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Compared to...

The Nikon D300 came as close to dominating its class as any camera does in these days of a competitive and mature market, combining all-round competence with an impressive feature set in a way that impressed just about everybody who used it. However other manufacturers were never likely to leave that position unchecked, especially when it comes to a model that could plausibly have the word 'flagship' associated with it, given the bragging rights that a well-respected high-end model can lend to less expensive products.

Since that time, Canon has released the 50D and 7D, with the latter offering HD video recording and a sophisticated AF-point selection system comparable to that of the D300S. Pentax has also updated its high-end APS-C offering, in the form of the K-7, which offers a comprehensive feature set in a smaller, considerably cheaper body than the other offerings here.

Beyond these, the Sony DSLR A700 and Olympus E-3 that were contemporaries of the original D300 may still be available. Their age suggests either that replacements can be expected soon or that their manufacturers are concentrating their efforts on other areas of the market. Either way, their merits in comparison to the D300S can be assessed by looking back at how they fared against the D300 and considering how important the addition of video would be to you.

Camera Kit
price
Live
view
Video LCD Anti
Shake
Sensor
(effective pixels)
Nikon D300S $1620 Yes 720p 3.0" / 920k dots Lens option 12.3 MP CMOS (1.5x crop)
Canon EOS 7D $1700 Yes 1080p 3.0" / 920k dots Lens option 18.0 MP CMOS (1.6x crop)
Pentax K-7 $1030 Yes 1536 x 1024 3.0" / 920k dots In-body 14.6 MP CMOS (1.5x crop)
Canon EOS 50D $1000 Yes No 3.0" / 920k dots Lens option 15.1 MP CMOS (1.6x crop)
Olympus E-3 $1120 Yes No 2.5" / 230k dots In-body 10.1 MP NMOS (2.0x crop)
Sony DSLR-A700 $820 No No 3.0" / 920k dots In-body 12.3 MP CMOS (1.5x crop)

In terms of headline specification, most of these cameras seem directly comparable (with the older and slightly less well-specified cameras able to command slightly lower prices) but the differences are all in the fine details. The D300S, like its predecessor, is an astonishingly configurable camera, with a vast number of ways of tailoring the camera's behavior to your method of working. It's only really the Olympus E-3 and EOS 7D that come anywhere near this level of customizability.

Nikon D300S advantages

  • Dual media with definable behavior
  • Auto ISO with definable maximum ISO and slowest shutter speed
  • 51-point AF system with 3D-tracking

Nikon D300S disadvantages

  • No built-in flash illuminator
  • Lowers nominal resolution than 50D and 7D
  • Slower continuous shooting than EOS 7D
 
Nikon D300S

Canon EOS 7D

Pentax K-7
Price
(body only)
US: $1620 [check price] US: $1700 [check price] US: $1030 [check price]
Sensor • 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• 12.9 million total pixels

• 22.3 x 14.9 mm CMOS
• 18 million effective pixels
• 19 million total pixels

• 23.4 x 15.6 mm CMOS
• 14.6 million effective pixels
• 15.07 million total pixels
Body Magnesium alloy Magnesium alloy Magnesium alloy/Steel
Dust reduction • Low pass filter vibration
• Airflow Control System
• Dust reference image

• Anti-dust coating
• Low pass filter vibration
• Dust reference image

• Anti-dust coating
• Low pass filter vibration
Native image size 4288 x 2848
(3:2 ratio)
5184 x 3456
(3:2 ratio)
4672 x 3104
(3:2 ratio)
Video

720p @ 24 fps

1920 x 1080 @ 30, 25, 24 fps
720p @ 60, 50 fps

1536 x 1024 @ 30 fps
FOV crop 1.5x 1.6x 1.5x
In-body shake reduction No No Yes
Live view Yes Yes Yes
File formats • RAW (lossless or lossy comp, 12 or 14 bit)
• JPEG (3 levels)

• RAW (3 sizes)
• JPEG (2 levels)

• RAW (PEF or DNG)
• JPEG (4 levels)
Auto focus • 51 area TTL
• 15 Cross-type sensors
• Range: -1 to +19 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view
• 19 area TTL
• 19 cross-type AF points
• Range: -0.5 - 18 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view
• 11 area TTL
• 9 Cross-type sensors
• Range: -1 to +18 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view
AF illuminator Built-in lamp Flash-strobe Built-in lamp
Metering sensor • 1005 pixel RGB sensor
• 0 - 20 EV working range
• 63 zone sensor
• 1 - 20 EV working range
• 77 zone sensor
• 0 - 22 EV working range
EV steps 1/3, 2/3, 1/2 or 1 EV 1/3 or 1/2 EV 1/3 or 1/2 EV
Sensitivity

• ISO 200 - 3200
(with 100 and 6400 equiv)

• ISO 100 - 3200
(extended to 12800 equiv)
• ISO 100 - 3200
(with 6400 equiv)
Auto ISO User definable maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed Not user definable User definable
High- ISO NR Yes (4 levels) Yes (4 levels) Yes (4 levels)
Shutter speed • 30 - 1/8000 sec / Bulb
• 1/250 sec Flash sync
• 30 - 1/8000 sec / Bulb
• 1/250 sec Flash sync
• 30 - 1/8000 sec / Bulb
• 1/180 sec Flash sync
Continuous
shooting

7 fps (8 fps with MB-D10 pack)

8 fps
5.2 fps
Viewfinder • Pentaprism
• Eyepoint 19.5 mm
• Frame coverage 100%
• Magnification approx 0.94x
• Pentaprism
• Eyepoint 22 mm
• Frame coverage 100%
• Magnification approx 1.0x
• Pentaprism
• Eyepoint 18 mm
• Frame coverage 100%
• Magnification approx 0.92x
LCD monitor

• 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots

• 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots
• 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots
Other features • On-demand viewfinder grid
• GPS record with optional cable
• In-camera RAW conversion
• Custom 'My Menu'
• Wireless connectivity with optional WT-4A unit
• On-demand viewfinder grid
• Wireless connectivity with optional WFT-E5 grip
• Custom 'My Menu'
• In-camera RAW conversion
• Digital Filters
• HDR/Multi-exposure
• Composition adjustment

Storage • Compact Flash card
• SD/SDHC card
• Compact Flash card • SD/SDHC card
Software • Nikon Transfer
• ViewNX
• Nikon Capture NX (trial)
• ZoomBrowser EX
• Photostitch 3.1
• Digital Photo Professional
• Digital Camera Utility
Dimensions 147 x 114 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in) 148 x 111 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.3 x 2.8 in) 131 x 97 x 73 mm (5.1 x 3.8 x 2.9 in)
Weight (no batt) 840 g (1.9 lb) 820 g (1.8 lb) 670 g (1.4 lb)
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