Nikon D60 Review

The Nikon D60 digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera is the current smallest, most lightweight Nikon DSLR camera designed for amateur, entry-level photographers, as well as prosumer photographers looking for a less expensive back up or travel camera.

The Nikon D60 is an upgrade to the nikon_d40x, which was introduced in March 2007. Aside from a few minor changes and additional features, the external appearance and internal configuration of the D60, announced January 2008, is almost identical to its small compact DSLR predecessor. Like the D40x, the D60 is compatible with all F-mount lenses, but will only autofocus with AF-S and AF-I Nikkor lenses equipped with an autofocus motor because the D60 lacks an in-body motor.

7650831

What’s new on the Nikon D60?

  • auto-orienting screen (horizontal or vertical)
  • built-in stop motion movie maker
  • active D-lighting feature, which adjusts the shadow areas of the photograph
  • improved system to minimize dust landing on the sensor
  • graphical white balance adjustment offering fine-tuning of white balance settings
  • eye sensor function, which turns off the LCD when the user looks through the viewfinder
  • kit option includes the new 18-55mm VR lens, with the VR improving photographs in low light by 2-3 stops, as compared to the previous 18-55mm kit lens
  • simultaneous recording of both RAW and JPEG data of the same image

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have a few of the Nikon D60 still available. You may be also able to find a used Nikon D60 in the Photo.net Classified Ads. Otherwise, check out Nikon’s newer models listed below.

  • nikon_d60
  • nikon_d300s
  • nikon_D7000

If you are new to digital photography, start with the photo.net guide Building a DSLR System.

Operating Speed|operating-speed
Controls|controls
Adjusting Settings|adjusting-settings
Auto Focus|auto-focus
LCD Monitor|lcd-monitor
Viewfinder|viewfinder
High ISO Performance in Low Light|high-iso
White Balance|white-balance
Active D-Lighting|active-dlighting
Flash|flash
Memory Cards|memory-cards
Batteries|batteries
Mechanical Construction|construction
Choosing a Lens|choosing-lenses
Compatibility with Older Lenses|compatibility-older-lenses
Nikon D60 or D80?|comparison-d60-d80
Nikon D60 or Canon Rebel XTi/XSi?|comparison-canon-xsi-xti
Compared to Sony, Pentax, Olympus|comparison-sony-pentax-olympus
Key D60 Features|key-features
Conclusion|conclusion
Where to Buy|buy
More|more
Example D60 Photographs|d60-example-photographs

Operating Speed

The Nikon D60 is a relatively fast, responsive camera. Powering up the camera takes under 0.19 seconds. There is an almost non-existent shutter lag of a split-second. Using the active d-lighting feature causes a slight delay in the write speed to the card, as there is more information to process. Overall, the D60’s reaction time is fast for an entry-level DSLR, faster than most point-and-shoot cameras and comparable to other similar entry-level digital SLR cameras.

At 3 frames per second (fps) in continuous drive mode for capturing RAW without active d-lighting and 2.6 fps with active d-lighting on, the D60 can capture changing facial expressions, but is not fast enough for capturing action-packed sports or tracking fast-moving animals.

7651341

The continuous drive mode can provide a useful tool for minimizing camera shake in photos when photographing in low light or free holding the camera. The first photo in a series of 3 fps may capture some shake from depressing the shutter, but the following images will be more steady. I tried this technique at an outdoor concert featuring Taj Mahal in NYC. Although I was able to get sharper consecutive images after the first capture, the speed wasn’t quite fast enough to be able to quickly capture Taj’s changing expressions and performance.

Controls

The Nikon D60 has only one control wheel, which is similar to the D40/D40x. The higher-end Nikon DSLRs have two control wheels—command and sub-command dials to control the aperture and shutter speed individually. In Metered Manual (M) mode on the D60, shutter speed is set by rotating the control wheel, aperture is set by holding down the exposure compensation button while simultaneously rotating the control wheel. The other 3 standard exposure modes, Aperture-priority (A), Shutter-priority (S), and Program (P) are easier to set using the one available control wheel.

