562 of 575 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2009
Hello everybody, My name is Daniel and I am about as serious as you can be and still be considered "amateur". I have been taking photos on SLR's since I was 10 years old on an old film Minolta and I bought my first DSLR (a Nikon D50) and since then I have owned everything from a base line Canon XSi all the way up to the the best camera I have ever handled... the D300s. I have operated the D3, D3s, D3x and the top of the line professional $10k Canons, and this is still my favorite ALL AROUND camera. So here is the break down to why I love this camera and I will give you a list of pros and cons. I love this camera for many reasons... [...]... not many people can justify spending another $4,000 (2-3 times the money) when they are looking to spend around $1,500- $2,000 for a good DSLR. So here is the benefits that I see to D300s over the other great Nikon models.
1. if you are into sports the D300s has a higher continuous frame rate than other models including the ever so popular full frame D700. With it's DX sensor it has a crop factor of 1.5 which means more bang for you buck when using a telephoto zoom lens. If you purchase the MB-D10 battery pack it will shoot at even higher speeds of 8fps when using continuous shooting and also allows for up to nearly 5,000 pictures to be taken on one charge (when upgraded battery is purchased). With 51 auto-focus and 3-D tracking you are almost guaranteed to have your subject in focus every time you take a picture. The D300s also features Active D Lighting which makes to so your pictures end up properly exposed so you don't end up with areas of under and over exposure which tend to be common in sports and in shadowy landscape photography
2. Freedom: although all Nikon DSLR's allow you to manually adjust your settings they are difficult to change until you get to the semi-pro D300 model. If you understand f-stops, DOF, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focus points, light metering and other technical jargon and really want to experiment with all of these then a D300s is the camera for you. with shooting modes including: single, cont. low speed, high speed, timer, quiet, and mirror up mode this camera gives you all the freedom you could ever ask for.
3. Learning: this camera will make you learn the true in's and out's of photography. With the very accurate light meter it's not very hard to get the exposure right. No matter what your ISO and f stop is at.
4. User interface. With the dedicated live view and info button new to the D300s over the original D300 it cuts menu times down significantly however it no longer has the memory card hatch release switch. The D300s includes great features such as custom menus, easy to understand menus with the classic (?) button which will explain every camera function in easy to understand terms. On the fly changes include ISO, WB, Quality, shooting modes, a user adjusted fn button, AF/AE lock, light metering, and af adjustments. So the only limitations are your imagination. Selecting your focal point is as easy as looking in the viewfinder and pushing the directional button and watching the selector move around until you have exactly the right spot selected. With two selectors (one for shutter speed and one for f stop) it allows you to never have to take your eye out out of the viewfinder.
The bottom line (why you would choose this over any other Nikon DSLR):
why you'd choose this over the D90: 51point AF w/ 3D tracking, more fps, control of image adjustments, not much more money for a lot more freedom and creativity, contrast auto-focusing during movies, ability to utilize dual card slots (CF and SD), 14bit RAW, Active D Lighting.
Over the D700: full 12MP when using DX lenses rather than 5MP, more fps, $600-$1,000 less, movie mode, smaller pixels for more refinement at low ISO, 100% viewfinder coverage
Over the D3 and D3x: A ton of money, shooting speed, optimization of DX and FX lenses and movie mode, and built in flash, 100% viewfinder coverage which allows for better framing.
This is a great camera HOWEVER NOTE THE FOLLOWING!!!!!
The D700, D3,x,s have FX photo sensors which allow for a much bigger and brighter view finder, it also allows for a wider view (no crop factor instead of 1.5x like the DX) which means if you want more area in your pictures for such things as landscapes then the D700 or the D3 lineup maybe a better option because a 50mm lens in a DX camera looks the same as a 75mm lens on an FX camera.
