Nikon D300

Nikon is one legendary company that has come a long way when it comes to manufacturing cameras for consumers. It may have lost some followers along the way with the absence of groundbreaking models in the last few years, but it has since re-established its prominence in the digital SLR market with the announcement of the Nikon D300 that took the battle to a new level. It got the camera basics right and image quality is top notch. To say that Nikon has a hit in their hands with the D300 is an understatement. It is far more revolutionary than its specifications suggest. It completely obsoletes everything that came before it,

Introduced in 2007, the Nikon D300 remains at the top of the prosumer high-end digital SLR camera line-up. It is a camera that is meant to replace both the D100 and D200 and serves as a lighter and more affordable choice when compared to the full frame FX-format Nikon D700 and D3. The product description and review below will briefly explain why the D300 is an excellent camera to get if you are looking for a balanced high-end camera.

D300-front

Nikon D300

Design

Made almost entirely of an magnesium alloy, the D300 doesn’t let you forget that it’s a camera costing almost $1800. There isn’t very much to say about the D300 when you compare it to the very camera that it replaces – the D200. It is strikingly similar in just about all aspects and that is a good thing especially when you have owned a D200 and are used to how it works. If you take a closer look at the D300 you will notice that the LCD monitor is a bit bigger measuring 3.0 inches diagonally.

The bottom of the camera has been redone slightly for changes to the optional Nikon MB-D10 battery grip. Other minor changes abound, as well: the hand position on the right side of the camera has been tweaked slightly and the bracketing button is gone. But most importantly, the D300′s many internal tweaks and far more processing power put together have made significant improvements in image quality.

The camera is weather-sealed, so the D300′s ports, buttons, and dials are shielded from dust and moisture.

Camera Specifications

The Nikon D300 Digital SLR camera continued where the D200 left off by improving the internal features in just about all areas. First it manages to squeeze in more megapixel power by allowing 12.3 megapixel photos to be taken. This means that you can take even higher resolution photos of up to 4288 x 2848 pixels and have them printed on bigger media without sacrificing image quality.

It comes with a built in autofocus motor for usage by all the Nikon branded autofocus-lenses. The auto-focus sensor has been replaced with an entirely new sensor having 51-points instead of 11 points that the D200 previously had. 15 of those points are even cross-type sensitive making it possible to take better focused shots. It also has some contrast detection options and focus tracking by color as well.

Actual user review:
“The D300 is anything but evolutionary – it’s a full-scale revolution for Nikon, and it’s forever banished thoughts of Canon from my mind. Just shooting around the house, I find that the D300 can render colors, even true-looking, vibrant reds, like nothing short of Fuji’s super-best Velvia film. Soon I’ll turn it loose at Garden of the Gods and we’ll see what it can really do. Best of all, the D300 can produce wild colors and natural skin tones – in the same shot! I don’t understand how that’s possible, since jacking up a camera’s color vibrancy usually ruins people’s skin. But Nikon has done it. I’m especially fond of Nikon’s menus and user controls. And even though there is a wealth of new features compared to the D200, I’ve managed to discover them all–and learn them all – without ever once cracking open the user’s manual. Multi-level zoom on the back screen, so you’ll never doubt whether your shots are in focus or not. The screen itself is huge, and features the highest pixel density of any LCD screen anywhere. Your shots will look amazing, even before you get prints made. What counts for me is bold colors, great looking skin, and a camera that won’t ever distract me from my shot, by forcing me to think about *how* to make the shot. The D300 delivers on all three counts.” – S.Green (CO, USA)

Technological Improvements

Serious enhancements were made under the hood to make the D300 a camera good enough for both amateurs and even some professionals alike. The Nikon DX format has been significantly enhanced offering higher resolution and higher speeds capable of capture 6 frames per second on continuous shooting mode. This may not seem much compared to the D200 which shoots 5 fps, but the MB-D10 battery pack bumps it up to 8 frames per second. Even if you never used a D200 before, the technology that enhances this useful mode clearly puts this camera up against plenty of other cameras with higher price tags.