In addition to the creative exposure modes, the D60’s mode dial offers seven Digital Vari-Program modes: completely automatic (green), portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, night landscape and night portrait. Each mode corresponds to a predetermined camera setting that will be reasonably effective for that type of subject.

The D60 enables faster viewing of image enlargements with separate magnification and reduction buttons, a feature that Nikon introduced on the D300. The magnification and reduction buttons are located to the left of the LCD monitor.

Behind the shutter release are the buttons for controlling the active D-lighting feature and adjusting the exposure compensation. Adjustments are made by simultaneously rotating the control wheels.

7650933

The camera has three metering modes: 3D color matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. The 3D matrix meter tries to be smart about offering tips on better exposures. For example, when composing a photo with a big swath of bright blue at the top of the frame, the camera will offer the advice of: “must be a blue sky; exposure should be determined by looking at the darker objects underneath”. The center-weighted setting uses a much simpler exposure algorithm, determining exposure primarily mostly by looking at objects toward the center of the frame. When capturing RAW files, the difference between matrix and center-weighted metering will only be significant in extreme lighting situations, such as photographing the setting sun. The spot meter is useful for backlit portraits and other situations where the subject doesn’t appear in the same light as the background.

Adjusting Settings

The Nikon D60 includes a simplified “Quick Settings Display” menu, providing a shortcut to the most important settings on the camera. Both the D60 and the D40x require two steps to access the quick menu, but in different manners. On the D40x you press the info button behind the shutter release and then the “i” button to the left of the LCD screen. On the D60, if the screen is blank, pressing the “i” button brings up the settings menu and pressing it again accesses the quick menu. Once inside the menu, the multi selector pad provides navigation through the menu options. Settings on this menu include image quality, WB, ISO, release mode, focus mode, AF-area mode, metering pattern, exposure and flash compensation, and active D-lighting.

Another item of note is that Nikon has removed the Mass USB storage option from the settings menu on the D60. Only Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) is available.

Auto Focus

The D60, like the D40x, incorporates a simple yet relatively fast 3-zone autofocus system, with sensors arranged horizontally across the frame (although not as fast as the 11-zone system on the D80 or the 51-zone system on the D300). The center zone has a cross-type sensor, sensitive to both vertical and horizontal lines. You can set up the autofocus system to stick with one sensor, choose the sensor over the closest subject, or choose a sensor with a magic algorithm. If you are tracking moving subjects, especially multiple subjects across the field of view, the 3-zone system may not be sufficient to react accordingly.

I found the auto focus to perform well in good lighting conditions. In low light conditions, there was very little hunting before locking in onto the subject. On occasion, I needed to adjust the focus point using the multi-selector pad, hold down the shutter halfway and reframe the photo because the intended focus point had shifted. This occurred with the camera oriented both vertically and horizontally.

LCD Monitor

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The backside of the D60’s small camera body is largely filled by a 2.5" 230,000-pixel LCD screen. With only one LCD, the D60 displays all information on this screen. The more advanced DSLRs like the D80 and D300 have a dedicated top LCD control panel as well as the larger LCD screen for viewing images. On the D60, the orientation of the text/image display changes between portrait and landscape based on the orientation of the camera.

Viewfinder

The optical viewfinder on the D60 shows about 95 percent of the image the sensor will capture and the magnification of the viewfinder is 0.8x, which is normal for this class of digital SLR camera. The viewfinder is bright but uses a cheaper pentamirror system (the more expensive D80 and D300 use a glass pentaprism system).

An in-viewfinder LCD display of image and capture information is located just below the image. It shows the following information: focus points and focus indicator, flash exposure compensation, flash mode and readiness, number of exposures remaining, shutter speed and aperture, ISO auto indicator, exposure compensation and metering. In contrast to the D40x, the display also indicates if active D-lighting is enabled.