The D700 and D3 lineup (minus the D3x) utilize the large FX sensor and still only have a 12MP capacity which means that the pixels are larger which allows for better depth of color, better definition in shadows, and better high ISO clarity. The D300 can go to extended ISO of 6400 however the image quality is poor at best when the D3 can shoot ISO 6400 all day long and look great. The D700 also does better at high ISOs than the D300 does because it has the same sensor as the D3 however the D3 still does better than the D700 at extreme ISOs. However also consider the fact that the smaller the image sensor the larger the depth of field so the D700 and the D3 are better for macro or portrait photography and the D300 will give you a larger DOF equivalent to about one f-stop.
THIS IS NOT A VIDEO CAMERA video is pretty good and the utilization of lenses is a great feature however if you want good video spend the money on a video camera. Even a Flip HD does better. The camera produces good video but it doesn't do well during panning if you plan on putting the camera on a tripod and filming then by all means its fine and with the option for an external mic to give you stereo sound is nice.
When it comes to portability, price, features, weight, usability, image adjustments ect. I personally believe it doesn't get any better I hope this review helped and I hope you get one too and really enjoy it as much as I have. This camera is the best of all worlds. I say save the money from an FX camera and buy a really nice lens or two or three for that matter. Anyway here is the camera of my dreams and hopefully the camera in your bag shortly I promise you'll love it, I know I do.
UPDATE: For all you HDR photographers look no further than the D300s you can easily create HDR photos by selecting "multiple exposures" and then setting up multi-step exposures for + or - EV per exposure and after the exposures are done voila you have a beautiful HDR photo. Keep in mind however: you will need a cable release (I recommend the MC-36) for the multiple exposures. OR take a few pictures at different exposures and overlay the photos in the in camera retouch menu and there you have it perfect HDR photos every time! Goodbye Photoshop (for HDR anyway)
The D300s and flash compatibility: I have noticed almost no one has talked about the fantastic flash compatibility with the D300s over many cameras. I figured it needed to be covered so here it goes: The D300s is a DREAM to work with when paired with any Nikon Speedlight Dynamic Lighting System. My favorite and most frequently used flash is the SB-600 Speedlight which can be wirelessly operated for NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE with the D300s, you just have to know what settings to change. Unlike the D3 which has to either have a hot shoe flash controller unit or an SB-800 ($900) the D300s can operate a nearly unlimited number of flashes wirelessly without any accessories. So if you are like so many other Nikon users and own an SB-600 just push and hold the "Zoom" and the "-" button at the same time until you get to custom menu and cycle through until you can adjust the squiggly Z shaped line and turn it to on and it defaults to channel 3 then either push and hold the "zoom" and "-" button to get out of the menu or just push the power button. Then go to the "Custom Setting Menu" (the pencil) on your D300s and change "e3" "flash cntrl for built-in flash" to the Commander mode and set to channel 3, and pop up your built in flash and there you go...ABSOLUTELY FREE WIRELESS FLASH with perfect exposure compensation every time using a $250 flash unit. Hope it helps someone I know it helped me so have fun and remember to change it back to TTL flash when you're done.
UPDATE #2: I have had a lot of question on why you would get this over a D300 and here you go the main reasons for buying the D300s over the D300 is the designated info button, and live view button, movie mode, designated okay button instead of one crappy directional selector, quiet mode AND dual memory card slots. It's also 7 months newer so you won't have an out dated camera as soon. It also has slightly different menus and new software for shooting modes including landscape, and portrait modes.
93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2010
There are plenty of very good comprehensive reviews here of the D300S here already, so I'm instead of posting another I'm going to attempt to focus on what I see as some of the pros and cons of the D300S versus other camera bodies in the Nikon line-up. The D300S has essentially identical image quality to the $500 D5000 and the now quite old (in DSLR terms) D300 and D90; and it remains a small-format DX camera while the next step up in price gets you a full-frame D700. Even so, my personal choice for the majority of my photography is a D300S rather than any of those alternatives. I have also owned and shot with every other camera mentioned here: all are excellent and I believe all can be considered good values for the money spent in today's market. Perhaps some readers would find my perspective useful.
