Canon vs. Nikon is an age-old rivalry that well predates digital photography. And the battle in the midrange is one of the closest yet.
The Canon EOS 60D is fast, feature-packed, and has excellent photo and video quality; the Nikon D7000 can’t match on the video quality, but it sports the company’s best shooting design to date. So which system is worth the commitment?
We put the cameras head-to-head to see which comes out on top.
Editors’ note: The Prizefight scoring system is as follows: Each judge rates on a 0-to-5-point scale. At the end of each round, we will take an average of the judges’ scores. The final score for each camera will be an average of all five rounds.
Round 1: Design and interface
It’s not about looks; to win in this class you’ve got to provide streamlined access to shooting adjustments, with buttons, dials, and other controls that are easy to reach and operate but not easy to trip accidentally; easy access to frequently used settings; and well-organized menu systems and understandable icons. We also take into account ergonomics, how cool the camera looks, and how well the implementation achieves its implicit design goals.
The 60D has a fine design and control layout, but there are a few real annoyances, including the way the mode dial lock operates and the movie-capture mode living on the mode dial. And though the viewfinder is very nice, it doesn’t offer 100 percent coverage the way Nikon’s does.
The 60D’s flip-out LCD is a plus, but it forces several of the direct controls to the top, which I don’t like. The interface is slightly easier to navigate than the Nikon’s, but having to navigate with the awkward directional pad/control dial is a pain.
The D7000 has one of the best shooting designs I’ve seen in a dSLR. Everything is easily accessible, in sensible locations, with no hand contortions necessary–both for still and video shooting. It’s also got a big, bright viewfinder with 100 percent scene coverage. The body also ranks better on dust- and moisture-sealing.
The D7000 in general is just more comfortable for me to use. All the controls are where I expect them to be, and nothing is too difficult to reach or press. The viewfinder is excellent as well.
Round 2: Features
We’re looking for that perfect combination of capabilities that match the needs of these demanding users. Key features we consider include variety of exposure, focus, and metering options; image parameter controls; breadth of accessories available; video capture options; and compression and file output options.
The 60D has one big advantage: a large articulating LCD. It also supports 1080/30p video.
Again, the LCD is a plus and the rest of its features are what I expect for the money. Nikon just gives you a bit more. Then again, the 60D is less expensive.
Nikon has the requisite features you’d expect from a camera in this class, plus some nice touches. Dual SDXC slots, the ability to bracket up to 2 stops, and more sophisticated than usual custom white-balance tools.
For the money, the feature set is great. About the only thing the Canon has that the Nikon doesn’t beat is its video capabilities. I’m not big on video in dSLRs, though, so the edge goes to Nikon.
Round 3: Shooting performance
This is one of the things you pay the big bucks for, and at this level, there’s no substitute. In addition to considering the things that can be timed and tested–shutter lag, write speed, battery life, and so on–we consider the photographic experience that the responsiveness, speed, and accuracy of the camera provides. This includes characteristics such as how quickly, smoothly, and accurately the lens zooms and focuses; how sharp and accurate the viewfinder and LCD are; and whether the camera as a whole is fast enough to keep you from missing the shot.
Though the 60D is very fast, it’s slower than its predecessor at raw shooting, and not quite as fast as the D7000 on start-up or continuous shooting.
Going by the numbers, the 60D is slower than the D7000. It feels plenty fast, though, so performance is a close call.
The D7000 just slightly edges out the 60D in performance; they’re dead even except for start-up time–the D7000 is for all intents and purposes instantaneous–and the D7000′s higher frame rate for burst shooting.
This thing is fast. Really fast. The autofocus system is definitely impressive, too.
Round 4: Image quality
As with speed, there’s no substitute for stellar photo–and increasingly video–quality for midrange shooters. We assess the appeal of the camera’s photos and videos, as well as all the factors that contribute to a good capture like proper exposure, accurate colors, broad dynamic range and tonal separation, sharpness and sufficient resolution, and low noise.
The 60D’s video and audio quality is a bit better than the D7000′s–more detailed and less visually noisy–but it’s not as consistent on color accuracy and white balance as the Nikon.
If you’re buying a dSLR for equal parts video and photos, the 60D wins.
Both cameras produce excellent still photos. They’re relatively equal on their noise profiles, but the D7000 fares better on color–specifically, auto white balance.
If we’re talking strictly photo quality, the D7000 comes out ahead. But at this level of camera, it’s a tough call, as they’re both excellent.
Round 5: Value
These cameras don’t come cheap. Which provides the better return for your extra bucks?
It’s cheaper than the D7000, and if you don’t need the better construction or slightly faster burst– many people don’t–then it’s a better bargain.
For the price difference, there’s just a bit too much compromise on features and design for me.
Its street prices are at least $200 higher than the 60D’s, but if you need the better burst performance and build quality, the money’s definitely worth it.
The D7000 has everything I want and more. If you don’t need the kit lens, the body-only pricing hits the mark.
The winner is…Nikon D7000
This really was a close bout, but ultimately, the D7000′s faster shooting and better design gave it the edge it needed to triumph over the 60D.
Prizefight: Canon EOS 60D vs. Nikon D7000