High ISO Performance in Low Light

The D60’s rated range is from ISO 100-1600, with an extended range to 3200 with boost. Using the boost should only be considered as a last resort as this introduces noise and loss of detail. With the camera in low light settings, I was able to capture images with very low noise with ISO set to 800. These example images demonstrate the image quality at ISO 1600 and 3200:

7651403 7651402

Boosting the EV compensation when photographing in P, A, or S modes, as well as turning on the Active D-Lighting feature, can help with photographing in low light conditions using a higher ISO. EV compensation is used to alter exposure from the value that the camera suggests. Also, the new VR lenses, the nikon_18-55_vr, kit lens, and the nikon_18-200, can improve stabilization of the camera by up to 3 stops at slower shutter speeds.

White Balance

7650825

In most scenarios where I used the camera, Auto White Balance (WB) rendered images with an accurate white balance, especially in outdoor lighting, with almost no corrections necessary during post-processing. As with most digital cameras, under tungsten and fluorescent lighting, images resulted on the warm end of the spectrum. Although the WB settings for tungsten and fluorescent helped correct the warm colors, the most accurate way to set the WB is to fine-tune the WB for the various options. If incandescent is selected in the shooting menu, for example, use the multi-selector to increase the blue slightly, which will make the photos slightly “cooler”, but will not actually make them blue.

The WB modes available are: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, and Preset Manual.

Active D-Lighting

Brand new to Nikon’s line of DSLRs, the D60 has an active D-lighting feature, which brightens shadows, ideal for photographing in the shade or for backlit photos. When active D-lighting is enabled before photographing (easy access through the Quick Settings Display, press the “i” to access the Quick Settings Menu), the camera chooses to apply compensation to shadowy or backlit subjects. This setting works well when photographing high contrast scenes.

Flash

Maximum shutter speed for syncing with flash is 1/200s.
The built-in flash has a range of 12m at ISO 100 (higher ISO settings result in a longer flash range). While the flash can serve as a fill-in flash if you’re in a pinch, it has very limited features, like all pop-up flashes. If the Digital Vari-Program mode is selected, the built-in flash will pop up as required when the subject is poorly lit or backlit. If you are using the camera in P, S, A, or M modes (recommended), the built-in flash is manually raised by depressing the flash button on the front of the camera to the left of the viewfinder.

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The built-in flash does not have commander capabilities, as do the D80 and the D300. On these cameras, the on-camera flash can trigger remote flashes via the Creative Lighting System (CLS).

There are 4 flash modes: Auto, Red-eye reduction, Slow sync, and Rear curtain sync.

Also, the D60 has a hot shoe flash adaptor for adding any one of Nikon’s range of iTTL flashes: nikon_SB-800, nikon_SB-600, or the nikon_SB-400. The SB-400 is a low-cost, small, lightweight unit, which makes a good pairing with the D60 for traveling or photography around town. However, it has limited power and can only swivel along the horizontal axis. Also, it has no zoom head and cannot focus its flash power when using a longer lens. The SB-600 provides these features. Nikon also recently released their latest iTTL flash, the nikon_SB-900. However, the cost is almost as much as the camera itself, and may be a little overkill for your needs. You can also use an Off-Camera Flash Cord iTTL, with one of the iTTL flashes for more creative photography with flash.

Memory Cards

The D60 uses an SD/SDHC card, which stores RAW or JPEG in 3 different sizes (fine 1:4, normal (1:8), basic (1:16)), as well as RAW + JPEG (basic). When photographs taken at this setting are deleted, both the RAW and JPEG of the images are deleted. The higher-end Nikon DSLRs (D80, D200, D300, D3) have the flexibility of RAW + JPEG of any type (fine, normal, or basic).

Batteries

If you are upgrading from a D40/D40x to the D60, the good news is they use the same battery, the EN-EL9. With a fully-charged EN-EL9 battery, Nikon lists the life at 500 images per charge. Depending on your usage of the camera, your use of flash, and how much “chimping” you do, this number will vary. I photographed a live performance in a dark venue, using a nikon_SB-800, at 2/3 power for 75% of the photographs, and came away with about 400 images and still plenty of battery life. For any serious project, you should carry a fully charged backup battery.

Mechanical Construction

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The D60 is constructed of high-quality plastic with a metal chassis, and a rubberized outer shell that provides a good grip and an overall solid feel. Its control buttons, multi-selector pad, and the command dial have a solid, durable feel.

