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4.8 out of 5 stars
Nikon D300 DX 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
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792 of 831 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2007
Since 2006 I have owned a D200 for serious shooting situations and I got a D40 in early '07 for everyday shots (an awesome camera - I give it SIX stars! - a whole separate review is needed!), and after hearing about the D300 release in late 2007 I debated over whether to get one. I was really happy with my D200, which I took on some overseas trips and it performed perfectly. After demo-ing a D300 in stores and reading some online reviews, I decided to take the plunge. It was a big investment but now I have no regrets - if not for the entire package, then for one thing: COLOR! Or one more thing: what Nikon calls 'Active D-Lighting' (translation: a significant change in the processor's realistic rendition of contrast, highlights, shadows, etc. - the entire package of "TONE"). Also - can an LCD rear-screen get any better than this?? In Jim Cramer-parlance I have to say that this model is definitely "best of breed".

Pluses and minuses: (note: edited every once in a while since I've used it for almost 6 months now and thousands of captures - last edit was done on 4/9/08)

PLUSES:

- Incredibly vivid, pleasingly, really surprisingly saturated color reminiscent of Velvia (high-saturation Fuji film used in slides, etc.) is now made possible by selecting the "Vivid" option in the "Picture Control" menu and cranking up the "Saturation" option - there are three levels beyond the default "0" - which sets it just about at the highest possible saturation that could be set in the D200. Even boring photos of things around the home, outside, etc. seem interesting and... well, exciting and vivid... with it set at +2 or +3 (although the +3 setting is a bit extreme for people photos, and renders their skin color a bit more intense than appears naturally). At the +3 setting even blase photos of ordinary things approach purposely-understated "art" in a MoMA-like way. For people I am finding Vivid+1 or Vivid+2 a bit more natural indoors with natural light, as the Vivid+3 saturates just a bit more than I prefer. Just like Velvia, these settings also do not warm the cool colors - one of the minuses of other cameras' 'vivid' settings - this is what's best (your cool blues, greys, greens, etc. stay cool, while the reds, yellows, oranges, bright blues/greens/etc. - watch out!) (Edited note: after about 3,000 shots I saw that indoors it might be best to do a manual white balance preset off a white wall or carpet or something and then shoot in vivid mode, since in the automatic WB mode the reds tend to get boosted quite a bit under typical indoor light and some of my subjects looked like they had a very dark suntan, or even a sunburn, in the middle of December! Careful with this... also tried standard - i.e. not vivid - color settings with +1 or +2 saturation, and these were very realistic, although the backgrounds can be dull if you're intent on vivid colors all-around. Maybe best to use those on portraits only. Try them all out and see what works best.)

- On-board so-called "Active D-Lighting" renders shadows and highlights in an very realistic manner, with no raising up of delicate shadow tones to mid-levels (as my outstanding, near-perfect-in-its-class Nikon D40 tends to do) - this really must be seen to be believed. Coupled with the color quality (and deep saturation noted above), the detail in the highlights is excellent. The D40/D200 have this feature in post-capture (i.e. you adjust the captured image yourself) but this seemed rather crude; here it is said that the Nikon actually computes the needed adjustment and does it specifically for the scene you've captured. No more blown or off-color highlights in those 'rare' occasions when overexposure seeps into a shot in a very contrasty frame.

- The new LCD screen is 3" in size and has a whopping 920,000 pixels (versus 230,000 for the D200, D80, D40, etc.) of resolution - which means image review to check focus, color, etc. is impossibly accurate and well beyond the already very high quality of Nikon's 2.5 inch screens and way, way beyond that of the Canons with the greenish-greyish-tinted LCDs even on expensive models like the much-venerated full-frame 5D. Doesn't even come with a LCD protector cover like the D200 did because it's made with tempered glass and is super resistant to scratching, damage, etc. No more looking through plastic - however transparent - when reviewing shots or setting colors, lighting, etc. (Kind of always bothered me, that.)

- 100% coverage viewfinder - excellent, and not cluttered up, making composition cleaner; nothing engraved in the viewfinder to get in the way (although you can optionally set the horizon-level grid to be on all the time, which I do, since it leaves an open space in the middle anyway, and those off-balance shots are a pain to fix).

- 51-points of autofocus available - at first I didn't really care much as I tend to do the old-school method of using one point for focus, then recomposing - but I started using the 51-point AF mode (the full-rectange setting that uses all sensors) and found that I don't need to do this as the D300 always seems to pick the object I wanted to focus on - making things much, much easier - although for really unusual shots with a subject in focus and others way out of focus, I move to the manual mode; the AF system is excellent in speed and accurate tracking of the object of focus as well (i.e. a running child, etc.) The 51 points make this very easy to do. Fiddling around in the store I saw on the big $5k D3 the points are better looking (little red spots) and less intrusive when composing than these large-ish black rectangles on the D300, but I can live with that (although it reminds me "hey, you don't have a D3!...").

- There were issues about firmware and exposure on the D40, D80, where they tended to expose too brightly, and we had to set it manually to -0.3 or -0.7 to get back to normal exposure. Not on the D300. Perfect all-around. Still, adjusting WB and exposure can make or break the shot. Especially nice is the cloudy or 'shadow' setting for indoor shots in bright sunlight; everything looks pleasingly warm, even if just a tinge more than natural. Give it a try if you like warm colors. Interesting shots can be had using 'tungsten' outside in the snow - a blue-grey monochromatic world. (If you have snow, that is.) Manual WB setting is easy off of a wall, or carpet, or napkin, etc. as usual with the Nikons in this range, and makes quite a bit of difference in odd-lighting situations (i.e. very dim room, etc.) where the automatic presets, although excellent, don't work well (especially that 'tungsten' - in normal home incandescent lighting in the evening everything is medium-blued-out - who uses this? Or am I using it incorrectly? I set WB in that situation off the wall or rug.)

