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Good: 3D Colour Matrix Metering II, 51 point AF, ergonomics, customisable, DX sensor format, exceptional 3" monitor, excellent value for what you get
Comment: When I first saw this camera and, knowing that I was preparing to invest in my first serious digital kit bag, I had to take a serious look. I quickly found that I was not going to be disappointed.
I have been a Nikon user for many years, back to the days of the F3, 4 and 5, and now I have moved over to DSLRs. The choice was going to be between the EOS 5D and the D300. Yes - I was prepared to move to Canon, and am open minded enough to do so: at the end of the day, the results matter more than the camera itself.
I have read the CNET review fully, and there is a lot of it I agree with, but, there are also some things I very much disagree with. Firstly, on price. The only better cameras on the market in the DSLR field at the current moment in time are the Nikon D3 and the EOS D1s Mk III. Those two will set you back £3000 and £5000 respectively. That is 3 times and 5 times more expensive. I can assure you, those two cameras are NOT 3 times or 5 times the camera. The second has, what I feel, is a gimmicky 21-megapixel sensor that you will only get real use out of it if you fully intend on blowing up images to wallpaper dimensions. The former is 400g heavier than the D300, and only has a few more features than the D300 itself (e.g. an artifical horizon to tell you your camera is level, a digital mic to record commentary notes, and the usual 100% viewfinder you'd expect at that level). There is the small matter that these two pro-specific DSLRs are full frame CMOS cameras whereas the D300 is not. However, the APS-C format sensor is actually rather handy as you get a 1.5x "magnification factor" on focal lengths of lenses, meaning that you don't have to attach a Saturn V rocket to the front of your camera to get in close to the action! In other words, a 200mm lens is 300mm in 35mm format terms.
Is this camera revolutionary? For Nikon - yes it is. The metering and focusing systems in the latest generation cameras are excellent. The beautifully crystal clear 900,000 dot 3" monitor is - in my opinion - the first PRACTICAL screen for reviewing your photos short of carrying a laptop around with you everywhere you go, the white balancing, filter and custom lighting options built in are very useful indeed, and the camera is laden with all the pro-spec features you would expect of a top end camera. The RAW image processing capabilities of this camera with the new processing engine is rapid, and you do get up to 6 fps shooting without the accessory battery pack - which is more than enough in most situations. The built-in flash features rear-curtain sync, flash compensation and bracketing, and I have not once seen red-eye caught with my flash photography even with red-eye switched off. For a built in flash, that is brilliant (although I do possess an SB-800 accessory flash unit for the serious stuff).
As a very keen enthusiast, I carry my camera pretty much everywhere I go just in case there is a photo opportunity to take advantage of. I couple my camera with the excellent Nikkor AF-S 18-200mm DX lens, meaning that I can travel relatively light, and to go with it, I carry the waist level finder DR-6 to get low down, 2 Sandisk Extreme III 4Gb cards, and a circular polariser. For the experienced Nikon user, taking a D300 into the hands will feel like a natural transition from film to digital in terms of layout and ergonomics, and for other users, you will fast get used to it. Another thing I love about this camera is that the important switches and buttons are not hidden away in menus and multiple button presses like they tend to be on Canons.
The most incredible achievement of this camera are results right across the ISO range. Even when you push out to ISO 3200 or 6400, noise is incredibly low compared to its most immediate competitors, including the EOS 5D, Olympus E3 and Sony Alpha 700. Colours are vibrant, alive and clear, and the 3D focusing is even artificially intelligent - able to analyse the scene f
Good: Extremely fast, wild colours, excellent control layout, good "control panel screen", excellent capabilities. If you like Nikon's way of doing things, you will love this camera.
Bad: What? What's that? Yeah, it's no canon 5D but so what?
Comment: The Nikon D300 is the world's greatest amateur camera.
The Nikon D300 is far more revolutionary than its specifications suggest.
I've never said this before of any other camera, but the D300 actually makes it easier to create significantly better images than with earlier cameras.
The D300 has better color, better highlights, better shadows, it's sharper because it fixes lens flaws, and its superior AF system and viewfinder free us to compose more freely. The D300 shares these innovations with its nearly identical $5,000 big brother, the D3. Compare their menus or read their users manuals and you'll see that they are the same on the inside! Owning both, I can confirm that they both operate in the same way and give the same look to their images. At ISO 200 with an exceptional lens, there isn't any visible difference I can see.
The D300's numerous internal tweaks and far more processing power have made huge strides forward in real image quality. These improvements are so significant than even a blind artist can see them. These may not be as immediately obvious to people less than fluent in creating images on a daily basis, since these innovations deal with subtle but crucial issues of color and value. Color and value are the critical foundations of every image, as every artist knows.
The Nikon D300 is a far greater step forward than its specs would suggest. The D3 also shares these advances.
My D200 is history. If you shoot as much as I do, the D300 is worth it without any reservations.
If you don't already own a D200, just get the D300 and forget the D200.
If you already have a D200 and are on a budget, don't try the D300, because you're going to want one. Images from the D300, as I shoot it anyway, have significantly more vibrant color and far better control of highlights and shadows.
Sports shooters will love the D300's MB-D10 grip, good for 8 FPS.
The D3 is great, but looks about the same shot at reasonable ISO and with reasonable lenses. The reason to get a D3 is if you want to shoot 14mm-equivalent lenses or shoot at ISO 6,400 and get sharp results, or to shoot at 9 FPS.
I would suggest that serious photographers with D200s trash them in favor of the D300. For normal people, The Nikon D40 is still the first camera I grab for vacations and family photos for its far lighter weight.
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