D300 vs 40D - a short essay

Started Mar 1, 2008 | Discussions
troyb Junior Member • Posts: 25
D300 vs 40D - a short essay

I own both (and a selection of studio grade lenses for both), and in my opinion there is really no difference between them when it comes to image quality – they are both fantastic. The 2MP difference is not really noticeable, although when it comes to cropping, more MP is always desirable, so the D300 has a slight edge there. To put it another way, the images from either will satisfy the most picky discriminating of clients, so you should not make a decision between these cameras based solely on IQ.

Mostly it comes down to features and work flow:

ACR / Lightroom is currently more adept at handling subtle image nuances of the 40D – for example in a close up shot of a fabric, the D300 RAW ACR processed shot shows noticeable moiré patterns, while the 40D does not. But the D300 in camera JPG shows almost no moiré, and actually slightly besting the in camera 40D JPG. D300 RAW ACR processed images are somewhat noisier that I feel they should be, especially when compared to the in D300 in camera JPG. It would be nice to see Adobe put a little more effort into getting this right.

If you are a studio photographer, the versatility of the Nikon flash system makes Canon look absolutely incompetent – the D300 onboard flash can be set to manual mode and a lower power level and used to optically trigger your studio flashes without the need for cables or radio transmitters. Nikon SB800’s can be set to SU-4 mode and optically triggered, thus used in conjunction with studio flashes in a completely seamless manner that Canon can only dream of. And when outside, Nikon iTTL daylight fill flash nails a perfect, unobtrusive fill flash balance on nearly every shot, while Canon leaves you messing with flash exposure compensation every time. This is HUGE for me, and it’s the reason that I now always reach for the D300 in the studio, and generally reach for the D300 on any field assignment that even has the remotest possibility of needing flash.

On the down side, when the D300 is in sleep mode or powered off, it’s still gobbling up your battery at 5-7% a day, while the D40 whether powered off, or in sleep mode discharges the battery at essentially the same rate that a loose battery would lose it’s charge just sitting around on a shelf. This is basic electronics engineering 101, so it’s a shame that Nikon hasn’t got it nailed. Both cameras have excellent battery life when all your shots are taken consecutively within a period of less than 3 days – you can easily hit 1.5 - 2K shots on a single battery with either body and a freshly charged battery (if you don’t chimp too much).

In the studio, you tend to pick up and put down your camera a lot, and Nikon’s placement of the front control dial ensures that you frequently end up changing your aperture value inadvertently. In this respect, the 40D is much better since the rear dial can be turned off, and the front dial is above where your fingers can bump it when picking up or setting down the body.

Canon’s user customizations are accessible from the main mode dial, whereas Nikon requires delving into the menu. In Nikon’s favor, a lot more can be customized in the D300.

Nikon’s true VGA 3.0” display is amazing, and accurately represents exposure level at it’s default setting. Canon’s 3.0” display is ok, but does not accurately represent exposure level – default is too bright, so you’ll underexpose if you put your trust in it, and one notch down is too dim, so you’ll overexpose. A setting of 4.5 (which is not possible) would represent proper exposure on the 40D. Of course you use light meters and the histogram, but sometimes the final exposure decision comes down to what you see, and Canon is lying to you.

Nikon’s front mounted Continuous / Single / Manual switch is annoying as heck, and needs to be checked every time the camera is removed from the bag (or just taped over), unless you enjoy unpleasant surprises. The Canon “press a button turn a dial” method is much preferable, and never gets switched accidentally.

It’s a little annoying that Nikon couldn’t find any real estate in the huge top panel LCD to continuously display the current ISO value – after all, that is now the 3rd variable in any exposure equation, and an essential piece of information. I guess having it in the viewfinder is better than not at all, but Canon finally got this one right with ISO always showing in the top LCD on the 40D.

Both cameras are focusing speed demons, but I personally feel that when each is locked down to the center point (for comparison purposes), the Canon is a little faster, but there’s not much to it really, either should suffice for all but the most demanding of sporting situations.

The Nikon battery and CF card doors are a JOKE, whoever came up with those fragile little trinkets ought to be fired. The Canon 40D equivalents are much more robust. Otherwise each camera is solidly built, and there is no reason to favor one over the other in terms of build quality.