- other than the full-frame sensor (no small difference, that is) and high FPS, there appears, from what I am reading, to be no major differences (unless you're a sports or news shooter) from the highly-lauded D3, which costs 3x what the D300 costs; the D3's awesome high ISO performance can be mimicked by turning off the high ISO noise reduction set "on" in the default mode in the D300 (see below) Of course, the D3 has many other features that make it best for pro sports shooters, etc. who need that size and power, and of course, full-frame has no comparison - but I have a bag full of DX lenses (and some non-DX primes) and not ready to put out $10k+ for a D3 plus a 14-24, the new 24-70 and the 70-200, etc. that I'd want. The differences in picture quality due to the full-frame sensor (and other features I wouldn't need as I don't shoot sports or news) are outweighed by the cost involved and the marginal nature of the difference overall. Image quality is essentially the same - except for the pluses of the full-frame, especially noticeable in really big prints. Also the usual full-frame focal length versus DX issue remains alive here - yes, that "35mm on a DX is equivalent to a..." continues, and probably will as long as DX lenses remain in our bags. Edit: I have tried the D3 for a shooting session and it does focus incredibly fast, much faster than the D300 in some cases. The speed of the focusing and the shutter itself are unbelievable; that camera is the Ferrari or Lamborghini of Nikons. The D300 may be the Porsche - hey, not a bad compromise - it's unlikely that the average pro-sumer will need the power of the D3 (or of a Ferrari - ever try to do 140mph on the NJ Turnpike?).

These were my big main pluses which justified the transition from the D200, but there are a few more which don't really appeal to me but will for some:

- Live View (you can see the image on the LCD screen) - perhaps this might appeal to a tripod-user setting up a photo, but I doubt I'll ever use it. Smacks of "point-and-shoot", I think, but could be handy in some cases where it is hard to position the eye at the viewfinder (behind the sofa?...) (Edited note: should not have panned this - gave the camera to my 21 year old niece, who tried to take a Christmas portrait of my family and I together - and got half of us in the bottom of the frame, and an empty top half of the frame! - for those who basically grew up using live view digital cameras, this feature is very useful - just set it and let them shoot - I think the weight of the D300 and the fact that she had to use a (gasp!) viewfinder (as opposed to the RAZR internal cellphone camera) threw her off. Some creative cropping may save the shot, anyway.)

- Ultrasonic Sensor Cleaner - like the Canons and Pentaxes, Sonys, etc., Nikon finally offers a sensor cleaner (which is user-operated, not constantly running at each power-up if you set it that way). Might be useful after hard shooting in dusty or otherwise camera-unfriendly environments, but I never had the need for it on any camera I ever had up to now. Just one more thing to possibly go wrong someday?

- HDMI output (if you're lucky enough to have one of those big-screen HDTVs and want to show your photos to all on the screen; I don't and won't)

- 12MP versus 10MP (for the D200) - great marketing material but MP beyond 6-8MP or so has only marginal effect on the quality of the image and doesn't really matter ultimately since all it does it highlight the limitations of the lenses or the technique of the shooter; I suppose it is nice to have that much more information recorded ultimately if you choose (via the size/compression settings) but I shoot with "large normal" JPG and don't want 10MB+ file sizes when I'm making 5x7 or 8X10 prints at most (or way, way more MB for RAW files) - I am reminded by a post/commentor that the higher MP will be beneficial when cropping a photo considerably for printing - good point - if you're taking 25% of that shot and cropping it, printing it out to 8x10, those 12MP will keep your image nice and sharp even at such extreme crops (provided, of course, you're using the big filesize settings and have lots of storage space in the form of CF cards, hard disk space, etc.) I don't do a lot of cropping and prefer to create in-camera since I have practically no time to fiddle with Photoshop and the rest.

- the new grip (sold separately, of course) that goes with it doesn't stick far up into the camera, so you can use the camera's battery as well as those in the grip as well, and decide which to drain first, etc. With the grip you get more FPS for action photography but I don't do much of that, and for me the grip makes the whole package too big to fit in my current Lowepro bag (trivial but hey, it's one more thing).

- if you've had any Nikon DSLR before, especially a D200, you will feel immediately at home, with no ramp-up period; you don't even need to open the sealed manual, since the new features are so easily located and adjusted that all you do is adjust your settings and start shooting; what won't feel immediately familiar is the super-bold color you'll notice on the intricately detailed 3" LCD. Of course, ergonomics are nearly perfect; this camera is like a brick wrapped watertight in rough-textured rubber, perfect to grip and hold for long periods of time.

- Capture NX software is included - get this - free! - in a selected number of initial sales of the D300. It's panned by some but, if you don't have another software package, it's not a bad thing to get a reasonably pro-quality image software package for free. The easy-to-use three-point pinpoint adjustment tool is excellent. Edit update - there is a Mac Leopard (OS 10.5) version now available - yeah! - so all computing formats are supported.

