The Nikon D200 was an absolutely fantastic camera that provided professional performance at a price that was affordable for enthusiasts. Even now, its 10-megapixel CCD sensor can easily hold its own when compared with rivals that are priced similarly, and the sturdy build quality was – and still is – out of this world. Moreover, the camera’s overall performance was phenomenal.
However, it was obvious that Nikon believed they could do much better. And the outcome of its thinking is the brand-new D300, which is a camera that looks superficially like the D200 but which has a number of extremely significant technological advancements and substantial benefits when it comes to the processing of images.
The new 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor is the most noticeable of these improvements. It is remarkably similar to the Exmor type that is utilized in the new Sony Alpha A700. Even while the addition of two million more pixels probably won’t make much of a difference in terms of image quality, this new sensor is not simply an updated version of the one that was previously used.
Nikon has moved away from CCD technology and toward CMOS technology, introducing a brand-new and cutting-edge sensor architecture that provides more than simply a few additional pixels. To begin, there is a wider ISO range available to choose from. This range goes from ISO 200 to 3200, and it also has ‘extended’ settings that go up to ISO 100 and ISO 6400 for use in extremely dim or bright environments.
The maximum frame rate has increased from 5 fps to 6 fps, and the D300 can maintain this for around 100 JPEGs or 20 RAW files during continuous shooting. Additionally new is the 51-point autofocus mechanism, as well as the magnificent 3-inch LCD display with 920,000 dots, which is the same as the display seen in the Alpha 700.
And then there’s the Live View mode (two modes, in fact), which was formerly considered to be impossible with a digital SLR but is now becoming more widespread. It debuted on cameras in the Olympus E-series, then made its way to Canon SLRs, and is finally making its way to this camera. However, this is not the same as using a handheld camera. Because of the constant shunting of mirrors and flapping of shutters that occurs with the D300, it is easy to become confused as to whether the camera has actually taken a picture or whether it is just concentrating.
Live View modes also bring up the issue of dust, which is something that has always been an issue with digital SLR cameras. Dust spots, on the other hand, are far more likely to appear when the mirror is going to be up and the shutter is going to be open for lengthy periods of time as you compose the photo on the LCD. The Nikon D300 is equipped with a brand new dust-removal system that, similar to those found in other cameras, employs vibrations to shake the low-pass filter that is located in front of the sensor.
The development that has led to these advancements has not been a trivial one. In a number of critically significant respects, the D300 represents a true improvement over its predecessor, the D200.
Certain aspects have remained the same, most notably the control arrangement and the build quality of the device. Although the launch price of £1,300 may seem quite costly when contrasted to what the previous D200 was selling for (far under £900 by the end of its life), the D300 has always felt like a heck of a lot of camera for the money, and so does the D300.
That’s a bonus of five hundred pounds! It is a large and weighty camera that has a really substantial feel to it. All of the dials, knobs, and buttons feel sturdy and robust as well. The only thing that might be considered a drawback is the navipad, which has an overly imprecise feel to it and a slick texture that makes it too easy for your thumb to slide off.
Within one’s grasp
If you have never used a camera like this one before, there is a great deal going on and quite a lot to understand because the top and rear of the camera each have almost two dozen controls on them. In this regard, the design of the D300 stands in stark contrast to that of Canon’s EOS family of single-lens reflex cameras, which appear to be much less complicated yet are nevertheless capable of performing the same functions as the D300.
However, Nikon devotees will like the D300 due to the fact that everything is situated in the manner in which they anticipate finding it. However, novices may discover the interface to be a little bit confusing. However, this is unquestionably one of those situations in which one’s individual preferences will play a significant role in the decision-making process.
Another important detail to mention is that the camera in question is a professional one. It may not be as large as a Canon 1Ds or a Nikon D2x, but it is a significant upgrade in comparison to an “amateur” single-lens reflex camera, both in terms of size and weight. It’s not as delightful to carry about all day as, say, an Olympus E-410 or a Nikon D40x, for example, but it still gets the job done.