Choosing a Lens

Nikon makes a complete line of lenses for 35mm film and full-frame digital cameras. Like other entry-level DSLRs in the Nikon line, the D60 has a DX sensor, “APS-C” sized, that results in a 1.5x focal length multiplier. A high quality prime 20mm wide angle lens gives a less-dramatic 30mm point and shoot perspective. Much of the light captured and sent to the back of the camera by the lens falls outside the boundaries of the digital sensor and plays no part in image formation; you will end up carrying a lot more heavy glass than necessary unless you’re using one of the comparative handful of lenses designed specifically for the DX format.

The following are some of our recommended lens choices for pairing with the D60:

  • Normal lens: sigma_30_nikon, the only “normal” lens on the market made for crop sensors, essential for day-to-day and low light photography.
  • Wide-to-Telephoto zoom: nikon_18-55_vr (full frame equivalent: 28-82.5mm), the Nikon kit lenses cost next to nothing, include in-lens silent wave autofocus motors, and measure out with very high optical quality. This is compromised by a smaller maximum aperture allowing lower light-gathering capabilities. Nikon has updated the 18-55mm kit lens with vibration reduction (VR), which improves image quality in low light conditions by allowing you to use the camera at slower shutter speeds and lower ISO settings.
7650830
  • Wide-to-Telephoto super zoom: nikon_18-200 (full frame equivalent: 28-300mm), is the “ideal” super zoom with a range from moderate wide to long telephoto, and includes VR. It is a great lens for travel photography, or for a step up from the 18-55mm VR kit lens, offering a wider range and better image quality. The VR on the 18-200mm feature allows you to use the camera at slower shutter speeds and lower ISO settings, but with the maximum aperture being f/5.6 at full zoom, the lens is quite limiting indoors.
  • Telephoto zoom: nikon_55-200 (full frame equivalent: 82.5-300mm), is an inexpensive lens with a long reach and would be ideal for outdoor sports photography in sunny conditions.
  • Portrait: nikon_50/1.8, an inexpensive “normal” AF-D lens originally designed for 35mm film cameras, the 50mm f/1.8 becomes a 75mm lens with the crop sensor on the D60. This lens will not autofocus with the D60, but you will have metering capabilities (like all AF lenses, it has a CPU).

Compatibility with Older Lenses

The D60 can autofocus with AF-S and AF-I Nikkor lenses. These lenses are equipped with an autofocus motor with a purely electrical connection between camera body and lens. This is required for autofocusing on the D60 because the camera, like the D40/D40x, lacks an in-body motor. The D60 can meter with lenses with CPU, which are essentially all Nikon AF lenses and some selected MF P lenses. It is also compatible with most Nikon F-mount lenses since 1959, including pre-AI (pre 1977), but only using manual focus and without metering.

Nikon D60 or D80?

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Throughout their history, Nikon has introduced multiple approaches to autofocus. In the 1990s, autofocus involved a slot in the back of each AF lens and a screwdriver blade coming out of the lens mount. AF-I was available in most of the 1990’s and AF-S in the late 1990’s. Currently, most of Nikons new lenses have small autofocus motors, with a purely electrical connection between camera body and lens. For backward compatibility, bodies such as the D80 have the screwdriver blade in addition to the electrical autofocus connectors. The D60/D40/D40x bodies do not have the screwdriver blade and hence do not work with many Nikon AF lenses, even ones that are still in production but whose designs have not been revised. If you already have or think that you might want to purchase some of the older design lenses, the D80 is a better choice than the D60.

In the “creative” exposure modes, the D80’s second control wheel provides a big boost to operating speed. The D80’s superior autofocus system makes it a better body for sports and action than the D60.

The Nikon D60 is a good camera body choice if ultimate compactness and light weight are important to you. You can throw the D60 into a bag when you think that you might want to take pictures, not just grab it from the shelf when you have a big photographic idea.

Nikon D60 or Canon Rebel XTi/XSi?