And finally, to close, Canon has got some real quality control issues, and has had so for several years. I won’t bother going into it here, other than to say that almost every piece of Canon gear I’ve bought in recent history, I actually had to get 2, and send the lesser performing one back. And service – don’t bother, it will come back worse than you sent it in.

Which is why I finally decided to give Nikon a shot…

As always, these are my opinions, your mileage (or kilometerage) may vary significantly.

Tom Ingrassia
Tom Ingrassia Senior Member • Posts: 1,403
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

Well written essay
--
http://www.tomingrassia.com

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S Clark Senior Member • Posts: 2,944
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

troyb wrote:

And finally, to close, Canon has got some real quality control
issues, and has had so for several years. I won’t bother going into
it here, other than to say that almost every piece of Canon gear I’ve
bought in recent history, I actually had to get 2, and send the
lesser performing one back. And service – don’t bother, it will come
back worse than you sent it in.

Which is why I finally decided to give Nikon a shot…

I am thinking of going to Nikon because of this QC problem also. I have had to send most of my stuff in too and right now going through trying to get my 300f4IS lens fixed. Sent it in with manual and auto focus completely unresponsive. Get it back after a month, with it barely working sometimes. The manual ring turns continuously in both directions and the distance scale is sticky, same as before it broke completely, The auto focus would focus maybe a half dozen or so times and then just stop focusing. Its on its way back to them. Someone gave me Chuck Westfalls email so I tried emailing him, and surprise, no answer. I have gotten to where I am afraid to open a new Canon item or one back from service because they always are defective, unfixed or out of adjustment! Even my latest Canon P&S broke after a few months and went to service. Luckily the P&S service was fast and did fix it.

My last Canon purchase was a 70-200f4IS lens. I tried two copies and both were front or rear focusing unacceptably at certain settings. Each one different from the other. I gave up and returned it for a refund.

-- hide signature --
kevm14 Senior Member • Posts: 2,253
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

troyb wrote:

On the down side, when the D300 is in sleep mode or powered off, it’s
still gobbling up your battery at 5-7% a day, while the D40 whether
powered off, or in sleep mode discharges the battery at essentially
the same rate that a loose battery would lose it’s charge just
sitting around on a shelf. This is basic electronics engineering 101,
so it’s a shame that Nikon hasn’t got it nailed.

This really surprises me. Without owning a D300 I can't corroborate your claim but I can say that every Li-Ion body that Nikon has produced in the past (including my D70s) features the same power consumption paradigm that you mention on the Canon, to my knowledge. I don't charge it for months. I could leave the power switch on, if I wanted. I am curious if other D300 owners can follow up on this, though.

In the studio, you tend to pick up and put down your camera a lot,
and Nikon’s placement of the front control dial ensures that you
frequently end up changing your aperture value inadvertently. In this
respect, the 40D is much better since the rear dial can be turned
off, and the front dial is above where your fingers can bump it when
picking up or setting down the body.

I have never heard this before but I think it's fair to say that you've owned mostly Canons in the past, and must prefer putting your finger, coincidently, right where Nikon put the front dial. I never hit mine (on my D70s or D1H) accidently and honestly, I don't think about picking it up in any special way. I noticed you didn't mention the power switch. I think that's a huge ergonomic advantage for Nikon. I love reaching for the camera with my right hand and flicking it on before it even gets to my eye, or even my left hand.

Tonik Contributing Member • Posts: 558
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

troyb wrote:

D300 RAW ACR
processed images are somewhat noisier that I feel they should be,
especially when compared to the in D300 in camera JPG. It would be
nice to see Adobe put a little more effort into getting this right.

There are some real issues with ACR and the D300 RAW's. More than you mention. You will need to use NX to get all you can out of your RAW's. I can not describe it but there is something missing in the contrast and mid-tones in an ACR RAW.

Nikon’s placement of the front control dial ensures that you
frequently end up changing your aperture value inadvertently.

Drove me crazy for the first few days, it hasn't happened in months now. I am also left eye'd so my nose constantly hit the D pad. You will adapt I think, but valid points.