The choice of lens is another important consideration. Optics for a camera of this caliber need to be of the highest possible quality within your financial means. Our test device was equipped with a Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8, which is a DX lens that truly shines when used in conjunction with a high-quality camera.
But this lens costs nine hundred pounds! What are some of the other options? Perhaps a Nikon 18-70mm, or 18-135mm? There is a possibility that any of these so-called “amateur” lenses might be suitable for a D40x or a D80, but they scarcely appear to be a good fit for a D300. (The Nikon 18-200mm VR lens is another option that could be worth considering.)
The cost of this camera will go up, and it will get much heavier if you get a lens that’s even halfway decent to go with it. The combo that we tried will cost you more than two thousand dollars.
The image quality of the D300 is, to put it bluntly, phenomenal. The exceptional sharpness may be attributable, at least in part, to the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 lens, but the clarity of the color rendering is unquestionably the result of the sensor alone.
This is supported by the fact that we had similar observations to make regarding the Sony Alpha 700, which we evaluated not too long ago. In addition to having a natural appearance and appearing to be saturated, the colors also give off the impression of having added clarity and purity.
It was quite fascinating to compare the A700 with the D300 side-by-side in the same topic during a long ISO test. The photographs taken with the Nikon D300 were marginally sharper than those taken with the Sony, and there was no discernible chromatic aberration in any of them; however, we could probably attribute this to the lens that we were using (the 16-80mm Zeiss lens that we used for our review of the Sony isn’t quite as good).
However, while working at high ISOs, each camera had a unique set of noise-reduction properties. The Sony demonstrated noticeably greater levels of luminance noise in addition to some loss of resolution. Even at the very highest ISOs, the Nikon was able to keep noise suppression considerably more effective than the Sony and keep the detail in its images clear. However, the overall saturation and part of the textural texture both decreased at the same time.
When viewed in a vacuum, the D300’s high-ISO performance is nothing short of astonishing. It’s possible that some people may find the grainier, more textured, and more interesting photos produced by the A700 to be more appealing, but I think most people would agree that these two cameras are now a clear step ahead of the rest of the enthusiast D-SLR pack.
Processing that is active
A unique Active D-Lighting option, which compliments Nikon’s already established D-Lighting technology, is included in the D300. This D-Lighting method could previously only be applied to photographs after they had already been taken, but that is about to change. D-Lighting is a technique that brightens an image’s shadow region without affecting the image’s mid tones or highlights.
The Active version makes adjustments to the exposure while the photo is being taken in order to record the maximum amount of highlight detail. After this, the D-Lighting algorithm is applied to the image while it is being processed.
The results are frequently understated, but the approach does preserve some highlight and shadow information that may have been lost if the subject had been photographed in a “straight” orientation. Although it does not have as much expanded dynamic range as, for example, the Fuji S5 Pro, it is nevertheless an intriguing weapon for photographers to have in their arsenal when dealing with challenging lighting settings.
The Nikon D300 is a fantastic camera, but it does have a few issues, none of which are related to the way it was designed. The issues are more closely associated with the market that it is currently operating in. If Nikon were to stop making cameras that used other formats, the D300 would be an essential purchase. Incredible video and still image quality, solid construction, and every function you might want.
The full-frame D3, which can be purchased for around £3,000, has, however, completely eliminated the D300 as a viable option. When compared to Nikon’s FX sensor format, the DX sensor format on digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) and lenses is now considered an option for a lower division. How can one justify investing thousands of dollars on such equipment?
And for those who don’t have to deal with this type of conundrum and just want to make an investment in a high-quality APS-C digital single-lens reflex camera, the Sony Alpha 700 almost exactly matches the specifications of the Nikon D300, but it’s a lot more affordable. The Olympus E-3 is another competitor vying for the attention of the enthusiast. It is because of these two problems that it is difficult for us to endorse the Nikon D300 without any reservations, despite the fact that it is a wonderful product.