MINUSES

- Quite a bit more expensive than the D200 - naturally, since it's a new model, but is it worth it? - for me it was for the top two reasons; for others, the D200 (or the D80, or the D40) will be way more camera than is enough - also still appears to be hard to get at the right price initially; some supply issues reminiscent of the D200 were being seen but appear to have levelled off; now it's hard, I hear, to get the D3.

- When I initially got it I thought that for some reason the highest ISO settings (i.e. 6,400) seemed to lead to somewhat hazier shots, likely due to high ISO noise reduction that is set ON to 'Normal' in the factory default - but who shoots up to ISO 6,400 anyway, unless you're shooting hand-held at faster shutter speeds in very dark environments? I had my D200 set for maximum 1,600 in Auto ISO and that was always more than enough. You can always turn the high ISO noise reduction completely off (or set it to low for just a touch of clean-up) and get back to the D200's, and close to the D3's, level of quality. I did this and had no more issues that initially concerned me, but a side-by-side comparison of a very magnified crop might yield otherwise. The ISO settings are also odd in that there is no stated ISO 100 but the camera does have ISO options which Nikon calls various degrees of "LO", confusingly; just need to learn the terminology and adapt. High ISO noise is also really only visible, however, if you make 3-foot-wide prints, mural-size images or crop and magnify on your computer screen to unrealistic levels and look really, really closely. You won't even notice on a 5X7 or 8X10, or bigger, print in normal circumstances. The fact that there is Auto ISO at all (versus not having it in the Canons) makes shooting a breeze; no fiddling around with ISO settings when you're trying to capture an image. (Edited note: lots of high ISO shots without NR on have been excellent throughout the holidays, including plenty of dark, candlelit tables, Christmas trees with onboard lights only on, outdoor shots of decor, etc. Not sure how noisy these would look blown up to big poster or mural-sized prints but for 8X10 or less, I am sure these are perfectly fine.)

- Wish the flip-up flash would have a rotating bulb enclosure which you could point upward and get a bounce-flash for indoor people photographs; fairly sure no other DLSRs have this but it would eliminate me having to (buy first and) carry around a Speedlight for indoor shots (i.e. Christmas present-opening by the tree in low light, etc.) lest I get the white-ghost effect of direct flash from the onboard unit. I rarely use the onboard flash except for fill-flash outdoors, so it is somewhat less useful than I would like. Then again, Nikon needs to sell Speedlights, so... the SB-600 is a perfect match. The SB-400 is also a nice one if you're not doing shots with far-off subjects, and it fits nicely on the D40 as well.

- I don't know if it's my imagination but it feels like the two spinning dials (on the front and back, for setting aperture, shutter speed, etc.) are a bit more recessed into the camera body than those on the D200; when I spin them I get memories of cheap 1970s electronics when I would push a button, and it would wind up moving itself inside the radio (or whatever) and getting stuck in there - I sampled other demos on the store floor and they felt the same as mine - maybe this is to prevent accidental movement when shooting? It's as if they are not at exact 90 degree angles to the camera body. Nice feel on the fingers, but I get memories of those "stuck buttons" when I use them sometimes.

- it probably would be nice to be able to stuff a CF card and an SD card in the camera for memory options; I prefer CF cards for their durability, but dislike having to invest in two types of cards - CF and SD - for the D300 and the D40, respectively. Don't know who could possibly shoot so much to fill a full 8GB card (maybe if you shoot RAW+JPG, etc. for sports) but a two-card capacity would also be nice just to know it's there.

- It's still not full-frame - I know, it's not supposed to be, and most DSLRs aren't, but I might have paid another $500 (maybe $750?) if they'd made it full-frame. However, that means another $5Gs+ on 2 or 3 aforementioned full-frame wide-zooms (and effectively making obsolete my big 12-24mm wide, awesomely versatile 18-200mm, and sharp 70-300mm DX VRs) so probably better for the wallet that it's not.

- No PC button: The new D3 pro version only available to select press members (the D3P, they're calling it) has a "PC" button for "Picture Control" - that is, you can quickly switch between your own custom settings you set up in the menu for different picture parameters - say, for landscapes, a high-saturation setting (i.e. "Vivid" with saturation cranked up), and for people, a medium-color setting ("Normal" with moderate saturation), etc. - but on the D300 (and the normal D3, for that matter) you have to fiddle around with the menu. A button to be able to switch between picture settings would be a godsend for this camera; otherwise you might miss a shot switching from, say, a high-saturation, white-balance adjusted setting for a beach landscape, then trying to quickly capture your kids on that same beach - which would give them instant sunburns (on the image!) due to the oversaturation and WB adjustment - unless you go pressing buttons to get into the menus (with the sandy fingers) and fiddle around, making the change. I believe Canons have a button dedicated to this, which makes me wonder why Nikon isn't thinking ahead and, in typical Japanese fashion, copying the best ideas and features from its competitors.

Other than these few minor (for me) minuses, this camera's new color capabilities, wildly improved highlight-renditioning and other features more than justified my investment in it. I'm getting great captures from it. Naturally a lot of that is subjective - best to try it out yourself and judge before taking the plunge. One look at the images, the LCD, and the other features, and this one might be the one that makes all the Canon owners squirm in their chairs and wonder what to do with all those expensive "white lenses" now that they will want this Nikon! (Not that I myself wouldn't mind having a 5D and a few of those white-bodied Canon L-series teles, of course!...)

