Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Started Jun 21, 2012 | Discussions
Linthicum Forum Member • Posts: 52
Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800
1

Why am I not seeing a noticeable difference in the photo quality being posted versus what can be achieved from other DSLR's ? I have a D800 on order but beginning to wonder if it's worth $3,000 compared to my current D300. I don't take that many photos in poor lighting conditions. Video would be a plus, I guess. I have just been unable to say "WOW". I don't mean to be critical but I would like to hear some candid opinions on this subject. Where are the "WOW" photos ?

Nikon D300 Nikon D800
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ata3001
ata3001 Contributing Member • Posts: 691
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Posting images that have that "sharp" look requires the image be very sharp to begin with. After that is a matter of properly sharpening it for the web. There are as many opinions on how to accomplish that as there are hours in a week. Some methods are better than others but at any rate, it doesn't require a D800 to get that look. I've been doing it with a D200. Just upgraded to a D700 this week. I typically print 16x20's & a 36mb camera would be nice, but in no way necessary. I've done 2 photo exhibits of 16x20's shot with a D200. I really don't care who buys a D800, but those that do thinking it will improve their photography will probably be disappointed. That's like thinking that driving a larger car will make you a better driver. Ain't gonna happen.

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dustyj
dustyj Regular Member • Posts: 239
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

ata3001 wrote:

Posting images that have that "sharp" look requires the image be very sharp to begin with. After that is a matter of properly sharpening it for the web. There are as many opinions on how to accomplish that as there are hours in a week. Some methods are better than others but at any rate, it doesn't require a D800 to get that look. I've been doing it with a D200. Just upgraded to a D700 this week. I typically print 16x20's & a 36mb camera would be nice, but in no way necessary. I've done 2 photo exhibits of 16x20's shot with a D200. I really don't care who buys a D800, but those that do thinking it will improve their photography will probably be disappointed. That's like thinking that driving a larger car will make you a better driver. Ain't gonna happen.

+1

If you print big there is a difference but ultimately a good picture is a good picture regardless of the camera. I hate to say this but it took a D800 to make me realize that the D70 I used 7 years ago took great pictures. Stick with the D300 unless you can utilize any of the full frame sensor advantages.

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anotherMike Veteran Member • Posts: 8,999
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800
2

You won't see em at web resolution from small, compressed web jpegs.

Rent a D800E with excellent lenses and use proper discipline and support and take some shots. Then make 16x20" prints (or larger) and come back to me - because if/when you were to do this, you'd clearly understand what the D800 (or E) is all about. And this is kind of a point I've made for a while - you get the camera with the resolution you need for the print size you commonly print with maybe a "spare" of one size larger. I print mostly 13x19 and 16x20. No problem with 13x19 from my D700, which is why I'll still use that body. But for detailed landscapes that go to 16x20, the D800E will be my primary body. If I were just making 8x10 headshots, a D200 would suffice, easily....

-m

jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,444
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800
7

The D800 has the following advantages over the D300:

1. More MP
2. Lower noise
3. Higher DR
4. Next generation AF
5. Narrower DOF at same settings

The question then becomes what type of images do these advantages give you noticeably better IQ? Let's take them one at a time:

More MP

This will most clearly help you when you print large and examine the large print up close. We all know that 12MP cameras can produce stellar results at 11x14 and in many cases even larger than that. So, clearly you have to be printing quite large for the MP to give you a clear advantage.

More MP also help you if you have to crop significantly. If the reason you're cropping significantly is because the FX D800 doesn't have enough reach, then this isn't so much of an advantage because you may not have to crop at all on the D300 for that same image. The D800 at DX crop has marginally more pixels than the D300, but not enough of a difference to make much of a difference in IQ.

The other claimed advantage of more MP is that, even when downsized to a smaller print or smaller web size, an image that was originally recorded with more MP can produce clearer edges and edge detail. I can imagine how this might be technically true, but I haven't seen any conclusive side-by-side evidence to show that it is a noticeable difference.

Lower Noise

Because the larger FX sensor collects more light at a given camera setting, an FX camera always has a better signal-to-noise ratio than a DX camera and thus delivers lower noise. The larger MP count also allows for smaller noise artifacts that are less visible in the final output.

We all know this can be visible in conditions of high ISO or shadows that are recovered/pushed in post (e.g. underexposed portions of the image that are pushed). But, it's usually not visible around base ISO.

Higher DR

If the scene has a DR that exceeds what the sensor can record (not uncommon in any image that has both bright sun and shadows), then you will either get blown highlights or underexposed shadows. In an uncorrected image in post, some detail at the extremes will not be as visible as the eye can discern. If the exposure is done carefully the image can be somewhat improved in post, but this usually results in a loss of detail and/or color in the rescued shadows.

