Live view

Nikon's live view implementation on the D300 is one of the most usable and comprehensive to date, the high resolution screen and addition of contrast detect auto focus, in addition to the now typical mirror down / mirror up passive auto focus system, mean that are more situations where live view becomes useful.

Live view (auto focus) mode

As noted the D300 supports two AF methods which Nikon call Tripod and Hand-held modes, both require you to use the AF-ON button to achieve auto focus. In Tripod mode auto-focus is achieved using the main image sensor in a "contrast detect" manner (the same as a compact camera), this tends to be slower than normal passive AF but does maintain the live view. In Tripod mode you can move the AF point anywhere within the frame using the multi-selector. In Hand-held mode the live view blanks out when you press AF-ON, the mirror drops and the camera focuses using the normal "passive" auto-focus sensor. Live view only returns when you release the AF-ON button, I personally found this a bit annoying, it should return as soon as the camera achieves AF lock.

Live view in Tripod mode Live view in Hand-held mode

Live view display modes

Press the info button to remove any overlaid information, you can also optionally enable grid lines which are in the same position as the grid lines shown on the viewfinder focusing screen.

Default live view display Live view without information
Live view with grid lines and information Live view with grid lines but without information

Live view magnification

Just as in playback mode you can magnify live view by pressing the zoom-in button (or back out again with zoom-out). While magnified you can use the multi-selector to move around the live image. The D300 appears to be able to go all the way to 1:1 magnification (one pixel on the sensor for one pixel on the LCD) which makes it easy to achieve absolutely perfect focus.

Live view focus, magnify and exposure video clip

The following video clip shows live view in use to manually focus roughly, magnify to focus more accurately, zoom out, take an exposure and finally magnify the image in record review. (We wanted to provide a video clip of contrast detect AF but on our pre-production unit color reproduction suffered during AF so we chose to focus manually). Just click on the play button below to start the video.

HDMI output / High Definition display

Announced just a few days before the Sony DSLR-A700 the Nikon D3 and D300 were officially the first digital cameras with HDMI digital high definition video output. From the setup menu you can select between Auto, 480p, 576p, 720p or 1080i output, in this section we are only going to examine the 720p and 1080i options. HDMI output works in any mode which would otherwise use the LCD monitor; shooting information, menus, live view and playback. It has to be said that using live view over HDMI to a HD LCD or Plasma screen really is an amazing experience and could be extremely useful in studio photography situations. Below we have provided captures of HDMI output in both 720p (1280 x 720) and 1080i (1920 x 1080) resolutions just to give you a sense of the amount of detail visible. My only disappointment would be that there didn't seem to be a way to display the image without any shooting information (except when magnifying), this means that the default display (top image below) is only using 74% of screen width (theoretically, given aspect ratio differences this could be 84% without the status lines at the bottom).

Normal playback via HDMI (720p; 137 KB or 1080i; 241 KB)
Zoomed playback via HDMI (720p; 108 KB or 1080i; 207 KB)

High definition video clips

Below are two short high definition video clips captured via HDMI from the D300 (720p; 1280 x 720). The first taken in live view, manually focusing and using live view magnification to fine tune the focus point, the second a quick run-through in playback mode. Note that these videos, while compressed, are still large.

Live view over HDMI video clip (720p; Apple Quicktime; 9,979 KB)
Playback over HDMI video clip (720p; Apple Quicktime; 2,500 KB)