Disclaimer: for quick shots around the house of my kids, etc., I still grab my D40 - soon to have a new 18-55mm VR lens shortly shipping from Nikon! - and capture away - it's got to be the best camera in its class, and the images rival the D300 under normal conditions. It's when things get a little complex (low light, action, the saturated colors, high ISO situations, etc.) that the D300 excels. Especially the saturated colors! Never seen anything like this in a DSLR and I've had 'em all (Nikons) or tried 'em all (Canon, Pentax, Sony, Olympus...).
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345 of 360 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2007
Until recently I had a D80 and I also wrote a review about it. So I think it would be useful for you, D80 owners and D300 prospect buyers, to have some clues about what this D300 is about from a former D80 user. I will update my review as I'll be getting into more and more of this camera.

First noticeable difference is the size. The D300 is bigger and heavier than the D80, but the size it is not a problem for mid-sized hands like mine are. About weight: I bought a neoprene strap some time ago for my D80. I use it also on the D300. The strap which is included with the camera is a bit too rough for my skin and the weight of camera can be a real pain if you carry it on too long. Any neoprene strap will do, just choose one which is a bit more elastic and has a smooth internal layer (touch it, it is important to do that BEFORE you buy it).

You won't notice any important difference in the feeling of the grip size, although it is a bit bulkier, because the body has been reshaped in the back of the camera so it is easy to hold it even with one hand. On the back, there is a handy AF-ON button which is completely in the reach of your thumb and the AE-L/ AF-L button is not far from it either. The body has a rubbery feel which is different than the D80 (more plastic) and lays comfortable in your hands giving you the sensation of a good grip.

Controls: One thing that annoys most photographers is to have to lower the camera from their eyes very often when they change some settings. You will not have a mode dial, like in D80, just a button and only 4 modes that will be displayed in the viewfinder; this is a pro camera, the amateur-like modes (portrait, night etc) are gone. It will be very nice for you to know that you don't have to change white balance, ISO and picture quality settings by looking at the back of the camera (like on the D80) to find the buttons. They are on the top, like on D200, which I think it is very convenient because they are arranged in a triangle shape and you can get to your needed button without removing the camera from your eye, because you will remember quite quickly the location of each button: front the quality, left the white balance, right the ISO. Moreover, ISO setting is displayed in the viewfinder and you'll be quite amazed to find how useful this little feature is ! On the D80 I had to use and push the custom function button to see this or to look on top, on the LCD display. On top right are only two buttons: to the left is the mode, to the right is the exposure compensation (use this with caution with matrix metering). Voila, with four buttons you control the most important settings for taking pictures, and, best of all, you know their location without having to look at them. What needs special attention is the release mode dial, is the one you have to look at when changing modes. The rest of lever controls have only three positions so it's very easy to know which one position is which.

The build quality is outstanding, it looks and feels like a tank. Remember that, with camera, you are getting an environmental sealing which is not the case for the D80/40/40x. Combine that with a sealed lens like the 17-55DX f/2.8 and you'll gone have a very nice combo even in bad weather. Is that important ? Yes, it is. Otherwise you have to take care all the time and protect your camera from water drops, dust and snowflakes. The sound of the shutter is softer (more silent) than on the D80, probably because of some other materials were used for building the mirror holder and the shutter.

ISO, noise: The noise at high ISO is outstanding. When I purchased the D80 I found myself very often wanting to shoot in lowlight conditions and I got a Nikon SB800 for that. However, using flash to some extent annoys people and high ISO was mandatory in such situations. Now you can use ISO 3200 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. What helps most on the field is the Auto ISO feature, something that I have never used on the D80. I took shots using a minimum shutter speed of 1/50 s and ISO as high as 2000. That gives you a very wide range of exposure options without being afraid of noise and lost details. One advice, though: be sure to set high ISO noise reduction to low or none (in the menus). You can always remove any noise with a software but never can recover lost details. For noise removal I strongly recommend Nik Software Dfine 2.0 plugin for Adobe Photoshop or Imagenomics Noiseware. In my opinion, the ISO 3200 is a blessing. That means you can take photos in rooms lit with 60W light bulbs without having to cry for blotchy images. If on the D80 ISO 3200 was good (in my opinion) for 6x4 prints and black and white larger images, with D300 you can go far beyond that. Image quality wise, ISO 6400 on the D300 is almost on par with ISO 1600 on the D80, and, more important, using a noise reduction software you can get very good looking images out of ISO 6400 pictures.

Metering: no more complaints for "matrix overexposure" fans, although I always felt that this "overexposure" is more related to poor usage of this metering mode on the D80. 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.

Focus: this will hit you. Actually nobody could understand (neither did I) what a pro-level focusing system means until you'll be using one. No more hit and miss, no more problems on portrait compositions, no more problems of focusing with AF points other than the central one. The settings menu will give you a plethora of possible focus combinations, and memory banks to save your settings for quick selection. When you'll get your D300, do this test: on continuous servo high speed, track a car. You could make a movie with those sharp images.