A camera with the capability of recording a higher DR has fewer issues recording these high DR scenes.

Next generation AF

This is a little harder to quantify. Nikon now claims that they can still do AF at f/8 which allows the use of some TCs with lenses that couldn't formerly do reliable AF. This is an advantage in some circumstances.

It's also likely that the performance of tracking of dynamic/moving objects has been improved (this usually happens from one generation to the next), but I haven't seen any hard data on this. If this is the case, it would only apply in certain dynamic/tracking focus circumstances (like action sports) and would probably mostly make a measurable difference in more difficult circumstances.

Narrower DOF

This is a generic FX vs. DX issue. Sometimes a narrower DOF is an advantage, sometimes not. It depends upon the circumstances of the composition.

So, there are certainly a lot of circumstances where a D800 might have advantages in producing a better image than a D300. But, it really depends upon the circumstances. There are also lots of situations where you probably won't be able to tell a difference.

And, the D300 is not without some of its own advantages:

1. Significantly less expensive.
2. 8fps with grip vs. 4-5fps
3. Lighter
4. More DOF
5. More viewfinder reach

And, yes there are some circumstances where these can help you produce a better image. For those with limited funds, having $1200 more to spend on quality glass could be a very meaningful IQ benefit.

So, bottom line, there are many, many images that when viewed at normal sizes will show very little if any visible difference between a D800 and D300. And, in fact, this is most of what we shoot. But, there are other circumstances where the newer camera can produce better images. If one was purchasing a D800 expecting that it would make every image better, then you will be disappointed because that's unlikely to be true. But, if you know when the advantages will make a difference or you regularly print very large, then you will be able to find some images that show the improvements.

Major Major Regular Member • Posts: 297
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800
1

Linthicum wrote:

Why am I not seeing a noticeable difference in the photo quality being posted versus what can be achieved from other DSLR's ? I have a D800 on order but beginning to wonder if it's worth $3,000 compared to my current D300. I don't take that many photos in poor lighting conditions. Video would be a plus, I guess. I have just been unable to say "WOW". I don't mean to be critical but I would like to hear some candid opinions on this subject. Where are the "WOW" photos ?

This is going to come off as snide. so be it.

Why are you spending 3k on a camera when you don't already know in quantifiable terms which ways it would be an improvement over your current camera? were you hoping for prettier Facebook photos?

When I decided to make the jump to the d800 as an amateur I made sure I understood what I would and wouldn't be getting over my current camera. This to me seems like basic info gathering before plunking yourself down on a waiting list for a semi-pro DSLR. If you don't already know how this tool will serve to better your photography then you don't need it.

on a positive note, enjoy what you have rather than come down with buyers remorse later.

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Nikon D800
BarrytheB Veteran Member • Posts: 3,501
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

I came from D300/Sigma SD9,14,15. I shoot wildlife and landscapes. Where I see the three biggest improvements with the 800E over the D300 are shadow noise, resolution and overall DR. Head and shoulders above the D300- the files are just 'cleaner". Also the FF VF is a big plus as I wear glasses.
--
Barry Byrd
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'Liking it ain't required'
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1952-2008

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Nikon D800E
surf1 Regular Member • Posts: 166
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Linthicum wrote:

Why am I not seeing a noticeable difference in the photo quality being posted versus what can be achieved from other DSLR's ? I have a D800 on order but beginning to wonder if it's worth $3,000 compared to my current D300. I don't take that many photos in poor lighting conditions. Video would be a plus, I guess. I have just been unable to say "WOW". I don't mean to be critical but I would like to hear some candid opinions on this subject. Where are the "WOW" photos ?

In my opinion basically any DSLR is capable of stunning photos, and the differences between different cameras are more in the area of handling and some quite specific applications.

I am also using the D300 and will be getting my D800 next week.

I have been lusting after a FF, and the D800 is going to be it. I don't need 36MP, but I expect better color, new possibilities with the high DR and more capabilities in low light. Video and time laps are interesting too.

I do expect that the D800 will force me to be more considerate and careful, which I hope will help me to become a better photographer. But honestly, I guess I could do most of it with the D300 too...

In the end, a great photographer will take great shots with most any camera, but the D800 offers a few things which the D300 didn't.

Cheers, Surf

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Michael Firstlight Veteran Member • Posts: 3,339
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Well, its like this from an everyday practical perspective....I am currently printing a bunch of waterfall images for an exhibit. I demand exceptional sharpness and detail in my large prints - right up in the viewers face. With my D300 I can make excellent full-frame 16x24" prints from my RAW files on my Epson 7880 that look that sharp and detailed that close. I don't go much over that size with my D300 12MP images as the softness starts to visibly show beyond that. I know, there are lots of people that will say they can print 12MP much larger - and I have - but you have to then give up the kind of standard I have for extreme sharpness and detail at very close viewing distances.