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For all intents and purposes, the Nikon D60 and the Canon Rebel XTi/XSi are comparable in performance and price. When choosing between them, the important choice is actually between the Canon and Nikon systems, unless if you never plan to buy another lens besides the kit lens. See Building a digital SLR system.

I had the opportunity to try out both cameras, the canon_rebelxti and the canon_rebelxsi, and some of my photographs accompany Bob Atkins’ review. The menu layout of the Nikon D60, along with the body’s ergonomics and mechanical construction felt more sophisticated and solid than the Canon XTi/XSi. The D60’s menu layout has more graphical options illustrating menu choices such as example images for the various ISO settings, and brief snippets of information when you press the “i” button for assistance with what a menu function means. The shutter is also quieter on the D60. On the Canon XSi, the shutter seems to be a bit more audible. The menu layout on the Canon XSi is less graphically appealing, in my opinion, and is a little more difficult to navigate for the first-time DSLR user.

Compared to Sony, Pentax, Olympus

The sony_a100, pentax_k10d, and the olympus_e520, are the most similar to the Nikon D60. Each camera system has pros and cons and special features that set them apart from other systems. The best way if you are trying to decide which system to choose, is to test the cameras hands-on and see how they feel in your hands and perform in action. You can also read Building a digital SLR system for more help on deciding which system is best for you.

Key D60 Features

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  • 10 MP output (same as the D40x, D80, D300 has 12 MP)
  • 23.6 × 15.8mm CCD sensor “DX format”, 1.5x multiplier (same as the D40x, the D300 has a 23.6 × 15.8mm CMOS sensor “DX format”, 1.5x multiplier)
  • 1/200s flash sync speed (D300 is slightly faster at 1/250th of a second, D40 is blazingly fast at 1/500s)
  • 3-zone autofocus system (same as the D40x, the D80 uses an eleven-zone AF module, the D300 uses a fifty-one-zone AF module)
  • ISO sensitivity range 100-1600 plus ISO 2000, 2500 or 3200 with boost (same as the D40x and D80, the D300 has an ISO range of 200-3200, up to 6400 with boost)
  • 3 fps continuous capture rate (same as the D40/D40x,
    D300 has 6 fps)
  • 1/4000s fastest shutter speed (same as the D40/D40x, D300 has 1/8000s fastest shutter speed)
  • 2.5" LCD monitor, 230,000 pixels (same as the D40x, D300 has a 3" LCD monitor with 922,000 pixels)
  • built-in flash (same as the D40x, D80, D300)
  • compact, light body: 1 lb or 471 g without battery (D40x is 1 lb or 455 g without battery; D80 is 1.3 lb or 585 g; D300 is 1.8 lb or 825 g)
  • uses the rechargeable EN-EL9 battery

Conclusion

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For a few fancy new features, the D60 is an improvement from the D40x. The street price is slightly more than the D40x was when released ($582; compared to the D40x at $549). Overall, the performance and quality is good and it’s a great value in a small package. The D60 is ideal for an entry-level enthusiast or for photographers looking for a less expensive back up camera or a travel camera. If your preference is faster performance and more robust features, take a look at the nikon_D80, or the nikon_d300.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have a few of the Nikon D60 still available. You may be also able to find a used Nikon D60 in the Photo.net Classified Ads. Otherwise, check out Nikon’s newer models listed below.

  • nikon_d60
  • nikon_d300s
  • nikon_D7000

More

Example D60 Photographs

7651379 nikon_24-70, set at 56mm, f/4,
1/100s, ISO 200. While not fast enough for sports photography, the D60 performs well with capturing changing facial expressions, such as with this baby and her dad. At f/4, I wanted the baby to be the main focal point, and her dad in slightly softer focus behind her.
7651401 nikon_18-55_vr, set at 55mm, f/5.6,
1/40s, ISO 400. A rainy day in Central Park, NYC, using the kit lens,
I captured this horse and buggy moving past. The kit lens captured
colors well and rendered a sharp image.
7650936 nikon_24-70, set at 40mm, f/2.8,
1/40s, ISO 100. I wanted an abstract of the knife and fork on the
table. By setting the camera at f/2.8, I was able to render the
background and the foreground smoothly out of focus aside from the
main focal point in the center of the image.
7650827 nikon_24-70, set at 34mm, f/2.8,
1/13s, ISO 1600. Taken in San Marcos, Guatemala, at a music concert. I
wanted to capture the ambiance of the setting using available
light. Minimal noise is visible at ISO 1600. Although 1/13s is a bit
slow without a tripod, I used a wall to brace myself.
7650822 nikon_24-70, set at 70mm, f/2.8,
1/100s, ISO 100. Taken in Guatemala at a roadside flower stand. The
D60 renders colors well. At 70mm focal length (full-frame equivalent:
105mm), I was at the perfect portrait distance from my subjects.