As far as I'm concerned, image quality from Nikon DSLRs has really been quite excellent at least since the introduction of the D70. Of course there have been all kinds of incremental improvements since then, but comparing anything since the D70 to the funky highlights produced by the earlier D100, for example, makes it clear that we have long since reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to real, visible improvements in DSLR image quality. In terms of the finer points it will continue to improve, but whether you buy a D5000, a D300S or a D700, the differences between the images you can make with the camera are going to be tiny compared with the differences in how you can use it - with the exception of the FX-vs-DX field of view, which is very important.
What I think most people will benefit from is carefully assessing the features and physical capabilities of the various bodies, considering the types of photography they like to do, and selecting the best match for their particular needs. Budget, of course, enters the equation: but for many photographers the small, light D5000 would be the best choice regardless of budget, while of course others will absolutely require the pro features of the more expensive bodies.
D300S vs D700; DX vs FX - By far the most fundamental issue in camera body selection:
This is the one real difference between the shooting capabilities of any of the bodies I'm writing about here, and it affects every image you make with the camera once you buy it. I would strongly advise readers NOT to look at format as a camera issue, but to look at it as a lens issue. Of course there are differences between the FX and DX bodies, even those closest in specification, and to some degree it's possible to equalize lens selection: but when you begin to look at the practical realities of lens selection for DX vs FX formats, it is immediately apparent that they operate in completely different worlds. I'm convinced that this should be one's primary consideration when choosing a camera, assuming that your budget allows you a choice between the formats.
The heart of the matter is that it really is much easier to make a great DX lens than it is to make a great FX lens. The basic physics guarantees it. The DX format is 2/3 the linear size of the FX format, meaning that, all else being equal, lenses will have to be 3.4 TIMES BIGGER (1.5^3) in FX format to exactly equal the optics on DX of a DX format lens. Because lens design is a matter of careful compromise between many factors mainly size, price, max aperture, zoom ratio, sharpness, and weight; real-world FX lenses aren't made 3.4 times bigger, heavier and more expensive than DX lenses. They are instead made only considerably bigger, with compromises in other aspects of design - so that they must give up some aspect of performance: zoom ratio, max aperture, optical excellence - to achieve their design objectives.
Because of this, there is really no FX equivalent to the excellent 16-85mm VR DX lens (the 24-120VR is a fairly mediocre lens despite being physically larger). Likewise the 35mm f/1.8 has come out being a slightly better lens than the 50mm f/1.4G despite being smaller and lighter (though slower, unfortunately). Many excellent wide zooms now exist for DX cameras at affordable prices, while the selection of FX wide zooms has one choosing between obscenely heavy and expensive excellent lenses and "normally" priced average lenses. This conundrum spans the entire range of available lenses, and it is likely never to change or to resolve in favor of FX because it is driven by the basic physics of optics and their design and manufacture.
For this reason, DX cameras have tremendous advantages if you want to shoot lenses that are reasonably priced, that give excellent sharpness and overall image quality, that have flexible zoom ranges, and that are light and compact enough to transport and use unobtrusively.
FX, on the other hand, will be marketed as the premier format, and I think we can expect that most of the very best lenses made will continue to be FX lenses. Very fast primes, f/2.8 zooms built to pro specifications, long telephotos and the best macro lenses will all be FX. FX lenses can of course be used on DX cameras, but that realization leads to the other FX advantages. While the DX "crop factor" gives DX bodies a presumed advantage in the telephoto range, it conversely gives FX cameras a sizeable advantage within the "normal" ranges most people do most of their shooting at. A 50mm lens on FX equals a 35mm lens on DX in terms of field of view, but allows for much better control of subject isolation than the DX lens. Likewise, a "fast wide" lens on FX such as the new 24mm f/1.4G becomes a much less exotic creature on DX, and probably rather pointless as a consequence. For portraiture, the selection of lenses for FX is wonderful, if expensive, whereas DX shooters must compromise by using lenses not designed for their native format.