In the same exhibit I am also printing some 20x28 images that I took with 6x7 medium format film (Provia F). At 20x28 these images scream sharpness upto nose distance that a 12MP (my D300) just can't match - even though I use the best AFS lens, use tripods, prevent diffraction and so on. I am sorry, 12MP does not beat 6x7 MF film in this regard.

Now that I just got my D800, I'll be taking it to the mountains this weekend and making new images. I'll tell you the verdict when I return if I can make larger prints that equal or beat my MF 6x7 film prints with those 36MP RAW files at larger print sizes aiming at 24x36" as my new print size exhibit standard.

Regards,
Mike

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moving_comfort
moving_comfort Veteran Member • Posts: 8,227
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Major Major wrote:

Linthicum wrote:

Why am I not seeing a noticeable difference in the photo quality being posted versus what can be achieved from other DSLR's ? I have a D800 on order but beginning to wonder if it's worth $3,000 compared to my current D300. I don't take that many photos in poor lighting conditions. Video would be a plus, I guess. I have just been unable to say "WOW". I don't mean to be critical but I would like to hear some candid opinions on this subject. Where are the "WOW" photos ?

This is going to come off as snide. so be it.

Why are you spending 3k on a camera when you don't already know in quantifiable terms which ways it would be an improvement over your current camera? were you hoping for prettier Facebook photos?

I'm going to have to agree, and please take it constructively - if you don't know why you might want a D800 over your D300, the answer is probably going to be, "you don't".

The D300 is a great-performing body with a great aps-c sensor - great in the last generation. If you were able to personally take side-by-side shots of the same subject from each, displayed large-enough or cropped you would see pretty striking differences, especially at ISO 1600+.

But, if you're looking only at web-sized photos (640p, 800p, 1024p,) and are not able to tie something like DxOmark results to a potential effect on your images, you are going to have a hard time justifying the D800.

.

-- hide signature --

Here are a few of my favorite things...
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moony16 Regular Member • Posts: 470
Excellent!!!
1

jfriend00 wrote:

The D800 has the following advantages over the D300:

1. More MP
2. Lower noise
3. Higher DR
4. Next generation AF
5. Narrower DOF at same settings

The question then becomes what type of images do these advantages give you noticeably better IQ? Let's take them one at a time:

More MP

This will most clearly help you when you print large and examine the large print up close. We all know that 12MP cameras can produce stellar results at 11x14 and in many cases even larger than that. So, clearly you have to be printing quite large for the MP to give you a clear advantage.

More MP also help you if you have to crop significantly. If the reason you're cropping significantly is because the FX D800 doesn't have enough reach, then this isn't so much of an advantage because you may not have to crop at all on the D300 for that same image. The D800 at DX crop has marginally more pixels than the D300, but not enough of a difference to make much of a difference in IQ.

The other claimed advantage of more MP is that, even when downsized to a smaller print or smaller web size, an image that was originally recorded with more MP can produce clearer edges and edge detail. I can imagine how this might be technically true, but I haven't seen any conclusive side-by-side evidence to show that it is a noticeable difference.

Lower Noise

Because the larger FX sensor collects more light at a given camera setting, an FX camera always has a better signal-to-noise ratio than a DX camera and thus delivers lower noise. The larger MP count also allows for smaller noise artifacts that are less visible in the final output.

We all know this can be visible in conditions of high ISO or shadows that are recovered/pushed in post (e.g. underexposed portions of the image that are pushed). But, it's usually not visible around base ISO.

Higher DR

If the scene has a DR that exceeds what the sensor can record (not uncommon in any image that has both bright sun and shadows), then you will either get blown highlights or underexposed shadows. In an uncorrected image in post, some detail at the extremes will not be as visible as the eye can discern. If the exposure is done carefully the image can be somewhat improved in post, but this usually results in a loss of detail and/or color in the rescued shadows.

A camera with the capability of recording a higher DR has fewer issues recording these high DR scenes.

Next generation AF

This is a little harder to quantify. Nikon now claims that they can still do AF at f/8 which allows the use of some TCs with lenses that couldn't formerly do reliable AF. This is an advantage in some circumstances.

It's also likely that the performance of tracking of dynamic/moving objects has been improved (this usually happens from one generation to the next), but I haven't seen any hard data on this. If this is the case, it would only apply in certain dynamic/tracking focus circumstances (like action sports) and would probably mostly make a measurable difference in more difficult circumstances.

Narrower DOF

This is a generic FX vs. DX issue. Sometimes a narrower DOF is an advantage, sometimes not. It depends upon the circumstances of the composition.

So, there are certainly a lot of circumstances where a D800 might have advantages in producing a better image than a D300. But, it really depends upon the circumstances. There are also lots of situations where you probably won't be able to tell a difference.

