Rudy Winston
Rudy Winston

Rudy Winston has over 14 years experience with Canon USA's Pro Products team, and has been responsible during that time for training Canon's staff on new products, creating presentations for customers and dealers, numerous writing projects, and providing technical assistance to professional and amateur photographers.

What's New in the EOS 60D: Electronic Level Display

April 05, 2011

The Electronic Level display on the camera’s LCD monitor can be used during still image shooting for either horizontal or vertical images.

Technically, this isn’t brand-new for EOS digital SLRs: Canon’s extremely successful EOS 7D introduced the SLR world’s most sophisticated version of this back when the 7D was launched in the fall of 2009. But in its price category, the EOS 60D gives photographers a tool that can be used in various ways as a strong aid to precise composition. We’ll look at how the EOS 60D’s Electronic Level works, and how it can be an appealing feature in some shooting conditions.

Electronic Level display on the LCD monitor

This is the easiest way to see the EOS 60D’s Electronic Level in action, and it can be called-up whether you’re shooting still images viewing through the eye-level viewfinder, using Live View, or even when you’re in Movie mode and about to record video footage. A clear display appears on-screen, detecting any “roll” or side-to-side tilt of horizon lines. The on-screen indicators are even color-coded: when the line extending horizontally is red, the camera has detected some tilt, and is displaying that it’s not perfectly level. When it detects less than 1° of roll to either side, the on-screen line turns green in color.

The Electronic Level display on the LCD monitor is easy to call-up: just press the rear INFO button until it appears (you may have to press it more than once, since it toggles through several different possible LCD monitor displays).

Viewing the Electronic Level display on the LCD monitor and especially along with Live View is a huge asset to EOS 60D users who may shoot from a tripod from time to time. These two features combine to make it far easier to position the camera and to know that it’s positioned accurately. This is true even if shooting a subject at an angle, where you won’t usually have distinct, easy-to-use horizontal and vertical lines on the subject itself to line the camera up with. Add the EOS 60D’s vari-angle LCD monitor capabilities, and it’s a marriage made in heaven for photographers who like to use tripods for the best possible image quality.

The Electronic Level display on the camera’s LCD monitor can be used during still image shooting for either horizontal or vertical images. However, unlike the advanced “Dual Axis” level in the more-expensive EOS 7D, the display in the EOS 60D cannot detect “pitch” — that is, whether the camera is aimed upward or downward. It can only monitor side-to-side tilt of horizon lines.

Electronic Level display for video shooting

This same Electronic Level display on the LCD monitor can be shown when in video mode, by pressing the same INFO button on the back of the EOS 60D. It can be a terrific insurance policy, so to speak, to insure proper camera positioning before a scene is recorded — even if you’re hand-holding the camera, and certainly if it’s tripod-mounted or on some sort of “rig” for steady positioning.

Like the EOS 7D, keep in mind that when in video mode, the Electronic Level display on the LCD monitor can only be displayed before actual recording begins (or after recording has been stopped). As soon as the RECORD button is pressed, the Electronic Level display will be cleared from the camera’s LCD monitor. This allows maximum viewing clarity during video recording.

Electronic Level display in the viewfinder:

Yet another EOS 60D option for still-image shooters is to have an Electronic Level display appear in the camera’s viewfinder. Particularly for shooters working quickly who shoot primarily hand-held, this is a terrific option.

Viewing the Electronic Level in the EOS 60D’s viewfinder does require first that the camera’s SET button function be changed (using Custom Function IV-2-5) so that a single press of the SET button during shooting changes the finder information display to one strictly showing the Level information. Once C.Fn IV-2 has been set to option “5”, you’re ready to go. A press of the SET button calls up the display in the viewfinder. To clear the display and return to the standard shooting display, simply press the camera’s shutter button halfway down. You’re ready to shoot.

The display in the viewfinder works using the analog scale that’s normally used for exposure information. Any exposure data is momentarily cleared, and all other info on the display (shutter speeds, apertures, etc) likewise disappears for a moment. Instead, the user is greeted with a series of repeating “tick marks” on the analog scale. If the camera detects no “roll” (again, horizontal tilt to one side or the other which would throw off a horizon line), only a single mark at the dead-center of the display will appear. The single mark tells you the camera “thinks” you’re ideally positioned. As increasing levels of roll are detected, a growing series of repeating marks will appear on this same scale, either to the right of center or the left of center.

This same information is also repeated on the camera's top LCD panel, making it easy to view if you don't have your eye up to the viewfinder. Like the display in the finder, the top LCD panel uses the analog exposure scale to temporarily show whether the camera is level, or tilted to one side or the other.

One important limitation, for technical reasons: when using the EOS 60D’s Electronic Level display in the viewfinder, it can only be used for horizontal shots. If the camera is turned 90° to shoot a vertical picture, such as a typical portrait, the display in the viewfinder and on the top LCD panel will appear blank, even if the user has activated C.Fn IV-2-5 and pressed the SET button as described above.

On the other hand, the Electronic Level Display on the rear LCD monitor can be used for both horizontal and vertical shots.

Finally, to be clear, whenever the Electronic Level display in the EOS 60D’s viewfinder is called-up, to return to ordinary shooting information and clear the level display, just tap the shutter button halfway down.

When you do so, the camera is immediately ready to take a picture, and all relevant shooting data returns to the viewfinder’s display.

Summary:

This is a great feature for any EOS 60D shooter who composes carefully, even for those shooting quickly using the standard eye-level viewfinder. With a single button push, the photographer can immediately verify that his or her camera position and composition are accurate, and that straight, distinct horizontal lines in a scene or subject — the horizon in a landscape, the lines of a building, or the shape of a product — will be oriented properly in a finished photograph or video clip.

The Electronic Level display underscores both the EOS 60D’s Live View mode, as well as its vari-angle LCD monitor: it simply transforms the camera when working on a tripod, and turns tripod operation from a cumbersome guessing game to a pleasure. And the same benefits apply to video users, when setting up a shot before recording.

This Electronic Level display is always ready to be called into action, and it’s a feature sure to be used and appreciated by experienced and critical EOS 60D photographers and videographers.

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