Colors: I have a habbit, I always shoot in Adobe RGB mode. It is the best way to do when you are after the most color information from one scene. Moreover, even if you have aRGB jpegs, you can always assign a different lower-gamut profile in Adobe Photoshop CS3 or other image editing software. The colors ARE different than the D80's: closer to the warm side of the spectrum, gone is the sometime-magenta cast that you once noticed on your D80 especially under bright sun. The colors ARE PERFECT. So perfect that you can distinguish between subtle tonalities on flowers, skin tones and complexions, to a much better extent than with the D80. The shadows won't have any bluish creep anymore, dark is dark, black is black, maroon is maroon etc. Even at high ISO, the noise is more luminance than bluish. Again, you have a entire army of in-camera settings for colors, brilliance, contrast, hue ... you can customize your preferences for image rendition, you can save more than neutral-vivid-black and white modes personal settings for color and luminance settings. There is only one single exception to this perfection which you have to consider: when using dynamic D-lighting mode, colors tend to get more saturated as high as you get with your D-lightings settings. On RAWs (NEFs) this is easily corrected in your raw processing software, but on jpegs and tiffs, quite difficult.

RAW mode: Please, please use Nikon Capture NX Software for Windows and Mac or ACR from Adobe Photoshop CS3. The results with Lightroom are horrendous in terms of noise reduction. I don't know why, it should have the same RAW engine as Photoshop CS3. UPDATE: These problems seem to come from preproduction firmware NEFs. I found no more problems opening NEFs in Lightroom with a production firmware camera.

Please remember that the first 300.000 D300 sold also have a license for Capture NX included in the box (I also got it) so you won't have to spend on licenss. I like the way this software renders colors and noise even if it does not have the most impressive interface one ever built. One more advantage with Capture NX 1.3: you have a new "Picture Control" menu under "Camera Settings" which you can use to add custom picture settings to the D300 (and name them as you want "less vivid", "more neutral" etc) and a custom-curve editor that you can use to add more control to your custom picture preset. Moreover, the 1.3 version of NX picture control options come with some D2x-image-like presets that are great for rendering skin tones in portraits.

Memory Card: if you shoot in 14-bit mode (recommended if you shoot RAW or TIFF and have to shoot high dynamic scenes), please remember that the RAW files, uncompressed, are somewhere around 25 MB each. Get a fast card. I bought a SanDisk 4 GB Extreme IV CompactFlash Card, that supports 40MB/s transfer. It runs smoothly, the camera buffer will not clog. Take care: 25 MB NEF file will stress your computer out and squeeze all resources from it. You need at least 2 GB of RAM (I have 4), and a fast processor. I have a Core2Duo 6300 plus win XP 64 bit edition to avoid RAM limitation. Update May 7, 2008: I bought also a 8GB 300x UDMA Lexar CF card to have another CF card for my camera and it seems to me that the write and read speed on the Lexar is inferior to the Sandisk Ultra IV. So my advice is to stick with Sandisk.

I won't go into details, but I just want you to know that I have this camera for less than 24 hours, I already shot >100 photos (Update May 7, 2008: >3,000 photos; no hotspots, dead pixels, nada), and I love all of them. It is a perfect upgrade for my needs.

Promise to come back with further news.

Update (22 Jan 2008 - after two months of use):
No problems whatsoever. The camera works like a charm. I'm delighted.

Update (7 May 2008):
No problems encountered. Meanwhile I purchased a Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 for Nikon which is an amazing lens - manual focusing - for its price, and a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens which is quite a fun to use a get photos with it. Is nice to have the added possibility of using metering with an AIS-like lens.
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229 of 244 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2007
Before the D300 (and, sooner rather than later, the D3) I'd been giving serious thought to switching to Canon gear. I'd seen what the Canon 5D could do with sharpness and color--results I just couldn't get out of my Nikon D200. When Nikon announced the D300 and D3, I was skeptical. The D3 looked great, but is out of my price range for now. And the D300 seemed, at best, an evolutionary improvement over the D200.

But I have an awful lot of money invested in Nikon gear, so I figured I'd give the D300 a shot. After all, I could always return it to Amazon for a full refund.

First impression? 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'l 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. They're much more intuitive than Canon, at least to me. 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. Talk about intuitive!

About those new features... wow! 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. Dozens of other features with varying degrees of usefulness, I'll let more involved reviewers tell you about those.

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.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2008
I've been holding back from buying the D300 since the launch because I own a D200, but when my wife came home and surprised me with one... not only was I surprised by her gift, but also by what Nikon has packed inside this camera. I will try not to write on what others have already said, but I'll point us to some areas which are new and may not have gotten enough attention towards.

1. AF Fine Tuning - this is a great feature that puts in the user's hands the power to calibrate a lens to the camera body. In the past, if you have a great prime lens (e.g. 85mm f/1.4) and want to calibrate it to work optimally to the camera body, you would need to send it to teh Nikon Service Center to do that. With AF Fine Tuning, you can now do it yourself. Because there will be a slight degree of inaccurarcy in AF systems, i.e. front or backward focusing, you can now fine tune that lens (with +/- 20) to the camera body so that it works optimally. It recognizes Nikon lenses without a problem but 3rd party lenses would have to catch up. It can store up to 12 lenses' fine tuning information, so that when you plug back that lens, it would know the fine tune data to use.

2. Monochrome Picture Control - The monochrone picture control now comes with filter effects or yellow, orange, red, and green... so gone are the days of carrying these filters when taking black and white shots. You can also adjust the toning from black and white, sepia, cyanotype, and also a range of red, yellow, green, blue green, blue, purple blue, and red purple.

3. Improved Picture Control for colors - the settings now are sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue. You can also download from the internet D2XMODE picture controls (there are 3 modes) and load it in to emulate these modes from the D2X bodies.