Nikon D300 Specifications
|Body material||Magnesium alloy|
|Sensor *||• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS sensor|
• DX format
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter (with self-cleaning unit)
• 13.1 million total pixels
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• 3:2 aspect ratio
|Image processor *||Nikon EXPEED|
|A/D conversion *||14 bit|
|Image sizes *||• 4288 x 2848 [L; 12.2 MP]|
• 3216 x 2136 [M; 6.9 MP]
• 2144 x 1424 [S; 3.1 MP]
|File formats||• NEF (12-bit or 14-bit *, compressed or lossless compressed RAW)|
• NEF + JPEG
• TIFF *
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
|NEF compression||• Compressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW, Lossless compressed): approx. 60-80% *|
• Compressed 12/14-bit NEF (RAW, Compressed): approx. 45-60%
|Lens mount||• Nikon F mount with AF coupling and AF contacts|
• 1.5x field of view crop
|Usable lenses||• DX AF NIKKOR: All functions possible|
• D-/G-type AF NIKKOR (excluding IX NIKKOR lenses): All functions possible (excluding PC Micro- NIKKOR)
• AF NIKKOR other than D-/G-type (excluding lenses for F3AF): All functions except 3D-Color Matrix Metering II possible
• AI-P NIKKOR: All functions except Autofocus, 3D-Color Matrix Metering II possible
• Non-CPU AI NIKKOR: Can be used in exposure modes A and M; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster; Color Matrix Metering and aperture value display supported if user provides lens data
|Dust reduction *||• Self-cleaning sensor unit (‘Clean image sensor’) *|
• Image dust-off data acquisition (Capture NX required)
|Auto Focus||• 51 focus points (15 cross-type sensors) *|
• Multi-CAM 3500DX *
• AF working range: -1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, normal temperature)
• Contrast Detect in Live View (Tripod) mode
|Lens Servo||• Single Servo AF [S]|
• Continuous Servo AF [C]
• Manual focus [M]
• Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject’s status in [S] or [C] AF
|Focus Point *||• Single point from 51 or 11 focus points|
• Liveview (Tripod mode): Contrast AF on a desired point anywhere within frame
|AF Area Mode *||• Single point AF|
• Dynamic Area AF [9 points, 21 points, 51 points, 51 points (3D-tracking)]
• Automatic-area AF
|Focus Lock||Focus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button|
|AF assist||Yes, lamp|
|Exposure modes||• Program Auto [P] with flexible program|
• Shutter-Priority Auto [S]
• Aperture-Priority Auto [A]
• Manual [M]
|Metering||TTL full-aperture exposure metering using 1005-pixel RGB sensor|
• 3D Color Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); color matrix metering II (other CPU lenses); color matrix metering (non-CPU lenses if user provides lens data; metering performed)
• Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 6, 8, 10, or 13 mm dia. circle in center of frame or weighting based on average of entire frame (8 mm circle when non-CPU lens is used)
• Spot: Meters approx. 3 mm dia. circle (about 2.0% of frame) centered on selected focus point (on center focus point when non-CPU lens is used)
|Metering range||• 3D Color Matrix Metering: 0 to 20 EV|
• Center-Weighted Metering: 0 to 20 EV
• Spot Metering: 2 to 20 EV
• At normal temperature (20°C/68°F), ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens
|Meter coupling||CPU and AI|
|Exposure lock||Locked using AE-L/AF-L button|
|Exposure bracketing||• 2 to 9 frames|
• 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV steps *
|Exposure compen.||• +/-5.0 EV|
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps
|Sensitivity *||• Default: ISO 200 – 3200 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps|
• Boost: 100 – 6400 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
|Shutter||• Electronically-controlled vertical-travel focal plane shutter|
• 30 to 1/8000 sec (1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps)
• Flash X-Sync: 1/250 sec (up to 1/320 sec with reduced GN *)
