill-flash works well! Hooray!
- 3:2 LCD that displays photos using all the available space since photos are also 3:2
- Silent mode -- the quietest FSLR or DSLR I have ever owned
- Full-time ISO displayed in vf and it shows the actual ISO when using Auto ISO
- Quick LV and tilt/swivel LCD
- ISO 12,800
- Auto ISO to 6400 (can set maximum ISO)
- 60D gives 1,100 shots vs. A700 gives 650 shots with battery (according to Imaging Resource)

I have noticed also that the well-known red channel noise problem with the A700 that shows up as very noisy, mottled skies hasn't reared its ugly head with the 60D (or 30D and 300D before that). With my A700 the problem can be really terrible, especially when converting to B&W.

Something that is of no interest to most people, but is important to me is that Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Olympus (the last time I checked) have multiple languages for the menu in Japan and everywhere in the world English is one of the choices. The Sony cameras sold in Japan have firmware that does not allow the language to be changed from Japanese. That means when I am in Japan, sometimes for extended periods, Sony is not really a purchase choice -- even if my camera dies or is lost. I had a long thread about this on dpreview in 2007 when the A700 came out and it is a mystery why Sony does it, but other DSLR makers don't.

It is interesting that at the moment Canon seems to have returned to the FSLR days in one way. In film days the sensor quality (film) and the lens determined the IQ so you were free to choose which level of SLR based on features, speed, robustness, and price. With the 550D, 60D, and 7D all having essentially the same 18mp sensor with the same IQ we are back to that. You can have any of these and have one of the others as a backup and the IQ will be the same.

Here are things that I have found that are different from the A700 and are not as good on the 60D, IMO:

- Can't zoom to maximum image magnification with one button press

This one is a bit annoying. Sometimes if I think a photo might not be sharp (not sure I got focus right, low shutter speed so not sure if there is camera or subject blur, etc.) then I like to be able to quickly zoom all the way in to check sharpness. With the 60D (same as 30D) you have to either press the zoom button over and over to get to maximum zoom or just hold it down and it will zoom in. It isn't as fast as the one button press on the A700.

- Focal length not shown on image info display

When you review an image with the option of displaying all the info (histogram, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc.) it doesn't include the focal length. The A700 does. This isn't a big deal to me, but I did like that it was there on the A700. With the A700 you must press the C button to get that expanded info. Who would guess that? :) The 60D uses the INFO button.

- ISO settings don't wraparound

As you scroll through the ISO values it stops when you get to the highest ISO (or lowest ISO). Then you must go in the opposite direction to get to the other end. For example, if you are at ISO 12,800 and want to go to ISO 100 you can't just turn the wheel one more click. You must go backwards all the way through the list. The A700 wraps around. This one isn't a real big deal for me either since it is rare I want to quickly go from the high end to the low end or vice versa, but still it is a nice A700 feature.

- 1 memory setting

The A700 has three memory settings, but the 60D has only one. I never used the memory on the A700 so this is not important to me.

I find the 60D to be a nice upgrade from the 50D. I considered the 50D last year, but it was even bigger and heavier than the 30D and I didn't really want that for travel. Also, it had a reputation for not being so good at high ISO. Before buying the 60D the one issue that I was disappointed about it was that Canon removed MFA that was in the 50D. But, it seems like Canon may have done something to the 60D because there have been very few posts about FF and BF like are usually seen everytime a new body is released. There is lots of speculation as to what may have changed. Some think it may be that Canon has just tightened up manufacturing and testing tolerances or even that the firmware has been changed and somehow is often able to self-correct focus errors. Anyway, here is a long thread discussing it:

I can say that with the 5 lenses I have tried on the 60D I haven't had any problems with AF.

Also, from these diagrams it looks like the 60D is weathersealed about the same as the 7D:

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