Master Class
The Canon D60 Love At First Sight

Photos © 2001, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Ever fall in love with a camera? Well, that's exactly what happened to me when I was handed a beta advance version of Canon's new D60 digital camera at the PMA show. I had experienced the D30 camera for the past year and had basically been reinventing myself almost on a daily basis through the excitement of carrying over my traditional photographic background into the new world of digital imaging. I was wondering how this new camera would affect me and/or my photography. I didn't have to wait long.

I had the new camera in my hands literally only moments before I was to demonstrate it in Canon's booth at the show. It looked and felt almost the same as my D30. That was good. In seconds I learned that its performance was remarkably smoother and easier than I could ever have anticipated.

See this picture of our models, Nikki and JJ? See the happiness in their eyes? The smile on their faces? The excitement in the entire image? That's how I felt with my new D60. Let's talk about it.

A Pro's Perspective
Remember, please, I am not a technical expert. I am not a digital guru. I am a professional photographer who knows what he likes, who sometimes likes what he sees, and who always loves to share his impressions with everyone. If you're looking for an explanation of what makes this camera tick, you're reading the wrong article. But, if you're interested in knowing my first impressions and seeing some of the results of my first two weeks of testing this camera, read on. My basic lens for this camera is a 28-135mm zoom with Image Stabilizer built-in. It was used for all except the picture of the group of photographers. For that I used a 17-35mm wide angle lens.

Portrait Sessions
One of the first things that I did with my new D60 was to create portraits of many of Canon's Explorers of Light, a group of select photographers who have agreed to be spokespersons for Canon. The portraits were made on stage at the PMA show in front of hundreds of people watching my every move. The ambient light was low and my excitement was high--very high!

I was told that one of the most important advances of the camera was its improved autofocusing capability in low light. It was there for me. I had the camera on automatic focus. I had the focus point selected to be the upper-third of the viewfinder when I held the camera in its vertical position. It clicked in without fail every single time. That put my mind to rest immediately.

I could concentrate on my subjects. I wasn't worried about exposure, because I could use the results of each test shot as my metering device. With each successive image appearing only moments after the exposure I was able to see what I was doing and how close I was to optimum exposure.

I had the camera set on Manual, so that it would record only the burst of strobe. I wasn't interested in recording any of the ambient light. I was mainly interested in capturing the personality of each of my subjects. Truly, photographers think of themselves as their own worst subjects. I found the challenge of photographing my fellow photographers exciting and challenging.

Put yourself in my position, if you can. You have a minute or so to come up with a portrait of each of your subjects--each and every one of them a star in his/her own right. You don't want to have to worry about the camera. You want/need to concentrate only on capturing the spirit of each one of them.

One of my subjects was Robert Farber. I had long been a collector of his posters. Who could afford an original Farber image? Robert and I have, during the past year, worked together for Canon. I knew him to be a fun, gifted, and extremely talented pro. He makes me feel good in his company. I'm sure he does the same with each of his subjects. I think that I captured his personality in this very first picture I took of him.

Square Format Fan? Crop!
I had been used to working with a square format before venturing into the world of digital. Suddenly, I'm working with rectangles. Did it take me long to convert? Not really. But I actually found with the newer and larger file sizes that are part of the D60, I could actually fill the frame as I usually do, check out the image on my computer, and then crop to whatever size I felt suited the subject best.

In this case, for instance, I liked the picture as a square. And with the new, larger file size that I'm getting out of my new camera I can crop and still have enough of a file size that I don't have to worry about it. Heck, I saw absolutely huge prints that were made directly from D60 files at the PMA show and they looked flawless! I certainly can't see ever making portraits that large, so I just know that I can still maintain the integrity of my final images even when using just a portion of the original file.

Group Shot
As if this challenge wasn't enough, our fearless leader, Mike Newler, asked me to do a group shot of all of the Explorers who were around the Canon booth at that time. A group shot of them all together? In front of the huge crowd that was watching? Still in low light? Okay, I'll do it!

I had two posing stools already on stage. I sat Mike and Barbara Bordnick. Then, I simply told the others to group around beside and behind them, set up to expose with a single light behind me and picked up the camera. Just as I was about to refine the posing I noticed the makeup person touching up Mike's face, so I pushed the automatic focus button and clicked the shutter. The rest is history.

How Sharp Is It?
Is it sharp? How sharp do you want it? This partial face was cropped from an image that showed the complete face and some background, too! Every single pore, every single detail of his eyes appear to be microscopically clear. Thank goodness for Gaussian Blur in Photoshop. I don't believe that anyone would want to be rendered as sharp as this!

What About Deeper Skin Tones?
How about skin tones for a black person. I mean really dark! Can the camera retain the integrity of color necessary in an instance such as this? The answer, of course, is obvious when you look at this picture (again cropped from a much larger, more complete picture of his entire face).

How About Delicate Skin Tones?
Wanna see delicate skin tones? Take a look at this shot. And while you're at it, notice that there is absolutely no moir in the fabric! Here, we're going from the black of his shirt to the softness of her skin and the brilliance of the highlighted fabric that I wrapped around the model. You just can't ask for anything more than that!

Nature's Glory
Almost directly from the PMA show I went to Las Vegas for one of my brand new Master Classes. The first day in Vegas I was taken to the Valley of Fire, where I made this image.

I was at once intrigued by the natural formation of stone, the delicateness of the tonal range of the rocks, and the incredible portrait lighting that I recognized there right in the middle of the day. What difference did it make if I were photographing a face, a landscape, or a slice of nature? Light coming from behind and from the side was creating a three-dimensional image that just cried out to be memorialized.

I'm still wondering if many visitors to the park have stopped to see the remarkable natural form of this particular spot; wondering if the light was ever as beautiful as it was for me at that moment in time; and wondering if the digital capabilities of the D60 enhanced the capture, or if it just enabled me to capture what was always there, but not visible in such infinite detail as it turned out to be when I first viewed this image on my computer screen.

Mixed Light Performance
One of my final tests of the camera was done in the Bellagio hotel's indoor gardens. I exposed for the ambient incandescent lights that lit up the background so beautifully. Then, to help shape my subjects and bring out more detail in their faces and clothing I added a flash, camera right, that was equal to the f/stop. Another flash backlit her veil at the same intensity.

The D60 blended all the lights into a natural color that would have been almost impossible for me to believe had I not seen how beautifully it worked for myself. As a matter of fact, I did very little manipulation of color on all of these photographs after downloading them from the camera. The color was unbelievably true throughout all my picture taking.

Outdoor Portraits, In The Shade
There seemed to be no problem with color, regardless of how and where I used the D60. Automatic white balance or adjustable--I always got beautiful, warm skin tones. This portrait was made during a session in which I did a portrait of each of my Master Class photographers/students. Outside under the cover of a drive-through entrance to the hotel, the daylight was perfect for portraits. The camera's automatic exposures under just about any lighting conditions worked better than I could have determined it, myself.

Final Recommendation
Would I recommend the D60 for professional and/or amateur use? There's no doubt in my mind. This camera is for me and you, regardless of your expertise.

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