Text ©2008 Hannah Thiem. Photos ©2008 Hannah Thiem.

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    • Great comprehensive review by photo.net. I have been taking over 4,500 photos with this camera since it came out in April and agree with all the points noted in the review. Overall, I find this "beginner's" camera very capable of producing great quality images. One new feature in the D60 not mentioned in the review is the EXPEED image processor which is found in D300 but not D40 or D40x. This superb processor was one of several reasons why I chose it over the D80.
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    • Used for several thousand photos since May '08. The new features, especially mirror dust removal and EXSPEED really add value. One frustration is manual focus on the otherwise excellent kit lenses (18-55mm and 55-200mm). It is a real hassle with filters and not at all accurate. Overall though, the D60 is a true big step up and very useful on its own and as a second camera body to a D300.
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    • I find it appalling that the d40 & d60 cannot meter using older lenses. There are so many wonderful old Nikkor MF lenses that would provide good value and learning for someone new to photography.
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    • Great choice for a beginner. This is my first SLR camera and I am still learning all the new terminology. Even so, when taking pictures on automatic, they are turning out great. I am experimenting with close ups, bugs, scenery and stop action. I am loving it. Can't hardly wait until I really understand what all it can do!
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    • I have had my D60 since May, 08. I like how it handles, light-weight, easy to hang on my neck all day. I find mine tends to overexpose outdoors in bright sunlight just a bit. If I remember to compensate for this, it is not a real problem. I also like the fact that it uses SC/HC cards. They are cheap and plentiful. The only major con is that it will not autofocus older, standard lens. Now that I am used to autofocus, this is a headache. Overall, very pleased.
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    • I have been using my nikon d60 for about a month because i got rid of my rebel xt, it takes breathtaking pictures and is very easy to use. I recommend this camera for anyone with a budget, my father owns a d90 and this works just as well.
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    • The D60 is my first real DSLR camera (I'm not counting a Kodak P850, which was but one step above a point-and-shoot) and I've learned a lot about photography shooting with it. The slope of my learning curve still feels pretty steep, and though there are times when I fantasize about upgrading, ultimately I don't think I need to go there yet. But the time will come.
    • To post a reply Sign In
    • I shoot snowboard and skiing action stills for professional riders with this camera, while it sucks in "automatic" mode it kills it in "Manual" mode, providing crisp high quality images through the nikon glass, for an entry level pro-sumer camera with the correct lens setup you can take shots with the pros, wish it had a AF motor inthe body though :(
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    • Ditto James on the overexposure, but it is pretty slight. This is my first DSLR and I was torn between the Canon family of intro DSLRs and the d60. I think the d60 is a great option for someone just switching over from point/shoot--very intuitive, easy-to-navigate menu, and great "on-board" support for learning about the manual features. The 3 points of focus is a bit limiting--I often just end up using manual focus to have more control--but the d60 is definitely a "good enough" camera for any beginner.
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    • I was able to start my own business in Hawaii using the D60. If you take the time to read the manuals and invest in some professional post production software, you can produce some really amazing creations.
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    • I just upgraded to an amazing D7000! Until now both me and my girlfriend have used D60 s and although it might be outdated now, it was an awesome experience working with my trusty 60! We have done a few weddings, many studio shoots and many many other shoots and this camera just surpasses all the bad things so often said about it. If you know how to use it it does wonders!


      I love you D60.... I really do.

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