Nikon's D40x was probably our favourite budget DSLR when it eased its small but beautifully formed shell within reach of our itchy trigger fingers. The combo of superb image quality, a decent range of controls and tiny body was almost unbeatable.

But the competition has since upped its game and dropped its prices. The D60 is Nikon's response, and it's more a confident tipping of the hat than an all-gun broadside. Nikon is a company that seems unconcerned with filling spec sheets, but rather with making its specs count. That's why the D60 is a refined D40x, not a complete redesign.

Familiar territory

The D60's body is identical to the D40x's, with the familiar, simplified controls – everything is easily accessed, albeit with maybe one more button press than on the best from Olympus and Samsung.

The sensor – rather than reaching for the skies like, say, Pentax's new 14-megapixel K10D – is still 10mp. Where the refinement has come is in the form of a dual-stage dust-reduction system to keep the sensor clean.

In the same vein, the D60's screen is still an excellent 2.5in LCD with 230,000 pixels, but there's now an orientation sensor – so the data display rotates to portrait mode when you rotate the camera. Also, sensibly, the screen turns off if you've got your eye to the viewfinder, saving battery power.

Low light leap

Image quality has certainly been improved and, in keeping with all of Nikon's recent SLRs, the outstanding achievement has come in reducing noise at high ISO settings. At ISO 800 and above, it retains excellent detail and gains just a little graininess, rather than the smudgy noise of its competitors.

Colours are also generally punchier than those on similarly-priced cameras such as Samsung's GX10. Detail is as good as it gets in this price range, and the Active D-Lighting function is a genuine help in balancing out exposure in high-contrast situations. Image quality in general rivals the pricier D80, which is really only its superior in build.


No frills, just thrills

You get the general impression that Nikon is offering the D60 as a well-crafted tool, concentrating on features to help make your picture-taking more pleasant and increase the potential for capturing better photos. Presumably that's why they've left off gimmick-of-the-moment, Live View. Doesn't bother us, but if you really must have it you can always buy an Olympus.

What's rather more noticeably lacking is an in-body image stabiliser, although Nikon has attempted to make up for that by offering the kit lens in image-stabilised VR form for just £30 more than the standard lens kit.

And of course, when you can boast better high ISO performance than your competitors, you could argue that you don't even need an image stabiliser...


Stuff says... 

Nikon D60 review

A sterling budget DSLR with a great range of controls and superb high ISO performance