4. White balance fine tuning - The Canon 5D had long since had this feature in the white balance tuning where you can shift the white balance in a grid, and finally, this is now incorporated in this camera. Even the other white balance fine tuning is much improved, e.g. for flourascent, it hast a list of different florescent lights to choose from for fine tuning. For the present white balance, you can save up to 4 presets.

5. In camera picture editing made easier - Once you take a picture, when you press the "ok" button, a list of in camera picture editing tools come up (where you can trim the pic, change to monochrone, use filter effects of skylight or warm filter, or edit the color balance). The color balance feature here is great because you can shift the color balance of the picture to the desire effect you like.

6. Help button - at anytime when you need some help as to what that feature is about, you only need to press the "?" button and it brings up a page explaing that feature. This is like the D40/x and the menu layout also looks like that of the D40/x.

The D300 is without a doubt leaps and bounds ahead of the D200 and their competitors. The high ISO is great, and auto white balance more accurate. It is without a doubt the best semi-pro camera Nikon has produced.

-----

After 2 months of using the D300, and shooting some events, this is what I have discovered about it. I thought it was going to be easy to move from a D200 to D300, but realized there is a learning curve as well. I was frustrated at not being able to capture a shot like I did with the D200, but as I discovered along the way while using the D300, that it gives you more flexibility and adjustments, which means more control in your hands... but that also means that just out of the box may not get you what you used to have almost out of the box for the D200.

When shooting in a well-lit outdoor scenario, the D300 performs very well. Focusing is fast, sharp, and auto-ISO works well too. Most of my issue arise when shooting indoors with difficult lighting... and the following points have all to do with indoor shooting.

- When shooting an indoor concert with a fast lens and no flash and using auto-ISO with different metering modes, the camera tends to over expose the shots, and some were very over exposed. The overexposure come from the inability of the D300 to decide what ISO to use, and in some scenarios, it went to ISO 1600 when ISO 200 or 400 in that lighting condition would do. Advise is to forget about auto-ISO with indoor shooting.

- When shooting indoors without flash, the camera tends to overexpose the shot by 1/3 to 2/3 with matrix metering. This is easily resolved by adjusting the exposure compensation. Another way is to use center-weighted average, which is more consistent in the metering.

- The default sharpening for the D300 is less than the D200. Hence, the pictures may look a little soft, so would need to bump up the sharpening by maybe +3 in your picture control. This is more for shooting in jpegs, but some people prefer to leave the sharpening to post processing.

- With a 12MP camera, my shooting flaws + lens sharpness is more evident. This is where breathing techniques, how to hold the camera, etc. becomes more evident with the pictures taken. Also, I have found the AF fine tuning useful to adjust the front or back focusing of the lenses... and even Nikon lenses needs some adjustments.

- The LCD is too bright and does not reflect the true exposure of the picture. The picture may look alright on the LCD but when downloaded onto a computer, it looked underexposed. You would need to decrease the LCD brightness by -1 or -2.
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70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2007
I couldn't resist the temptation to purchase the D300 as a upgrade for my D200. However, I told myself that I would return the D300 if I felt it wasn't a huge improvement over the D200. I was able to make that determination within minutes of opening the box. As soon as the D300 arrived I opened the box and inserted a freshly charged battery, a high speed CF card, and screwed on my Sigma 10-20 mm lens. Since this is a relatively slow lens (F4 to F5.6) I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and started shooting indoors. My impressions within 5 minutes of using the D300:

1. Low light auto focusing and overall capability is a significant improvement over the D200. With ISO at 1600 and using no flash, my Sigma 10-20 mm lens focused very quickly. My D200 would often hunt in low light, resulting in blurry shots. The contrast between light and dark areas is stunning!

2. Tremendous improvement over the D200 in overall noise. ISO 1600 is usable. I viewed images on my 20" Imac at full screen and noise was very minimal. My D200 maxes out at a noisy 800. I can now take usable flash free pics indoors and not have to worry about using flash

3. 3" LCD- Finally, an LCD lens that actually big enough and clear enough to display pics.

4. Viewfinder- A definite improvement over the D200. I love having a 100% viewfinder

5. Colors- Even without messing with any of the custom controls, colors are more vivid. The D200 is a bit washed out in comparison.

6. Build quality- I had no complaints w/ my D200 and it is nice to see that Nikon did not skimp with the D300.

Conclusion: The D300 is a remarkable improvement over the D200. Is it worth the price? For $1,799, I don't think the D300 has any competition. Is it worth upgrading from to the D300 from the D200? To me, the blazing quick auto focus and outstanding low light capability alone are worth the price. The LCD screen and 100% viewfinder are icing on the cake. This is very likely the best DX format SLR available today.
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2008
I own a Canon EOS 5D, 40D and 30D so this is my first Nikon DSLR. Being primarily a Canon photographer I always wondered what shooting with Nikon would be like.

Let me just say, this Nikon is an absolute gem and pleasure to shoot with. The technology packed into this product is definitely a jump in quality making it worthy of being called a "next generation" DSLR.

I could tell you about all the fancy specs, its abilities, and why people think it's better than Canon, but the other reviews pretty much say it all. Otherwise, this camera does deliver what it promises.

I feel that both Canon and Nikon DSLR's are fantastic for people wanting to learn and/or continue their photography. Sure, right now I'd say Nikon absolutely has the lead in technology, but historically these two companies have been going back and forth all along so eventually Canon will take the crown back.