Canon’s user customizations are accessible from the main mode dial,
whereas Nikon requires delving into the menu. In Nikon’s favor, a lot
more can be customized in the D300.

My Menu's will be your friend. Still can be annoying but not too bad.

It’s a little annoying that Nikon couldn’t find any real estate in
the huge top panel LCD to continuously display the current ISO value

Yep, most annoying.

Which is why I finally decided to give Nikon a shot…

Enjoy!

Hocus Pocus Senior Member • Posts: 1,712
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

troyb wrote:

On the down side, when the D300 is in sleep mode or powered off, it’s
still gobbling up your battery at 5-7% a day, while the D40 whether
powered off, or in sleep mode discharges the battery at essentially
the same rate that a loose battery would lose it’s charge just
sitting around on a shelf.

Hmm... I haven't had the same experience. I don't doubt you're seeing what you're reporting, but wanted to suggest that may be some kind of one-off there? Is it with a new battery? They may take a few nearly full discharge/charge cycles to hold their charge.

I've seen a D300 shut off for about two months or so and battery's down to about 65% or so. For that one, was about 1% discharge per day or a little more. Batteries also last longer if you store it in a sealed plastic bag in a refrigerator at between 40-60% charge as well, when not actively using it for a while.

Rocky03 Regular Member • Posts: 267
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

What I find that really anoys me about the 40D is the LCD is not centered to the viewfinder. When ever I pick up the 40D, it just feels awkward since the LCD is to the far left.

Andrew McP Contributing Member • Posts: 586
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

Thanks for an interesting and useful read. I'm locked in a battle between head & heart over buying either a 40D or D300, and I have no Canon or Nikon hardware to help me make the decision. My head (in charge of the wallet!) says 40D; it's a real bargain with the new cashback offer in Europe. Plus I get to buy a 100-400L, the ideal lense for my needs.

My heart still keeps saying D300 though! So it's very useful to hear from people with extensive experience of both cameras.

Andrew McP

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jwmars Regular Member • Posts: 193
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

Lot of same good experiences on d300.. (not owing any canon dslr)

Nikon’s front mounted Continuous / Single / Manual switch is annoying
as heck, and needs to be checked every time the camera is removed
from the bag (or just taped over), unless you enjoy unpleasant
surprises.

This button already has given me many unpleasant surprises, I have AF-s on shutter prio and afc not and when the button flips i get lot of unsharp pictures both ways.. It not only occurs picking up the cam but also in normal use. with my 17-35 on I often hit this butto for the zoom ring is on rear side of lens...

It’s a little annoying that Nikon couldn’t find any real estate in
the huge top panel LCD to continuously display the current ISO value
– after all, that is now the 3rd variable in any exposure equation,
and an essential piece of information.

fully agree....

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Laslo Varadi
Laslo Varadi Veteran Member • Posts: 5,551
Power consumption

My D80 and D200 both lose some charge each day when not in use. The D200 seems to be a little worse.
--
Laslo
http://www.digitalexpressionsphotography.com

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N L Dukes Regular Member • Posts: 369
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

Many thanks for your most interesting post. I am interested because I recently bit the bullet and, after years of brand loyalty to Canon, I sold everything and am now the proud ownr of a D300.

I have had a number of seriously bad service issues with Canon in recent years but the last 'straw' as far as I am concerned is their failure to take any interest in the fact that my 5D shutter failed after less than 3,000 actuations. As it was outside the warranty period I had to pay for the repair. The camera was not subjected to any hardship. I requested an explanation as to how such a failure might have occurred so early in the life of the camera. The silence is deafening.

To make matters worse, I live in Ireland and Canon have no service facility here other than to take equipment in and send it off to a repair centre in the UK. The quality of work is a disgrace and in my experience, turn around time is seven weeks.

It is amazing how commercial success on a massive scale can sometimes result in such arrogance and indifference. I won't be using or recommending Canon equipment again.

One observation - the 5D was a terrible camera for dust. You only had to think of the word and there it was, all over your sensor.

With the D300 I am now starting to regain my confidence with lens changes. I'm really impressed with all aspects of the camera but, like you, I find I have to watch the C/S/M switch carefully.

