Nikon’s latest semi-professional DSLR, the D300, is available now. The new D300, which was announced in August 2007, replaces the popular D200, which was released less than two years earlier. This is in stark contrast to the three-and-a-half-year lag between the D100 and D200, and it demonstrates that Nikon has finally grasped the importance of understanding what it takes to compete aggressively in the current market.
Despite the fact that the period between models has been cut in half, Nikon has not compromised on the capabilities of the D300.
The camera is equipped with a new 12.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor, 6 frames per second continuous shooting, a new 51 point autofocus system, a 3in screen with VGA resolution, 100 percent viewfinder coverage, and Live View capabilities, as well as the option of 14-bit RAW file recording as well as anti-dust capabilities and an HDMI port for direct connection to high-definition televisions.
It is a fantastic camera not only for high-end hobbyists but also as a backup body for professional photographers, thanks to the combination of its rugged construction and superb ergonomics.
Live View capabilities of the D300 include a choice of focusing systems: either the classic phase-change method, in which the mirror is momentarily lowered to take a reading, or a contrast-based approach, which operates similarly to a compact camera without interfering with the viewing experience.
Although it is equipped with a variety of high-tech features, the D300 is fundamentally a semi-professional workhorse with excellent ergonomics and handling. An extensive range of extra attachments is available, including a battery grip that may increase continuous shooting speeds to 8 frames per second, a cable for connecting directly to GPS systems, and a Wifi transmitter.
In the wake of years of pressuring DSLR customers to purchase its Capture NX RAW processing software, Nikon has now bowed to public pressure and included it free of charge with the D300 — although for a limited time only. Other alternative software includes Capture Pro II, which allows you to manage the camera from a PC while simultaneously seeing a live feed on a computer monitor.
A strong specification, but one that will have to contend with stiff competition. For a few hundred dollars less, you could get the E-3, the flagship Olympus professional camera, which boasts the world’s quickest autofocus (when used with the appropriate lens), and a flip-out screen. For a few hundred dollars more, you could upgrade to Canon’s EOS 5D full-frame camera.
Then there are the Canon EOS 40D and Sony Alpha A700, which are expected to be their two most significant competitors. Both versions have numerous features in common with the D300, as well as some significant advantages, the most notable of which is that they have a body price that is around 50% cheaper than the D300. Finally, there’s the D200, which is the D200’s predecessor and is available for a significantly lower price.
In our Nikon D300 review, we’ll see how it compares to these models in terms of features, handling, and usability, and we’ll also look at how the image quality compares to that of key competitors as well. With little question, Nikon has produced yet another outstanding digital camera, but has the company’s policy of giving a step-up at a higher price been taken to the extreme this time? Read on to find out more, and as always, you can watch a video tour of the Nikon D300 to witness a demonstration of its essential features.
Notes on the testing
We put a Nikon D300 in the final production model and tested it with Firmware versions A 1.01 and B 1.00. To test cameras, we follow our standard procedure of using the default factory and best quality JPEG settings unless otherwise stated.
For this test, the D300 was set to its best quality Large Fine JPEG mode (optimized for quality) with Auto White Balance and the default Standard Picture Control, Normal High ISO NR, and Active D-Lighting settings turned off. Other High ISO NR and Active D-Lighting options are demonstrated throughout the review with screenshots.
Nikon D300 Specs
|Body type||Mid-size SLR|
|Max resolution||4288 x 2848|
|Other resolutions||3216 x 2136, 2144 x 1424|
|Image ratio w:h||3:2|
|Effective pixels||12 megapixels|
|Sensor photodetectors||13 megapixels|
|Sensor size||APS-C (23.6 x 15.8 mm)|
|ISO||200 – 3200 in 1, 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps (100 – 6400 with boost)|
|Boosted ISO (minimum)||100|
|Boosted ISO (maximum)||6400|
|White balance presets||12|
|Custom white balance||Yes (4)|
|Uncompressed format||RAW + TIFF|
|JPEG quality levels||Fine, Normal, Basic|
|Autofocus||Contrast Detect (sensor)Phase DetectMulti-areaSelective single-pointSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View|
|Number of focus points||51|
|Lens mount||Nikon F|
|Focal length multiplier||1.5×|
|Screen type||Super Density TFT color LCD with wide-viewing angle|
|Viewfinder type||Optical (pentaprism)|
|Viewfinder magnification||0.94× (0.63× 35mm Equiv.)|
|Minimum shutter speed||30 sec|
|Maximum shutter speed||1/8000 sec|
|Manual exposure mode||Yes|
|Built-in flash||Yes (Pop-up)|
|Flash range||12.00 m (at ISO 100)|
|External flash||Yes (Hot-shoe, Wireless plus sync connector)|
|Flash modes||Auto, On, Off, Red-eye, Slow sync, Rear-curtain|
|Continuous drive||6.0 fps|
|Self-timer||Yes (2 to 20 sec)|
|Metering modes||MultiCenter-weighted average|
|Exposure compensation||±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)|
|AE Bracketing||(2, 3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV steps)|
|WB Bracketing||Yes (2 to 9 frames in 10,20,30 steps in either blue/amber or magenta/green axis))|
|Storage types||Compact Flash (Type I or II)|
|USB||USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)|
|HDMI||Yes (Mini Type C)|
|Remote control||Yes (Optional)|
|Environmentally sealed||Yes (Water and dust resistant)|
|Battery description||Lithium-Ion EN-EL3e rechargeable battery & charger|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1000|
|Weight (inc. batteries)||925 g (2.04 lb / 32.63 oz)|
|Dimensions||147 x 114 x 74 mm (5.79 x 4.49 x 2.91″)|