My advice for anyone seriously considering buying this camera or any DSLR (since it'll put a nice size whole in your pocket) is go to the store and test out the camera that is right for you. See what best fits in your hand, build quality, weight, etc... because I guarantee 8/10 people buying these cameras won't notice any difference in image quality. Both Canon's and Nikon's are fully capable cameras so it's really the photographer who makes ANY difference.

(Last bit of advice would be to buy your gear online cause stores tend to mark up their stuff to a nice inflated price. Also, when buying these DSLR's, the glass you have (i.e LENSES) make more difference than the camera you're using (especially after >8.0MP).

Good luck and just have fun with your camera! You capture the most memorable shots in the moment. ^_^
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2007
After weeks on a waiting list, I finally got the D300. I have done 2 photo shoots in studio and 1 on a stage set, and I absolutely love this camera.

I attached my new Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S lens to it, and all I can say is that this is a marriage made in photo heaven. I also attached the Nikon MB-D10 Multi-Power Battery Pack for best performance.

The studio shots are tack sharp, have flawless color, and have everything I ever dreamed of a studio shot. Dynamic range is amazing.

I shot the stage set images under low light and high contrast conditions. Because of the constant motion on the set, I used 2000 ISO to bring up the shutter speed and freeze the shots. The results were amazing! I'd trade a little (and I mean a little) digital noise under these conditions for great shots any day. With any lesser camera, these shots would simply not have been possible.

I could write about the other obvious improvements this camera offers such as screen size, etc, etc; but that has already been covered by other reviewers. To me, the images this camera is capable of taking is the final indicator of its success.
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76 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2007
I have used this camera for only a few days and am very satisfied and enthusiastic. Nikon has made an excellent product. I won't bother writing about the various technical features. Those are already amply detailed in the camera description. Here are a few first impressions that I have of the camera:

You can change ISO very quickly and it goes up to 3200. Very useful.

There are many playback features such as zooming in close on an image and navigating around in it. A big improvement over previous models.

The new playback screen is much bigger and has an awesome resolution. You can live preview on it. Very cool!

There are several focus options, including the 51 point focus.

You can press help on any menu item and it will explain what that item is clearly and easy to read.

The menu is easy to navigate and easy to use. The 421 page User's Manual may seem daunting at first, but it's very clearly written and has several ways to cross-reference what you are looking for

The camera is comfortable to hold, has a solid feel and all of the controls are within easy reach. Shooting mode, ISO and most other controls can be easily changed without going into the menu.

All the above are features, but the most important benefit is excellent and sharp images.

If you would like to see some samples, email me and I will send you a link so you can check them out. I am very satisfied and I am glad I bought this camera. I may add to this review as I use this camera more. I just wanted to write a review to express how satisfied I am.

Note November 29: After 300 shots the battery indicator is on half empty. If correct, then battery life much shorter than D50. Unfortunately only a EN-EL3e battery will work. This means I have to buy another battery.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2008
As a professional wedding photographer in today's marketplace it is difficult to keep pace with technological improvements and remain profitable. Not many of us can afford to replace a $5,000- $8,000 camera annually.

I have used Nikon Cameras since the NIKON F was introduced. We use multiple photographers in my wedding business and I have never been happy with our photo sharpness and quality since we migrated from the medium format Hasselblad film cameras to the Nikon D100, D70, D200; Fuji S2, S3; and Canon 20D, 30D, XT, XTi cameras. With the advent of the D300 we see a major improvement in linearity of the image quality at both ends of the characteristic curve, there is much better control of the shoulder (highlights), and we see more detail more faithful color reproduction and much less noise in the toe, (dark areas) and picture to picture variation minimization. It has been difficult to get matching exposures when taking multiple flash photos of the same subject taken seconds apart. Finally, we have a camera that reliably an repeatedly reproduces the subject we are photographing brides, grooms or the Gymnast portraits we shoot!
Our on photo-journalistic bridal photographs are much more controlled, with improved control of the detail in the whites of the gown. The Fuji S3, and the Nikon D200 showed improvement in this area, but the D300 is a big step up from it's look-a-like the D200.

Focus is another area that Nikon has improved tremendously with the adoption of 51 focus points. This was my chief reason for changing back to NIKONs from the my Canon Cameras. I purchased Canon's best quality lenses, yet I still had to take additional photos with my Canon cameras to assure that my focus was where I want it. Formal Groups in churches can be difficult, as the camera wants to focus on the background instead of the group. One other interesting note, is that we get many more closed eyes with the Canon 580 strobes than we do with the Nikon SB800. I wonder if the infrared frequency of the Canon autofocus system is more visible to some people than is the Nikon infrared system. I do know that we get less closed eye shots with the Nikon than we do with the Canons which my assistants use.

Prevention of over exposure of mens faces, causing a Pillsbury dough boy look due to camera metering subject failure when using available light or flash wedding to take pre-wedding portraits is another area that Nikon has trumped Canon with the D3 and D300 metering improvements.

The Nikon D300 is a great wedding camera which has improved my available light ceremony photography, at ISO 3200.... with minimal sensor noise.

I love using this camera, and highly recommend the D300.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2008
I am an amateur with experience (meaning I don't pay my bills through photography). I previously owned a D70 and an EOS for 35mm film.

Thing is, I wanted to upgrade the digital system I had with the D300 and, in summary, the camera is SO BEAUTIFUL, SO RELIABLE, INCREDIBLE PICTURES, etc etc... it's a dead-on choice for a digital SLR!!

