Individual movie clips captured by the Canon EOS 60D are limited to a maximum of 29 minutes, 59 seconds, thanks to European tax regulations, although as it turns out, the 4GB limit on video file sizes will in practice restrict you to shorter movie clips anyway. The Canon 60D records its movies as .MOV files using variable bitrate MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 compression, which is much more conservative of memory card space than the Motion JPEG format used by some cameras, and avoids some of the severe image quality loss suffered by AVCHD cameras when faced with significant amounts of change in image content between frames. (AVCHD uses a subset of the H.264 standard, among other things mandating a limit in recording bandwidth, which translates into a lesser ability to convey rapidly-changing detail.) The choice of H.264 comes with the requirement of greater processing power, though -- not only from the camera when recording, but also when playing back or editing videos. The more sophisticated encoding used in the H.264 standard requires quite a bit of processor power to pull it apart and put it back together again, so frame-accurate editing of H.264 requires a fast processor and capable editing program.
As we've noted in other SLR reviews, the good news with focusing for video is that you can get surprisingly good depth of field in video mode by stopping the lens down, thanks to the relatively low resolution of the video image, something that's possible with the 60D if you're also happy to manually set the shutter speed. (ISO sensitivity can still be controlled either automatically or manually, so it's still possible to let the camera handle the overall exposure level, while manually specifying the aperture and shutter speed.) With a pixel resolution of only 2.1 megapixels in the Canon EOS 60D's highest-resolution 1080p Full HD mode, 0.9 megapixels in 720p HD mode, and just 0.3 megapixels in VGA mode, images that would be unacceptably blurred as 18 megapixel still shots look perfectly fine as video frames. This not only provides greater depth of field at any given aperture, but is also more forgiving of diffraction limiting at very small lens apertures. Diffraction at small apertures means you'd usually want to avoid f/16 or f/22 for still images, but again, the results generally look perfectly fine at video resolutions. Bottom line, with the EOS 60D's lens set to f/16 or f/22 (assuming you're shooting under fairly bright conditions), you'll be surprised by how little focus adjustment is needed during a typical video recording. An example can be seen at the end of the video samples table above.
The Canon 60D's movie mode inherits an option previously seen on the consumer-class Rebel T2i, namely the VGA Movie Crop function, and at the time of this writing, we believe it to still be unique among SLR and SLD movie modes from any brand. The Movie Crop function aims to solve a problem faced by consumers: expensive telephoto lenses generally carry hefty price tags that place them far out of reach of the casual amateur. Ordinarily, the Canon 60D's movies are recorded using data from across the image sensor area. With Movie Crop mode enabled, however, the 60D instead crops only the centermost pixels from its sensor data for recording, and discards the rest. The feature is only available when recording at VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution, and yields an effective 7x magnification.
The Canon 60D's movie menus also allows you to enable or disable Highlight Tone Priority, and to set the Auto Lighting Optimizer function to Disable, Low, Standard, or Strong. The two functions can't be used together, and when enabled, Highlight Tone Priority restricts the ISO sensitivity range to ISO 200 - 6,400 equivalents. Highlight Tone Priority for movies works in much the same manner as it does for stills, by bumping the 60D's ISO up one notch, and then only half-filling the sensor's pixels with charge during the exposure. This is coupled with an altered tone curve to prevent loss of highlight detail, albeit at the expense of increased noise levels in shadows and mid-tones. Auto Lighting Optimizer functions at the other end of the scale, adjusting the tone curve so as to open up shadows. Picture styles and white balance can also be set for video recording, in much the same manner as for still images.
A typical computer these days has little trouble dealing with still images, but high-definition video can be another matter. Depending on the file format involved, it can take a pretty beefy computer to handle HD-resolution video playback without stuttering or dropping frames. The AVC / H.264 image compression used by the Canon EOS 60D is one of the more compute-intensive formats, and its 1,920 x 1088 (1080p) resolution means there's a lot of data in each frame to deal with at full resolution. The net result is that you'll want a relatively recent and powerful computer to play full-res high-def video files from the EOS 60D on your computer. At lower resolutions, the requirements will be more modest. We found that we could run the 60D's video acceptably at half size on an older G5 Power Mac with dual 2.3GHz processors, so long as nothing else was running simultaneously, so it definitely seems less processor intensive than full HD video from many other cameras, including some using Motion JPEG compression.
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