Regards
--
NLD

Luis Fernandez Forum Member • Posts: 92
Thanks ...

Really useful info for my kind of work, I’ll comment when my D300 arrives, living canon for the moment.
Best
Luis

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PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 16,485
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

On the Nikon criticism side, I have to agree with the lack of ISO display (keeps getting me in trouble not noticing previous settings) and the C-S-M switch.

I'd like to see a firmware option to disable the C-S-M switch and force it to be set via a menu entry. Another change would be to make the switch a slider instead of a rotator switch, or increase the activation force significantly.

The door thing never bothered me. Maybe because I only have other Nikons to compare to. I can see where I might break them if not careful, but so far I've been careful.

Something else about my D300 that bothers me is the physical location of the socket for attached a remote cord. It's so close to the viewfinder housing that it's difficult for my big fingers to turn the locking screw. Would be nice if that was over to the side a bit more.

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chevysales Senior Member • Posts: 2,709
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

S Clark wrote:

troyb wrote:

And finally, to close, Canon has got some real quality control
issues, and has had so for several years. I won’t bother going into
it here, other than to say that almost every piece of Canon gear I’ve
bought in recent history, I actually had to get 2, and send the
lesser performing one back. And service – don’t bother, it will come
back worse than you sent it in.

Which is why I finally decided to give Nikon a shot…

I am thinking of going to Nikon because of this QC problem also. I
have had to send most of my stuff in too and right now going through
trying to get my 300f4IS lens fixed. Sent it in with manual and auto
focus completely unresponsive. Get it back after a month, with it
barely working sometimes. The manual ring turns continuously in both
directions and the distance scale is sticky, same as before it broke
completely, The auto focus would focus maybe a half dozen or so
times and then just stop focusing. Its on its way back to them.
Someone gave me Chuck Westfalls email so I tried emailing him, and
surprise, no answer. I have gotten to where I am afraid to open a
new Canon item or one back from service because they always are
defective, unfixed or out of adjustment! Even my latest Canon P&S
broke after a few months and went to service. Luckily the P&S service
was fast and did fix it.

My last Canon purchase was a 70-200f4IS lens. I tried two copies
and both were front or rear focusing unacceptably at certain
settings. Each one different from the other. I gave up and returned
it for a refund.

to the original OP:

you will get your best raw examples using the latest version of DPP 3.2... excellent color rendition.

to s clark.... you seem to be one of the very few if any who have complained about what can arguably be canon's best lens across the board.... 70-200is f4.

like any manufacturer QC is a factor... also one heard more about in some forums then others. but on a percentage basis i would venture to bet canon and nikon's are no worse than any other maker.
--

Forty Dee paired with the Seventy-Two Hundred IS f4L and the Seventeen-FiftyFive IS f2.8 capped off with B+W MRC UV filters and a few Kaesemann Circular Polarizers... and growing.
All safely wrapped and easily carried in a Kata R102 backpack.

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PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 16,485
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

kevm14 wrote:

troyb wrote:

On the down side, when the D300 is in sleep mode or powered off, it’s
still gobbling up your battery at 5-7% a day, while the D40 whether
powered off, or in sleep mode discharges the battery at essentially
the same rate that a loose battery would lose it’s charge just
sitting around on a shelf. This is basic electronics engineering 101,
so it’s a shame that Nikon hasn’t got it nailed.

This really surprises me.

I have D70s, D80, D200 and D300.

It is surprising me, but I think I agree with the OP. I have the D300 grip with battery, set to use the grip battery first. But after not using the D300 for a few days, I will see that the internal battery is at 90% (or less, depending on how long it has been setting) with 0 shots. The grip battery may be at 100% o shots, or whatever charge level results from actual usage.

I frankly haven't noticed what the other cameras do in this regard, simply because it is a lot easier to change the internal battery on those. (I have to remove the D300 grip to get at the internal battery, much unlike the D200 grip where both batteries are in the grip and supremely easy to remove). I'm in the habit of recharging the batteries at the end of a day where I use the camera, but only the ones easy to get to and that I though I would use. Since the battery display on the D300 shows the battery in use (grip battery for me), you have to go into the menu to see the 2nd battery charge level. I was shocked one day to find the internal battery at 0% charge, with 0 shots taken on it.