And, the D300 is not without some of its own advantages:

1. Significantly less expensive.
2. 8fps with grip vs. 4-5fps
3. Lighter
4. More DOF
5. More viewfinder reach

And, yes there are some circumstances where these can help you produce a better image. For those with limited funds, having $1200 more to spend on quality glass could be a very meaningful IQ benefit.

So, bottom line, there are many, many images that when viewed at normal sizes will show very little if any visible difference between a D800 and D300. And, in fact, this is most of what we shoot. But, there are other circumstances where the newer camera can produce better images. If one was purchasing a D800 expecting that it would make every image better, then you will be disappointed because that's unlikely to be true. But, if you know when the advantages will make a difference or you regularly print very large, then you will be able to find some images that show the improvements.

Nmbers vary, but this kind of issue comes up all the time on photography forums---all makes of cameras. Your response is as fair and unbiased as I've seen, anywhere. Thanks for taking time to put together an excellent summation.

JT
--
Who looks outside,
dreams; who looks
inside, awakens

Carl Jung (1875-1961)

OP Linthicum Forum Member • Posts: 52
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide feedback to my question. It was excellent. I know I don't really need a new camera. I'm 72 and photography is just a hobby. But, you can't take your money with you. My kids will just inherit a Nikon D800. My current D300 has nearly 80,000 actuations. I must admit, I was expecting some image improvement. I do very little printing. My focus is mainly birding and I am my own worst critic and seldom satisfied. I shoot mostly with a 500mm Nikkor lens on a Wimberley tripod but I feel the images fall short above a 60% crop. I thought that the D800 resolution would help improve the image at 100% crop. But from what I'm reading that may not be true. I realize nothing beats being close to your subject but in the birding world that is not always the case.

Thank you again for the constructive comments.

"Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner". Author Unknown

http://www.pbase.com/linthicum

m_appeal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,434
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

High ISO noise is a huge difference, and for birding very beneficial. You are going to be able to get useable shots at ISO 12800 (resized to D300 dimensions). D300 is way too noisy beyond 1600

Dave Courtenay Contributing Member • Posts: 732
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800
5

I took this image last week in my garden, It was quite late evening and i had to use ISO 1600 to get a 1/125@F4,You could not get an image of this quality or detail from a D300 at these settings, There is no noise reduction of any kind and its full frame uncropped, I shot with a D800 and 600VR tripod mounted

http://www.wildlifeinfocus.com

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m_appeal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,434
Here is a ISO 6400 shot that would be unuseable w/ D300

you can see full-size in gallery if you click on DSC_3767, then "Original" below the image

D800 allows you to use that setting no problem... granted I resized to 16 MP, but still.

m_appeal Veteran Member • Posts: 3,434
Re: Here is a ISO 6400 shot that would be unuseable w/ D300

I should note I did absolutely no processing on that shot, other than RAW conversion, so it may look quite flat... but it's just to demonstrate what the sensor is capable of

OP Linthicum Forum Member • Posts: 52
Re: Nikon D300 versus Nikon D800

Nice photo. This is where I hoped to see significant improvement. Actually, I start seeing some noise beyond ISO 400 with the D300. I photograph a lot of Bald Eagles in flight and I was hoping for an improvement here. I usually shoot the Bald Eagles at a shutter speed of 1and EV at -.3 to -.7. I should be able to bump up the shutter speed slightly with the D800.

OP Linthicum Forum Member • Posts: 52
Re: Here is a ISO 6400 shot that would be unuseable w/ D300

Thanks, m-appeal. You're right, I probably couldn't achieve that with my D300.

David314 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,790
Buy it

Linthicum wrote:

Thank you so much for taking the time to provide feedback to my question. It was excellent. I know I don't really need a new camera. I'm 72 and photography is just a hobby.

72 and can afford it? Buy it.

At the pixel level it is better than the d300

So IMHO, the dx crop on the d800 is better than the d300

So it will be better for your application but maybe not as huge as you would like

If all you do is shoot birds at 500mm I would be tempted to see what shakes out with the d400 or d7100, in other words wait until fall

On the other and, if you shoot all kinds of things,well, buy the d800 now if you can. It is a definite upgrade to the d300 and don't see anything on the near horizon that will be better for the price

ARB1
ARB1 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,389
Re: Buy it

I shot a vocal masterclass for the first time with my D800 a few days ago and the lighting forced me to push the ISO to 3200 and 6400 in many cases and the photos were very nice even at 6400 even without any PP. I would never have been able to do this with my D300, believe me I've tried.

My D800 has opened the door to much nicer photos in theatres and low light music setting which is where I shoot at times.

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Allen
I yam what I yam and that's all that I am. Popeye

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