So many DSLR cameras have been released by top manufacturers that aspiring professional photographers are having a difficult time deciding which camera they should buy. Nikon which is famous for their line of cameras is a good choice to get started, but some Nikon owners may be wondering if newer or higher models are worth the upgrade. This year, several new digital SLR cameras have been launched boasting new features and Nikon enters the ring with their new Nikon D300S. The Nikon D300s updates the excellent D300 as Nikon’s flagship DX format DSLR. It combines the performance and handling panache of its predecessor with high-definition video capability.
Latest Update: The Nikon D300S is Now on Sale at Amazon.com
Nikon D300S’s Position in the D Series
The Nikon D300 made a impressionable impact when it was first launched 2 years ago making it the semi-professional DSLR to beat. And in many respects it is still the camera to beat in that class. After 2 years, Nikon deemed it is time to up the ante, which most notably includes support for 720p video capture, and launched the D300S. The D300S will replace the D300 the same way the D70S replaced the D70 and it is looking to hold on to that high-end non-full frame slot for a long time.
In line with tradition, the Nikon D300S looks just like its older counterpart. The most notable addition is the three small holes just underneath the model number which is a microphone, a feature last seen in the D90.
Many of the new features on the D300S are those that are already featured on recent Nikon DSLRs like virtual horizon from the D3 and movies from the D90. But one genuine new feature is the inclusion of contrast-detection autofocus that operates while in movie mode. This is a first for a Nikon DSLR.
There are some changes to the connection ports on the left. The HDMI output is now a mini HDMI port with a smaller Type-C specification. Also new are twin card slots – one Type I CompactFlash and one SD/SDHC – with a full complement of write options. Either slot can be designated the primary one, with the secondary slot used for Backup (each photo is written to both cards) or Overflow (when the primary card is full the camera switches to writing to the secondary card). In addition, the D300s can be configured to store NEFs on one and JPEGs on the other, plus photos can be copied between the cards too. Also interesting is the support for the newer Wi-Fi capable memory cards.
Many changes can also be found on the back where there is a repositioned “Lv” button which activates the “Live view” feature. Just below that is the “Info” which brings the D300s up to the same level of usability as the D90. The dedicated “Info” button is extremely useful in that it lets you get to every camera setting and menu item using only your right hand.
The D300s also revised the rear multi-selector. It now comes with a dedicated center button like those from the D700 and D3. It is a huge improvement from the one-piece control from the old D300. Selection is now more positive. To make room for these two buttons, the card door needed some changes and thankfully, the locking mechanism is removed and the card door has a more convenient sliding design. There are also 9 small holes at the bottom which serves as a speaker. The thumb-grip pad is a bit smaller than the D300 because of the new card door design making the grip a bit less secure in comparison.
“Bought this camera recently to replace the many years, but still trusty Nikon D200. Took both of them on a road trip recently and was extremely please with the Nikon D300s. The auto focus was super fast and accurate. The video feature was a nice bonus. While I wouldn’t use it often, it does come in handy when I want to illustrate to my friends and families certain scenic views I come across. The ability to shoot many frames per second and the auto focus system being able to keep up with it was beyond my own expectation. The picture quality and low level noise was nice. I was able to do ISO-1600 perfectly where I couldn’t before using D200.” – K.Nguyen (CA,USA)
The Nikon D300S retains the megapixel count at 12.3 megapixels. While the body and performance remain relatively unchanged, the continuous shooting rate is bumped up by 1 fps. The maximum remains at 8 fps when used with the optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D10 and rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL4a. Nikon has also tweaked both the Live View and standard AF systems, and there’s some accelerated image processing.
In addition, the D300S incorporates the same video engine as that of the D90 at 720p resolution but limited to 24fps. And it goes it one better by supporting autofocus during recording and use the Picture Controls to adjust the tone and color. The camera also has a stereo mic input. Movies are recorded using Motion JPEG compression and can last 5 minutes in full resolution or 20 minutes in smaller resolutions.
The new dual card capability is also a useful feature allowing photographers to have their photos saved in both cards for backup or be used one-by-one for added storage capacity. It can even store two different formats of the same image in their respective cards.
If you use the on-camera flash, the wide-angle coverage has expanded to 16mm. There are a few other additions too like the Quiet Shutter release mode, additional active D-lighting options, .NEF Raw image file support and a new 72-image thumbnail mode.
The D300S adds the new quiet mode by selecting “Q” on the Advance Mode dial on the top left. Good for wild life photography or for capturing shots in a business meeting.
Here’s an excellent summary of D300s’ features by B&H Photo :
The Nikon D300S is responsive and the improved frame rate is also a bonus. Still image focusing is fast and the AF viewfinder confirmation display is superb, the improved frame advance rate helps with fleeting subjects but seems to suffer when shooting uncompressed RAW files.
Metering and white balance are almost flawless. In terms of white balance, using auto WB setting seems to have a slight orange cast, but if you pick the correct WB setting for the picture by using a custom setting, the D300S renders natural looking images. Metering is excellent with the 3D Color Matrix.
In terms of image noise, shots in near darkness at ISO 1600 provide images with a good balance between image detail and noise. However, pushing ISO to 6400 results in images with an obvious level of noise.
Here are 2 excellent videos by Nikon photographers Ami Vitale and Robert Bosch showcasing the D300s’ video and still capture capabilities.
The incremental improvements over the D300 might not compel D300 owners to upgrade, but for photography enthusiasts having lower range models, the Nikon D300S is certainly a mighty camera worth a consideration.
Average User Rating:
• “Got the D300s to replace the D90 which used to be my back up camera in the event that my D700 fail. I think I got a very good upgrade and a good back up camera. Excellent A/F as good as the D700. I recommend this camera with out any doubt.” – H.Lewis (Panama City, Panama)
• “I have been into photography for about 7 yrs. now. I bought a Nikon D80 approximately 3 yrs. ago and loved it…it was time to upgrade and the D300s was easily the right choice for me. At first I was a little intimidated by all the buttons and knobs but after playing with it for a while and buying/watching the Blue Crane Digital D300 DVD, everything sank in for me. Don’t hesitate buying this camera….it’s great!” – A.Komers (New Hampshire, USA)
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