|DOF Preview||• Stop-down lens aperture by pressing button|
• Activates modelling flash
|White balance||• Auto (1005-pixel CCD, image sensor)|
• Presets (seven) with fine tuning *
• Manual presets (four)
• Color temperature in Kelvin (2500 – 10000 K, 31 steps)
• White balance bracketing (2 to 9 frames, 10,20,30 MIRED steps)
|Picture Control *||• Standard|
|Image parameters *||• Sharpening: Auto, 7 levels|
• Contrast: Auto, 5 levels, Custom tone curve
• Brightness: 3 levels
• Saturation: Auto, 5 levels
• Hue: 5 levels
|Color space||• sRGB (Standard and Vivid modes)|
• Adobe RGB (Neutral mode)
|Viewfinder||• Optical-type fixed eye-level pentaprism|
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-2 to +1m-1)
• Eyepoint: 19.5 mm (at -1.0m-1)
• Frame coverage 100% *
• Viewfinder magnification approx 0.94x with 50 mm f/1.4 lens
|Focusing screen||• B-type BrightView Clear Matte Screen II|
• Superimposed focus brackets
• On-demand grid lines
|LCD monitor *||• 3.0 ” TFT LCD|
• 922,000 pixels (VGA; 640 x 480 x 3 colors)
• 170° viewing angle
• Brightness adjustment
|LCD Liveview *||• Handheld mode: TLL phase-difference AF with 51 focus areas (15 cross-type sensors)|
• Tripod mode: focal-plane contrast AF on a desired point within a specific area
|Shooting modes||• Single frame|
• Continuous Low [CL]
• Continuous High [CH]
• Liveview [LV]
• Self-Timer (programmable)
• Mirror-up mode
|Continuous shooting *||• With built-in battery: up to 6 fps|
• With AC adapter or MB-D10 pack and batteries other than EN-EL3e: up to 8 fps
• 12-bit RAW at full speed, 14-bit RAW only 2.5 fps
|Continuous buffer||• JPEG Large/Normal: 100 shots (at 6 fps)|
• RAW: no data yet
|Self-timer||• 2 to 20 sec custom|
|Flash control||• TTL: TTL flash control by 1,005-pixel RGB sensor.|
• Built-in Speedlight, SB-800, SB-600 or SB-400: i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL flash
• AA (Auto Aperture-type) flash: Available with SB-800 used with CPU lens
• Non-TTL Auto: Available with Speedlights such as SB-800, 28, 27, and 22S
• Range-priority manual flash; available with SB-800
|Flash Sync Mode||• Front-curtain Sync (normal)|
• Red-Eye Reduction
• Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync
• Slow Sync
• Rear-curtain Sync
|Built-in Speedlight||• Manual pop-up with button release|
• Guide number (ISO 200, m) approx 17 (manual 18)
• Guide number (ISO 100, m) approx 12 (manual 13)
|Flash Accessory Shoe||ISO 518 standard-type hot shoe contact; Safety lock mechanism provided|
|Flash Sync Terminal||ISO 519 standard terminal, lock screw provided|
|Flash compensation||• -3 to +1 EV|
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps *
|Creative Lighting System||With Speedlights such as SB-800, SB-600, SB-400, SB-R200, supports Advanced Wireless Lighting, Auto FP High-Speed Sync, Flash Color Information Communication, modeling flash and FV lock|
|Orientation sensor||Tags images with camera orientation|
|Playback mode||• Full frame|
• Thumbnail (4 or 9 images)
• One-touch zoom
• RGB histogram
• Shooting data
• Highlight point
• Auto image rotation
|Languages *||• Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)|
|Custom functions||48 custom functions|
|Connectivity||• USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) Mini-B connector|
• HDMI video out (version 1.3a, Type A connector) *
• Remote control 10-pin terminal
• PC Sync flash terminal
|10-pin terminal||• GPS: NMEA 0183 (Ver. 2.01 and 3.01) interface standard supported with 9-pin D-sub cable and GPS Cable MC-35 (optional)|
• Remote control: via 10-pin terminal
|Communications||FTP and PTP/IP file transfer with optional Wireless Transmitter WT-3 (IEEE 802.11 b/g)|
|Storage||• Compact Flash Type I or II|
• UDMA *, Microdrive and FAT32 supported
• 36 characters of text can be input and stored in EXIF header
|Power||• Lithium-Ion EN-EL3e (7.4 V, 1500 mAh)|
• Included battery charger MH-18a
• Optional AC adapter EH-5a
• Optional MB-D10 battery pack / vertical grip *
