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Timings & File Sizes

The D200 represented a serious step forward in performance over its predecessor, the D100. Performance metrics such as power on / sleep to on and user interface response were as fast as you could ever need (indeed virtually instant). Despite having fewer areas in which to demonstrate an improvement the D300 still manages to feel faster than the D200. Examples of additional improvements are shorter record review times, faster playback and extremely high throughput with a fast CF card such as the SanDisk Extreme IV. Continuous shooting was consistent with the published specs, six frames per second with the standard battery and eight frames per second with the battery girp and higher powered batteries. It's hard to pick out any one area where the D300's performance could be improved.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4288 x 2848 JPEG Fine (approx. 4.2 MB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Extreme IV CF card
  • 2 GB Lexar Pro 133x CF card
  • 16 GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card

Media comparison

Action
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Time, secs
(16 GB SanDisk)
Power Off to On <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
Power Off to Shot <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
Sleep to On <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
Power On to Off <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
Record Review JPEG *1 0.5 0.5 0.5
Record Review RAW 12-bit *1 0.5 0.5 0.5
Record Review RAW 14-bit *1 0.8 0.8 0.8
Enter Live View 0.6 0.6 0.6
Exit Live View <0.2 <0.2 <0.2
Play RAW 12-bit *2 ~0.3 / <0.1 ~0.3 / <0.1 ~0.3 / <0.1
Play RAW 14-bit *2 ~0.3 / <0.1 ~0.3 / <0.1 ~0.3 / <0.1
Play JPEG *2 ~0.3 / <0.1 ~0.3 / <0.1 ~0.3 / <0.1
Play Image to Image RAW <0.2 <0.2 <0.2
Play Image to Image JPEG <0.2 <0.2 <0.2

*1 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.
*2 The first number is the time from shooting to play mode for an image which hasn't yet been displayed, the second figure is the time to display if the image has been displayed (and 'cached').

Continuous Drive mode

Caveats / notes

  • Continuous rate with battery grip
    Depending on the camera's power supply the D300 has two different maximum continuous shooting rates. With the standard EN-EL3e battery in the camera or the optional MB-D10 grip the maximum rate is six frames per second. Using either EN-EL4(a)* or AA batteries in the MB-D10 increases the maximum rate to eight frames per second.
     
  • Active D-Lighting
    As you may expect the additional processing required by Active D-Lighting has a significant impact on image processing speed and hence number of frames in a burst. Instead of a burst of 100 frames using 'Normal' Active D-Lighting reduced the burst to 15 frames before slowing.
     
  • Max. continuous release (c.fn d5)
    The D300 imposes a maximum 100 frame limit on continuous bursts. Put simply assuming the CF card is fast enough the camera will shoot continuously until it reaches the set limit (by default 100 frames) and then simply stop unless you lift your finger off the shutter release and re-press. This doesn't appear to be a hard buffer limt, just a soft limit.

* To use EN-EL4(a) batteries in the MB-D10 you also need the BL-3 'Battery Chamber Cover'.

Continuous drive tests

To test continuous drive mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, ISO 100, Shutter Priority (1/500 sec). Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, without battery grip ~6.1 fps, with battery grip ~8.0 fps
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst (until buffer full)
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How soon after the burst the buffer has emptied / CF compartment light goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images (6 fps mode, internal EN-EL3a only)

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme IV CF
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x CF
16 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
Frame rate 6.1 fps 6.1 fps 6.1 fps
Number of frames 100 49 34
Buffer full rate n/a 3.3 fps 1.6 fps
Next burst n/a 8.8 sec 17.5 sec

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images (8 fps mode, MB-D10 + EN-EL4a)

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme IV CF
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x CF
16 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
Frame rate 8.0 fps 8.0 fps 8.0 fps
Number of frames 62 37 32
Buffer full rate 6.0 fps (uneven) 3.3 fps 1.6 fps
Next burst 20.7 sec 8.8 sec 18.4 sec

Burst of RAW images (12-bit NEF, 6 fps mode)

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme IV CF
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x CF
16 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
Frame rate 6.1 fps 6.1 fps 6.1 fps
Number of frames 28 18 17
Buffer full rate 3.5 fps (uneven) 1.3 fps (uneven) 1.1 fps (uneven)
Next burst 7.0 sec 17.5 sec 19.4 sec

Burst of RAW images (12-bit NEF, 8 fps mode)

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme IV CF
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x CF
16 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
Frame rate 8.0 fps 8.0 fps 8.0 fps
Number of frames 17 17 16
Buffer full rate 2.5 fps (uneven) 1.3 fps (uneven) 0.9 fps (uneven)
Next burst 7.5 sec 14.6 sec 20.1 sec

The D300 did exactly what it said on the box, just over six frames per second without the battery grip (and more powerful battery) and eight frames per second with them (and this at 1/500 sec, bearing in mind the issues we had achieving maximum shooting rate with the Canon EOS 40D). The D300 only hit the 100 frame limit at full rate once in our tests, in JPEG mode with the 2 GB SanDisk Extreme IV otherwise the buffer filled and the shooting rate slowed (and was often fairly uneven). The biggest surprise here was the significant difference in write speed between the SanDisk and Lexar cards.

File Flush Timing

RAW options; 12-bit / 14-bit, compression

The D300 provides a fairly wide range of RAW options, you can choose between recording 12 or 14 bits of data (as the analogue to digital converter on the D300 is 14 bit) as well as lossless compression, 'normal compression' (same as previous Nikon NEF's, partially lossy) and uncompressed.

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity lamp beside the compartment door went out. Media used were the same as above.

Image type
(4288x 2848 size)
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Time, secs
(16 GB SanDisk)
Approx.
size
RAW 14-bit + JPEG *2 1.9 2.6 3.2 18.2 MB
RAW 12-bit + JPEG *2 1.5 2.1 2.7 15.3 MB
RAW 14-bit Lossless 1.6 2.3 2.6 14.0 MB
RAW 12-bit Lossless 1.2 1.6 2.0 11.1 MB
RAW 12-bit Compressed 1.2 1.6 1.9 9.9 MB
RAW 12-bit Uncompress. 1.5 2.3 2.5 18.7 MB
JPEG Fine ~1.0 ~1.1 1.4 4.2 MB
JPEG Normal ~1.0 ~1.0 1.2 3.1 MB

*1 The D300 begins writing about 0.9 seconds (1.2 seconds for 14-bit RAW) after the shutter release is pressed, hence you must subtract this from the timings shown above to get the actual write time.
*2 RAW Lossless compression and JPEG Fine. File size reported is the RAW and JPEG added together.

With a fast card the D300 delivers crushingly fast write times, in more thorough tests we measured write throughput as 24.5 MB/sec for the SanDisk Extreme IV, 14.1 MB/sec for the Lexar 133x and 20.4 MB/sec for a Lexar 300x UDMA (not shown above). This combined with excellent 'shoot and forget' background buffering means that you never really need to think about write times, no matter how large the file.

USB transfer speed

Method
Transfer rate
CardBus PCMCIA adapter 10.5 MB/sec
Nikon D300 (Mass Storage device) 11.5 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV USB 2.0 card reader 13.3 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV Firewire 800 card reader 26.6 MB/sec

To test the D300's USB transfer speed we transferred approximately 256 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme IV 2 GB CF card. In this test the D300 performed fairly well, delivering about the same throughput as a typical USB 2.0 card reader.

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