The Nikon D300 is one of the earliest cameras that incorporate the Nikon EXPEED image processing technology which is basically a number of nice enhancements rolled into one that put the other image processing technologies of other manufacturers to shame. This technology goes a different route by not letting it deal with specific features and components of the camera, but rather focuses its enhancements on improving the entire concept of digital image processing altogether.

This results to higher-quality images being processed and richer gradients. The saturation controls are one of the most noticeable changes when compared to the D200. If you try taking a picture at maximum saturation settings, you will see a very huge and positive difference in color when compared to taking the same scene with maximum settings of older models. Along with decent expansions to the white balance settings and gray-card settings, pictures taken in any environment or scene should look generally better. With the advanced sharpening capabilities, the D300 surpasses the functionality of lenses by eliminating color fringes without any complicated settings to activate.

There is another fantastic option that you can find in the D300 menu called “Active D-Lighting” which balances the highlights and shadows much better than most digital SLR cameras. The highlights are a bit toned down and the shadows are clearer when you take pictures in this mode.

Perhaps the best thing about this whole Nikon EXPEED technology is that the power needed for these features to kick in is much lower than the models without the chip. This explains why the D300 has thrice the battery life of the D200. You can literally snap a thousand shots using the same battery without recharging.

Other Improvements

Thanks to the bigger 3.0 inch LCD display, navigating through the menus and features is more convenient. With the faster processor and other technologies, button presses are much more responsive and scrolling around large images that are heavily zoomed in no longer bog the camera down. These buttons are sealed too so they are better protected against moisture.

Another nice improvement is the inclusion of a self-cleaning sensor unit that is meant for dust reduction. HDMI video outputs which are the growing standard are supported along with Compact Flash UDMA support.

Performance

The D300 is capable of taking excellent quality photos. It starts up as soon as you hit the power switch and focuses extremely quickly, usually between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds, even in difficult focusing situations.

The D300 takes photos with vivid colors, excellent resolution, and minimal purple fringing. Red-eye wasn’t a problem either, but if you do encounter it, you can get rid of it in playback mode. White Balance settings are significantly expanded which results in better control over a wider color temperature range.

While other cameras have had lens distortion processing built-in, none have done the processing based on the distortion they see in the image like the D300 do with their Lateral Chromatic Aberration correction. The D300 has the power, thanks to the EXPEED processing system, to actually analyze each image after capture and fix the chromatic aberration before saving the JPEG file. Its amazing ability to fix lateral color automatically actually makes lenses look better than they are!

The D300 has surprisingly low noise levels even at high ISO settings. As is often the case, you’ll get better results at high ISOs if you shoot in RAW mode and run the resulting images through noise reduction software.

Bottom Line

The Nikon D300 is not a digital SLR camera for those who just want to dabble in photography. It’s a fine tool for the consummate photographer. Nikon has established itself as the premier digital SLR manufacturer in just a few short years and the D300 proves that they can take on the top competitors for the long term.

Average User Rating:

  • “The build quality is outstanding. The noise at high ISO is outstanding. Now you can use ISO 3200 in lowlight conditions with 100% confidence and getting low noise, well-detailed photos with good saturated colors will be a rule. ISO 1600 is almost noise free, you can see it at pixel peeping but for prints it is non-existent. More important than low noise is detail preservation at high ISO. The 2 more megapixels also help. On D300, the matrix is spot on, and you’ll like it as much as I do, on sunny, cloudy, evening and artificial light, including the TTL mode on flash. No more problems of focusing with AF points other than the central one. The settings menu will give you a plethora of possible focus combination. The colors are so perfect that you can distinguish between subtle tonalities on flowers, skin tones and complexions. The shadows won’t have any bluish creep anymore. Even at high ISO, the noise is more luminance than bluish.” – T.Iancu (Bucharest)
  • “I purchased this camera body about 6 months ago and have nothing but good things to say about it. Since then I have added a 24-70 mm lens as well as a 14-24 mm and the results are amazing. If you are looking for a light weight camera then I would say look elsewhere. But if you’re serious about photography and can handle 10 to 20 pounds of camera equipment…I would I highly recommend this product.” – S.Saul (CA,USA)

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