This camera has many pluses:

-Many pro's says 12Mpx for an APS sensor (= sensor with a conversion factor, smaller than a 35mm film's frame size) is too much for such a small sensor, since the image's will be quality-restricted because the pixels are too small... My response is that after shooting for a couple years with a 6 Mpx D70, the quality difference IS GREAT... There IS a leap in resolving power with the 12Mpx sensor in the D300.. It blew my mind away. More on this at the end of the review.

- The D300 picture controls, specially saturation, reaches a level of in-camera adjustments unheard of in previous Nikon DSLR's. Saturation levels will reach levels comparable with Fuji's Velvia film, and that's a lot! This gives you the advantage of reduced post-production, since you are capable of tweaking pictures in-camera that will suit your taste (It did for me)

- Active D-lighting. DSLR's tend to have problems with highlly contrasted subjects (Subjects with ample dynamic range), and this is one of the many reasons why many pro's still use film (because it will deal better with high contrast). The ADL function in the D300 does allows me to capture contrasty subjects under difficult light conditions, reducing highlight blowout in the picture, while preserving shadow detail.. It really works. It allows me to use digital for shot's that would have required film or in-camera filtration!

- Splendid ISO range!! Now I can take pictures in very low light conditions that would have been impossible with my D70 because of the high noise inherent to a high ISO. The D300 does manage high ISO noise like no other camera I've used in the past! ISO 1600 images are very very clean (ISO3220 is clean, HI-1 mode (ISO 6400) is too noisy for me)! This is great news! This also means I don't have to lug a tripod for low light shots (unless I were doing landscape work; In such case, I do use a gitzo tripod for every shot I take, which takes me to the following point):

- Mirror up mode! I didn't have this feature in my D70, and I love to be able to raise the mirror when doing tripod shots (Landscape) in order to gain maximun sharpness by minimizing vibrations.. Also included are Live view mode (It allows you to see the subject in the camera LCD while composing the picture, instead of using the viewfinder. I use this feature when the camera position won't allow me to see through the finder, and it really helps).

- The D300 autofocus is very reliable (3D autofocus mode is realy helpful when tracking moving subjects). Very high frame per second count ( Up to 8 FPS with the accessory grip).

- Weather sealed. I live in a tropical part of the world, where things can get pretty damp and wet, and the D300 is all about getting pictures, and I don't have to worry about the weather!!

- 14 bit RAW is the way to go if you are interested in the highest image quality and rich tonal gradations. My D300 gives me that option! with my D70, i had to work with an inferior 12 bit Raw file... I usually shoot RAW (14 bit) + JPG (You NEED a a 4 Gigs CF card as a minimum, since the files tend to be big..)

- Last, the camera allows me to save the combination of settings i need tuned for specific purposes. I have a menu bank tuned for portraits, another menu bank for landscape, another for low-light conditions and another one for highlly saturated images! This is just wonderfull!! For example, let's say I am doing tripod work and I need to change the camera setting for portrait work, and I need to do it FAST, instead of browsing all the settings I need to change, I just select a menu bank tuned for portraits, so I don't loose my time changing setting by setting!

On the minus side:

- Nikon didn't implement a release timer when using mirror up mode, which seems foolish to me, since a timed release AND mirror up, when used on a tripod, are the way to go in order to reduce vibrations... this forced me to buy a release cable, and this leads me to the next point:

- The cable release for this camera is of the 10 pin family, and it is expensive, compared to the 15$ IR release I used on my D70...

- As much as I've become in love with Active D-lighting, there are times when i need to turn it off. This happens when I shoot for silhouttes (heavy backlighting) since I WANT a deep, textureless black ( silhouttes are meant to look like that) and the ADL function will try to preserve shadow detail, creating a murky grey instead of a deep black.

To sum it up, this camera is great!! My jaw still falls wide open whith amazement with the images coming out from the D300...

One final point: I HAD an EOS 35mm film camera, because I no longer feel that 35 mm film gives me superior quality when compared to my beloved D300!!! This camera is THAT GOOD!

April 2008:
Thousands of photos have gone through.. I can only say that THIS IS THE DSLR!! I just couldn't be happier!!!!

I'd like to add a minus that I've come to encounter:
I do a lot of night shooting in low ISO, and this is the only thing I've seen that this camera isn't that good. Thing is, any digital sensor will generate noise related to circuitry (electrons, charges and stuff) and some digital cameras will tend to create more noise than others (though all of them do generate noise) when exposure times start to get on the long side (minutes).

The D300 isn't good at very long exposures in very low light (longer than 5 minutes). It generates a lot of noise via hot pixels. Nikon knows that this happens, so they implemented a Long exposure noise reduction (NR) which basically takes a second frame withoutt letting any light hit the sensor (This is called a black frame). This black frame will only contain pure black + electronic noise. This frame is substracted to the original long exposure, and this method will indeed reduce most of the noise in the frame.

Problem is, when NR gets to work by substracting the black frame, it will soften the image (the image will loose some sharpness) due to the nature of the substraction algorithm. To me, this loss of sharpness is unacceptable (And notice, this happens to ALL Dslr's, just that it is pronounced in the D300) and this is the main reason why I still shoot film (no electrons = no noise) though I sold my film EOS.

I took a deep breath, checked my wallet after the D300, and took the plunge and bought a medium format camera (a Hasselblad 501) to do the things no digital camera can do; For me, it's mainly very long exposures and for Black and white film (When I REALLY need a very high dynamic range)... For everything else (mostly everything!) my D300 is perfect!
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