|Vertical grip *||• Optional MB-D10 battery pack / vertical grip|
• One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL4a, EN-EL4 or EN-EL3e or eight R6/AA-size alkaline (LR6), Ni-MH (HR6), lithium (FR6) batteries, or nickel-manganese ZR6 batteries
|Battery monitoring||The LCD monitor on the camera back displays the following information|
about the EN-EL3e battery:
• Remaining charge (%)
• No. of shots taken since last charge
• Battery life (5 stages)
|Dimensions||147 x 114 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in)|
|Weight (no batt)||825 g (1.8 lb)|
|Weight (with batt)||903 g (2.0 lb)|
|Box contents||Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e, Quick Charger MH-18a, USB Cable UC-E4, Video Cable EG-D100, Strap AN-D300, LCD monitor cover BM-8, Body cap, Eyepiece Cap DK-5, Rubber Eyecup DK-23, Software Suite CD-ROM|
|Optional accessories||Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D10, Wireless Transmitter WT-4, Magnifying Eyepiece DK-21M, AC Adapter EH-5a, Capture NX Software, Camera Control Pro 2|
The D200, which Nikon referred to as the “baby D2X,” was a significant advance for the company and undoubtedly gave its rivals something to think about. The fact that Canon was still a generation ahead of it in the noise stakes was a significant challenge for it. Canon was able to dependably offer clean photos despite increases in megapixel count.
However, with the release of the D300, Nikon has definitively eliminated this difference and has, if anything, pushed ahead of Canon in the race (mostly thanks to its chroma-based noise reduction delivering more film-like grain rather than color blotches).
However, this is only one facet of the D300 narrative; virtually every other feature of this camera has also seen significant advancements.
There is perhaps the best implementation of Live View to date with both contrast detection (like a compact camera, although not particularly fast) and passive auto-focus options, and there is HDMI output; a boon no doubt to studio photographers who can now provide live high-resolution output. Starting on the outside, there is that stunning high-resolution three-inch LCD monitor, the usefulness of which shouldn’t be underestimated (you’ll find you get enough detail without magnifying as far as).
When discussing the Nikon D300, it would be remiss of us not to give credit to Nikon for the exceptional build quality and solid “go anywhere” feel that the body possesses.
Inside the camera, Nikon has made significant improvements to both the image quality and the performance. These improvements include the ability to capture usable images up to an ISO of 3200, improved dynamic range, extended image parameter control, automatic CA removal (which improves the performance of all of your lenses), six frames per second continuous shooting (eight frames per second with the grip and battery combo), a new autofocus sensor, AF tracking by color, and scene recognition.
There is also an almost infinite number of customizable options available. These options cover everything from the number of AF areas that are utilized to the size of the center-weighted metering circle and even the behavior of the camera when the FUNC button is held down and the command dial is turned.
Finding the D300’s shortcomings to highlight in my conclusion has been the most difficult part for me to do. Auto white balance performs poorly in artificial light (although this is not something that is exclusive to the D300), and there is still no true mirror lock-up feature. The usefulness of Live View would certainly be improved with an articulating LCD monitor (although I’m sure Nikon would argue that this could compromise the integrity of the body). However, these few minor quibbles are basically the only things we could find fault with in the overall presentation.
Nikon D300 Price
Pros & Cons
- Incredible work all around.
- Excellent specs
- Strong constitution
- Vague navigation pad
- Extremely pricey in comparison to its contemporaries.