I have never heard this before but I think it's fair to say that
you've owned mostly Canons in the past, and must prefer putting your
finger, coincidently, right where Nikon put the front dial. I never
hit mine (on my D70s or D1H) accidently and honestly, I don't think
about picking it up in any special way.

I don't know why, but this was never a problem for me on my 70, 80 or 200. But something is different on the D300, and I'm constantly finding I've hit it into the C position. It's been a real surprise, since I never had to think about checking it before. Now it's starting to become a habit to check that every time I pick up the camera.

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bobmax Veteran Member • Posts: 6,380
Very fair and enjoyable read.... Thanks.

I don't have a D300 or 40D, but did have a 30D and D200.

The only system I ever had to do a "send back" where I found additional copies better or a variation, was Canon. Had a bad 28-135IS.
I loved the 30D and the D200 (though the D200's noise frustrated me).

Nikon flash vs "Anything else out there" is beyond compare. It is just simply AMAZING. I have no question as to why Joe McNally uses Nikon...

I actually found Canon's menus easier and faster to navigate due to the "jump" and "rear wheel".

I preferred Nikon's "OOC" color rendition, "BUT" thought Canon's OOC did a prettier shade of "blue" sky.

Canon's IS lens variety eclipses Nikons variety of VR, But Nikon is catching up in this area w/the 16-85 and the 105 Macro (GREAT!). I personally have become adicted to IS/VR as I'm not as steady as I was in my 20's....

To me, clearly the Nikon D300 is a cut above anything else in the price range out there (though I also love the IQ of the Canon 5D). My "ONLY QUESTION" is whether it is worth the extra price over the competition..... And I think that is up to the individual user.

I (my mistake) bought into the Oly E3 which coming from Nikon and Canon was a big mistake (for me). I do "NOT" mean that as a slam on Oly.... camera choices are a very personal thing. The E3 just doesn't fit my personal preferences for handling and the flash is irratic as heck.

I've been "considering strongly" Sony, (love the handling and "Quick Navi" way of avoiding menus or buttons for almost everything you could ever want to adjust. However, had a very bad experience with KM flash.. .and I use a lot of flash. Additionally, the Sony, of the four (Nikon, Canon, Oly, Sony), seems to have the most obtrusive noise (splotchy).

So, my guess is that I'll very shortly pay the price of "re-admission" to the Nikon world and buy a D300. Lens choices are the biggie right now...

-- hide signature --

Bob

nikor Regular Member • Posts: 221
Re: D300 vs 40D - a short essay

S Clark wrote:

I have gotten to where I am afraid to open a
new Canon item or one back from service because they always are
defective, unfixed or out of adjustment! Even my latest Canon P&S
broke after a few months and went to service.

Nikon's probably shaking in their collective boots that you'll actually buy a Nikon product. Some customers are just a nightmare.

jagge Veteran Member • Posts: 4,149
What a great posting

troyb wrote:

I own both (and a selection of studio grade lenses for both), and in
my opinion there is really no difference between them when it comes
to image quality

Hi

Thanks for a top notch post. I LOVE the fact that you arent a brand fanatic and give a very well balanced view.

Rare but VERY usefull

Thanks

Jakob

Tonino New Member • Posts: 22
Excellent essay... but I am still undecided

I learned a lot about significant features/issues of the 40D and D300, thank you. I am about to switch from my Pentax K10D but remain ambivalent about which camera should be next. My past experience with film was always Nikon and I am leaning that way again. Probably my final choice will depend on the answer to this question:

  • Which two lenses would best meet my needs and budget?

I would like spend no more than $2000 for the the two. A reach of 300mm would be nice for birds, plus a general purpose lens. Thank you for any suggestions.
P.S. I like the K10D but not the AF, the main reason for change.

PHXAZCRAIG
PHXAZCRAIG Forum Pro • Posts: 16,485
Re: Excellent essay... but I am still undecided

Hmm. $2000.

70-300VR - $600

18-200VR for general purpose $700

Leaves $ left over, so perhaps:

17-55F2.8
70-300VR

I think that's close to $2000.

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