For photographers who shoot mostly in the normal ranges, who want to maximize their control of depth of field (especially towards the wide end), who don't mind paying a premium for the most expensive equipment, and who are willing to put up with the weight and the conspicuousness of shooting with pro-level equipment as well as the compromises inherent in FX lens design, FX will continue to be the only option.
There is one more advantage currently in shooting FX, in that the FX sensors are more light-sensitive than the DX sensors, enabling shooting at tremendous ISOs, well above the DX level. This will probably always remain so: the FX sensor is bigger, and can gather more light. Whether this is important to a particular user really depends on the types of photography they like to do, but it should be appropriately factored into the decision. Likewise FX cameras have larger viewfinders, which will probably never be possible on DX cameras: another luxury of FX shooting that does not directly translate to the images that can be produced.
Personally, having been a film shooter in the past, I find my needs more than satisfied by DX bodies, at least for the time being. A selection of excellent, lightweight lenses suffices for the vast majority of my photography, while I can put up with the compromises inherent in some parts of the range, especially for fast wide shooting. I'd like some fast prime lens options in the range of 16-28mm for DX but I can live with their absence considering the cost, both financial and in terms of lost flexibility, of switching to FX.
D300S vs D300 vs D90
My upgrade path went from the D40 through the D90 and D300 and then to the D300S. I loved every one of those bodies except, notably, the D300, which was in some ways a step backwards in comparison to the D90 and which I was never completely satisfied with. I do currently have a D700 as well.
The D90 is still a great camera, affording the vast majority of capabilities of the D300S, the exceptions being the inherent handling and feature advantages of the pro bodies. The D90 is also much lighter and physically smaller than the pro bodies, making it a very pleasant camera to shoot, and I would still be using mine were it not for just a couple of relatively minor improvements that make the D300S worth the upgrade for me. The pro bodies let you define custom setting banks, so that I can switch between different types of shooting easily. Since I do this daily, this is very important to me. Switching from an indoor, tripod-mounted shooting configuration to an outdoor, hand-held shooting configuration on a D90 takes a lot of button presses and a couple of minutes, and there is always the very likely possibility of forgetting to change one critical parameter and not realizing it until it's too late. No matter how serious a photographer you are, if you shoot mostly in similar conditions all the time, or in constantly changing conditions such that pre-defined shooting banks would be useless, then this feature is probably meaningless to you. It happens to be very useful to me.
Likewise the D300S has a couple of features lacking in the D300 that allow for quick settings changes: several shooting parameters (not enough, though) can be changed quickly right on the rear LCD as on the D40/60/3000/5000 bodies, which I find very useful. Also useful, the D300S' function buttons can be programmed to put you at the top selection of a custom-defined menu. Between these two features I can access and change almost any of the commonly-altered settings on the D300S (or the D90/D700) very quickly, while the D300 had me hunting through the menu system for far too long. This alone is a significant upgrade in camera handling for the D300S compared to the D300, and by itself would merit the upgrade in my case.
I wish any of these cameras could be programmed so that the LCD info screen would come on automatically between shots as can be done with the D40-style bodies. I think buyers of higher-end bodies probably consider this an unnecessary or amateur feature, but in my opinion, that is not so at all! Especially when shooting on a tripod, the info screen is a much quicker and more complete information reference than the top LCD, and especially if ALL the settings could be set directly through it, this would be another extremely valuable aid to quick settings changes. Today's cameras have so many settings, and they need to be changed so often to get the best possible image, that anything Nikon could do to give users quicker access to more settings would be a step forward for photographers of any experience level.
