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Nikon D300 In-depth Review

March 2008 | By Phil Askey


Review based on a production Nikon D300

Just under two years since the D200 Nikon reveals the D300, the range of changes is so significant that it wouldn't be inappropriate to call it a 'compact D3' (less the full-frame sensor of course). From the top there's a new CMOS sensor with twelve megapixels, a new auto-focus sensor with 51-points (15 of which are cross-type sensitive), there's focus tracking by color, scene recognition, Picture Control presets, six frames per second continuous shooting (or eight frames per second with a battery pack), Compact Flash UDMA support, Live View (with contrast detect AF) and the mighty impressive 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor (oh and HDMI video output). It's an impressive list, the D200 was a fair step up from the D100, the D300 can be seen as just as big a step, certainly more than enough to make the competition sweat.

Model line history

Model
Announced
Effective pixels
Auto focus
Continuous highest (JPEG) LCD monitor
D100 Feb 2002 6.0 mp 5 point 3.0 fps, 6 frames 1.8", 120K pixels
D200 Nov 2005 10.2 mp 11 point 5.0 fps, 37 frames 2.5" 230K pixels
D300 Aug 2007 12.3 mp 51 point 6.0/8.0 fps, 100 frames 3.0" 922K pixels + Live View

Nikon D300 Key Features

  • 12.3 megapixel DX format CMOS sensor
  • Self-cleaning sensor unit (low-pass filter vibration)
  • ISO 200 - 3200 (6400 with boost)
  • 14-bit A/D conversion
  • Nikon EXPEED image processor (Capture NX processing and NR algorithms, lower power)
  • Super fast operation (power-up 13 ms, shutter lag 45 ms, black-out 100 ms)
  • Shutter life 150,000 exposures
  • New Multi-CAM3500DX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage)
  • Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
  • Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning) now available (fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings)
  • Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
  • Picture Control image parameter presets (replace Color Modes I, II and III)
  • Custom image parameters now support brightness as well as contrast
  • Six frames per second continuous shooting (eight frames per second with battery pack)
  • Compact Flash UDMA support
  • 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or contrast detect Auto Focus
  • HDMI HD video output
  • 'Active D-Lighting' (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
  • Detailed 'Control Panel' type display on LCD monitor, changes color in darkness
  • New MB-D10 vertical grip fully integrates into body, multi battery type compatible
  • Buttons sealed against moisture
12.3 megapixel DX format CMOS sensor Viewfinder pentaprism
Main board with EXPEED processor EXPEED processor
51-point Multi-CAM 3500DX AF sensor module 51 AF point locations in frame (approx.)
1005-pixel metering sensor Shutter

Nikon D300 vs. D200 feature and specification differences

 

Nikon D300

Nikon D200
Sensor • 12.3 million effective pixel CMOS
• DX format
10.2 million effective pixel CCD
• DX format
A/D converter 14-bit 12-bit
Image processor Nikon EXPEED Unspecified
Image sizes • 4288 x 2848
• 3216 x 2136
• 2144 x 1424
• 3872 x 2592
• 2896 x 1944
• 1936 x 1296
RAW files NEF / Compressed NEF 14-bit NEF 12-bit
TIFF files Yes No
Dust reduction Self-cleaning sensor unit No
Auto focus • 51-point Multi-CAM 3500DX
• 15 cross-type sensors
• Contrast detect in Live View mode
• 11-point Multi-CAM 1000
Focus tracking by color Yes No
AF area mode

• Single point AF
• Dynamic Area AF [9 points, 21 points, 51 points, 51 points (3D-tracking)]
• Automatic-area AF

• Single Area AF
• Dynamic AF with Focus Tracking and Lock-on
• Group Dynamic AF
• Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF
Sensitivity

• Default: ISO 200 - 3200
• Boost: ISO 100 - 6400
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps

• Default: ISO 100 - 1600
• Boost: Up to ISO 3200
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps

Continuous shooting • With built-in battery: up to 6 fps
• With AC adapter or MB-D10 pack and batteries other than EN-EL3e: up to 8 fps
5 fps
Image Parameters • Picture Control (4 presets)
• Sharpening
• Contrast
• Brightness
• Saturation
• Hue
• Presets (6 presets)
• Sharpening
• Tone
• Color mode
• Saturation
• Hue
Active D-Lighting Yes (also adjusts exposure) No
Viewfinder 100% frame coverage 95% frame coverage
LCD monitor • 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 922,000 pixels
• 2.5 " TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixels
LCD Live View • Handheld mode (phase detect AF)
• Tripod mode (contrast detect AF)
No
Compact Flash Type I / II (UDMA support) Type I / II
Vertical grip MB-D10 MB-D200
Video output HDMI (HD) Composite (SD)
Menu languages 14 13
Dimensions 147 x 114 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in) 147 x 113 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in)
Weight (no batt) 825 g (1.82 lb) 830 g (1.8 lb)

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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