Other major differences between the D90 and D300S are, in order of approximate decreasing importance to me, are: 1) Better focus system on D300 and D300S, 2) External buttons and switches to quickly change focus and meter settings on D300 and D300S, 3) Usefully quicker continuous shooting speed on D300 and even quicker on D300S (4.5fps for D90, 6fps for D300, 7fps for D300S), 4) Decently weather-sealed body on D300 and D300S, 5) Rugged pro build quality on D300 and D300S (comes at a cost, though, much larger and heavier), 6) AF fine-tuning on D300 and D300S. There are many more differences between the cameras than these, but these are the ones that matter to me.
There is one more biggie. The D300S, unlike either the D300 or D90 (or D700 for that matter), has two memory card slots, and I happen to love the fact that one holds an SD card and the other a CF card. Most pros prefer CF cards. I'm not a pro, and I prefer SD cards. What I love about this feature, though, is that there is a setting which allows the camera to write a jpeg to one card and a RAW file to the other. I shoot jpeg most of the time but RAW some of the time, and this is by far the easiest way to go between jpeg-only and jpeg-plus-RAW, while ALSO getting all the RAW shots segregated from the jpegs so that you can later decide either to discard them, or to download them to a different folder, at a different time, without any fancy file-download trickery. When not using this feature the second card can be set to duplicate or to overflow, although I would prefer there to be more flexibility as to which card does what function.
While the D300S is the "best" of these bodies in many ways, the features it has over the D90 are just not going to matter to everybody, and the D90 is smaller and lighter enough that it's very seriously worth considering if you don't need them. The D90 is one of the best-positioned, best bang for the buck bodies Nikon has yet made, while the D300S is a superb camera but gives diminishing returns for the dollar, and by the ounce, in comparison.
D300S vs D5000
I know beyond any doubt that there are a lot of photographers buying pro cameras that would be much better served with a smaller, easier to use, easier to carry and handle and store body, and if you can't decide whether to start slow or to go all-out with a pro body, you should really take a look at the D5000. In terms of its ability to capture any given image, the D5000 is the equal of the D300S, and only the time it takes to get that image, or the variety of lenses you can use to do so, really differs. The handling of the D300S, with its multiplicity of features and settings, is going to slow down, not speed up, the process for people who don't use the camera often enough to stay fluent in the layout of its controls and functions. The D5000 gives you much of the flexibility, all of the image quality, and less size, cost, and weight. I personally enjoy the smaller cameras very much. I prefer their smaller size and only use the larger, heavier bodies because they have capabilities the smaller bodies lack, and those capabilities are important to me. If those capabilities are of questionable importance to you, consider your needs carefully before you encumber yourself with their extra weight and extra expense.
I'm going to give the D300S a rating of four stars. Clearly it is only intended to be a minor upgrade with respect to the D300, and it uses the same now-aging sensor used in all these cameras, so it's natural to expect that it is not a blockbuster on the new camera scene. It's not intended to be: Nikon has been busy developing FX bodies and adding to its lens line over the past year or two. This particular corner of the lineup is getting a breather. It is a tremendously competent camera, the top DX body currently available from Nikon, and an excellent tool for the job of photography under almost all conditions. It would be surprising not to see an improvement on the subject of sensor technology within the coming months or year, which would be incorporated into a successor in time. I do think Nikon needs to get to work figuring out ways to make the control interfaces of today's pro cameras more intuitive to use. Better menu systems, more easily accessed; more flexibility in the use of the rear LCD to view and change settings; more flexibility in the enabling of custom menus and setting banks (which are useful but limited as currently implemented), would be high on my list of improvements. Nikon by its nature prefers to evolve its cameras incrementally over a period of years, and although that's a good strategy in some ways, other times it means we get stuck with "legacy" after-effects: backwards-reading meters, mechanical lens interfaces, and old style menu systems that have begun to overflow their banks. Some streamlining of the user experience would make the cameras easier, quicker and more flexible in use.
In a relative sense, though, those things remain nitpicks. The D300S is the best camera for my needs currently on the market.